League expansion news and rumors pop up regularly and it is hard to keep track of who said what, where and when. Midfield Press has created the News & Rumor Tracker as a monthly installment following the word on the web about possible future NASL clubs.
The past month saw Miami FC and Rayo OKC graduate into NASL teams, some old rumors renewed and some new rumors given birth. Puerto Rico FC continues to progress towards a Fall 2016 start, with the roster coalescing in advance of a friendly against the Puerto Rican national team. The San Francisco Deltas are confirmed for a Spring 2017 start, with Chicago working towards official approval to debut alongside them. Not much had been heard on Celtic FC’s desire for a NASL team since the initial rumors in the Fall, but recently Celtic Underground rekindled the buzz. Meanwhile, Nashville has come into focus as a potential new battleground between NASL and USL.
Bill Peterson summarized where the league stands on expansion in a recent interview with beIN Sports. “We are at 13 clubs today. The goal is to go to 20 clubs. We don’t have a timeline for that and I don’t think we need one. We are probably working with five or six groups right now who have shown a lot of interest in our league, and we’re working through that process and that’s not stopping. Getting to 20 teams is not going to be that hard. For us the challenge is finding the right marketplace, right ownership and build something that is going to be here forever.”
Puerto Rico FC – Set to debut in 2016 Fall Season, Puerto Rico FC is owned by NBA superstar Carmelo Anthony. Carmelo has appointed respected former MLS executive Tom Payne as team president and former NASL club Puerto Rico Islanders manager Adrian Whitbread to run the team. The club will call the Islanders’ old digs Juan Ramón Loubriel Stadium in Bayamon their home. The team has made initial signings of NASL veterans Pedro Mendes, Paulo Mendes, Chris Nurse, David Meves, Oliver Minatel as well as Puerto Rican nationals Joseph Marrero and Jorge Rivera in addition to Spaniard Ramon Soria Alonso.
Latest Update: Puerto Rico FC continues to build its roster in advance of the Fall season and will play the Puerto Rican national team in a friendly.
More on Puerto Rico FC: http://www.puertoricofc.com/
San Francisco Deltas – Led by Silicon Valley entrepreneur Brian Andres Helmick, the San Francisco Deltas will debut in the 2017 Spring Season, playing out of Kezar Stadium. The club will invest several hundreds of thousands of dollars to make improvements at stadium. The Deltas have started to collect season ticket deposits on their web site. They have set August as their target date to have a manager in place.
Latest Update: Helmick provided deep insight into the club’s founding, values and vision in an interview with Midfield Press.
More on the San Francisco Deltas: http://sfdeltas.com/
Chicago – Peter Wilt is leading a group including Club9 Sports set on bringing a NASL team to Chicago. The club will present at the June NASL Board of Governors meeting with their eye on a Spring 2017 start. Chicago NASL has identified Soldier Field, Wrigley Field and US Cellular Field as its ideal places to play. The team solicited fan suggestions for its official name and colors on its web site, and they will narrow down the finalists and allow fans to vote on the name. The classic NASL moniker Chicago Sting is likely to be one of the options, having received a plurality of votes in the initial survey. Other fan suggestions included Chicago City SC, Municipal Chicago and Wild Onion FC.
Latest Update: Peter Wilt spoke with Midfield Press recently to discuss progress on the Chicago NASL effort.
WARNING: Below this point we will move from news to rumors, which are less reliable by nature… proceed with managed expectations.
Rumors With Multiple Sources and/or League Commentary
Celtic USA: British tabloid The Sun reported that Celtic FC looked at putting a team in NASL. Boston, Detroit and Hartford were cities Celtic FC considered according to an in-the-know Big Soccer poster. Boston may be blocked due to a marketing agreement between Celtic FC and the Boston Celtics.
May 2016 Update: Celtic Underground recently reported the club executive Peter Lawwell will be traveling back to the USA this summer to re-engage NASL talks. Celtic Underground’s @celticrumours twitter account mentioned hearing talk of Philadelphia and the West Coast as locations the club was eyeing.
Nashville: Nashville is reported by the Tennessean to be a target of both NASL and USL. The article suggests that the USL group incorporates leadership of the NPSL side Nashville FC, while the NASL investor group is said to be made out of non-locals who are considering at least one other city to invest in. “We absolutely believe Nashville would be a great fit for the NASL,” NASL spokesman Neal Malone said. “It’s home to a robust soccer community and it has a reputation for being an excellent sports city. We feel that there would be a lot of support, and you see that already with Nashville FC.”
Nashville FC previously indicated an interest in moving up to pro soccer in a recent interview with Midfield Press. Prior to the Tennessean article, Nashville was also rumored as a USL target recently by an in-the-know Big Soccer poster.
Orange County: Empire of Soccer reported in their January 21, 2016 piece on Bill Peterson that several sources are telling them that Orange County is one of the markets that NASL is discussing with interested potential ownership groups. NASL Orange County rumors circulated prior to that report suggesting the musician Sting was involved with the bid, first reported on Big Soccer by a poster known to get scoops and then backed by reporter Evan Ream. However Bill Peterson denied Sting’s involvement with a NASL bid on a podcast interview with WRAL.
May 2016 Update: Nothing new.
Las Vegas: Empire of Soccer reported in their January 21, 2016 piece on Bill Peterson that several sources are telling them that Las Vegas is one of the markets that NASL is discussing with interested potential ownership groups. A later EoS article dated January 27, 2016 includes a comment from Bill Peterson that an attempt to move the Scorpions brand to Las Vegas this past offseason was rejected by the NASL Board of Governors: “All the pieces weren’t in place,” he said. Since these comment appears to be from the same interview, it would seem Las Vegas is still in play but the Scorpions brand there may or may not be. Cosmos Country Podcast previously reported that a Las Vegas investor group was at the Board of Governors meeting in New York prior to the Soccer Bowl. Recent rumors on Big Soccer from an in the know poster suggest that USL may also be trying to bring a team to Vegas.
May 2016 Update: Nothing new.
Atlanta: Bill Peterson has confirmed in a Big Apple Soccer report that the league is in discussions with two groups in Atlanta, despite the recent demise of the Silverbacks and the impending launch of MLS’s Atlanta United FC. “We have two groups interested in Atlanta,” said Peterson. “They are trying to develop a game plan and build on what occurred the last several years.”
May 2016 Update: Nothing new.
Single Source Rumors
San Diego: San Diego is one of the markets that NASL is discussing with interested potential ownership groups, according to Empire of Soccer’s January 21, 2016 article on Bill Peterson. San Diego is also the subject of MLS expansion rumors, with former San Diego Padres owner John Moores linked with a MLS bid. San Diego has also been the subject of USL rumors, with a recent one involving Landon Donovan launching a San Diego USL team denied by the US soccer legend on Twitter.
May 2016 Update: Scratching The Pitch reports that a strong potential USL ownership that does not include Landon Donovan has emerged.
Rumors On Life Support
Los Angeles: Mentioned by an in-the-know BigSoccer poster who reported NASL interest along with San Francisco (turned out to be the Deltas) and Orange County, the rumor was that a group with links to Mexican billionaire Carlos Slim looked at bringing a NASL team to Los Angeles. The poster suggested the team could use the LA Aztecs name and target Mexican demographic, playing out of East LA. Unlike San Francisco and Orange County, NASL to LA has not been corroborated by any other sources or gained any momentum.
Prior to those rumors, Indy Week and Kartik Krishnayer reported in 2014 that a Los Angeles group was close to launching a NASL team to debut in the Fall 2015 season, with Kartik reporting that Eric Wynalda was involved. The Aztecs branding was in play here too. That bid obviously fell apart, but it demonstrates that Los Angeles has generated NASL expansion interest.
May 2016 Update: Nothing new.
New York United FC: The NASL news and rumor sphere was rocked on January 27, 2016 when Bill Reese tweeted a discovery that MP Silva, owners of Miami FC, had applied for a trademark on “New York United FC.” Cosmos COO Erik Stover said in his March 2016 Reddit AMA, “I’m not sure what the reasoning of the trademark was. It could mean many, many things. I haven’t heard anything about an NASL team.” An alternative possibility to an outdoor soccer team could be an entry into Mark Cuban’s upcoming Professional Futsal League. Incidentally there is already a Cosmopolitan Soccer League team with prior use on the name.
May 2016 Update: Nothing new.
Detroit: Detroit has come into focus as a target of MLS, with Detroit Pistons owner Tom Gores and Cleveland Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert teaming on a bid. In September 2015, a Detroit expansion group presented at the NASL Board of Governors meeting alongside San Francisco and OKC, according to reporter Sulaiman Foralin. Neither group appears to include the successful NPSL side Detroit City FC, which previously made its desire to move up to the pros known as exemplified in this article by Crain’s Detroit Business. Prior to launching his MLS bid, Tom Gores was reported by Detroit News to have discussed helping Detroit City FC make the leap to pro soccer. The power of the Detroit City FC movement is demonstrated by the club’s fans raising over $740,000 for the refurbishment of Keyworth Stadium to serve as a new home that will support the team’s continued growth. It remains possible that if the MLS bid succeeds and excludes Detroit City FC, that the NPSL club could still go pro in the NASL.
May 2016 Update: The MLS bid throws NASL expansion to Detroit into question.
Lower League Teams Looking To Move Up To The Pros (NASL/USL)
FC Buffalo – In an interview with Midfield Press, FC Buffalo indicated that they are actively pursuing investors to help them take a step up to professional soccer, though they did not indicate whether they were interested in USL or NASL.
Albuquerque Sol FC – In an interview with Midfield Press, Albuquerque Sol FC set a target of 2018 for a move up to professional soccer. Albuquerque is more likely to go to USL than NASL due to their status as a PDL team, a league which is owned by USL. However they would not rule NASL out.
Detroit City FC and Nashville FC were covered above.
No Longer Appearing On This List
Bonus Content – MLS/USL Rumblings Roundup
Detroit’s impressive investor group means it joins Sacramento, St. Louis and San Antonio as MLS expansion frontrunners. Successful USL debutant FC Cincinnati reached out to MLS to inquire about expansion, but was told it may take a few years despite their impressive box-office success. Message board rumors should always be taken with a grain of salt, but Cleveland could follow on Cincinnati’s heels in USL, if rumblings from two local area posters (1, 2) on Big Soccer are to be believed. Boise is another spot rumored for USL by a source that reported USL’s Nashville interest before the Tennessean story broke. That bit also mentioned San Diego and Las Vegas as USL targets along with LAFC2 coming soon. Scratching The Pitch suggested the Orange County Blues might turn into LAFC2, while also dropping Birmingham, Alabama as a potential USL city along with their own rumors on Nashville and San Diego USL teams. Meanwhile the Austin Aztex work on their 2017 USL return, eyeing a potential stadium partnership with the rugby team the Austin Huns.