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Carmelo Anthony’s Puerto Rico NASL club yield viability questions

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On Thursday, NASL announced New York Knicks superstar Carmelo Anthony as an owner of a new expansion team in Puerto Rico. The league last had a team in Puerto Rico during the 2012 season. The previous year, in 2011, as the Islanders were coming off a double-championship season (both USSF Division 2 and the CFU Club Championship), which included a 5-3 win over two legs over the LA Galaxy, the club averaged less than 2,500 fans in NASL play.

Since Puerto Rico saw declining attendances for Islanders in their last few seasons, it’s a mystery as to why the NASL would return to the island. But celebrity ownership seems to be the NASL’s new calling card. Three weeks ago, the league announced a new club in Miami, where the former Division 2 club routinely played in front of audiences of a couple hundred people. But that club has in Paolo Maldini a celebrity name attached with it, much like the new Puerto Rico club has Anthony.

NASL has faced a rash of questions about the ownership shares in the league held by Traffic Sports USA, who has plead guilty in US court already as part of the FIFA scandal. But the addition of expansion teams and new owners helps NASL move its business away from Traffic by bringing additional investment into the league.

But questions must be asked about NASL’s expansion strategy. The celebrity angle is pretty clear, but the choice of two failed second division markets yields serious questions. It is also worth noting that the longest road trip in NASL, where team budgets and revenues are substantially lower than Major League Soccer, will now be longer than the longest such journey in MLS. The insistence of NASL on having every team travel to every other league site means both Puerto Rico and Edmonton will be making extremely long road trips potentially with multiple connections beginning in 2016.

The new club will begin play in the fall of 2016, once again showing the potential benefit of NASL’s split-season format. However, many fans who already decry the peculiar setup which includes a ten game, two month “season,” that yields a champion will cry foul. NASL has seemingly adhered to this unique and somewhat confusing setup because it allows the league the flexibility to bring teams into competitive play in the second half of the season, as was done in 2013 with the New York Cosmos.

Puerto Rico supported the Islanders passionately when they faced off with MLS or Liga MX competition in CONCACAF Champions League play. But when the Islanders faced NASL clubs, the support was tepid at best. With potentially less investment in this club than the Islanders, will that change? Thus the question must be asked if NASL is far enough along in brand recognition to alter that perception. Or maybe the celebrity owner, Carmelo Anthony, will make all the difference. That seems to be what NASL is banking on to make their second foray onto the island of Puerto Rico successful.

 

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9 Comments

9 Comments

  1. NaBUru38

    June 13, 2015 at 10:38 am

    Rather than putting clubs in NASL, the Caribbean associations should improve their locally based teams by expanding the Caribbean Cup into a full semester tournament.

    • NaBUru38

      June 13, 2015 at 10:45 am

      I meant to say locally based players.

  2. Kei

    June 12, 2015 at 8:27 pm

    “Puerto Rico supported the Islanders passionately when they faced off with MLS or Liga MX competition in CONCACAF Champions League play. But when the Islanders faced NASL clubs, the support was tepid at best.”

    Isn’t this the MLS-era Montreal Impact in a nutshell?

  3. WSW

    June 12, 2015 at 6:51 pm

    Difference between Islanders and this new team, is that Islanders were basically gov’t owned team, and we all know how that went, since their was a team before on the island it’d basically continuity.

  4. StellaWasAlwaysDown

    June 12, 2015 at 12:47 pm

    While Anthony has no professional championship experience, he does know money really well…

  5. Jason

    June 12, 2015 at 12:17 pm

    Suburbs and smaller cities should be a NASL target too: Northern VA, Virginia Beach, Central New Jersey, San Bernandino County CA, Boise ID, New Orelans LA, Birmingham AL, Hamilton On

    Good thing about PR being back is the Concacaf CL bid for NASL

    • CTBlues

      June 12, 2015 at 12:45 pm

      I heard rumors about Hamilton but I’m wondering if they are going to join the new Canadian league that is getting started. They tried to get a team in Northern VA but it has been a cluster F and people are getting sued.

  6. CTBlues

    June 12, 2015 at 10:54 am

    It’s killing me that they haven’t announced the Hartford team yet which is actually a viable team. The only thing I think holding back the announcement is the stadium situation. The old stadium still needs to be demoed for the new one where they will play. My guess is that they wouldn’t be ready until 2017.

  7. christian

    June 12, 2015 at 10:18 am

    Carmelo Anthony is a celebrity?

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