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NASL approves expansion to Jacksonville and Oklahoma City

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By DAN KARELL

Just as Major League Soccer has caught the expansion bug in recent seasons, the North American Soccer League has confirmed that they’ll grow from seven teams at the start of the 2013 season to 13 teams by the 2015 season.

On Thursday at the NASL Board of Governors meeting in Dallas, Texas, the NASL announced that they approved new teams in Oklahoma City and Jacksonville to join the league in the spring of 2015.

“We are delighted to be expanding to two cities that clearly have a passion for soccer, where we believe local fans will be excited to welcome our newest teams,” NASL Commissioner Bill Peterson said in a statement on NASL.com. “We have considered expansion to cities that meet specific criteria and most importantly have strong ownership groups that will provide a long and stable future for the NASL in those markets, which we clearly have in both Jacksonville and Oklahoma City.”

The Oklahoma City soccer project is lead by Tim McLaughlin, a local businessman, who has already secured a location for the team, Taft Stadium. The Jacksonville soccer project was organized by the Sunshine Soccer Group and their CEO Mark Frisch, as well as former FC Dallas goalkeeper Dario Sala.

NASL welcomes Indy Eleven in Indianapolis, the Virginia Cavalry in Ashburn, Virginia, and the Ottawa Fury in Ottawa as expansion clubs in 2014.

What do you think of this news? Excited to see soccer spreading into non-traditional soccer markets? Do you see those cities supporting the soccer clubs well?

Share your thoughts below.

91 comments
    • matt

      Yes because owners who paid the $5 NASL entry fee deserve admittance to MLS, and owners who paid $100 million to buy MLS franchises deserve to be relegated to a league that probably has worse attendance and media presence than most Single-A baseball teams.

      I am thrilled to hear that NASL is expanding and I hope it continues to grow in popularity: a broader and stronger 2nd (and 3rd) division are both great for providing more opportunities for US players to grow and more chance for fans outside the largest markets to see high-level soccer. But IF pro/rel ever happens in this country, which I doubt, it’s still at least a couple of decades away.

      I don’t know why so many US fans are obsessed with the idea. Are we clamoring to abolish the playoffs or go to a Fall/Spring calendar? Do we want to keep MLS at 20 teams forever so we can have a balanced 38-game schedule? MLS is not the EPL or Bundesliga, and as long as we don’t switch to 60 minute games, add 2 extra subs, or (God forbid) go back to the old MLS PK shootout format, I think the small differences are just fine, and more importantly reflect a business reality that isn’t going away any time soon.

      Like

      • RAMONE

        I completely agree that the financial aspect is going to be the biggest barrier to get over for pro-rel. There is a way to do this however but even if NASL was suddenly 20 completely financially stable teams fully capable of competing financially with MLS teams (it would be a sham of pro-rel if every year the 3 promoted teams were always the 3 bottom teams the following year – immediately getting relegated – or worse yet, went out and tried to spend money they didn’t have to stay up and it ended up causing them to fail financially).

        The only way to do this is a merger and return of capital to MLS and NASL owners (to then be reinvested somehow in the new tiered league). The problem is that despite MLS now asking $100M for an expansion team price tag, they don’t have $1.9 billion sitting in the bank somewhere to pay back all of the owners their seed capital (expansion fees). I don’t recall what the original MLS team fee was (seems like it was around $10M), but it was $40M for Seattle, Portland, Vancouver, Montreal and seems like it was $30M for RSL. I suspect MLS would only be able to return in the range of $10M (if it works like most businesses do) if it were to fold / merge and for the majority of owners that makes no financial sense at all in the short to medium term (long term it may, but is it really worth $20 to $90 million … the time horizon for that ROI is loooooong), particularly the last 6-7 teams in.

        Like

    • Mike in Missouri

      As soon as every NASL team has 18,000 seat stadiums and local tv deals, sure.

      Like

    • Sean

      Can’t happen yet. Can’t have a large market MLS club with a stadium seating 20K or more be lost to a club whose stadium seats 5K and is in a small market. Logistically it wouldn’t work yet. But maybe in time, once the infrastructure is complete.

      Like

  • Gnarls

    Does anyone know how NASL’s organizational structure compares to MLS’s? Specifically, is it a single-entity structure where the league owns players’ contracts? Just curious. Seems to me that rapid expansion isn’t such a bad thing if clubs are financially independent, thus less likely to tank the entire league.

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    • Travis

      Believe it isnt single entity, or at least I am lead to believe that cause Cosmos fans always say that is why they have no interest in the MLS.

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      • Gnarls

        That’s what I thought. Looks like the Cosmos has spent a ton of money on player acquisitions, so there’s probably no salary cap. I like that about NASL, but the quality is still inferior to MLS, not to mention the complete lack of media exposure. But I’m glad the league has its fans.

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      • slowleftarm

        Hempstead Cosmos fans have no interest in MLS because MLS had no interest in them. Despite Hempstead fans claims to the contrary, a team that plays at Hofstra is not too big for MLS.

        Like

    • Scott

      Dude, that’s WHY MLS is single-entity. Financially independent clubs in the OLD NASL tanked the league.

      Like

      • Coco

        no they didn’t. The old NASL tanked for a number of reasons. Short sighted owners, lack of American players to fill a league.

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      • RAMONE

        I will agree that it was multiple factors (too many teams, too far flung, teams moving, expanding and contracting every few years … a big recession starting in 1980 which took down LA and Washington because the parent company got ) , but absolutely one of those factors was the fact that some teams could go out and pay huge salaries and have significantly better teams while the Edmonton’s, Tulsa’s, Portland’s, San Jose’s, etc. (and when some of those teams tried to go spend big bucks they lost money).

        It was an unstable league for large number of reasons, not the least of which was the concentration of power and names American Soccer fans recognized all mostly on one team (Cosmos).

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      • Coco

        LAG play at Cal State Dominguez. San Jose plays at Santa Clara University

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      • Jay

        For now but San Jose is building their stadium as we speak. And even though it’s in a college campus the stub hub center is no college stadium.

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      • Edwin in LA

        We’ll believe it when we see it…..and even then if they think they’ll get 20K fans like nothing well….that seems hard to believe as well. For now the Austin team is the class of NASL when it comes to stadiums and attendance

        Like

      • Brian

        They are not clubs, they are franchises with independent owners. Clubs do not exist in most American sports, the Packers are the closest you will find.

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      • RAMONE

        And the Packers only because they don’t have a single owner.

        I think most Americans truly don’t understand the club concept and how it evolved in Europe and how different it is than the franchise model. Every city has an oldish athletic club (or lots of them depending on the city). 100 years ago many of these clubs had football, soccer, basketball, etc. teams that would travel and play those of other clubs. But as those sports became more professionalized the baseball model of single sport leagues with franchises won out instead of what happened in Europe where the athletic clubs professionalized their teams. MLS takes that a step further, but that step further was for good reason – it was the incubator to keep the league alive and it worked. I truly think that one day soon (next 5 years) we will see MLS start to increase the independence of their players and franchises, add more DP spots, etc.. DCU getting their own SSS is another step in that stability. Hopefully NE isn’t far behind in getting one themselves (and hopefully for them, somewhere central in Boston … it would be a slam dunk success story).

        Most Europeans likewise don’t completely understand this is how American sports evolved so they have a hard time with a frame of reference as to why Pro-Rel doesn’t work in a franchise based league. While they certainly never want their clubs to get relegated, it isn’t the end of the world for most of them because the teams that are going back and forth are not the perennial top 5-10 teams. In a franchise based model where each team has some level of equality and efforts are made to make sure the rebuilding teams have flexibility and first choice of draft picks, etc., it is very possible for the team with the biggest following in the league to fall to last in the league when they are rebuilding. Relegating the NY Yankees (not a fair comparison as MLB rules do allow teams to drastically outspend others), Dallas Cowboys, LA Lakers to drop down and play against Topeka, Bakersfield, Albuquerque, Raleigh, etc. when they are trying to rebuild. Their fans wouldn’t go to games.

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  • AzTeXan

    NASL should try to get a team in the ABQ. They’d be like the San Antonio Spurs but for the whole state of New Mexico. Too bad there are no rich people there.

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  • drewcore

    Wait, did I miss some news recently about resolving this issue? We can’t possibly have this story posted, or these comments without addressing how this shakes out with OKC just being awarded a USL PRO franchise. I know there’s complicated legal things going on around it, and its not SoccerByIves’ job to disect all of that, but there is no way these 2 teams can coexist. Maybe that story is to follow.

    We’ll take one of those teams off their hands here in Milwaukee…

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    • Coco

      the market will decide which club will exist or if both of them can exist. I’m putting my money on the NASL club.

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      • phil

        Coco-
        USL Pro will probably do better because it will team up with an MLS team and loan players.

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      • Coco

        agreed

        i’d like to see USL with 6 regional divisions throughout the country with 12-18 clubs in each division.

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      • wesbadia

        Or USL-PDL.

        The difference is PDL and NPSL are not professional. USL-PRO is professional. If I had a choice between the two in my home town, I’d rather watch paid athletes than a bunch of high school and college kids. Maybe that’s just me.

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      • AzTeXan

        The USL Pro team is starting a year earlier too so they have the first mover advantage.

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      • Coco

        still going to be a hard sell with NASL coming in. NASL is more ambitious. While USL has pretty much already acquiesced to be a farm league for MLS.

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    • paul

      Actually don’t forget the pdl team too, that started this year. :)

      So from 2013, 2014 and 2015, we’re going from nothing…

      ( well not nothing. As I think coasl is a usasa club, i.e. division 5)

      … to having division 4, division 3 and division 2 clubs.

      Crazy stuff. I got some spectatin to do.

      Like

      • paul

        Ooops. I meant coasl is a usasa league ( I think), not club.

        Like

    • WiscFan

      The biggest issue is the folks behind the NASL team still have a USL-PDL team competing in 2014. I wonder if OK City FC will keep their PDL team once they go NASL in 2015. The OK City USLPro / NASL matches in the Open Cup will be fun to watch!

      And Milwaukee would be great. I’ve been trying to get a supporters group going, slowly but surely.

      Like

      • wesbadia

        My impression is that the PDL team owners always had it in their heads that OKCFC would eventually move up from PDL… the whole team. It’s just that USL decided to go with Prodigy instead of OKCFC ownership. OKCFC pursued NASL instead, with the intent that they would move into a new league. This isn’t a new team or new ownership. Both are existing.

        Personally, I believe the biggest question is how the pending lawsuit will affect both USL and NASL and their OKC teams. It’s going to be interesting how it pans out.

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      • DrewCore

        Theres a few small supportors groups out there, and Peter Wilt has made a few comments here and there about trying to get a USL or NASL team here after the failed MLS bid back in ’06. But it has to be done right, playing in the heart of the city, not out in the middle of nowhere like all the previous 2nd div. teams MKE has had.

        I’ve been trying to get to a Bavarians game this summer, I think theres a small supporters group there.

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  • byob el paso tx

    Nice from NASL and hopefully my hometown of El Paso TX can get a NASL club, since MLS is targeting bigger markets and NASL midsize markets. However hopefully one day, MLS, NASL and USL will communicate about expansion and even create a new name for all three leagues, something like NAPS north america premier soccer. Not only that, but each league needs to go for the east-west conference set up, in order to help each league grow.
    As for NASL, there is plenty of markets that NASL can easily go into from west to east,like Albuquerque, El Paso Tx, Omaha, San Diego, San Francisco, Eugene, Austin, Baltimore, St.louis, Alabama, New Orleans, Tennessee, Louisville.
    As for USL Pro, just become the 3rd division now, rather than going against MLS and NASL.
    For MLS, increase salary cap, give teams 4 to 5 dps, no allocation and have free ageny.

    Like

      • Mike

        What’s wrong with Earthquakes? It dates back to 1974 it has great history, fits the region? I’ll admit they need to go back to the smuf blue of the early 2000’s and maybe bring back the old red ones from the NASL days as a third kit. Much better then say a Real Salt Lake. Quakes is a great name.

        Like

      • MLS_Soccer_Talker

        Earthquakes sounds like a pee wee team name. And dont get me started on the Pizza Slice Chest you guys have…

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      • Coco

        who cares how far it dates back. It’s cringeworthy. A soccer club named the earthquakes??? Maybe an Arena League Football team.

        Like

      • David s.

        To me it’s more that, y’know, it’s all fun and games until 2000+ Californians are dead from a major quake, which seems all but inevitable in the coming decades. Then it might not seem like such a great name. Any pro baseball or soccer teams in Japan nicked The Tsunami? I just see this ending badly.

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  • NortheastFl

    Congrats Jax! We will be one of the NASL leading cities. Combined with the cynergy of Fulham we will have high profile exhibitions and USMNT matches. Everbank field is getting a very attractive facelift , will be a world class soccer facilty. For NASL I foresee a San Antonio type approach with a premeire 5k seat stadium that we can expand up tp 18- 20k upon demand , downtown near the sports complex. Hodges Field will do just fine in the meantime where we can pack in 10k for NASL’s best soccer environment.

    Like

  • Relegate this

    For those of you whining about relegation, you throw 100 million into a team and then let me know what your thoughts are on it.

    But it got me thinking–is there actually a way to appease these people? What if MLS “expanded”/reserved two spots one year for the champ and runner up of NASL. They play in MLS, then at the end of the season the top team of the two stays in MLS, loser drops, replaced by NASL champion. I think it’s the only real way in this country to get any sort of pro/rel.

    Like

    • El Paso tx

      Not bad but maybe do one for each conference by 2020 as a treat for NASL. Do it every five years or something but good idea.

      Like

    • Northzax

      And why would NASL agree to that? Losing their best teams every year? That’s not how you grow a brand. And if any NASL teams really want into MLS, the price tag is $50m (the 100 nycfc paid is amplified because of the market and competition, so maybe $75? Mls is a corporation, if you want to be an owner of a corporation, you generally have to buy in.

      Like

    • Coco

      the best way to implement pro/rel is by using an economic trigger between leagues. For instance pro/rel would trigger between MLS and NASL when NASL has 18 clubs, 3/4 playing in SSS, attendance averaging 7500, and every club with an academy.

      Realistically that would take at least 10 years. But i’m sure even then some ‘MERICA people would be against it.

      Like

      • Edwin in LA

        7500? So you want crowds like the ones at Revs, Crew, DC and even Fire some games or even Chivas games?

        Like

      • Coco

        7500 avg for D2 is very good. Considering the best teams will have around 10. And once promoted would even have higher attendance.

        Like

      • Edwin in LA

        Wow you don’t get it….7500 is horrible for MLS, what makes you think that if a team suddenly got promoted that they would double that? Because that’s what it would take for them not to make it to MLS and not look completely out of place…..

        Try to understand this……we have NO TV Money….and MLS teams are STILL recouping their loses over the early years…..this is NOT like in Europe where you can just add a team from 2nd division because the league was formed by people who invested MILLIONS, way more than even the Cosmos will ever invest even with their Stadium they claim to build in the future. The reason MLS is single entity and has a salary cap and other limitations is because it’s set up for the long run. And you can’t ask the people who invested knowing for a good 20 years they were going to struggle and maybe even lose money to risk losing WAY more with relegation….

        Like

      • Coco

        Like I said, it would take 10 years to meet the benchmarks. Okay so if 7500 isn’t a high enough average for you what would be?

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  • Norman

    NASL doesn’t need MLS. If they continue to expand, they can setup pro/rel between NASL 1 and NASL 2. When that happens, you can kiss MLS goodbye.

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    • Edwin in LA

      LOL yeah……keep dreaming. MLS IS the top flight of US Soccer and it will remain that way. Why are you so sure of this and so smug about NASL? What are you a fan in a city where you know MLS won’t go near or a Cosmos follower who is mad about not being treated better from MLS?

      Like

      • jspech

        Comment above
        brought to you
        by
        A defensive & angry MLS defender .

        Like

      • wesbadia

        ” A defensive & angry MLS defender .”

        Aurelian Collin?

        Like

    • Coco

      lets work on getting NASL to 18 teams playing in their own stadiums first. Right now even the Cosmos will be playing on gridiron lines.

      Like

    • John

      Why would a fan of an MLS team give up on his team? Please the pro/rel is not gone to happen here, if it did that’s when MLS would go away. America would never go for a league that only had 4 or 5 teams that could win a championship for the next 30 years.
      BORING!

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      • Coco

        pro/rel doesn’t mean you have a league where only 4 teams could win the championship.

        it’s not even the same issue.

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      • John

        How many teams have won the EPL since it was founded? It’s the major issue, open your eyes. Americans don’t cheer for losers, there is no great joy in fishing 16th in the table. Promoted teams never win the championship. Unless they are brought by someone who can lose a billion dollars like Man City.

        Like

    • yankiboy

      Even if the brain trust behind the NASL are successful with their expansion efforts I don’t see it as being the primary factor in a potentia downfall of MLS because the models and capital behind the two leaves are so different.

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      • RAMONE

        Agree completely. When NASL starts signing guys for DP type contacts and stealing headline guys out of college or international transfers that MLS teams were targeting, then maybe the NASL zealots will have reached the level of actually competing. NASL expanding to 35 teams with 2 divisions instituting pro-rel (and playing in places like Topeka, Fargo, Halifax, Bakersfield, etc) but still on small budgets with second and third tier players in front of 3-5k fans isn’t going to mean they are suddenly a superior product.

        Like

  • Ronster

    I prefer eventual promotion and relegation which means every game is meaningful in league competition. But the face that both MLS and NASL is expanding means more opportunities for promoting the beautiful game in the US and Canada – which means more opportunities for aspiring domestic players – which means more depth for the US national team pool in the long run. Great to see that soccer franchises have become a hot commodity both in MLS and NASL! Let them vie for the players – competition only enhances the playing level in this country!

    Like

  • slowleftarm

    I think pro/rel will happen some day but if it’s going a strong, stable 2nd (and 3rd) division is necessary, so this is a good start. Doesn’t mean it will happen, but we’re on the way to at least making it possible.

    Like

    • Supa

      I don’t think that pro/rel will ever happen. A spot in MLS is worth $100 – $50 mil. (or $25 mil with the Becks discount) MLS will never “give” that spot away to a team that does well on the field. Not to mention that if you are not with the MLS sponcers the problems that would cause. (Nike kit in an Addidas league? fugetaboutit!)

      Like

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