By Associated Press - Tuesday, January 16, 2018

CHICAGO (AP) - The United Soccer League has been sanctioned as a second division league for 2018 by the U.S. Soccer Federation, which says the circuit has been given a two-year path to full compliance with the governing body’s standards.

The USL had been given provisional second-tier status in 2017. It began its professional competition in 2011 and held third-tier status before 2017. It reached an agreement with MLS, the only first division U.S. men’s league, in 2013 to integrate the reserve teams of the top tier.

The USSF board approved the decision last weekend during a meeting in New York. The federation said Tuesday in a statement that the “USL has demonstrated substantial progress toward reaching full compliance since being granted provisional Division II sanctioning.”

The North American Soccer League held second-tier status from 2011 through last year. When its status was not renewed, it filed an antitrust suit against the USSF. The NASL’s application for a preliminary injunction against the USSF was denied in November, and it took the case to the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, which has not ruled.

The USL said last week it plans to have 33 teams this season, which starts March 16-18.

In addition, the National Women’s Soccer League’s first-division status was sanctioned for this year. The USSF said the NWSL and USL must apply for re-sanctioning annually and work toward full compliance by 2020.

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