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Leagues: NASL

Rocco Commisso and US Soccer over the years

Instead of making the types of changes needed to move the game forward, the powers-that-be have engaged in the sort of gamesmanship entrenched yet threatened elites often use in global society to keep power. This includes a certain degree of misrepresentation and character assassination. While our readers may not agree with much of Rocco Commisso’s assertions or not find his tone necessarily to their liking, his voice is an important one in this critical time and so we present this extended interview.

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  1. Ridge Mahoney (Soccer America)

    December 7, 2017 at 9:30 pm

    Yes the Cosmos have an important place in US soccer history.
    And so do the Rowdies,the Sounders, the Whitecaps, the Timbers and the Earthquakes, among others, and many are in MLS or USL, so whatever the author believes of pre-1990 exclusion is flat out wrong. From day one the Cosmos have fought MLS and also whined about being shut out. What a joke.
    And nobody is better at character assassination than Commisso and his cronies, who have added Steve Malik to the witch hunt of Garber, Gulati, et al. MLS is fielding expansion requests left and right, it has zero need to “entice” teams from NASL or any other league.
    Maybe Malik read the writing on the wall. It doesn’t take much financial acumen to see what league knows what it’s doing and which doesn’t.

  2. Wrong Said Fred

    December 7, 2017 at 6:40 pm

    Can somebody offer a more nuanced view of NASL? This author is biased to the point of fawning here.

    This is not a knock on the author. You are allowed to like what you like, and you obviously have ties to the organization. Having said that, there is a reason the league has failed to catch fire and the reason is most certainly not 100% related to evil USSF holding them down.

    • Carolyn

      December 8, 2017 at 6:53 am

      I’ll try, but I’ll state upfront that I’m pro-NASL, and anti-USL/MLS/US Soccer, just so you know my leanings. I cannot guarantee to put that entirely aside but will do my best to address facts without bias. Also understand my timeline may be a little wonky as I’m writing from memory.

      There are two major factors that have prevented the NASL from “catching fire” as you put it.

      USL/MLS/US Soccer is one. The NASL itself is the other. I’ll address this second point first.

      The current NASL itself was made up several teams that split off from the USL (which gives you some idea of where the USL animus comes in) and sought US Soccer D2 sanctioning. US Soccer provisionally agreed to provide that, as long as certain conditions were met. You might argue that those conditions were too hard to meet (X number of teams in so many years), but they were agreed to.

      Unfortunately, one of the ways that the NASL sought to meet that agreement was to get into bed with some shady characters, in the name of Traffic Sports. At one point Traffic owned the majority of three teams in the league: Atlanta Silverbacks, Fort Lauderdale Strikers, and Carolina Railhawks.

      This was fine for a while, but then US Soccer decided that no one could own majority share of more than one team in one league. At approximately the same time as the NASL was scrambling to find new owners for at least two of the teams, FIFA scandals broke and a whole bunch of folks from Traffic were indicted/plead guilty. This further destabilized the league, and gave them less time and leverage to find owners (keeping in mind that contracting was going to hurt their minimum number of teams rule for D2 sanctioning). Throw into that that the Commisionor at the time was a Traffic pick, the incompetent blowhard who managed to run NFL Europe into the ground as his previous job and you have a perfect storm of incompetence and corruption that ruins many businesses.

      Running in parallel with this, MLS made an offer to the NASL to “partner” with them and was refused. The same offer was made to the USL and accepted. This was to, in essence, become a farm league for the MLS, accepting and giving playing time to MLS prospects. From a business perspective, it would have made sense for the NASL to accept the offer, although there would have been a definite diminshment in the quality of soccer, and the NASL would have lost a certain amount of autonomy.

      NASL, led by the incompetent blowhard, Peterson, decided to go one further and antagonize MLS by seeking D1 status, as a way to paper over the fact that they were tenuously holding on to D2, and had to continually seek waivers (to be fair, US Soccer kept moving those markers, re-defining what it needed to hold on to D2 in such a way as to continuously disqualify the NASL).

      In the meanwhile, teams folded. Teams were sold to not properly vetted owners (the Fort Lauderdale Strikers owners didn’t make payroll most of the 2016 season, for example). Other teams were started up (had to meet the minimum) without proper financing in poor locations (Rayo OKC is one example of this. One of the owners absconded in the dead of night with his half of the artificial turf. Not making that up).

      At the same time, USL was financially strengthened by its MLS partnership (USL had shown much of the same instability as NASL, in case you were wondering) and a lot of new teams were added. Many of these teams were actually drawn from the NASL with the promise that it would strengthen the path to MLS team ownership (San Antonio Scorpions, Tampa Bay Rowdies, and yes, Carolina Railhawks/NCFC). These are most likely unscrupulous lies as well, which is why San Antonio is suing MLS. But it’s hard to feel sorry for a bunch of arrogant billionaires, especially Rowdies owner Bill Edwards, who did everything he could on the way out to destroy the league so he didn’t have to pay the exit fee.

      Even the weather was against the NASL, with Hurricane Maria destroying Puerto Rico, and forcing Puerto Rico FC to play their remaining home games at basically pickup fields in Eastern Florida.

      Now we come to US Soccer, and their villainy. US Soccer has several reasons to dislike the NASL. First and foremost, most of US Soccer is made up of MLS owners. Keeping in mind that MLS is a closed system (all player contracts are owned by MLS, not by the individual teams, and MLS decides who gets to sign the big stars through their designated player system), while NASL has no salary cap and players sign with individual teams, the success of the NASL would hurt their bottom lines, since MLS salaries are actually quite low compared to most major leagues around the world. Basically, a successful NASL would drive up player salaries because they’d have other options if they wanted to play in the US, good paying options.

      Now remember that the MLS has invested in the USL, and that the USL has a grudge as well as aspirations to be D2. And you see where US Soccer has moved goal posts and threatened NASL status, while USL has poached teams with empty promises, and you start to see a system that’s stacked against the NASL. When you see that it’s your major competitors sitting on the board of US Soccer, making decisions that will most likely destroy your business, and your investments, then yeah, you’re going to cry foul.

      So, having said all that, you might wonder why I identify as an NASL fan? Simply put, there’s more personality in NASL Soccer, and more room for innovation. I don’t like the closed system which keeps player salaries low. I despise the MLS belief that since they are the only game in town we should just give them our money, even though the Soccer is mediocre at best. Soccer should be quirky and stylish. It’s not called the beautiful game for nothing. And the closest I’ve seen to that in the US has been played in the NASL, under coaches like Gunter Kronsteiner (Strikers), Gerard Nus (Rayo OKC), Gio Savarese (Cosmos), and Alessandro Nesta (Miami FC).

    • Kartik Krishnaiyer

      December 8, 2017 at 3:18 pm

      I actually went on record in this same publication just a few short months ago saying NASL was largely to blame for its own demise but also stated USSF has taken little interest in facilitating change. That having been said two intervening events have taken place.

      1- USMNT missing the World Cup
      2- Columbus fiasco

      The implications of these two events are beyond massive.
      If those two events taken in context don’t shake you up, I don’t know what will.

      • Carolyn

        December 8, 2017 at 6:48 pm

        Absolutely. Let’s just hope it leads to actual change.

  3. Thomas

    December 6, 2017 at 12:31 pm

    Interesting article. It’s off the article topic, but on the topic of the WST, but what is the TV coverage for the FIFA World Club Cup. I actually like this tournament, the small size is manageable, it is fun to see new clubs and stadium scenary, and there is not much competition this time of year- European leagues are mid season, the MLS Cup final is often good, but it’s only one game, etc…

  4. uday kumar

    December 5, 2017 at 2:27 pm

    This is a sad story. I just hope there is way forward with reconciliation between NASL, MLS, and USSF.

    Pro-Rel needs to happen, but we need to plan a smooth transition to protect all soccer investments.

    Look forward to a happy ending.

    • Mark Schnabel

      December 6, 2017 at 5:54 pm

      Pro-Rel will happen once the MLS reaches between 36 to 40 teams. Then there will be an MLS Championship and an MLS Premier.
      If the USL and NASL could play together in the same sand box without fighting, there would be the next place where Pro-Rel could be tried.
      The problem with Pro-Rel between the MLS and other leagues in the US is two-fold, First if an MLS team is relegated, the owners have no incentive not to just fold the team and walk away. The valuation of the club would crash. It would retain little, if any value. The NASL has said as much in its appeal not to be dropped to the third division.
      The second problem is there are only a handful of current USL owners (and even fewer NASL owners) with the means of operating their clubs successfully at the MLS level. They would have to find (or build) a stadium that can sufficiently allow them to compete at the MLS level. They would have to dump their roster and go out and buy players on the open transfer market to have the level of talent to compete over a 30-plus game season. All of their costs would go up exponentially.
      US sports is based on the franchise model and not the European social club model. US teams have always been operated as a business. They are judges not by wins and losses, but by valuation, which is based on revenue stream and market size.
      European teams started as true neighborhood social clubs. Many even (and some still do) operate basketball, hockey, track and even gymnastics squads (the difference between an AC and an FC).
      Below the top levels, many still operate in that manner. In the 1880s and 1890s, when many of these teams formed, Pro-rel made sense as a fair way for these social clubs to operate.
      The actual change is that top-level European teams are going to start working to limit pro-rel in the top level leagues (there has already been talk about doing it in the English Premier League). As many of these teams have gotten away from the social club model and into the business model (with actual owners and ownership groups, see Liverpool, Man U, Man City, etc.) These owners want to protect their investment’s valuations.
      Now, while the US has never had a formal pro-rel system, we have always had pro-rel in most of our sports. It has been at the player level and not at the league level.
      I will use baseball as the example. A player starts in Rookie League or Short-Season Class A. If he is successful, he goes to Class A, followed by Class A advanced, Class AA (where most prospects are put), Class AAA (the majors’ junior varsity) and finally to the Majors. If a player fails to perform, he gets sent down, if not outright cut.

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