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U.S. Soccer issues new league guidelines for USSF D-2


Last week, the U.S. Soccer Federation issued a new set of rules and regulations for professional leagues in the United States, with particular emphasis placed on the current USSF Division 2 that is the second tier of professional soccer in the United States.

The changes will have a significant impact on the direction of the league by placing new restrictions that will keep the USSF Division 2 from becoming dominated by non-U.S. teams and small market teams. The new guidelines also put an emphasis on financially stable owners, with an eye toward giving the league some much-needed stability.

The full report, detailed on Inside Minnesota Soccer, is a rather lengthy and strict set of rules put into place. Here's a look at some of the new standards:

  • 75% of the teams must be U.S.-based, and play in markets with a population of at least 750,000.
  • Stadiums must seat at least 5,000 people.
  • The league must have U.S.-based teams in at least two different time zones in the first year, three by the sixth year.
  • Principal team owners must have an individual net worth of $20 million.
  • League must have at least eight teams in the first year, 10 in the third, and 12 by the third year.
  • A $750,000 bond is required to cover operational costs every year.

Initial reaction from the current USSF D-2 has been mixed. With three teams set to depart for MLS play over the next two years — Portland, Vancouver and Montreal — it will likely make for another tumultuous offseason once the current season concludes.

What do you think about the new standards? Glad to see USSF cracking down? Think it's too harsh?

Share your thoughts below.


  1. the will is there to make D2 a success. the determination to reach agreement on basic standards is a demonstration of the commitment which exists.

    remember when MLS had only three ownership groups?

    D2 just needs to consolidate the presence in the public mind which is starting to be won. i predict it will grow to 16 teams in 6 years.

  2. Or they could just add the Battery, a side that has excelled at that level, has an acceptable stadium, and is supported in the community.

  3. We need to pray for a minor miracle here in Baltimore. It isn’t about the dedication of the ownership group. They are dedicated. It is about a lack of resources.

  4. Attendance-wise, Rochester is nowhere what they used to be.

    I’m not being disrespectful, I’m just stating a fact.

    This isn’t 2005 before things started going South there.

    I travelled there when there were drawing big and I’ve travelled there when they have struggled to draw.

  5. Islanders are under the jurisdiction of the FPF.

    They didn’t attend the meeting because they don’t have a single owner with $20 million; they have an ownership group and when you put all of the ca$h together, they don’t have $20 million.

    They are solvent. They pay their bills on time.

    They don’t have money issues other than not having enough to meet the new requirments that the USSF is interested in implementing.

    But then agai, neither do a lot fo the US based teams.

  6. Screw it, the Canadian and Carribbean D-2 teams should break off and form their own league and compete for the Snowbird Cup, LOL!

  7. I think something like that is the natural result of setting the financial bar so high. Making MLS a part owner in a bunch of teams and then linking the “clubs” (since MLS is s-e) in some way would be a good fit.

  8. I’ve heard that PR will be considered as *not* US based. However, I’ve also heard that the “75% US based” rule is one that the USSF may allow some wiggle-room on.

    It will be interesting to see how this all shakes out over the next few months. On the plus side, it should be a lot clearer this November than it was last November.

  9. With regards to Miami FC, the problem isn’t that “no one gives a damn”. There are a list of problems, let me relate them to you.

    – Poor marketing. You can’t slap up a web site and expect that people will just randomly find out about your team. Where are the billboards? Where are the television commercials? I know Comcast has targeted commercials for local area businesses, yet I’ve never seen a commercial for Miami FC on FSC or any other sports channel. On another bulletin board, someone pointed out that the World Cup ratings in South Florida were the highest in the U.S. No matter what you want to say about Miami fans, the potential fan base is their *screaming* to be tapped into. It’s abundantly clear that people want to see football, and good football, at that.

    – The fans that come out are a dedicated bunch. They’re out there in the rain (which, in South Florida can be quite a few games), they’re making noise, they’re chanting, all that. Reward those fans, give them access to a meet and greet with the players.

    – Economic downturn in the area. Plain and simple, the South Florida economy has been hit especially hard by the downturn. You don’t see common people there, you see soccer moms with legions of kids and dudes with expensive Chelsea and Man U jerseys and well-dressed guys with their designer women there.

    – A long, narrow metropolitan region. “South Florida” stretches from northern Palm Beach County to southern Miami-Dade. That’s a whole lot of people that have to travel a long distance to see footy in Fort Lauderdale: that is time and money that a lot of people don’t have.

    I love Miami FC, but it’s not hard to see why the franchise isn’t successful.

  10. While these terms will potentially lead to more stability, as a Baltimore fan I’m concerned about the future. They’re bouncing around from stadium to stadium, and while they claim to have a venue set for next year, I’ll believe it when I see it.

    Furthermore, word on the street is that they’re looking for new ownership, but that doesn’t come as a surprise. $20 million may be a bridge too far.

    The instability with Palace UK, combined with these new requirements, may make it hard to find investors while convincing the Baltimore stadium management board to support the downtown venue that’s been proposed.

  11. I see your point and although I’m incorrect about the number of teams vs the number of games, I think I would be correct to say that the MLS would get a lot of resistance from FIFA should they try and expand much above 22 teams. A “better” option would be a 2nd division league that would be compatible with the MLS should they pursue the option of a promotion/relegation scenario.

    And don’t forget about FIFA desire to make teams smaller. It was an idea floated about several years ago, but taken up by the EPL this year. It seems that some things are not easily forgotten, just sent out there to peculate around until someone unilaterally implements it.

    Which brings me to my original question; Should the MLS invest, or would it be improper for the MLS to take a stake in a new 2nd division league? It seems that under a single-entity ownership that the MLS now employs, it’s options would be to be a owner,co-owner, major partner in a 2 division to maintain standards for eventual absorption into the MLS and to give relegated MLS teams a “safe haven” to keep their investment intact until the can make it back to the first division.

    As I understand it, the owners of the teams like Seattle and now Portland, Vancouver and Montreal had to sell or give back some control of their teams to the MLS to fall under the MLS single-entity ownership. As relegation is not an option there is no fear about losing value should the team have poor season and be relegated as in other countries.

    But having an MLS owned second division would open the doors to such a possibility.

  12. The FIFA regulation isn’t about league size about the amount of league games. FIFA wanted to limit it to 34 league games in a season. That would mean 18 teams in the top flight leagues since they are single table. The current European leagues would have been grandfathered in (EPL and others come to mind). Since MLS isn’t single table and used unbalanced schedules and conferences that FIFA regulation would have NEVER EVER affected them.
    Fortunately this FIFA regulation isn’t law and was quietly forgotten about.

  13. Just about anything is better than the way USL ran things, so it’s constructive to have these guidelines. It gives everyone a baseline for achieving “stability.” Additionally I think there will be a lot of wiggle room given to teams that fall short of some of the guidelines. There is a delicate balance to maintain and the USSF must prove to FIFA that they can nurture a solid multi-level soccer system. The Federation seems to think the World Cup bid is, in part, riding on this.

  14. Are there any rules, prior, existing or proposed that would limit possible MLS involvement in funding a league or teams.

    I’m thinking ahead here.

    When the MLS reaches a 20 team milestone, it will be hard to expand much further in light of FIFA policies suggesting limiting top national leagues to no more than 20 teams. The policies (and possible future rule) would effectively lock out the MLS from expanding into many (lucrative) markets. A possible recourse then for the MLS would be to start a promotion/relegation rule to allow other markets to field teams in the MLS.

    A first step in this process would be to develop a framework to allow a second-tier league to develop stable teams, able to survive financially in a first or second division.

    All the USSF rules spelled out in this article would attain these goals.

    I think, though, that a second division team would need a minimum of a 7-10 thousand seat stadium, expandable to a more seamless 15,000 seat league minimum for a MLS franchise.

    Will we be seeing a move by the MLS for such a League?

    I can see this as a likely expansion tool for the MLS. Lets hope they see it too!

  15. I’m also frustrated and puzzled by these moves, but I don’t think the 750k metro rule affects any of the current teams–even Rochester, San Juan and Raleigh are over a million.

    Were any small-market teams trying to move in?

  16. I think this shows how clueless the USSF is. I know it’s suppose to be a USA second division, but if having some teams in Canada and elsewhere are needed to keep the league afloat (even if it’s a little over 25 percent), so be it. And the 750,000 thing? Rochester and Vancouver are the two best teams in the league and they draw decent attendance. Maybe it’s good being in a small market since you are competing with less teams for attention. Meanwhile in two big markets in Miami and Tampa, no one gives a still gives a damn about soccer.

  17. The hardest thing to maintain here is the 75% rule. As things stand D-2 will have three foreign teams next year (Puerto Rico, Edmonton and Montreal) and only 8 American teams. This gives D-2 a less than 75% ratio. The NASL will have to prevent loosing all American teams AND either gain FC New York (doubtfull) or reincarnate Atlanta in order to have a viable league. Even if they do manage next year, this will still be a long term problem especially as USL and NASL have been looking to push into Canada (Hamilton, Ottawa, etc) and the Caribbean (Sevilla PR and Antigua).

  18. I think PR has an independent FA, so does the USSF count them as “US-based”? I heard elsewhere that they didn’t even attend the meeting because of the money issues, so it might be moot anyway. Too bad.

    Hopefully they know what they are doing with this; it makes me nervous.

  19. Is this accepted by the NASL owners?

    NASL is commited to “aggresive expansion” into Canada, with Edmonton in next year, and Hamilton and Ottawa to effectively replace Vancouver and Montreal. Not that I think letting these teams in will violate any of the directives in the USSF D-2 guidelines.

  20. These rules should stabalize the teams and the league, while insuring that owners have the capital to pay their employees. To me they make since.

    I’ve one other rule I’d like to see adopted by the all leagues overseen by USSF…A similar rule as was approved by the EPL regarding the talent pool. EPL now requires a minimum of 8 players per team to be a Home Grown talent, or capable of representing the English/Wales/Irish National Teams.

    I’d give an exception/modification to teams located in foreign countries like Toronto FC where they have to have “X” amount of players from or capable of representing the Nation in which the team is located.

  21. I can’t figure out if USSF is trying to help, gut, or challenge D-2. My guess is they’re kinda like the government’s vehicle mpg mandates … they’re supposed “requirements,” but they keep backing them down to logical levels.

  22. Net worth is not the problem with the ACSTL owner (supposedly). His issue is liquidity, which would be a problem and is probably a better measure of an owner who should be eligible.

    I’m sure there would be more cases where somebody had a net worth of $20M+, but had most of it tied up elsewhere.

  23. This league has been on shaky ground for years. That’s the main reason why we’ve been seeing the best franchises (Portland, Vancouver, Seattle, Montreal) jump ship for MLS recently. Hopefully these recommendations, although tough, bring some much needed stability to the 2nd division.

  24. “Principal team owners must have an individual net worth of $20 million.”

    Does this pretty much kill off AC StL? I’d be interested to know if anyone has strong numbers on StL’s situation and if the new rules impact their ability to exist. Hope the club can continue, StL deserves a club.

  25. The next to last bullet should be 12 teams by the _sixth_ year.

    I’ve read the standards on IMS, and I think that these are good for U.S. Soccer to put in place and good for any D2 league that wants to be a legitimate league. A bit tough? Perhaps. But, I think, necessary.


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