These requirements include reaching 12 teams by 2016 with at least nine of those teams from the U.S. Also, there must be teams playing in three different time zones.
The NASL is scheduled to start the 2015 season with 11 teams, two of them Canadian. There are plans for two more teams to join for the 2016 season, Virginia and OKC. But, both Virginia and OKC are rumored to have organizational issues that could prevent them from kicking off in 2016. All 13 teams have a logo attached to the top of the homepage of NASL.com.
I've gone back and forth on the NASL as a viable minor professional U.S. soccer league (click NASL link above to read more). There has certainly been progress and there are admirable qualities about the level of play in the NASL. I personally witnessed the 2014 Soccer Bowl in San Antonio and I feel the players gave it everything they had on the field and it was a great product to see live with beautiful plays.
My doubts for the success of NASL lie with the business development department. As the United Soccer League (USL) has seen its number of franchises grow by leaps and bounds, the NASL's growth has been either slow or stagnant.
The most important aspect of business development is selling an idea. It's basic capitalism 101 and it's built on relationships. There has to be trust and follow-through for people to buy in on an idea. Relationships take time and plenty of communication.
The NASL has not been able to develop enough worthy relationships to garner commitments for franchise buy-ins. One aspect making a higher degree of difficulty for NASL selling its business concept is due to the stricter Division 2 franchisee requirements. Now, the USL will face those same hurdles as it recently submitted its declaration to USSF for Division 2 status.
There is obvious competition between USL and NASL, as they both vie for Division 2 recognition from USSF and the world. The biggest difference between USL and NASL is USL is a willing minor league partner to Major League Soccer (MLS) while NASL has no working relationship with MLS and sees itself on equal footing. It remains to be seen how USSF will decide on USL's request for Division 2 status due to the player development type of relationship USL has with MLS. It also remains to be seen whether NASL will survive.
Going forward, the distinctions as business enterprises are clear between USL and NASL. Owners of emerging soccer teams need to make their decisions based on these differing business philosophies and relationships developed with the leagues.
One other thing is clear too, though, if no relationship is developed with these team owners, it is likely for that league to be at a big disadvantage compared to the other. This is what is happening with the owner of the Albuquerque Sol when it comes to the NASL. The Albuquerque Sol is the only minor league soccer team in town, playing in the Mountain Division of the Western Conference of the Premier Development League (PDL) of the USL.
Today, when I asked Ron Patel (a successful businessman who owns Delivered Dish), the owner of the Albuquerque Sol, whether NASL had reached out to him at all, he said, "No, never heard from them." I had asked Patel the same question more than six months back just as he was concluding his first season as an owner and he told me that he had not ever been contacted by NASL, but would be interested to hear what they had to say.
Albuquerque is the 59th largest metro area in the U.S., close to a million people. It's either the perfect size metro area for minor league professional soccer or a possible major league city-Salt Lake City is the 48th largest metro area.
Whether NASL is the right fit for Albuquerque, or not, can't quite be answered. For sure, Patel has the intent to grow his franchise and take it to the best levels of soccer that is possible for the market size. The fact that NASL is not attempting to build a relationship with Patel is ridiculous and I question the competency and passion of the NASL organization.
These are sales calls that need to be made. Who is the NASL looking for in terms of new franchises? Are they only waiting for calls coming in? They should be calling on business people and Chambers of Commerce for all metro areas that fit their niche. Undoubtedly, the NASL should be focused enough to be calling on soccer owners of teams on the rise, like the Albuquerque Sol.