A new independent soccer league has formed in the ever-changing lower divisions of US Soccer with NISA officially announcing their first eight cities.
It’s an exciting time for American soccer. In a nation that has a lengthy history of failed professional leagues, the last decade has seen the state of US Soccer take significant strides forward. In the evolving second division, a new professional league has formed, the National Independent Soccer Association (for commonly referred to as NISA), led by former Chicago Fire and Indy Eleven President Peter Wilt along with attorney Jack Cummins.
The league is proposing to currently fill the now void Division 3 ranking in the US Soccer structure, a position formally held by the United Soccer League (USL), who have since moved to share the second division with the North American Soccer League (NASL). They won’t be alone in that position either, as USL have also announced their intentions of placing an additional league in the third division, bridging the gap they have between USL and USL-PDL who are in the “Open Division” of US Soccer.
The “Open Division” referred to as either division four or five depending on the league, although there is no formal designation, is full of amateur and semi-professional teams from across the country who typically play regionally. NISA and USL-D3 are both looking to fill in the space for additional professional teams above the Open Division, while having less strenuous demands as the leagues above them.
NISA looks off to a good start. As they look to officially become sanctioned by USSF today, September 1, they announced the first eight markets they will feature. They are Charlotte (confirmed to be new team Charlotte FC), Chattanooga (potentially Chattanooga FC), Connecticut (potentially Hartford FC), Miami (confirmed Miami United FC), Milwaukee (potentially the Milwaukee Torrent), Omaha, Phoenix (potentially FC Arizona), and St Louis. The also revealed they have received letters of intent from seven additional cities for 2019. The league will begin play in 2018 or 2019 depending on the US Soccer Federation sanctioning.
One of the eventual goals of NISA is to institute a form of promotion and relegation, likely with the NASL. NISA also plans to top out with 24 teams by 2021. With the NASL also looking to grow the league, some markets are caught in between the two looks currently. Detroit City FC is one of those, who are also notably absent from the NISA proposal for USSF. It remains to be seen what happens with the Motor City, but it is worth watching. USL-D3 also plans to begin play in 2019, meaning the race for expansion in both leagues could overlap in many cities.