October 17 – The US will likely have more than one third tier league in 2019 with the National Independent Soccer Association (NISA) announcing that Connecticut will have team, though the club’s specific location, ownership and team name will be revealed in the coming weeks.
NISA has applied to the US Soccer Federation for division three status for a club-owned league that says it will follow the European calendar of August to May league play, and will grow to eventually encompass promotion and relegation.
The MLS and the USL are organisations that franchise clubs to regions and grant them commercial sales rights for their local markets.
Announcing the Connecticut location for a club, NISA president Bob Watkins said: “Connecticut’s soccer community has a long history of supporting the game, particularly our US national teams. The supporter culture in Connecticut is outstanding so we are looking forward to contributing to that.”
The new league was originally intended to be a feeder league to the now dormant North American Soccer league (NASL) which was stripped of its status as a second tier professional league by the US Soccer Federation in what was an acrimonious dispute.
Now NISA looks set to go it alone and says it will announce its founder clubs in therun-up to Christmas. The league is expected to have a national footprint.
One club that is expected to join the league is San Diego’s 1904 FC which has ownership connections to Eden Hazard, Demba Ba, and Yohan Cabaye. NISA’s Watkins is part of the ownership group.
Speaking to NBC Sport Watkins spoke of NISA as being a much more democratic league structure than its rival pro leagues in the US.
“The league is owned by the owners. All the teams who come into the league subscribe to the league. We don’t have any high financial barriers. It’s relatively modest if you’re looking at MLS or USL, and to me that makes a lot of sense so that groups who want to participate can do it, and there are no geographic boundaries or franchise areas,” he said.
Talking of the US Soccer sanctioning and the potential for the league he said: “What one has to look at, is there are certain standards that U.S. Soccer has for professional teams to participate, so we don’t want to drop down in terms of teams like NASL. At the same time, we want to make sure that we’re not ahead of our skis in terms of our ability to manage the growth.
“One of the challenges that we’re going to have is that a number of teams will be coming into a professional level which is different than the amateur level. We need to support the clubs with as much on-boarding as possible. It’s like taking an amateur player and making them a professional … to compete in the marketplace. Each that comes into the league has to hit the same standards as everybody else has so we can help them promote them, and grow them.”
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