[NASL EXPANSION]Like MLS and USL PRO, the NASL is in expansion mode. It's added teams in 2012 (San Antonio) and 2013 (New York Cosmos), and two new teams -- Indy Eleven and the Ottawa Fury -- will begin play this Saturday. The NASL has plans, not without lots of hiccups, to expand from 10 to 13 teams in 2015, and the goal is to reach 18 teams. The time frame? Two or three years, Commissioner Bill Peterson suspects.
"We continue to explore a variety of cities across North America," Peterson said. "There is a robust group of people interested in owning a club. There is a priority and a focus on teams in the Midwest and West, but that doesn't mean we've excluded candidates in the East as well as in Canada. We have had conversations in all those areas."
"People are understanding what we are doing," he added, "and understanding our model better." He said it was hard to handicap expansion, but said he was confident the league would expand to 18 teams, and while he would not give an exact time frame, he said he suspected it would happen in the next two or three years.
The success of Indy Eleven, which will sell out Saturday's opener and could sell out every game at 11,000-seat Carroll Stadium, and Ottawa, where the 24,000-seat TD Place Stadium will open for the fall season, speaks well for NASL expansion in the cities that have gotten off the ground. "The job they've done identifies and defines the fact we've moved out of the startup phase and moved into growth phase," said Peterson. "They've had 18-24 months to build out, and put together their front office and coaching staff and find players and train them."
In particular, Peterson said Indy Eleven deserves credit for its work in community outreach that has translated into the sale of 7,000 season tickets. "Once you've become an integral part of the community," he said, "they'll pay you back by attending the games and supporting you. I think they've done an amazing job of that."
Across the league, Peterson said club technical staffs had matured and were doing a better job of identifying players they want to bring in and they have ramped up the intensity of preseason training for the start of the second year of split seasons -- with this year starting with a nine-game campaign whose end will coincide with the start of the World Cup when the league will break.
The NASL, which has also added new owners in Tampa Bay (chairman and CEO Bill Edwards, who has pumped $1 million into upgrades at Al Lang Stadium) and Atlanta (brothers Henry Hardin and John Hardin as new members of the ownership group), has plans to expand to Jacksonville, Northern Virginia and Oklahoma City in 2015.
But it has been a struggle in Northern Virginia's Loudoun County, where Virginia Cavalry FC's launch was postponed because of a delay in the construction of the new baseball-soccer stadium, and in Oklahoma City, where owner Tim McLaughlin, who had been critical to getting the NASL expansion team, joined forces with the rival USL PRO club, OKC Energy FC.
"We've gone through an ownership reorganization for different reasons," said Peterson. "They're starting to come out of that process and we're hopeful and still on target for a 2015 launch. There was a delay in the stadium in Virginia that led to some other issues with the group that owned the team. That ultimately forced our ownership to consider different options."
Peterson said Virginia Cavalry FC's reorganization will hopefully be finished soon. With Oklahoma City FC, Peterson said the situation was clearcut: an ownership reorganization. "The focus now is hopefully securing a stadium to play in 2015," he said. "They've done a lot of work in the background, and we'll be ready to ramp that up."