TAMPA — The new North American Soccer League, the league FC Tampa Bay will play in, has received provisional approval for sanctioning from the U.S. Soccer Federation to be its Division 2 league.
It's a major step in setting up the new eight-team league for the 2011 season. Before last season, the NASL and United Soccer League were battling for Division 2 status. Neither got sanctioning in time, and instead FC Tampa Bay played in a mixed Division 2 league operated by the USSF.
The USSF National Council is expected to officially sanction the NASL at the organization's annual meetings in February.
FC Tampa Bay is slated to open the season at home April 9 against the Montreal Impact. Puerto Rico, Miami, Carolina and Minnesota will remain from last year's D2 league with the addition of expansion teams in Atlanta and Edmonton.
The league schedule will include 28 games, two fewer than last year, with 14 home and 14 road games. Six teams will make the playoffs, with the top two teams receiving first-round byes. The remaining four teams will be seeded based on points and play each other in a best-of-one round. The semifinals and final rounds will be a two-game, home-road series.
As for FC Tampa Bay's team matters, spokeswoman Megan Danner said the team is still conducting interviews for a new coach and expects an announcement in the coming weeks regarding a field for 2011. The soccer stadiums at USF and the University of Tampa, as well as Steinbrenner Field, where FC Tampa Bay played its inaugural season, are all options, Danner said.