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NASL: Bill Peterson steps down as commissioner
by Paul Kennedy, January 9th, 2017 8:14PM
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TAGS:  nasl


Two days after confirming it would go ahead with eight teams in 2017 under the terms of provisional Division 2 sanctioning from U.S. Soccer, the North American Soccer League parted ways with Bill Peterson, its commissioner since 2012, and named Rishi Sehgal, director of business development and legal affairs, as interim commissioner.

In its statement, the NASL said it will have three priorities going forward.

1. "It will continue its responsibility to work collaboratively with soccer stakeholders across North America to help grow the game."

2. "The league will take a more prudent approach to expansion with a more rigorous vetting process by creating an expansion committee."

3. "There will be a focus on long-term growth and as such, the NASL has begun implementing financial sustainability measures to grow the league. To achieve these priorities, the NASL will be investing in the leadership, skills, and capabilities required to maximize its potential."

The NASL was formed with eight teams in 2011 following a split with the USL's ownership. Of the eight teams that started in 2011, only FC Edmonton and North Carolina FC (former Carolina RailHawks) are still around. Only FC Edmonton, owned by Tom and Dave Fath, has the same owners six years later.

Expansion has produced some of the NASL's best clubs -- San Antonio Scorpions in 2012, the New York Cosmos  in 2013 and Indy Eleven in 2014 -- but Rayo OKC, owned by Spanish club Rayo Vallecano, was a total and not unpredictable failure in 2016.

The league often had an antagonistic relationship with MLS and the USL, as well as U.S. Soccer.

In 2015, Jeffrey Kessler, an antitrust and sports attorney representing the NASL, wrote in a letter to U.S. Soccer, charging that proposed changes to U.S. Soccer's Division 1 sanctioning requirements would entrench "MLS’s monopoly position at the very time when the NASL is threatening to become a significant competitor." For 2017, U.S. Soccer could only grant the NASL provisional Division 2 status.

In 2012, Peterson, whose background in soccer included six years at AEG Sports, which once owned six of MLS's 10 teams, replaced David Downs, the former ABC Sports and Univision executive who had managed the USA's 2022 World Cup bid.

The NASL will move forward with two immediate tasks: stabilize the situation at the New York Cosmos and Jacksonville, which both need new owners.

The Cosmos will hold a conference call on Tuesday to discuss their plans. Cable company owner Rocco Commisso, a former Columbia University soccer star, is expected to acquire a majority interest in the team from Sela Sport and Seamus O’Brien and it will likely leave Hofstra's Shuart Stadium for Brooklyn minor-league baseball stadium MCU Park.

In Jacksonville, owner Mark Frisch wants out, and the NASL will fund the team to allow it go forward in 2017 while local owners are secured.

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