By Michelle Kaufman
Miami FC will stay in the North American Soccer League -- at least for now.
U.S. Soccer decided, after several weeks of discussions and speculation, to grant "provisional Division II status" to the NASL and the United Soccer League (USL) for the 2017 season. NASL was already the second-tier league but struggling financially, and the USL was third-tier despite growing to 30 teams. Neither league currently meets all the criteria for Division II, and they will be required to meet additional requirements such as stadium size, field dimensions and coach qualifications in order to keep their status beyond this season.
The NASL was in danger of folding after Minnesota United went to Major League Soccer, while the Tampa Bay Rowdies and Ottawa Fury switched to USL. Meanwhile, the Ft. Lauderdale Strikers, Jacksonville Armada, Rayo OKC and the New York Cosmos were all in serious financial trouble.
On Monday, the NASL announced it had "amicably parted ways" with Commissioner Bill Peterson and will carry on with eight teams this season -- Miami FC, FC Edmonton, Indy Eleven, Jacksonville, N.Y. Cosmos, North Carolina FC, Puerto Rico FC and the San Francisco Deltas. Rayo OKC was not retained. Rishi Sehgal, the league's business development director, was named interim commissioner.
"NASL club owners are committed to delivering a new era for the league in which a new direction and vision is essential," said the statement. "The new Commissioner will inherit a league strong and primed for growth."
Sunil Gulati, the U.S. Soccer Federation president, said: "U.S. Soccer will create an internal working group that will work with each league to set a pathway to meet the full requirements for division two and allow for the larger goal of creating a sustainable future."
The Miami FC season opens in April.