NASL cancels complete 2018 season after court ruling

The troubled North American Soccer League will not play in 2018.

The NASL announced its plans to cancel the season on Tuesday, four days after a federal court rejected its appeal to obtain a preliminary injunction that would have reinstated its status as a Division 2 league.

Last September, the U.S. Soccer Federation voted to deny giving the NASL a Division 2 designation because it had not met the USSF's standards for what constitutes a second-tier league. The standards include a minimum number of teams and how those teams are distributed geographically.

The league had already canceled its spring season while waiting for the legal battle to play out, with plans to resume playing in August.

But with its appeal denied and multiple teams already moving to other leagues, the NASL has now canceled the fall season as well.

The New York Cosmos will join Miami FC and the Jacksonville Armada in the National Premier Soccer League -- unofficially considered the fourth division -- this season while waiting to learn of the league's future, as NASL interim commissioner Rishi Sehgal said in a statement that his league will still work to return in 2019.

"The focus of the antitrust suit to date has been obtaining a preliminary injunction to save the 2018 season," Sehgal said. "Unfortunately, with USSF's decision and the loss of the preliminary injunction, playing the 2018 season is no longer a possibility.

"The focus of the antitrust suit now shifts to securing the long-term advancement of soccer in this country, not only for the NASL, but for all soccer fans, clubs, and communities impacted by the USSF's restrictions on competition.

"Also, the NASL is prosecuting a breach of fiduciary duty action against certain USSF Board members for conflicts of interest and derelictions of duty which have harmed the NASL and countless other constituents in U.S. Soccer.

"The NASL and its clubs will look at all avenues to return to the field for the 2019 season."

The NASL had been granted Division II status in previous years, including 2017 when the USSF opted to grant the NASL that status on a provisional basis.

But since the end of last season, North Carolina FC and the Indy Eleven have both permanently moved to the United Soccer League, which was granted second-tier status by U.S. Soccer last year after previously playing as Division 3.

Expansion club San Diego 1904 FC already said it would push back plans to start until 2019, and on Tuesday announced it was finalizing an agreement to join USL as well. The status of another planned expansion team, California United FC, has not been confirmed.

The NASL champions San Francisco Deltas have folded, as has FC Edmonton amid plans for a new Canadian league. The future of Puerto Rico FC, owned by NBA star Carmelo Anthony, is also in doubt after damage to its stadium caused by Hurricane Maria and the release of many players.