BY IAN WALKER
VANCOUVER — At least Bob Lenarduzzi answered his phone to say he'd be saying nothing. Officials at the United States Soccer Federation, North American Soccer League and United Soccer Leagues might want to be so kind.
The USSF rejected the applications of the NASL and USL for next season. As of today anyway, the Vancouver Whitecaps have no place to play in 2010.
All is not lost, however. The USSF has given the two sides a full week to reconcile their differences.
“In the best interest of soccer in the United States we decided to not sanction either league at this point,” said U.S. Soccer president Sunil Gulati, in a prepared statement. “However, we did encourage both leagues to come together in the next week and attempt to develop another plan which would allow a single league to be approved on a provisional basis.”
The NASL used the term disappointed to describe its feelings about the USSF's decision. Although if the truth be known, stunned may be more accurate. Hence the reason for the league-wide code of silence.
“NASL respects the Federation’s decision and its suggested course of action for obtaining sanctioning in 2010,” said a NASL release distributed late afternoon on Wednesday. “We will continue during the next seven days to work in good faith towards an interim solution with United Soccer Leagues. NASL will have no further comment on this matter until a resolution has been reached or the negotiation period has expired.”
Count on the latter. The NASL -- formerly the Team Owners Association for those of you have been following the soap opera from Day 1 – and the USL haven't agreed on anything in almost a year, when the group of disgruntled owners first joined forces. The growing rift between the two sides has only widened since Nike's sale of the league to an outside buyer in August.
Adding intrigue to the announcement was the basis for the USSF's decision.
"The decision was made on the recommendation of the Professional League Task Force which determined that neither organization on its own was able to provide a viable and sustainable operation during the upcoming season," said the federation's release. "Both organisations were unable to meet U.S. Soccer's requirement of a minimum of eight viable teams for 2010."
Oddly enough, the NASL contends it has 11-member teams, including newly-formed sides in Tampa Bay and St Louis as well as USL-1 mainstays like the Whitecaps, Montreal Impact and Rochester Rhinos.
There's a question dying to be asked of someone – if only they'd say something.
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