[PREVIEW]The North American Soccer League returns for its third season with a new format: a split season. Champions will be crowned in spring and fall seasons and they will then meet in the 2013 Soccer Bowl in November. The season begins this weekend with three games. Defending champion Tampa Bay hosts Carolina, Fort Lauderdale plays FC Edmonton, while Minnesota faces 2012 regular-season champion San Antonio in the Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome. The seventh team in the spring season, Atlanta, is idle. The New York Cosmos will begin play in the fall championship. For a look at the seven teams ...
ATLANTA.Brian Haynes starts his first full season in Atlanta after stepping in last season following Eric Wynalda's short stint as head coach. The Silverbacks have stocked up on former players on Cal FC, Wynalda's amateur team that made a long run in the 2012 Open Cup. Atlanta's big offseason signing was Ruben Luna, formerly with FC Dallas.
CAROLINA. In 2012, the RailHawks lost most of their key players following Martin Rennie's move to the Vancouver Whitecaps, but there is much more stability this season with the return of seven starters, including Best XI pick Nick Zimmerman. Gale Agbossoumonde signed with MLS's Toronto FC, but Carolina added MLS veteran Julius James to its backline. Paul Hamilton, a 2012 Best XI defender with FC Edmonton, is also in camp. A $6.3 million expansion project pushed the capacity at WakeMed Soccer Park to 10,000 seats.
FC EDMONTON. For the Eddies' third season, Colin Miller has taken over as head coach and Rod Proudfoot was brought in as general manager. Trinidadian international Carlyle Mitchell, on loan from the Vancouver Whitecaps, and Wes Knight, picked up from San Antonio, are two of many new faces in the lineup. They will be tested quickly as Edmonton opens with its first three games on the road.
FT. LAUDERDALE.Tommy Mulroy has taken over as president of the Strikers, while Daryl Shore returns as head coach for his third full season. Offseason signings include Shavar Thomas, who spent 10 seasons in MLS with six clubs, former Honduran international Ivan Guerrero and David Foley, who starred in recent years for the Puerto Rico Islanders, who won't return in 2013.Walter Restrepoand Mark Anderson, who were both 2012 Best XI picks, are back for the Strikers.
MINNESOTA. With the arrival of a new owner Bill McGuire, Minnesota United shook up the NASL, raiding regular-season champion San Antonio for 2012 MVP Pablo Campos, Aaron Pitchkolan and goalie Daryl Sattler. Former NASL players Etienne Barbara and Bryan Arguezhave returned after one season in MLS. A core of players also returns from last year's team that lost to Tampa Bay in the final.
SAN ANTONIO.When the Scorpions open their new 8,000-seat Toyota Field this month, San Antonio fans will need a scorecard. The 2012 regular-season champions have turned over most of their lineup. Besides losing Campos, Sattler and Pitchkolan to Minnesota and Knight to Edmonton, Josue Soto joined MLS's Chivas USA and Ryan Cochrane retired. Second-year coach Tim Hankinson has stocked up on players from the former Yugoslavia: Bosnians Edin Husic and Adin Dzafic, Croatians Luca Vuckoand Ivan Milicevicfrom Croatia and Serbian Nikola Vasillic. Newcomers Pat Phelan and Bryan Jordan have played a combined 138 MLS games.
TAMPA BAY. The defending champions lost goalie Jeff Attinella, who was sensational in their title run. He signed with Real Salt Lake, but the Rowdies have brought in Diego Restrepo, the former Universality Virginia keeper who has played in Colombia and Venezuela. The Rowdies return 2012 Best XI picks Luke Mulholland and Takuya Yamadaand also added 28-year-old forward Georgi Hristov, the 2009 Bulgarian First Division Player of the Year with Botev Plovdiv.