It appears that the conception of a Division III U.S. professional soccer league is slated to begin as early as 2018. Organized by former Chicago Fire general manager Peter Wilt, the National Independent Soccer Association has commitments lined up from 10 markets, with the potential to expand to 24 teams within the next 5 years.
Currently, the United States Soccer Federation (USSF) consists of two main divisions: MLS, and Division II, which comprises both the North American Soccer League (NASL) and the United Soccer League (USL). The divide between this second division and the lower leagues, such as the PDL and NPSL, is so vast that the creation of a professional Division III would be a welcome sight for United States soccer fans, and could help with the development of homegrown players, giving them a logical stepping stone between playing on the collegiate level and playing in the top flight.
The four foundation pillars that NISA has laid out are as follows, according to a press release:
1) An affordable pro division national soccer league with regional based competition.
2) An independent league with team owners controlling their franchises.
3) A plan to limit the League to 24 teams and incorporate promotion and relegation once fully populated.
4) A strong league office that serves its teams with quality staff supplemented by expert consultants.
The big potential that comes with the NISA is the opportunity to introduce promotion and relegation into U.S. soccer; a staple of professional leagues across the world soccer stage. Promotion/relegation has always been a desire of U.S. soccer supporters, and would surely be met with praise and excitement.
There remains some unanswered questions over Wilt’s involvement. After nearly four years spent getting Indy Eleven off the ground, Wilt left his post a year and a half ago to spearhead an effort to bring an NASL team to Chicago. While his work to establish the NISA doesn’t necessarily preclude his continued efforts with the Chicago NASL project, given the lack of recent updates it’s unclear whether the latter is still on the table or whether Wilt has moved on to focus on this nascent league.
Stay tuned for more updates on the development of the NISA, and potential markets around the Chicago area that could be in play for a Division III club.