NASL Stepping Up to Fill Important Gap

st louis arch address 300x200 NASL Stepping Up to Fill Important Gap

AC St. Louis Fills A Big Gap

Professional Soccer has often been a spottingly available product across North America, and MLS, as a Premier Division, cannot fill the gaps by itself.  This is where USL has often filled in, in the past, although USL has often been perceived as small market, for good reason in many cases. The reformed NASL aims to change that.

The North American Soccer League 2.0 (Special Edition, Director’s Cut, etc) has stepped up where USL had failed previously.  While many of the teams in the NASL remain small market teams, there has been some significant progress made, specifically with regards to the new clubs entering the league (St. Louis, Atlanta, Tampa and a jumped up Baltimore).

Major League Soccer and USL had previously failed to succeed, or even enter, in certain major markets in the United States and Canada. In all of the cases of folded teams, we have numerous examples in the wasteland which is the southeastern United States, and of course, “Western Canada” (read as Alberta).  In the case of non-starters, we have St. Louis, among others.  But regardless of case, the reason for failure has largely been due to poor business plans.

It seems that NASL seeks to learn from the mistakes made by both the MLS and the USL.

Evidence can be found with the new club in Edmonton, known at this point as FC Edmonton (a name which I hope they keep, it has a nice, crisp feel to it).

Where the Drillers have failed before, FC Edmonton seeks to succeed. It seems the ownership and management understand the need for a successful team in what could be considered a barren wasteland for the beautiful game. They certainly have shown an understanding for the Prairie psyche, and are establishing a youth academy in order to reach out to talented youngsters across the three provinces. What is most promising is what seems to be the commitment to winning, and the acquisition of pedigreed coaching in Dutch-Canadian Manager Dwight Lodeweges.

Other smart moves taken by NASL can be found with AC St. Louis.

It has already been documented on this website that AC St. Louis has acquired Steve Ralston from the Revolution, in both a player and coaching role, but one cannot emphasize the importance of such an acquisition. The talented player will undoubtedly be important in what could be a rocky start for the expansion side. Even more important though, is his role as a coach as well as a player. It is little secret that once players get over the hump of 30 years of age, their abilities start to decline quite quickly.  Ralston is well over that hump and will be making the transition from player to coach, and potentially manager one day.

Essentially, NASL (AC St. Louis in particular) is making an investment for the future in this acquisition, and sending a clear message that they’re serious about sticking around.

We can also talk about the Florida market and the attempt by NASL to lock it up with teams in Tampa and Miami. One should note that MLS has left this place a soccer wasteland.

Essentially, NASL has filled the gap of pro soccer in mid-major markets in North America. This will allow for more professional opportunities for youth across the continent and allow for longer term development. Why is it able to succeed where USL has failed? Simple branding. The North American Soccer League is a brand which remains one of the strongest in North American football and it will play an important part in filling a major gap in the availability of association football in North America.

In my next piece, I will discuss the importance of capping MLS at 20 teams and which markets should fill the final positions.

19 Responses to NASL Stepping Up to Fill Important Gap

  1. Rabble Rouser says:

    I barely saw Kartik’s lips move

  2. Bart says:

    Let’s see how all this fares when these new teamowners have to cough up hard cash to fund the deficits. Honeymoon will be over by July.

  3. Ali says:

    Indeed, before we start singing their praises, let’s see how they actually do.

  4. Jason says:

    Wow. Jim Jones is envious of that kool-aid line.

    Yes, FC Edmonton is quite the success story, seeing as how they have yet to play a game in a market where soccer hasn’t ever been successful and on their permanent-football-lined artificial surface. Well done there. That’s truly stepping up. What MLS has been lacking is teams in cities like freaking Edmonton, Alberta.

    And AC St. Louis has signed Steve Ralston and 14 other second-division-level guys. But, hey, at least they’re local. They can live at home when the checks bounce.

    One of the bigger broadsides landed in this whole “competition” was just this week: USL hires an actual sports communications professional with big-league experience after the NASL hired a blogger.

    Advantage, USL.

    • Lars Lowther says:

      I’d take that Advantage USL more seriously if there were more than 3 USL-1 clubs and the USL-2 had more than 6 clubs, and in decent markets. USL has lost Vancouver, Montreal and Seattle and will lose Portland. All of it’s best markets are leaving. The only team of any success which remains is Puerto Rico and it alone cannot be a league.

      You’ll also note that I never said MLS should have put a team in Edmonton, Alberta. It is a Div 2 market, not a Div 1 market.

      Reading comprehension is key.

      My comment with respect to learning from mistakes was more to do with Florida than anything else.

      Thank you for your feedback.

  5. RP says:

    I’m confused. The reason they’ll do well is because of the name? That’s all it takes? I’d rather wait and see where things stand between these two leagues after this season. I think that will be telling. If I remember correctly, didn’t the old NASL fail because it overspent on salaries?

    • Lars Lowther says:

      The difference between the product on the field would normally be minimal. I would expect Puerto to still put a good product on the field, but the other two USL teams are not going to be able to compete with brand power. Marketing is half the battle, especially for div 2 soccer. NASL is still viewed very positively by many, including those who do not follow soccer, it brings back memories. Essentially, the brand will bring money.

      The fact that the strongest former USL clubs (Puerto excepted) are now in NASL will also be telling.

  6. Bart says:

    Lars, you miss the point. Toronto, Seattle, Portland and Vancouver are all USL-1 teams that were ready for the next level, meaning that USL did it right. Montreal will be next. USL provided the platform that made this happen, which ironically, helped MSL achieve some successful growth. Case in point, Seattle is the most profitable team in the league.

    USL’s attrition is due to their success, not their failure.

    USL has been around a long time, and I would not be surprised if new creative things start to spring out of USl in the very near term.

    NASL is made up of a bunch of MLS wannabees that currently have some start up subsidization. Once that money burns off, how the individual team owners will be is the question.

    • Lars Lowther says:

      Quite simply:

      Post hoc ergo propter hoc.

      Brush up on your latin and get back to me on the matter.

    • Krammerhead says:

      The USL has/had nothing to do with Toronto FC’s success. Not the same team, not the same ownership. The Toronto Lynx were one of the poorest drawing poorest run USL-1 teams. So I don’t know what the USL has to do with the cities MLS teams success. Seattle and soon Portland and Vancouver moving up to MLS is because they have owners that are making it happen. USL has nothing to do with the success of these teams.

  7. les says:

    You can question NASL’s wisdom and business plan. It will be a top heavy league that may be above the budget of some of the smaller markets they represent.

    I liked Krishnaiyer as a blogger (actually liked him more on EPL/Bundesliga stuff than MLS. He knows alot about Europe but knows very little about American soccer, which is why his EPL Talk shows always were better than the MLS Talk show) but think NASL could have done better with a PR person. Krishnaiyer should be doing soccer ops not media But by merely hiring him they have done better than USL ever has.

    First off, regarding this week’s USL hire, the Tampa Bay Lightning had perhaps the worst PR in any major American professional sport. Krishnaiyer at least knows how the soccer media works and knows the sport. Moreover, this comes after years of USL having a PR director that NEVER traveled outside Tampa, never visited teams, and never worked on local media PR when teams needed help. I still recall that list Daniel F. printed last year about how USL’s top division had lost most of its teams. Many died because the league had no identity and ZERO PR operation. Now USL reacts to Krishnaiyer’s hiring by picking someone local who led one of the worst pro sports PR operations. More of the same.

    Tim Holt told the USSF that USL is like Burger King and local clubs like Burger King franchises. The NASL could hire the Gaffer as commissioner and keep Krishnaiyer as PR director and fill the rest of the staff with soccer bloggers and still be 10 times more credible and effective than USL.

    USL is a joke. They have ruined soccer below the MLS level for years allowing good potential markets to waste away and not caring because every time a new franchise entered the league, like Burger King they collected a franchise fee and cut costs of servicing the closed location (ie city franchise). The number of USL franchises that have died because of lack of support from the league office is twice as many as professional teams in D2 and D3 that currently pledge allegiance to USL. Has anyone noticed that USL has allowed the third tier of soccer in this country to slip to just six teams over a tiny geographic area: from the Carolinas to Pennsylvania.

    You can question NASL. I still do, but comparing it unfavorably to USL should simply not be allowed. The sooner USL leaves the professional level the better for the future of soccer in this country.

  8. ERic says:

    You’re comparing vaporware to [pick your favorite crappy OS]. Seriously, it’s laughable singing the praises of the NASL. I’ll grant you that the USL has had plenty of issues. I’ve bitched about it for more than 10 years. But until the NASL actually is sanctioned and has had a season or two under its belt, there’s nothing to compare.

  9. Corbin says:

    The only “platform” the USL ever provided was the one Francisco Marcos parked his kiester on while counting his share of expansion fees. The stench caused by Francisco’s stewardship of the league in its many and varied incarnations will always taint the league. It has long been less a soccer league than a soccer-themed Ponzi scheme, pure and simple. The fact of the matter is that the USL was, is and always will be a complete and utter joke. Period.

  10. Pele says:

    The NASL “brand” will bring money?

    How did that work for the minor league hockey operation that took the WHA name a few years ago?

    Or how about the minor league basketball league that took the ABA name?

    And speaking about losing teams, the NASL looks to lose Vancouver and perhaps Montreal before it plays a single game as a “real league”.

    If the NASL is thriving 10 years from now, then it will be time to sign the league’s praises.

    But until that time comes, saying this and that and comparing them to the USL and MLS is premature, IMO.

    Heck, let’s see if teams like NSC Minnesota, Carolina, Rochester, Miami and a few others even survive this season to make it to 2011. It wasn’t long ago that the NASL was talking up the Atlanta Silverbacks and Minnesota Thunder.

    How are those teams looking?

  11. Bart says:

    Post hoc ergo propter hoc, Latin for “after this, therefore because (on account) of this”, is a logical fallacy (of the questionable cause variety) which states, “Since that event followed this one, that event must have been caused by this one.” It is often shortened to simply post hoc and is also sometimes referred to as false cause, false dichotomy, coincidental correlation or correlation not causation. It is subtly different from the fallacy cum hoc ergo propter hoc, in which the chronological ordering of a correlation is insignificant.

    Post hoc is a particularly tempting error because temporal sequence appears to be integral to causality. The fallacy lies in coming to a conclusion based solely on the order of events, rather than taking into account other factors that might rule out the connection. Most familiarly, many superstitious religious beliefs and magical thinking arise from this fallacy.

    AND YOUR POINT IS…….??

  12. Miami Ultra says:

    NASL appears to be set on doing things better than USL. Only time will tell.

    However, on a local note, the shift to NASL has made Traffic Sports step up, albeit at a slow pace, their commitment to Miami FC and South Florida. they recently announced plans to purchase Ft. Lauderdale Stadium(former Spring home of the Orioles and Yankees) and convert it into a SSS and soccer academy.

    Both USL and now NASL should be praised for stepping in and providing competitive professional soccer to markets either ignored by MLS or places it has yet to embrace. MLS(i.e. AEG, Hunts and Krafts) chose to let the Florida teams die while propping up several others, but USL and now NASL have kept pro soccer alive here. There have been mistakes and bumps along the way, but at least we have a team.

  13. Roger says:

    USL made mistakes,we all know that.However,the PDL is USL greatest success. PDL should be the base of the US soccer pyramid.The entry level league for new clubs.

    US soccer makes the mistake of focussing on the top.The base should be the foundation.USL inserted new franchises straight to the first division,bypasing the clubs that were allready on USL 2nd and the PDL. By doing so they collected a franchise fee, but defeated the purpose of creating a meaninfull multidivisional system linked by pro/rel.

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