On Friday night the United States Soccer Federation finally gave the USL their long sought after Red Ryder BB gun of (provisional) Division 2 sanctioning. Provisional being a key word. In the coming year or so the USL will have to prove to the Federation that they won’t shoot their eye out. Oh yeah the NASL kept their D2 sanctioning too. In 2018 two leagues enter the D2 cage, and only one leaves? Who knows. The USSF did their best can kicking instead of definitively sort out the mess of lower division soccer. Look for the potential final chapter of the Division 2 saga next December.
If you’re not a familiar with the soccer warz that have been going on over the last eight years or so, maybe you should keep it that way. If not talk to someone during a tailgate and you’ll get a slew of opinions. Is the average person going to notice or care about the division status the USL is? Probably not. It’s akin to the average person knowing the ins and outs of minor league baseball or hockey. Minor league is minor league and that’s about all that matters. We’re not the average fan though. Ignoring the NASL vs USL pissing contest, what does this new found division status means for our beloved Hounds?
Not much to be honest. Most of the requirements are more league level than club. Things like number of teams, their locations, etc. If you wish to read them in full you can find a copy here. There aren’t requirements for salary budgets, player caps, things like that. Don’t expect significant changes to the on the field product. Off the field D2 should bring more clout for sponsorships, which is great for teams who may have had bankruptcy issues in their recent past *cough*. And don’t forget that sweet sweet marking. That said as far as the Hounds go there are three main requirements they need to meet-
1) Each team must have … one principal owner with a controlling interest who owns at least 35% of the team and … have an individual net worth of at least twenty million US dollars exclusive of the value of his/her ownership in the league or team and his/her primary personal residence.
2) All league stadiums must have a minimum seating capacity of 5,000.
3) Each team must have individuals handling responsibilities of the following positions [and be filled by full time year round staff]: general manager, director of marketing/sales, director of communications/media relations, director of promotions/community relations, director of game operations, head coach, assistant coach, trainer, ticketing manager, finance director, and clerical staff.
During our holiday party with the team Tuffy told the group the Hounds meet every requirement other than the stadium. This isn’t a shock by any means, though I did see some questions around Tuffy’s net worth around the Internet. Tuffy does indeed have Tuffy-bucks. The lack of a general manager is still a bit of an issue too, but one that can be “easily” rectified. The real hang up is the stadium requirement. While Highmark Stadium has had over 5,000 people in it before when they hosted the Pitt spring game, it sure wasn’t a sitting crowd. We’ve learned from the team this isn’t a requirement they are going to get waivers for indefinitely. The league office has placed a mandate that teams bring up their stadiums to specs, and to do so soon. Remember this is provisional division 2 sanctioning, not permanent. In John K’s article from last year the Hounds are quoted in saying they’re looking into expanding Highmark Stadium as soon as fall 2017. More than likely this will be our section, which if we could make a small suggestion- safe standing seats please. If things don’t go according to plan though, and the Hounds want to stay in division 2, as crazy as it sounds they’ll have to find somewhere else to play. Fingers crossed.
With division sanctioning finally out of the way the USL can finally get the ball rolling on the 2017 season. Hopefully we’ll have a schedule soon and can start circling dates on the calendar. Players report for training camp soon, and for the first time in a long time (or ever) we have a nearly full roster at the start of it. It may be 10 degrees outside, but I’m getting pretty antsy to get this season going.