But after the spring season -- the NASL plays a split season -- the one expansion team -- the San Francisco Deltas -- was last in the NASL in attendance. Brian Andres Helmick warned that they wouldn't survive unless attendance increased.
NASL 2018 and beyond. In its statement, the NASL said it remained committed to growing soccer, but it is unclear how many teams will stick around.
Teams such as North Carolina FC and Indy Eleven would seem strong fits for the USL, while a new Canadian league is an option for FC Edmonton. California United FC (Orange County) and an unnamed team in San Diego were the two new teams the NASL announced for 2018.
NASL owners could attack U.S. Soccer's divisional sanctioning in court, but such legal maneuvering would come
up against the reality of sustaining their current operations. The old NASL fought the NFL in court -- seeking to challenge the latter's cross-ownership ban. By the time the case wound its way through
the appellate courts and the NASL prevailed, the league had folded.
Headed to CAS. The NASL's Miami FC and amateur Kingston Stockade FC of the NPSL are taking U.S. Soccer, Concacaf and FIFA to the Court of Arbitration for Sport, filing a claim to require promotion and relegation be adopted across all U.S. divisions.
The case came a little more than a week after international media company MP & Silva (whose founding partner is Miami FC owner Riccardo Silva) offered $4 billion for MLS's global media rights on the condition that MLS institute a system of promotion and relegation. With a binding television contract that prohibits it from negotiating with others, MLS did not consider the offer.
Uneven expansion history. The NASL was founded in 2011 following a breakaway by owners who differed with USL league ownership, but only two of its original eight teams remain -- FC Edmonton and North Carolina FC. It added the San Antonio Scorpions in 2012, the Cosmos in 2013 and Indy Eleven in 2014 but has been unable to grow the league to a point that its expansion successes outnumbered its losses.
Turning points. Traffic USA kept the NASL propped up in its early years, and that proved problematic when the soccer marketing firm turned to be at the heart of the bribery scandal that resulted in the Federal indictments of dozens of soccer and sports marketing officials. As new money flowed into pro soccer below MLS, that stain of the NASL's involvement with Traffic USA was devastating.
While the NASL started out ahead of the USL -- its top league initially known as USL PRO -- that advantage was lost as new USL clubs drew big crowds in cities like Sacramento, Cincinnati and Louisville. An alliance with MLS allowed the USL to add a dozen teams with significant ties to MLS teams, either teams MLS teams owned and operated or provided players and coaching staff.
"Since taking the pitch in 2011, the NASL has been working diligently to advance the growth of soccer by creating an entrepreneurial league where dynamic clubs bring the excitement of professional soccer to fans across North America. Despite the progress made by the NASL, U.S. Soccer has taken a decision to refrain from sanctioning the league as Division 2 for the 2018 season. The NASL is disappointed with the decision and does not believe that the federation acted in the best interest of the sport. U.S. Soccer's decision negatively affects many stakeholders in soccer: fans, players, coaches, referees, business partners, and the NASL club owners who have invested tens of millions of dollars promoting the sport. The decision also jeopardizes the thousands of jobs created by the NASL and its member clubs.
"While the last several days have seen some unfortunate results for U.S. Soccer, both on and off the pitch, the NASL remains committed to growing the game and is exploring multiple options as it continues planning for the future. The NASL knows that its fans will continue to show undying support for their clubs, and the league looks forward to the home stretch of the 2017 season and beyond. The beautiful game is bigger than any decision, result, person, league, division or federation. The NASL will continue its work to ensure that brighter days are ahead for soccer in the U.S."