Thursday, January 23, 2014

How Will the NASL Look after MLS Expansion?

Not too many months back, I wrote that I thought the NASL had found firmer footing and a niche in the sports spectator marketplace.  I stand by those thoughts.

But, because of the next round of MLS expansion, growing to 24 teams by 2020-according to Garber logic, the NASL will once again have to struggle to find solid ground.  It will be tough as MLS cherry picks some of the NASL franchises or pushes some of them off the already precarious pro soccer cliff.

I predict it will eventually stabilize, though.  Unfortunately, the NASL will take years to finally settle in on its present business model and really reap rewards for the majority of its club owners.

The current business model for NASL club owners fits very well for a pro Soccer second division in the U.S.:

The name and branding of the NASL for the second division fits perfectly (US Soccer owes those who got the second coming of NASL off the ground a bit of a debt of gratitude).  And, building stadiums to seat roughly 8,000 people in medium-sized metro areas to accommodate 15 home games yearly, including friendlies and U.S. Open Cup dates should bring in dividends and be a positive community rousing.

As things stand now, the NASL is due to have 13 clubs playing in its league by 2015.  Of the 13, there is reasonable suspicion for why five of the clubs won't suit up much longer for the League.

Am I the only one thinking that NYC FC will eventually want to buy the Cosmos name?  I've thought that since the first moment I heard about this new New York club.  I think they'd be crazy to put almost 100 million dollars into everything without trying to buy out the Cosmos name.

None of the new New York team makes common sense, unless it's the Cosmos.  I know the Cosmos originated in the NASL, but the precedent has been set for other old NASL named clubs to make it to MLS--i.e. Sounders, Whitecaps, Timbers.

If Miami finally gets off the ground, like it looks like it will, then, how can we conclude that Ft. Lauderdale will survive for sure?  It's possible the Strikers hang on, but it can't be counted on for sure.

There are tremendous rumblings that Minnesota and Atlanta will take the last two expansion spots, thus making the Atlanta Silverbacks and Minnesota United FC susceptible to either being taken over, expunged or absorbed into MLS.

The last of the five shaky spots for NASL is what will happen for OKC.  A team will already get a jump on them from the USL Pro league (pro Soccer's third division in the U.S.).  If the team from USL is considered the city's team through decent branding, then the new OKC may be hard pressed to manage to stay afloat.

This leaves six U.S. and two Canadian clubs left.

It figures in the ensuing years that more clubs will climb aboard the NASL train.  So, it should carry enough steam to get by.  For a while, it will be a place for clubs to play until they move on and for new metro areas to become established soccer hotbeds.

2020 can be a landmark year of vision for the top of the U.S. Soccer pyramid.  Time will tell how it all tumbles out and tumbles together.

Originally published January 6, 2014

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