US clubs announce rebel North American league

NEW YORK - Rebel clubs from the second tier football championship in the United States and Canada will compete in a new North American Soccer League (NASL) from April next year, officials said on Monday.

The breakaway league was formed earlier this month without being named by clubs previously tied to the United Soccer Leagues (USL), the structure below Major League Soccer.

Formally announced two weeks ago, the rebel league has been named to honour the original NASL, a professional league that operated in the US and Canada from 1968 to 1984 and featured soccer greats such as Pele and Franz Beckenbauer.

"We are paying respect to the players, coaches and leaders who were pioneers for men's professional soccer in North America," newly appointed NASL president Selby Wellman said in a statement.

"Our intention is to offer an elite brand of soccer and outstanding experience for our partners and fans, something the old NASL did very well during its day. We will do the same in the new NASL."

The nine rebel clubs include USL champions the Montreal Impact and the team they beat in the league's final game - the Vancouver Whitecaps.

The USL, which was founded in 1986 and has two senior men's divisions as well as a youth and women's structure, recently announced plans for new teams in Canada and Detroit and intends to continue without the rebel teams in 2010.