NASL reportedly declined Division II status by USSF

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The North American Soccer League (NASL) has been hanging by a thread for some time now, and the latest news regarding the league could be far worse for it’s short-term future.

According to FiftyFive.One, the U.S. Soccer Federation has declined NASL’s bid to remain at Division II status in the U.S. Soccer pyramid, meaning that the league would have to drop down to D III or possibly fold completely.

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The reported decision isn’t completely surprising given NASL’s poor attendance numbers and overall lack of league growth, however, nothing has been made clear yet as to why it wouldn’t be granted D II status for another year.

If NASL does in fact have to drop down to D III, it would likely join USL Division III, which is tabbed to begin its venture in the North American soccer pyramid in 2019.

Heading into 2017, NASL lost five clubs prior to the start of the Spring Season. The Fort Lauderdale Strikers and Rayo OKC folded completely, while Minnesota United (MLS), the Tampa Bay Rowdies (USL) and Ottawa Fury (USL) each moved on to new leagues.

The San Francisco Deltas were the league’s lone addition for 2017, although NASL is set to add two more California-based club’s next year with the arrivals of California United FC and an unnamed San Diego team owned by Eden Hazard, Demba Ba and others.

FiftyFive.One is also reporting that North Carolina FC, Indy Eleven and the two new California sides are all considering the possibility of joining USL next season with NASL’s future very uncertain.

Report: NASL could feature 8-10 teams in 2017 if league survives

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While the future of NASL remains hanging by a string, the potential for a 2017 season is still there; barely.

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According to SBI Soccer, the league continues to hold talks regarding the future of NASL and if the league does survive it could feature eight to 10 teams in 2017, before expanding to between 12-14 the following year.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s NASL coverage ]

SBI also reports that while these talks are ongoing that there is no certainty the league will in fact continue after recent events have left NASL’s future in serious doubt.

With Minnesota United tabbed to join MLS next season and both the Tampa Bay Rowdies and Ottawa Fury entering USL in 2017, NASL has already lost three teams over the offseason to other divisions, while the New York Cosmos appear to be out of commission for the time being despite conflicting reports regarding the club’s status.

Additionally, the Jacksonville Armada, Rayo OKC and Fort Lauderdale Strikers are reportedly also in trouble, while North Carolina FC (formerly Carolina Railhawks) have announced their plans to apply for MLS entry in the near future.

Report: New York Cosmos on brink of collapse, again

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The North American Soccer League (NASL) seems to be in a lot of trouble.

After losing Minnesota United to Major League Soccer and both the Tampa Bay Rowdies and Ottawa Fury to USL in the past few months, the future of the NASL has been in question with only nine teams still around for the 2017 campaign and both the Fort Lauderdale Strikers and Rayo OKC said to be having severe financial issues of their own.

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Couple all of that with the USL’s progress and it filing for Division Two status for the 2017 season, and everything is beginning to stack up against the NASL just five years into its second coming as a soccer league.

The latest news that the NASL champs in three of the last four seasons — also the team which has the largest payroll and the biggest brand — have now had payroll problems and have yet to make season ticket sales available for next season unfortunately comes as no surprise.

Dave Martinez over at Empire Soccer has the report, which also states that an NASL meeting will take place with the Board of Governors on Tuesday to discuss the future of the league. That doesn’t sound good.

Here’s the latest on the Cosmos:

After another cataclysmic year at the gate, it stands to reason that the club could be looking at a bare-bones operation for 2017. Still, it is impossible to ignore the facts. The team hasn’t taken ticket deposits for next year. The location of their 2017 home venue, still believed to be MCU Park, remains a mystery. Players are being shopped for transfer. Payroll isn’t being met. Staff are being furloughed.

Does that sound like a team that is gearing up for the New Year? The NASL is conducting a Board of Governors meeting this Tuesday to address the future of the league. And for the first time since its reincarnation, one can only guess if the Cosmos will be a part of that future.

Simply put, it was tough to see the Comos’ business model being successful.

They’ve had big names, presumably on big wages, in recent years with Raul and Marcos Senna trying to help raise the profile of the club but attendance figures continued to dip below the league average (which was 5,912 in 2015) and with no big TV deals and Major League Soccer the main focus for commercial and marketing opportunities in North American soccer, the NASL’s status as a second-tier league meant many of its clubs have had to battle away just to make ends meet.

With the NASL trying to force its way as a first-tier league running alongside MLS for many years, it now seems like the league which originally flourished in North America from 1970-85 is once again on the brink of extinction.

For the Cosmos, their strong global brand should have meant they would’ve been successful in MLS but issues behind-the-scenes meant no agreement for them to move into the top-flight of North American soccer was made and then for the 2015 season New York City FC arrived on the scene in the Big Apple, meaning MLS now had two teams in NYC and the Cosmos fell further down the pecking order in terms of relevance. There’s no doubting the Cosmos would’ve been a success in MLS but looking from the outside, the door for them to enter MLS seems well and truly shut.

Nobody involved in the U.S. soccer community wants to see a league or individual teams struggle. So many have in the past and unfortunately many will in the future.

With the Cosmos reportedly in dire straits, the reality of the struggle lower-tier teams in the U.S. and Canada are facing is now all of a sudden very real.

Study calls for promotion/relegation in USA

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A study from Deloitte has backed promotion and relegation in the U.S. Soccer pyramid.

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The study — largely backed and organized by owners in the North American Soccer League (NASL) — states that 88 percent of soccer fans in the U.S. want to see promotion and relegation in the USA.

Of course, currently it is a closed system in North America with Major League Soccer the top-tier and no relegation from MLS possible and many would argue that it would be unsustainable to have a pure pyramid system in place in the USA and Canada.

With NASL struggling to challenge the U.S. and Canadian soccer authorities to open up the system, its status as second-tier has come under threat as clubs are losing out financially and with MLS’ growing partnership with the current third-tier United Soccer League (USL), it is difficult to see what the next step for U.S. Soccer is.

Hence why this report was commissioned by a company owned by Miami FC (a newly formed NASL club) owner Riccardo Silva, as NASL clubs are trying to draw attention to their plight with MLS continuing to dominate the North American club soccer scene.

The NASL has lost three teams after the 2016 season with both Tampa Bay Rowdies and Ottawa Fury joining the USL, plus Minnesota United joining MLS. Two other NASL clubs, Rayo OKC and the Fort Lauderdale Strikers, are reportedly having money issues after the 2016 season.

Further issues for NASL include the third-tier USL filing for second-tier status (more on that from the USL president Jake Edwards here) with a decision set to be made shortly by U.S. Soccer on that, and although the report is heavily in favor of promotion and relegation it also states that there is plenty of work to be done for it to become a reality.

Below are the conclusions from Deloitte’s report on the future viability of pro/rel in the USA:

Open leagues may attract more fans to matches – evidence from other leagues demonstrates that the spectacle of promotion and relegation, and the churn of teams between divisions can actually be of net benefit to attendances across the club pyramid as a whole.

Increased attention and audiences will translate into increased revenue – with increased competition at all levels of the club game, and at both ends of a league, matchday and broadcast audiences may be increased. In so doing, this can deliver increase in matchday (e.g. ticket sales), broadcast (e.g. greater viewing figures leading to enhanced broadcast rights deals) and commercial (e.g. more attention delivering greater returns for commercial partners) revenue.

Promotion and relegation will motivate ownership at all levels – by enabling the ambition of owners further down the pyramid (through promotion), as well as by removing the safety net for owners (through relegation), this will motivate ownership to invest and/or develop their club so as to capitalise on the benefits of promotion or avoid the penalties of relegation.

Opening the pyramid will attract investment at all levels of the game – owners looking to develop a long term club project, growing a club from a grassroots organisation to a professional one, may be more motivated to become involved than would be the case with no prospect of promotion or entry to a professional league without a franchise fee payment.

Increased opportunities and competition would assist with player development at all levels – with more competition throughout the pyramid through the prospect of promotion and the threat of relegation, the intensity of competition for players would increase, as would the emphasis for clubs throughout the country to develop their coaching infrastructure.

Opening the leagues can be done in a way so as to mitigate any risks – effective implementation of governance regulations and minimum league standards would ensure that the financial security and sporting integrity of leagues was preserved whilst also allowing the leagues to benefit from the potential identified upsides of promotion and relegation.

As it stands however, US club soccer is not immediately ready for promotion and relegation – for the topic to move forward several key topics needs to be addressed including:
– Decisions made on the optimum number of teams in the existing leagues;
– The continued development and stability of a second tier competition to develop clubs capable in management and football terms of joining the first tier; and
– Consideration of the mechanism by which long term league investors have their “equity” protected, at least in the short term, from relegation.

Cruel double-post PK helps Cosmos to third NASL crown (video)

Penalty kicks decided the NASL Championship Final on Sunday, and the Indy Eleven will rue some cruel twists of fate and risks in strategy.

Scoreless after 120 minutes against the New York Cosmos, Eleven star Eamon Zayed hit both posts with his PK before goalkeeper Jon Busch sent his surprising attempt high and wide of the frame.

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In the end, the Cosmos won their second-straight NASL crown when Ryan Richter converted his attempt to leave the PK score line 4-2.

The Cosmos now have three of six NASL titles, with the composition of the league and unfortunate but key discussion point after a championship match. Minnesota is headed to MLS next season, with Ottawa and Tampa en route to third-tier (for now) partner USL.

That leaves the second-tier with Carolina, Edmonton, Fort Lauderdale, Indy, Jacksonville, Miami, the Cosmos, Puerto Rico, Rayo OKC, and the expansion San Francisco Deltas. The league has said it’s in expansion discussions with six other markets.