Carmelo Anthony

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Carmelo Anthony on NASL over MLS; thoughts on Promotion/Relegation

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When Carmelo Anthony decided to buy NASL club Puerto Rico FC in 2015, many wondered why the New York Knicks star didn’t invest in Major League Soccer — the top league in the U.S. and Canada.

[ MORE: Melo on USMNT, Copa America ]

The small forward, who is a nine-time NBA All-Star, admitted that he did consider partially investing in an MLS club, but ultimately decided to go with NASL because he wanted full control of a club. Anthony subtlety hinted that MLS’ single-entity structure factored in his decision making.

“Well I like the actual business plan. I like that in the NASL, everyone runs their own business,” Anthony told NBCSports.com in an interview last Thursday. “You build your business up in the way you want to. Not being told by someone else how to build it. That was one of the keys that kind of intrigued me when I was thinking about NASL or MLS.”

He added, “It was just an opportunity from a business side, and being able to make my own rules and my own team. Run my own club and build it the way that I want to. Having 100 percent ownership of it. Whether that’s marketing or sponsors, the kicks [that players wear], concessions. Whatever it might be, I own all of it.”

Anthony’s comments suggest that MLS’s single-entity structure deterred him from deciding to join the league.

MLS declined to comment but the league is similar to other major American leagues like the NFL, NBA or MLB that the league ultimately has the final say in matters ranging from apparel makers to trades and transfers.

That is different from England’s Premier League or Spain’s La Liga, where all 20 clubs are independent businesses who can make their own decisions on those issues.  For example, all MLS clubs use Adidas as their kit makers, whereas Premiership clubs constantly negotiate for deals independently on jerseys, warm-up outfits, etc.

The NASL is similar to the England’s top flight in that sense. Anthony’s Puerto Rico FC wears Nike, the same brand that he has a sneaker deal with for the NBA whereas the New York Cosmos’ kits are made by Under Armour.  There is also no salary cap in NASL, whereas MLS has a small salary cap of $3.66 million with exceptions against that number in the form of Designated Players and Targeted Allocation Money.

While NASL’s setup may allow owners more liberties, there are some drawbacks.

Spanish soccer star Raul (R holding trophy) celebrates with his teammates after the NASL Championship Final match between the NY Cosmos and the Ottawa Fury November 15, 2015 in Hempstead, NY. Raul has planned to retire after the match. AFP PHOTO/DON EMMERT (Photo credit should read DON EMMERT/AFP/Getty Images)
(Photo credit DON EMMERT/AFP/Getty Images)

For one, MLS’s single-entity structure has made the league more financially stable as clubs have revenue sharing and better sponsorship options. NASL famously folded in the 1980s due to the financial imbalance of the league. MLS is also recognized by U.S. Soccer as the top division of soccer in America, an issue that NASL has publicly criticized

It is the combination of those factors have made MLS clubs significantly worth more than NASL’s clubs, with the Seattle Sounders being the most valuable soccer club in the U.S. at $245 million. MLS franchise fees recently peaked at $100 million with NYCFC and continue to rise, whereas NASL’s fees are in single-digit millions. 

Anthony even hinted that he would be open to one day seeing his club in MLS.

“I just want to put something great together, a great product,” he said. “Not be labeled as just a NASL team, MLS team or whatever. I think if in the future or something, if that conversion were to start…and I think that may happen at some point soon….Right now, I’m trying to build this up with NASL and I see so much growth there.”

Anthony also weighed in on another big debate in the American soccer landscape; should there be a promotion/relegation system in the U.S.?

The 32-year-old, who is friends with European soccer stars like Cristiano Ronaldo, Neymar, Alex-Oxlade Chamberlain and Thierry Henry among others, admits he’d love to see the system come stateside – as long as it’s done in a way that works for all involved.

“I’m not against Pro/Rel, and in some instances, I’m all for it…if it’s done right. If it’s planned out right, I’m all for it. If it’s all one big division one, I’m all for it. I’m not against at all, but it has to make sense…If it helps the sport for the whole country, I’m all for it and I support it.”

MLS commissioner Don Garber has repeatedly said that his league doesn’t need Promotion/Relegation to be considered a real soccer competition. 

There are obvious reasons for that. Imagine if a team like the LA Galaxy got relegated and replaced by NASL team that’s worth $3-7 million. Less owners would be inclined to spend the huge amounts needed for franchise fees in MLS. Anthony understands those concerns, which is why despite the fact that his own club would stand to benefit financially if there was a MLS/NASL promotion setup, he thinks the system should first be experimented with the NASL and USL leagues.

“Imagine if NASL was Division 1, and USL was Division 2? Like you told teams from USL, hey you have a shot of playing in the NASL next year…So I think it what it comes to is things like stadium size and fan bases,” He said. “Because it’s like you can’t take like a big team, I don’t want to name cities, and see them get relegated to a division where they are playing teams that have like 2,000 fans a game. And obviously, you’ve got to think about that as well.”

Considering that in the NBA, there are several teams that are accused of tanking to get high draft picks, would the concept work in basketball?

“You can’t use it in a basketball sense, it only works in soccer,” Anthony quickly replied.

Carmelo Anthony amazed by soccer’s growth in USA

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It may not be a well-known fact but New York Knicks star Carmelo Anthony is a big follower of the beautiful game.

The nine-time NBA All-Star made headlines last year when he purchased a soccer club, NASL side Puerto Rico FC, a team that will launch its inaugural season on July 2.

Anthony hopes that his investment will be a positive addition to the already major strides that the sport has made and believes that it will be competing with all major American sports very soon…including his NBA.

“I think in the next 15 years, soccer will be as big as any other sport here in the U.S.” Anthony told NBCSports.com exclusively in phone interview to promote his team’s friendly match against the Puerto Rican national team in New York. 

“It’s growing at a pace that no one could have ever imagined.”

Like most soccer fans in this country, he wants to see the U.S. national take the next step on the global stage and compete with the biggest teams in the world.

He believes that by opening up a team in the American commonwealth, with a heavy emphasis on academies and homegrown players, he will be able to help in his own way.

“The point is, we want our U.S. national team to compete with the Germanys and all those other countries,” he said. “But we have to start with our youth and we need to have more emphasis on our academies.”

So yes, Anthony has been following the U.S. national team to see if its will progress out of the group stage in the Copa America Centario. He recently traveled to Chicago to see the tournament hosts rebound from a 2-0 opening loss to Colombia, as the Yanks routed Costa Rica 4-0. It was a result that he said he thoroughly enjoyed and one that he believes should raise the expectations on the team.

“Well this is the time for them to show that. Show that we have the talent as a country. We can play at a high level as well. I think this is a pivotal time for the U.S. and its national team.”

Anthony is scheduled to attend the Copa America Final at MetLife Stadium on June 26, if his schedule permits. He hopes he’ll be watching the U.S. in that match.

“Yeah, I have to [want them to win]. I’m American. Go U.S.A.!”

You can bet if the team makes it that far, Melo will be there.

Carmelo Anthony brings pro soccer back to Puerto Rico, unveils NASL franchise

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NBA star Carmelo Anthony is now the owner of his own professional soccer team.

Anthony, who plays for the New York Knicks, announced on Thursday that he has formed a franchise in the North American Soccer League (NASL) which will be called Puerto Rico FC and become the 13th team to call North America’s second-tier home.

[ RELATED: Horton on signing for Leeds ]

Speaking at the unveiling Anthony, 31, revealed his deep-rooted love for Puerto Rico and his delight at bringing pro soccer back to the Island.

“It is an honor for me to bring back soccer to Puerto Rico, my beloved Island, birthplace of my father, and a special place that as you know, I carry with pride in my heart and soul,” Anthony said. “Through my Foundation, I have been coming to Puerto Rico for the past six years, restoring basketball courts in underprivileged communities. Today, I come back to the island – this time with the commitment of restoring professional soccer in Puerto Rico through the NASL.”

Puerto Rico FC will play its home games at the recently-renovated Juan Ramon Loubriel Stadium in Bayamon which has a capacity of 12,500.

Previous pro soccer clubs to call Puerto Rico home include the Puerto Rico Islanders of the USL who then switched to the NASL before disbanding and then three teams who briefly spent time in the USL, Puerto Rico United, Club Atletico River Plate Puerto Rico and Sevilla FC Puerto Rico, before heading back to Puerto Rico’s domestic league.

Anthony is just the latest in a number of high-profile sports stars who have invested in the NASL. Ronaldo, Paolo Maldini and Riccardo Silva have recently become owners of the Fort Lauderdale Strikers and Miami FC respectively.

As for Anthony, the NBA star is planning to bring success to the soccer scene in Puerto Rico.

“I am committed to bring soccer to the next level in Puerto Rico,” Anthony said. “To the thousands of fans in Puerto Rico that have been waiting for soccer to come back, I can promise a world-class organization in a world-class league, with a strong social mission to provide kids the opportunity to participate in this growing sport.”