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Commissioner Bill Peterson believes Minnesota United’s MLS move further legitimizes NASL

Soccer Bowl

photo courtesy of NASL


There’s a tone of disappointment in Bill Peterson’s voice when talking about Minnesota United’s decision to join Major League Soccer, but the NASL commissioner is as convinced as ever that his league is at the highest level domestically.

Minnesota United announced its decision to join MLS in 2017 or 2018 at a press conference last week, a decision that was greeted with plenty of fanfare across the United Sates and Canada. The club’s bid had not only beaten out several others in places like Sacramento and Miami for the league’s 23rd franchise, but also a local one orchestrated by Minnesota Vikings owner Zygi Wilf.

But what was largely glossed over during the formal announcement made at Target Field was that NASL, the league that Minnesota United currently plays in, was losing one of its marquee clubs. It’s a move that undoubtedly hurts NASL, but one that the league and Peterson are focusing on gleaning positives from. One Peterson believes further legitimizes NASL as a top league.

“I think this proves that our teams and our owners are at the highest level and the stuff of Division 1, Division 2 with no competition to determine that really doesn’t make sense,” Peterson told SBI. “Last Wednesday at 10 in the morning that club was in NASL, and at 2 o’clock in the afternoon it was in a different league. The only thing that changed was some cash exchanged hands. Nothing else changed.”

For years, NASL has tried to fight the stigma that it is the second-division league in the United States and Canada. It is, of course, officially listed as such within the U.S. Soccer pyramid, but many of the league’s officials and biggest advocates have argued that such a distinction cannot be made since without a promotion-relegation system in place.

Peterson has long agreed with that stance, and his belief in that has only strengthened since Minnesota United’s MLS announcement

“I think it’s hard for anyone to argue that we’re some lower division when our clubs can move like that, at a drop of a check,” said Peterson. “…It’s the state of soccer in the United States right now, where it’s not about competition yet. It’s about money. They’ve made their decision, we wish them well and we’ll keep moving forward.”

NASL will likely do so in the short term with Minnesota United in tow. There was initial speculation that the league could rid itself of the club during the years leading up to Minnesota’s MLS arrival, but Peterson said NASL has no issue with allowing United to continue to play in the league.

What NASL will have to consider is whether or not it keeps a club in a market it has done so well in. By Peterson’s admission, that’s unlikely in the case of Minnesota, but NASL will gauge interest in potential ownership groups before determining which route to take.

“We don’t make any decisions based on what other leagues do. I can guarantee you that,” said Peterson. “We make decisions based on what’s best for the long-term growth of NASL, and we’re okay with multiple teams from multiple leagues being in the same city. We’re okay being in cities where we don’t have other teams, but we’re going to look at ownership groups, and market places and make the decisions that are best for us.

“We still feel that trying to make decisions based on what other people are doing, it’s just not going to make sense today, because the sport right now is more about where is an interesting ownership group rather than anything else.”

With MLS planning to expand to 24 teams by the end of the decade and possibly more after that, NASL may soon have to contend with competing for attention in or near markets where MLS has teams. The New York Cosmos already do so with MLS’s New York Red Bulls and New York City FC, and the Atlanta Silverbacks will face that challenge when an MLS expansion franchise takes to the field in that city in 2017.

There are other cities like Ft. Lauderdale and San Antonio – where NASL’s Strikers and Scorpions play, respectively – that could soon be in similar situations. MLS is continuing to try and hammer out a stadium deal for a Miami franchise that David Beckham would own, and San Antonio keeps getting mentioned as a city that has potential for future MLS expansion.

Peterson and NASL are unfazed, however. They believe there are 30 to 40 other markets that can support a top-level team, and that it’s just a matter of putting the right pieces together at the right time in order to achieve success.

That combined with its own allure is why NASL is going ahead with its own expansion plans. Even if there is one more slot to fill because of MLS’s decision to pluck Minnesota United.

“At the end of the day, it’s about writing a check and that’s really it,” said Peterson. “That’s what separates the different leagues right now in this country. I guess we’ll see where it all shakes out at the end, but I think they’re just going where they find people who are willing to give them the money, right?

“That’s the only difference I can figure out. Minnesota is the prime example: A growing NASL market, NASL owners have kept that sport alive in that town, and they’ve found somebody to come into their league and they’re in their league.”








    • Basically. MLS is trying to keep NASL’s growth down by attacking it’s successful clubs. Expect the Jacksonville Armada and Indy Eleven to be next.

    • They were given the chance to, but turn it down. The Cosmos are the only team able to stand up against MLS in the NASL.

  2. At some point USSoccer and the CSA need to do something about this “pryamid” we have. MLS is a great league and doing great things for the sport in the US & Canada but we need more than a 24 monopoly.

    All in all this MN situation should be good for nasl; lots of attention, exit fee?.. So many other great untapped North American cities to expand to or fire back with a Chicago, Bay Area or Boston team.

  3. By poaching NASL teams MLS is indirectly legitimizing and increasing the vale of NASL teams.

    As MLS continues to over expand and see stagnant growth (attendance and TV ratings continue to lag especially when you consider the growth of the game) some NASL teams will realize there is no value in moving “up” and being forced to share revenue and have to deal with burdensome salary restrictions.

    I could also see the big teams especially those in the Pacific NW splintering off and forming their own league.

    • MLS TV rating and attendence have grown this year, from last year. And regular games on, over time they will grow even bigger.

      • Over expansion is the problem. MLS is adding teams without thinking. The more a owner shaves money in their face, MLS will continue to expand. America have histories of soccer leagues over expanding. The one thing that makes promotion and relegation system handy are so that more professional teams can be added without crowding one league.

    • MLS first week have grown, but it was opening weekend with two big new franchises. That bump was expected. We should hold off celebrating or condemning until we review the numbers about halfway through the season. MLS gets beat by WNBA, which is only kept afloat by the NBA. EPL outdraws both of the aforementioned as well as NHL games on NBCSN (not the NHL games on NBC or other Canadian channels), which shows potential

  4. NASL has the potential to grow and be a powerful division2 but they have to admit MLS will always be better and be D1.
    If you look down the road, MLS can easily have 30 teams. Right now they have practically 24 and if MLS wanted 26, they would have 26 teams by 2018 and 30 by 2022.
    The big problem with NASL in the coming years, is that NASL is going to go against USL and USL wants to be D2,and MLS will help them with that.
    Therefore NASL needs to communicate with MLS and admit to NASL owners and new owners that they are division 2. Not only that but follow the west and east conference set up which is easier and cheaper for teams and steal non MLS affiliate teams from USL.
    NASL should be aiming for 24 teams, 12 in each conference and USL might end up with a lot of MLS affiliate teams. If MLS ends up with 30 teams, then USL should have 30 teams and the non affiliate teams should go to NASL.
    At the end of the day, there’s too many soccer markets which won’t get MLS,and NASL needs to be smart and expand right, while USL should admit they will be an MLS affiliate league.
    But, knowing garber, he probably has some hidden plan, like once every MLS team has a “team 2” then MLS would take those non affiliate teams and create and MLS2 with them and recruit all NASL teams and kill NASL.
    Just in case NASL needs help where to expand, here are some serious markets.
    Eugene, Oakland, San Diego, Vegas,Boise, Albuquerque, El Paso, Birmingham, Iowa, Omaha, Baltimore, Detroit, NC, steal Louisville Austin Sacramento from USL and the best part of these markets, MLS won’t bug to buy them.

    • Eugene, San Diego, Vegas, El Paso, Omaha and Austin would give a stronger Western footprint. Something the NASL severely lacks.

      Sacramento to MLS is all but a done deal within the next year, IMO.

      • NASL should end up like this by 2022 or 2020.
        West= with 12 teams
        San Diego
        El Paso
        Austin, recruit Austin.
        Okc,which they are suppose to have
        Tucson, recruit tucson.
        Other possible markets, an LA team, Boise, reno.
        San Antonio will be gone by 2020 and Minnesota as well.
        East= with 12 teams
        Tampa bay
        Virginia but they might not even make it.
        Atlanta ,they are getting a new team.
        Other possible markets, Cleveland, recruit Louisville, recruit Pittsburgh.
        Cosmos might be gone by 2020
        Not bad for a 24 league team and with east and west conferences.

      • No plus was there any advertising. We need a better name, seriously. That was back then and now is now.

      • Yeah, I agree about the name. Way too cliche. I hate their outdated mid-nineties Astros color scheme as well.

        I also agree that they have a huge advertising problem. I haven’t seen anything along the 35.

        You would think they’d have learned from their past mistakes because the last iteration of the team suffered from horrible advertising as well.

        Idk, they have some good players who are from the area. I’ll probably go check them out eventually.

        Do you know if they show their games locally?

    • So you want the soccer division pyramid to be just a one league system? You want the MLS to be a closed out league while the other divisions are feeder leagues. I don’t think so. That’s not how you develop American soccer. A feeder league should never out rank a competitive independent league. The whole MLS verses NASL thing going on is about division respect and having a meaning for all their clubs. Clubs shouldn get promoted based off of winning the season, but buying their way in because the fan base is good. The USSF is backwards and so is MLS. The NASL is fighting for all the divisions to unit instead of being a farm league unlike MLS. The USL lost my respect because they had a great league where they did not need to depend ob second rate MLS clubs to make the league better. Just continue coming out with great teams like Orlando. MLS suck at creating a club from scratch. They need the USL the same way they need them. The NASL is unfortunate. With or without a NASL team joining MLS, MLS will invade to take fans away. The Minnesota United left because of a NFL ownership threaten them. MLS suck.

      • I messed up.

        A lower division club should get promoted for winning the regular season instead of the money.

  5. “I think this proves that our teams and our owners are at the highest level and the stuff of Division 1, Division 2 with no competition to determine that really doesn’t make sense,”

    I know there’s no Pro/Rel, but MLS and NASL teams do collide in the US Open Cup. An MLS team almost always wins the US Open Cup.

    • This^. Ummmm, hello, US Open Cup anybody? NASL is NOT that good. Pretty even with USL in Open Cup play in that both leagues occasionally beat MLS teams.

      • The NASL is better. No second rate MLS team and all independent clubs that are more professional. USL is a copy cat of MLS and is relying way to much on their partnership to stay competitive with the NASL. Having MLS reserve teams in a 3rd division does not make them a growing league. Reserve teams never get the viewership the main teams get. It also don’t come with the main teams strength. The NASL have a ESPN3 deal and another deal close to happening with One World Sports. For that, the NASL is a richer league than the USL and is more known all over the world. People know USL as just that league with MLS reserve teams in it. US Open Cup is not a good measurement of league strength. Jusr look at the FA Cup.

  6. I believe in the NASL…
    But Uncle Billy doesn’t sound like he has a plan with those comments.

    MLS will continue to pimp the NASL of their teams.

    Bill step your game up!!!

  7. As a Texan living in San Antonio and a huge fan of the Scorpions, you can say what you want Mr. Peterson, but the NASL is not on par with MLS quality of play. Yes, a NASL team can beat a MLS team on any given day the same way an USL team can beat a NASL team, but please… for the love of everything that is good about this game… stop pretending that NASL is a competitor with MLS.

    The loss of Minnesota is a blow to the league in not only quality, but number or teams as well. OKC had to push back a year to start up and the Virginia Cavaliers part owner is in jail apparently. The Jacksonville Armada are a great success, but we need a legitimate new team in a quality market to replace Minnesota in the next 2 years.

    The NASL as a quality 2nd division is good for soccer in America. The MLS averages the most in attendance and is the most aesthetically pleasing to watch (apparently not in March though… those have been some fugly games!). The NASL is better than USL in attendance and quality. No, Sacramento fans… One team, a league, does not make. The USL is an excellent 3rd division and has made great progress in the last 2 years.

    • I think you’ve missed the main point of his comments. He said ” I think this proves that our teams and our owners are at the highest level and the stuff of Division 1, Division 2 with no competition to determine that really doesn’t make sense. Last Wednesday at 10 in the morning that club was in NASL, and at 2 o’clock in the afternoon it was in a different league. The only thing that changed was some cash exchanged hands. Nothing else changed. . . . I think it’s hard for anyone to argue that we’re some lower division when our clubs can move like that, at a drop of a check…It’s the state of soccer in the United States right now, where it’s not about competition yet. It’s about money. They’ve made their decision, we wish them well and we’ll keep moving forward.” He is not saying that NASL is better than MLS, but he is saying that the state of soccer in the United States is not about the competition, but about money. An NASL team moved to MLS by buying its way in – it had nothing to do with sporting considerations. Until we have promotion/relegation, the terms such as first division/second division are not based on sporting competition, but on other factors. It is not good for soccer in this country.

      • This isn’t actually what happened at all. Try this version: the owners of An independent soccer team in Minnesota, (independently owned, and affiliated with other independent teams to make a league) chose to shut that business down, with no compensation, and instead invest roughly $100m in a partial share of an enterprise and a franchise. Minnesota United isn’t ‘moving’ to MLS. Minnesota United is going out of business, and MLS is opening a new franchise. How does ownership shutting down and buying a franchise from a competitor legitimize NASL?

      • They are not going out of business – no bankruptcy, all creditors are paid – but they did surrender their independent club status. They bought a franchise with the single entity that MLS is. Some cash exchanged hands. That is the whole difference between the first and second division status for this team. Same players, same management, same stadium, same fans. The rest of the word decides who belongs in the top division on the field, not in the board room.

      • @Eurosnob

        Not even remotely true. The MU team in MLS will not have the same players, same mgmt and definitely not the same stadium, And they will have 10 times more fans at least.

        Do you really think the Sounders team in MLS was the same than in the lower division? How about Vancouver’s or Portland’s?

      • Nice attempt of putting a lipstick on a pig. They have the same roster, stadium and fans at the moment. If they make sign someone like Ronadinho down the road, that’s fine. But the “promotion” to the top division was not based on them having new and better players than they had in the second division. The team is in the top division because some cash exchanged hands – plain and simple. I have nothing against MU, they made a business decision, and they played the current system well, hats off to them, but the system is flawed, because promotion to the top division is not based on sporting competitive principles. No country ever won the WC, when maintaining this type of closed “buy in” top division.

      • Someone hasn’t been paying attention to what has been going on this year. Take a look at Orlando FC’s roster from last year and this year. Compare and contrast for a few minutes. Then come back to me and let me know how many of last years players are still on the roster.

    • Do you watch USL? NASL better then USL in quality, is very debatable. When it comesto attendance The new Roughnecks celebrated the return of pro soccer to Tulsa with a sellout crowd of 8,335 at ONEOK Field for their 1-1 tie with OKC Energy FC in their first USL match. Brady Ballew equalized for the Roughnecks after Michael Thomas had given the Energy the lead in the first half.

      — Louisville City FC drew a crowd of 6,067 at Louisville Slugger Field for its successful USL debut, a 2-0 win over Saint Louis FC on goals by Magnus Rasmussen and Charlie Adams.

      • I watch both leagues and NASL has the better quality of play.
        As for your Tulsa and Louisville attendance – those are 2 games, LA Galaxy Ii drew 1000 for their usl game last week and NYRBII drew 547 on the weekend.NASL’s Jacksonville drew 13K+ in a preseason game.No comparison overall, D2 NASL will like usual draw better average attendances than D3 usl but thats to be expected.

    • The addition of the MLS reserve teams to USl this year has changed the equation. Most of those teams would dominate in NASL; it’s obvious from just a few weeks of games.

      • Thats Ludicrous! Your obviously a usl fanboy that knows nothing of NASL.
        Learn from Jurgen Klinsmann , USMNT coach who has a high opinion of NASL and is a well respected expert on the game.

    • Mr.peterson is what’s keeps MLS alive and garber happy.
      Question of the day.
      Will MLS buy NASL before they cosmos and make an MLS 2.


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