Primer on the Second Division of professional soccer in the United States & Canada.

Now with four seasons of play under its belt, the new North American Soccer League (NASL) was officially founded in November 2009, when a group of Second Division men’s professional soccer team owners banded together to form North American Soccer League, LLC for the purpose of creating a team-owned and operated professional soccer league in the United States, Canada and Puerto Rico.

In February 2011, the NASL received provisional recognition from the United States Soccer Federation (USSF) as the exclusive Second Division men’s professional league (D-2). The inaugural season kicked off on April 9, 2011, with the Carolina RailHawks finishing first in the regular season standings and the Minnesota Stars being crowned as the inaugural NASL Champions.

The NASL received official Division 2 sanctioning from the USSF on March 2, 2012, via the national council's unanimous vote, and just over a month later the league’s second campaign was underway. Expansion side San Antonio Scorpions were named Regular Season Champions in their debut campaign, while the Tampa Bay Rowdies became the second side to become NASL Champions.

The NASL began its 2013 campaign - its first featuring split Spring and Fall seasons - with seven teams in the Spring, a crop that grew to eight with the much-anticipated revival of the New York Cosmos for the Fall season. The Carolina RailHawks seemed poised to capture the Spring title with weeks to spare, but their stumble down the stretch combined with a furious finish by the Atlanta Silverbacks gave the Georgia side the Spring Season title and the right to host NASL Soccer Bowl 2013 on November 9. The Cosmos did not disappoint in their first go-around, running away with the Fall Season crown to set up the Soccer Bowl match-up against the Silverbacks, which New York captured 1-0 courtesy of a brilliant strike by former Spanish international and Villareal legend Marcos Senna.

Indy Eleven was one of two teams in the NASL's "Class of 2014," joining the fray alongside Ottawa Fury FC (formed June 20, 2011) to bring the league up to 10 squads. "The Championship" - a new, four-team postseason format - was introduced prior to the league's fourth campaign, which increased the competitiive level of the regular season games  during the nine-game Spring  and 18-game Fall Seasons.  Minnesota United would edge out the New York Cosmos to earn the Spring title while the San Antonio Scorpions garnered the Fall hardware over Minnesota via the goal differential tie-breaker.  New York and Fort Lauderdale would earn the #3 and #4 seeds in The Championship, repsectively, thanks to their overall point totals, and the Strikers would shock the league by defeating top-seeded Minnesota on the road in the Semifinals, earning a Finals match-up with San Antonio.  The Scorpions would capture their first Soccer Bowl trophy on November 15 at its home of Toyota Field, where they posted a thrilling 2-1 victory to cap a landmark season for the league.

The promising Jacksonville Armada FC franchise has bolstered the NASL for its fifth season of play in 2015, while newly announced expansion projects Miami FC and Puerto Rico FC are poised to join the growing league in 2016.

The NASL operates on traditional business practices employed by most of the major national soccer leagues throughout the world. Each team within the league is responsible for its own player investment and development, and is free to scout, trial, sign and transfer players as it wishes in the best interest of the individual team. While there are limits to the size of the active rosters for each team (30) and the number of foreign players permitted per team (7), the league does not impose a salary cap on its members. Player movement between the NASL and Major League Soccer (First Division) and USL PRO (Third Division) is facilitated by a strong working relationship at the team levels, and the NASL is also working with MLS at the league level to employ standards designed to foster player health and safety.

Although the NASL shares its name with the league that operated throughout North America during the period of 1968-1984, there is no official tie to the business structure of the now-defunct NASL. However, with six of the new NASL teams operating in cities with a rich memory of past glory of the former NASL there is more than a hint of the former NASL’s heritage to be found in the new NASL of today.

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