Yesterday we wrote about the myriad problems facing the North American Soccer League, the country’s second division soccer league. Between nearly half of the league’s member clubs in 2016 leaving or possibly folding by the end of the year, growing financial obligations, and shortfalls in revenue, it was starting to look like this was the beginning of the end for the NASL.
While not a whole lot has changed in 24 hours, there appears to be some cause for hope that the league can weather this storm and continue operations in 2017.
The league released a statement last night in response to the speculation, and while it doesn’t directly address some of the problems raised, it suggests that league executives aren’t ready to give up quite yet.
”The North American Soccer League (NASL) and its member owners are passionate about the growth of soccer in North America, and their actions and level of investment the past several years prove that commitment. In recent weeks, the league has been working through an important period in its evolution. The league’s dedicated owners remain undaunted in the challenge to reach their long-term goals, and are in the midst of a series of meetings and discussions to ensure that the 2017 season lays the groundwork for an exciting future. The Board remains as committed as ever to its strategy and looks forward to adding a number of new partners who share their vision for building a world-class league. The NASL also looks forward to working closely with U.S. Soccer and other professional leagues to grow and develop the game at all levels in North America. “
The Fort Lauderdale strikers also released a statement last night in an attempt to address recent reporting on their financial difficulties. The statement effectively says, “everything’s fine, no need to worry, but yes we’re looking for new owners.”
Meanwhile, the braintrust behind the incoming expansion team San Francisco Deltas says they're full-steam ahead for the 2017 season. Club executive Brian Andrés Helmick had this to say:
”We have a core group of strong owners and there is a lot of potential. I believe there are things the league should have done differently in the past and we're actually really focused on getting aligned around our vision and what are the alternatives in the future. Expect to see differences in how we operate. In fact, next week we are getting together for our first ever League Summit. We've been working on putting this Summit together for over a month with an incredible group of consultants that have worked with companies like Apple, Facebook, and Google. Our focus will be on the future path and how we can do what is best for fans, players, and the sport in the US in general. We want to do it in a collaborative way with the USSF, MLS, and USL. In my humble opinion, we all love this sport and there are lots of opportunities to collaborate. We have a solid core group of owners and I'm confident in the exciting things that will be ahead.”
And Peter Wilt, former owner of the Chicago Fire and an outgoing executive with current NASL outfit Indy Eleven, indicated he's still moving ahead with plans to field an expansion team in the Windy City.
There are meetings still to be held with US Soccer and league officials from MLS and the USL. And the NASL still has its board of governors meetings next week. So there’s a lot that still needs to be sorted out, and a number of considerations that are currently in Wait And See mode. But at the very least, the decision-makers in the NASL don’t appear to be willing to lay down their burdens quite yet.