The league in which Louisville’s pro soccer club plays has been kicked up one division, one below top-tier Major League Soccer.

The U.S. Soccer board of directors granted the United Soccer League provisional second division status on Friday, a move that will provide the growing 30-team league — and Louisville City FC — greater recognition and earnings potential. Twenty-one of the teams play in the 50 largest U.S. metro areas, according to the league. The sanctioning body also agreed to maintain second division status for the struggling North American Soccer League, which is shrinking and has eight teams.

The news arrives as the owners of LouCity are trying to figure out how to finance and where to build a soccer-specific stadium to comply with USL demands and to prepare for an eventual move up to the MLS. The local club has played its first two seasons at Slugger Field, primarily a baseball stadium.

LouCity could not be immediately reached, but Chairman John Neace said in a press release that the sanctioning as a Division II league was “an excellent recognition.”

Then-USL President Tim Holt told The Philadelphia Enquirer last year that the major differences between third- and second-division sanctioning include stadium size — 5,000 seats and up for Division 2 — and the primary franchise owners’ net worth. According to ESPNFC, the requirements also include “the number of teams, the geographic distribution of the teams, and size of the markets.”

U.S. Soccer President Sunil Gulati said in a press release that “U.S. Soccer will create an internal working group that will work with each league to set a pathway to meet the full requirements for Division II and allow for the larger goal of creating a sustainable future.”

USL CEO Alec Papadakis said, “We welcome the opportunity to work closely with U.S. Soccer to meet all the Division II standards in the near future and continue to be part of the impressive growth of the sport in the United States.”

Boris Ladwig

Boris Ladwig

Boris Ladwig is a reporter with more than 20 years of experience and has won awards from multiple journalism organizations in Indiana and Kentucky for feature series, news, First Amendment/community affairs, nondeadline news, criminal justice, business and investigative reporting. As part of The (Columbus, Indiana) Republic’s staff, he also won the Kent Cooper award, the top honor given by the Associated Press Managing Editors for the best overall news writing in the state. A graduate of Indiana State University, he is a soccer aficionado (Borussia Dortmund and 1. FC Köln), singer and travel enthusiast who has visited countries on five continents. He speaks fluent German, rudimentary French and bits of Spanish, Italian, Khmer and Mandarin.