January 2010

Division 2 Sanctioned!

U.S. Soccer has officially agreed to sanction and oversee a Division 2 soccer league! What the hell does this mean?!

First, to be responsible we’ve got to go over what it absolutely does not mean. The formation of this second division out of the already existing United Soccer League and North American Soccer League does not turn U.S. Soccer in the English Football Association (FA). Just because there are now two divisions DOES NOT mean the two leagues will implement a promotion/relegation system… but how awesome would that be?

That being said, to say that the formation of this second division of U.S. football means nothing would also be wrong. Having a second bonafide league overseen by the country’s governing body rather than the formerly independently operating USL and NASL is a big step forward for soccer in the states. The affiliation with U.S. Soccer should bring better players to the teams involved, more fans to the stadiums in question, and perhaps most importantly, more TV coverage.

National Public Radio’s Tom Goldman once pointed out to me that television contracts are the way that up and coming sports leagues survive, grow, and thrive in our American sports media system, and the merging of two already established second tier soccer leagues should garner new and bigger TV contracts. Is the Division 2 championship game going to be on ESPN in primetime? Absolutely not. But small steps are steps nonetheless. For the past couple of seasons I’d catch a USL game on Fox Soccer Channel late at night from time to time; maybe now FSC buys the broadcast rights to more of the games. Maybe the local Fox Sports Net affiliates that are in pretty much every major city now start picking up their local Div. 2 team’s games. I could even see Versus springing for a game of the week and full coverage of the league playoffs (sort of like they do for the NHL… but way cheaper).

At the very least the formation of this new league is pretty cool and a little exciting. On the optimistic end of the spectrum, this new league could very well represent a huge leap forward for soccer in America. Time will tell. In the meantime, Go Miami FC!

Jon Levy