Rayo OKC Inaugural Season Primer

Who is Rayo OKC?

Rayo OKC is a professional soccer team playing in the North American Soccer League (NASL), the Second Division of professional soccer in the United States as recognized by the United States Soccer Federation (USSF). 2016 will be Rayo’s inaugural season, despite the core ownership group having been partnered since 2013.  Rayo OKC FC was formed through a partnership between Rayo Vallecano, a professional team based in Madrid and the ownership group that founded Oklahoma City FC.

Wait, isn’t there already a professional soccer team in OKC?

Yes! And we’d be happy to explain this in more detail, but that answer will be coming in a much longer, more thorough piece. For now, the only important things are the teams are in separate leagues, and will only have the possibility of playing each other this season on June 1st, in the U.S. Open Cup.

What’s the U.S. Open Cup?

The U.S. Open Cup is a tournament open to any team registered within the USSF. June 1st will be the first round that NASL teams will enter the tournament, which decides matchups geographically.

The NASL – what’s that?

The North American Soccer League is the second incarnation of the league that served as America’s “Premier Division” from 1968-1984. It currently has 12 teams, 3 of which are celebrating their inaugural seasons this year. The league should remain at 12 teams for the foreseeable future, as Minnesota United FC is moving to the MLS, and a new expansion team from San Francisco is planning to enter the league in 2017.

The NASL is unique among American sports leagues in its “split” season calendar. The teams play a short spring season, have almost an entire month off during the summer international break before completing a longer fall season in the run-up to the playoffs.

So there are playoffs…

The NASL awards 4 postseason slots. One each to the winner of the spring and fall seasons, and the remaining slots to the teams with the best overall combined records. Should one team win both the spring and fall seasons, all three remaining spots will go to the next three teams with the best combined record.

The league believes this set up allows teams that may struggle in one part of the season to still have a chance at a championship which, in a nod to its previous incarnation, the NASL calls the “Soccer Bowl.”

What other teams are in the league?

The league as it stands consists of:

Rayo OKC

New York Cosmos

Carolina Railhawks

Miami FC

Ottawa Fury

Edmonton FC

Tampa Bay Rowdies

Ft. Lauderdale Strikers

Jacksonville Armada

Minnesota United FC

Indy Eleven

Puerto Rico FC (Joining in the Fall Season)

Ok, so who’s new on Rayo OKC?

Well, everybody! Since they’re an expansion side, each face is a new one. The organization began by hiring Head Coach Alen Marcina, who last coached at the now defunct San Antonio Scorpions, also previously of the NASL.

Coach Marcina has since brought together a diverse group of both veterans and rookies (straight out of college) that suit his style of play. Included in this group are 5 players with World Cup playing time, and a total of 9 national team players. Worth noting is that several of the players have experience playing together as teammates from former NASL teams like the San Antonio Scorpions and the Atlanta Silverbacks.

Fan favorites are likely to include Robbie Findley of the US, Georgios Samaras of Greece, Derek Boateng of Ghana, Billy Forbes of Turks and Caicos, and Sebastian Velazquez of Colombia, just to name a few.

The full roster can be found on the team’s website at ww.rayookc.com

Where does the team play?

The team will play all home games at Yukon High School’s Miller stadium, a $17 million state of the art multi-sport facility with ample parking. Miller stadium currently has a capacity of 6,500 people, but can be expanded quickly to seat as many as 11,000 if necessary.

What can we expect to see out of the team on the field?

Nobody really knows yet! On paper, this is a very talented team that should be able to score a lot of goals. Coach Marcina has promised to “play the Rayo way” and present a form of soccer that is attacking and high pressure oriented, and not necessarily too worried about defensively “parking the bus” in front of the goal to eke out a 1-0 win.

Avid soccer fans will enjoy watching Rayo OKC play to see how the immense talent of the signed players meshes and blossoms throughout the season; casual soccer fans will be pleasantly surprised at the quality of play provided not only by Rayo OKC, but also by the visiting NASL sides. This year, more than any other in recent memory, has left many in the soccer world wondering why so many great players are electing to sign with American “Division 2” sides.

Where will Rayo OKC finish at the end of the season?

Many believe this team will challenge for a playoff spot or even a championship. While this is certainly visible on paper, there are still many questions to be answered about how the team will play together. Not to mention, the other members of the league haven’t spent the offseason sitting idly by!

We at the Scissortail Podcast believe Rayo OKC will be in contention for a top 4 spot by the end of the fall season, and should be disappointed to finish worse than the top half of the table.

2016 will be a year to watch for professional soccer in both Oklahoma and around the country.

For more information, follow us on twitter (@ScissortailPod), send us an email (Scissortailpod@gmail.com) or check out our podcast at http://midfieldpress.com/tag/stpod/.

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