By Bill Lubinger, The Plain Dealer
January 07, 2010, 10:01PM
Professional outdoor soccer won't return to Cleveland this spring.
Whether Cleveland would have a team in 2010 has been in doubt since the City Stars folded last month after three seasons in the United Soccer Leagues, a developmental league on par with baseball's minor leagues.
But representatives from the USL, U.S. Soccer Federation and upstart North American Soccer League announced Thursday a Division II league will debut this season with 12 teams -- in two six-team divisions. And Cleveland isn't among them.
The USSF DII teams are Austin, Texas; Minnesota; Portland, Ore.; Puerto Rico; Rochester, N.Y.; Tampa Bay; Baltimore; North Carolina; Miami; Montreal; St. Louis and Vancouver.
There had been discussions about a possible new franchise in Cleveland, but apparently nothing came of them.
USL President Tim Holt said the league worked for several months with a Cleveland group he wouldn't disclose, but there were too many details to work out in time for this season.
"We'll continue to work with that group and are optimistic that professional soccer will return to Cleveland in 2011," said Holt, who wouldn't disclose the franchise fee.
Midway through the 2009 season, representatives for the Cleveland City Stars unsuccessfully tried to sell the franchise, which was struggling financially and on the field. The team was launched in 2007 and advanced to a more competitive level of play each season before folding.
Thursday's joint announcement about the new league represents a legal resolution orchestrated by the USSF, the governing body for all things soccer in the United States. The North American Soccer League was formed late last year when seven teams left the USL to form their own Division II league. The USL had sued to block the move.
The teams will play from 28 to 32 games and possibly as many as 34, league representatives said. The season, still to be set, will run from late March or mid-April to October or November.