NASL owners remain 'undaunted' amid turmoil

In response to reports of its potential unraveling, the six-year-old North American Soccer League issued a statement on Thursday night that its owners remain "undaunted in the challenge to reach their long-term goals." The statement came hours after the troubled Ft. Lauderdale Strikers' managing director confirmed they had sought financial support from the league and a day after the league was hit by a barrage of negative press.

The NASL statement does not directly any of the issues:

"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 most serious situation concerns the Strikers, who have averaged just 1,452 fans a game in 2016 and recently moved from Lockhart Stadium, the home of the Strikers in the old NASL days of George Best, Gerd Mueller and Teofilo Cubillas, to Central Broward Regional Stadium, the cricket facility where MLS has held its winter combine for many years.

Brazilian owners, led by Paulo Cesso, bought the Strikers from Traffic -- that Traffic -- in 2014, fired Austrian head coach Gunther Kronsteiner, who took the Strikers the 2014 Soccer Bowl, and popular president Tom Mulroy and installed Luis Cuccatti as managing director.

In July, FiftyFive.One reported that paychecks to players have been delayed and some have bounced, which Cuccatti blamed on banking delays in the transfer of funds from Brazil. But on Wednesday, Raleigh's WRALSportsFan quoted sources as saying that the NASL and its clubs might have to keep the Strikers afloat as their owners had ceased their funding obligations.

In a series of tweets the Strikers attributed to Cuccatti on Thursday night, he said, "There's a difference between dropping all economic responsibility and asking for a loan." In the short term, he said the Strikers were announcing free-agent signings "and they are playing out of pure love for our team" and the club was "adjusting" its business plan and focus. He added, "We are 100 percent playing next year in this league under this ownership."

In a statement to the Sun Sentinel, the Strikers said they are in the process of "recycling our club’s ownership. This is a natural process in this business."

Also on Wednesday, reported that the Ottawa Fury and the Tampa Bay Rowdies wanted to move to the rival USL. In addition, Minnesota United FC will join MLS in 2017, and the future of expansion Rayo OKC was uncertain.

The Oklahoma City club was backed by Spanish club Rayo Vallecano, which was relegated from La Liga in June. Massive staff layoffs followed at Rayo OKC along with the departure of head coach Alen Marcina. The situation in Oklahoma City got so bad that minority owner Sean Jones removed pallets of artificial turf he said he personally paid for and had installed at Yukon High School’s Miller Field.

Club turmoil is nothing new for the NASL. Following the 2015 season, the NASL folded the Atlanta Silverbacks, and San Antonio Scorpions dropped out after their owner sold Toyota Field to the firm that operates the NBA's San Antonio Spurs and a new USL team resurfaced in San Antonio.

Earlier in the year, Traffic, which played a key role in getting the league off the ground in 2011, made international headlines when Federal authorities charged that it was at the center of a massive corruption scheme involving international soccer. Traffic owner Jose Hawilla agreed to forfeit over $151 million, and Traffic sold the Carolina RailHawks, the sole remaining club in which it had an ownership interest, to Steve Malik.

The NASL's current situation will be addressed at a Board of Governors meeting next week.
8 comments about "NASL owners remain 'undaunted' amid turmoil".
  1. Bill Wilson, September 23, 2016 at 1:35 p.m.

    The Not A Serious League (NASL) is not in chaos. Instead it apparently has been "working through an important period in its evolution". Hats off to the PR flak who wrote this release. It deserves to win an industry association year-end award for best creative PR. I too look forward to seeing more superb "groundwork", like we have seen recently, leading to an "exciting future" of 2 or 3 clubs per season bailing out to join USL or vanishing into thin air when dead beat owners run back to their home countries to hide from creditors. Now that is a committed strategy. Almost time for somebody to start another new professional soccer league.

  2. R2 Dad replied, September 23, 2016 at 9:39 p.m.

    Instead of criticizing NASL, perhaps you could imagine what the league would be like if MLS didn't cherry-pick the strongest teams? Until the number of MLS teams are capped, expect this instability to continue. USL is a lame feeder league without pro/rel--just like MLS. The only way pro/rel is accomplished is if NASL forces it upon MLS and that will only happen because NASL teams start competing directly with MLS for players. MLS wants their cake and eat it too; hording all the best youth players without the urge to play them. The only way that changes is if NASL becomes a strong and stable league.

  3. Ray Shines, September 25, 2016 at 5:31 p.m.

    So,'re saying that MLS has "all the best youth players" and is keeping them away from the NASL like a meanie?

    You mean they have invested heavily in youth academies, which the NASL hasn't done? Is that what you mean to say?

    The NASL won't directly compete with MLS for players because they can't afford to.

    The NASL's issues are self-inflicted. It's the ultimate fanboy nonsense to blame MLS.

    "Cherry-pick the strongest teams?" You know those clubs all applied to be in MLS, right? What would you like them to do, take Jacksonville, just because?

    Such a fanboy.

  4. R2 Dad replied, September 25, 2016 at 11:22 p.m.

    Applying to be a member in the MLS club wouldn't just be a matter of writing a check if they had to displace an existing MLS team, too. Wouldn't that be more interesting as a fan?

  5. don Lamb replied, September 27, 2016 at 9:01 a.m.

    R2 - If NASL is so open to pro/rel, why haven't they partnered with the NPSL or someone else to institute it into their legue? NASL is horribly run and the league is an embarrassment to soccer in this country. MLS has been at it laying the ground work for two decades and now that it is getting somewhere, NASL expects to be able to jump into the action with a self-serving pro/rel setup. You think MLS wants unstable teams like Rayo OKC and Ft. Lauderdale in their league?

  6. Kate Phillips , September 25, 2016 at 7:24 p.m.

    Oh, geez. Are there still people out there who are butthurt because the US doesn't have pro/rel? Somebody call a waambulance.

  7. R2 Dad replied, September 25, 2016 at 11:18 p.m.

    I used to support the earthquakes, but they've made zero effort to improve the team for the past 10 years. How would you propose to motivate that team to better the squad? Believe it or not, I'm not that thrilled their big claim to fame is that Avaya stadium has the largest outdoor bar west of the mississippi. Supporters shield winner 2005, 2012, MLS Cup winners 2001, 2003. But have you watched them play? It's all second balls, set pieces, long balls--unwatchable, really. And now they have to pay down the stadium the next 5-10 years, not invest in players.

  8. Ray Shines, October 30, 2016 at 1:31 a.m.

    A genius said: "Applying to be a member in the MLS club wouldn't just be a matter of writing a check if they had to displace an existing MLS team, too. Wouldn't that be more interesting as a fan?"

    Not if you're a fan of said existing MLS team, no, it would not be more interesting.

    You don't have skin in the game. The people who do aren't going to institute such a system just because you think it would be more "interesting."

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