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U.S. Soccer Will Oversee Two Conference League.

The U.S. Soccer Federation has been successful in forcing a union between United Soccer Leagues (USL) and the North American Soccer League (NASL). The two competing entities have come to an agreement on the formation and operation of a Division 2 professional soccer league for the 2010 season.

Under the agreement, U.S. Soccer will oversee the league for the 2010 season, working with both the USL and NASL on the day-to-day league activities.

The agreement pertains only to the 2010 season, and during the next year U.S. Soccer will continue to work with USL and NASL to build a long-term solution for the future. U.S. Soccer will also be developing new standards to govern Division 2 professional league applicants to ensure the long term viability and sustainability of the leagues and teams.  

“We are extremely pleased that we were able to come to a solution that ensures we will have Division 2 professional soccer in the United States in 2010,” said U.S. Soccer President Sunil Gulati.

“This agreement allows us to continue to develop the professional game in many important markets around the country, while at the same time working towards the long-term stability of Division 2 professional soccer. I’d like to thank the representatives from both the USL and NASL for the time spent during our negotiations, especially their efforts in the past seven days.”

The league will consist of two six-team conferences – the USL Conference and the NASL Conference. The USL Conference will include teams from Austin, Minnesota, Portland, Puerto Rico, Rochester and Tampa Bay. The NASL Conference will consist of teams from Baltimore, Carolina, Miami, Montreal, St. Louis and Vancouver.

USL CEO Alex Papadakis indicated his contentment with the agreement.

“We are pleased to have a solution that will provide fans the continued presentation of an elite caliber of professional soccer in the United States, Canada and Puerto Rico. While some differences remain, the one common agreement was that everyone must play this season, and we are happy that we were able to work with US Soccer to find a compromise for the upcoming 2010 season.”

Certain former USL teams will only be short-term members of the new league, as they are already scheduled to move on to Major League Soccer - such as the Vancouver Whitecaps and the Portland Timbers. Even the second-division league looks to expand, as new teams from Tampa Bay and New York look to join.

“The quality of play on the pitch has risen sharply over the past few years and will no doubt provide for an exciting campaign yet again in 2010," said Papadakis.

In the near future, U.S. Soccer will announce details of the new league, including league rules, a match schedule, television rights and other important operational issues. As part of the agreement, all pending claims between the USL and NASL will be dropped.

"What's important for us here is long-term stability," said Gulati.

Gulati did not say if this new lower-division league would be the first step toward a true promotion-relegation system that would work with Major League Soccer, but he didn't rule it out, either.

"We don't want to light up any blogs by saying that's a possibility, but who knows."

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