October 25, 2016
By Frank Dell'Apa
HOPE FOR NASL?
Slim and then some, if all goes to plan
Soccer News Net Contributing Editor
The North American Soccer League appears to be unraveling with the impending move of the Ottawa Fury and Tampa Bay Rowdies to the USL, announced Tuesday, plus the loss of Minnesota United to MLS.
But the NASL believes it can remain viable next season, though two other teams – the Fort Lauderdale Strikers and Rayo OKC – appear to be having financial difficulties.
The NASL issued the following statement Tuesday:
“We have never had a stronger and more unified group of owners who are committed to the league's model, its structure, and its long-term vision. With a half dozen serious expansion discussions in progress, the league looks forward to adding new owners who share in the board's vision.
“We have ambitious plans for growth, and we're proud that the flexibility of the NASL model remains an extremely attractive proposition for investors seeking to become part of an authentic, competitive soccer league. While we don't want to take anything away from what is sure to be another exciting postseason, we're focused on ensuring that, in 2017, the NASL is one of the most competitive soccer leagues around.”
In a worst-case scenario, which appears to be playing out now, the NASL could play the Spring Season with a minimum eight teams: the Carolina RailHawks, Edmonton FC, Indy Eleven, Jacksonville Armada, Miami FC, the New York Cosmos, Puerto Rico FC and the expansion San Francisco Deltas. Should a buyer be found for the Strikers and/or Rayo Vallecano continue to fund Rayo OKC, the league would be at nine or 10 teams.
The plan is to expand to as many as 15 teams by 2018, with possible moves into major metropolitan areas such as Boston and Chicago, where former Chicago Fire general manager Peter Wilt is involved in establishing a team.
And there are signs of NASL teams being optimistic about the future: Miami FC has allocated funds for improvements at its Florida International University stadium, including installing a grass field.
Silva, whose MP & Silva Group media rights agency is attempting to launch the Americas Champions League, has said he preferred investing in NASL because of the chance to operate a team by international norms, not limited by MLS-style central control and salary caps. Silva is hoping to lure like-minded investors – Mexican billionaire Carlos Slim has been mentioned as a possibility.
This is the revived NASL’s sixth season, and there appear to be parallels with the history of MLS, which was reduced to three owners controlling 10 teams after 2001, its sixth season.
There are plenty of reasons for pessimism concerning the NASL. But Silva and Wilt note that there has never been more demand for investment in soccer in the U.S. And they believe NASL can be a supplier for that demand.