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NASL, USL, MLS & CanPL Expansion News & Rumors Tracker – February 2017 Edition

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 Expansion News & Rumor Tracker as a monthly installment following the word on the web about possible future North American Soccer League clubs.  As bonus content, we also provide rumors on United Soccer League expansion, Major League Soccer expansion and the proposed Canadian Premier League since much of that information comes up during our research.  You can find the league expansion rumors below in that order, with the logos indicating the start of that league’s section.

After months of delays, rumors and intrigue, the US club soccer landscape is set for 2017.  The USSF decided to sanction both the North American Soccer League and the United Soccer League as provision Division II leagues.  

The process was a near-death experience for the NASL, which lost five clubs since the end of the 2016 season.  Minnesota United moved on to Major League Soccer in a long expected switch, while the Tampa Bay Rowdies and Ottawa Fury left for USL.  Four of the remaining 10 NASL clubs faced severe financial issues, including the Jacksonville Armada, Fort Lauderdale Strikers, Rayo OKC and most surprisingly the New York Cosmos. With only six stable teams, the NASL appeared on the brink of collapse as USL reportedly spoke with North Carolina FC (the rebranded Carolina Railhawks), Indy Eleven and the San Francisco Deltas about a switch.  Miami FC and Puerto Rico FC were reportedly not of interest to USL, while FC Edmonton owner Tom Fath ruled out a USL move for his club.  

Credit for saving the NASL goes to many people, from Sunil Gulati and USSF who bought the league the time it needed to get a plan together, to club owners like Fath, Brian Andres Helmick (SF Deltas), Stephen Malik (North Carolina FC), Ersal Ozdemir (Indy Eleven) and Riccardo Silva (Miami FC).  Peter Wilt (Indy Eleven/Chicago NASL) cultivated the next round of NASL teams through the crisis through his work with Club 9 Sports.  One of the most significant turning points may have come thanks to New York Cosmos staffers Jack Gaeta and Joe Barone, who brought Rocco B. Commisso into discussions that led to his acquisition of a majority stake in the Cosmos on the condition that NASL retained D2 status.  With the Cosmos saved, the NASL was able to continue for 2017 after the league decided to fund the Jacksonville Armada until new investors for that club can be finalized.  

The Fort Lauderdale Strikers will be dormant for a year as the league looks for new investors in the club, while Rayo OKC appears to be finished altogether. The 2017 season will see NASL back with 8 clubs, North Carolina FC, FC Edmonton, Indy Eleven, the New York Cosmos, Jacksonville Armada, Miami FC, Puerto Rico FC and the San Francisco Deltas. As part of the go-forward plan, the NASL and former commissioner Bill Peterson have parted ways.  The league has hired Super Bowl 50 CEO Keith Bruce to lead the search for a new commissioner, while league executive Rishi Sehgal fills the role on an interim basis.

Meanwhile, the USL celebrated its ascent to provisional Division II status with delight.  The decision from USSF was something USL had been working towards for years.  USL heads into 2017 with 30 teams, losing the Wilmington Hammerheads and FC Montreal but gaining the Tampa Bay Rowdies, Ottawa Fury and Reno 1868 FC.  Ottawa in a way serves as a replacement for FC Montreal, as the former NASL club will be the Montreal Impact’s USL affiliate.  While Ottawa’s plan fits snuggly into USL norms, the Tampa Bay Rowdies may end up being something of an outlier in the league with a payroll higher than what most other USL club’s typically support.

While the lower leagues were in turmoil, Major League Soccer took steps forward toward its next round of expansion.  MLS declared a formal expansion application for berths 25 and 26, and received applications from groups in 12 cities.  The bidders include the ownership groups of five USL clubs: Saint Louis, Cincinnati, San Antonio, Tampa Bay and Phoenix.  Two NASL ownership groups submitted bids, North Carolina FC and Indy Eleven.  Expansion groups in two USL cities submitted bids did not include the USL team,  Charlotte and Nashville.  Sacramento’s bid initially did not include the USL team, causing great controversy, but the Mayor of Sacramento was able to bring the two sides together. Check out MLSsoccer.com’s similarly named expansion tracker.

Despite its brush with death, the North American Soccer League has strong interest from investors looking to put expansion clubs in the league.  In fact, should the NASL have failed, we understand that it is very likely a successor league could have emerged out of the clubs that USL would not accept and some of the expansion groups.

Expansion for the league has been cultivated by Peter Wilt and Club 9 Sports through the crisis.  Now that USSF’s decision and the Cosmos return have brought stability, the NASL is likely to add new clubs in the very near future.  Atlanta, San Diego, Orange County and Chicago appear to be on track for 2018.  551 reports that a group from Detroit is also bidding on a NASL team, though they hear it is not Detroit City.  Prior to that, Detroit City co-owner Sean Mann previously mentioned in an interview with Midfield Press that exploring options around a full season pro league as a priority for the club this offseason.

Sources say that Atlanta, San Diego and Orange County at one point were in talks to join the league as early as Fall 2017, though it appears the USSF’s decision has allowed for those expansion bids to take more time to get their launches right.

 

Announced NASL Teams

San Francisco Deltas

The SF Deltas success is critical for NASL

Summary: Led by Silicon Valley entrepreneur Brian Andres Helmick, the San Francisco Deltas will debut in the 2017 Spring Season, playing out of Kezar Stadium.   Marc Dos Santos, who led the Ottawa Fury to the Soccer Bowl last year, will be their first head coach.

The San Francisco Deltas will make their home debut on March 25th, hosting 2016 Spring Season champs Indy Eleven.

February 2017 Update:  The Deltas made their first batch of signings, bringing in MLS and NASL veterans like Michael Stephens (Chicago Fire), Jackson (FC Dallas), Romuald Peiser (Ottawa Fury), Kyle Bekker (Montreal Impact), Tom Heinemann (Tampa Bay Rowdies) and Nana Attakora (Fort Lauderdale Strikers) for the beginnings of a strong squad.  In a remarkable display of class, the Deltas returned Danny Szetela to his hometown New York Cosmos after signing the midfielder when it appeared the Cosmos may be out for 2017.

More on the San Francisco Deltas:  http://sfdeltas.com/ and Midfield Press’ interview with Helmick.

 

Dormant NASL Teams

Fort Lauderdale Strikers

The Strikers will sit out 2017

Summary: The Fort Lauderdale Strikers will sit out the 2017 NASL season while the league attempts to find new owners for the club.  Two groups have been reported as having interest in buying the Strikers.  The most active group has been the owners of PDL club FC Miami City, who is said to have had a bid for the team turned down by the league. According to Kartik Krishnaiyer, a former Fort Lauderdale Strikers and NASL employee, the FC Miami City group may be in the process of lodging a new bid.   A second potential investor group with interest in the team reportedly included former Strikers manager Gunter Kronsteiner in partnership with Austrian billionaire Frank Stronach.

 

Rayo OKC

Rayo Omaha? Club could return, but probably not in OKC

Summary: Nipun Chopra of the Indy Eleven Championship Podcast reported on Twitter that Rayo OKC could be looking at relocation to either Omaha or Las Vegas after going on hiatus for a year.  This comes on the heels of Omaha being singled out as a high potential market by Peter Wilt in his expansion market analysis article.  We also pointed out the benefits of Omaha – a growing market of just under a million population with little pro sports competition – in our piece in September that speculated on where the franchise could relocate to.

February 2017 Update: In his article breaking the news that Alberto Gallego would join the New York Cosmos as First Assistant Coach, Nipun Chopra reported that “rumors persist that Rayo may be interested in starting a new NASL franchise in a different city at a future date.”

NASL’s footprint for the 2017 Season

Public NASL Efforts

Atlanta

The Atlanta Chiefs name is under consideration

Summary: Midfield Press spoke with Trey Brantley, who, along with Southfund Partners, is working to bring NASL and NWSL teams to DeKalb County in the eastern part of the Atlanta metro area.  The city of Atlanta is in both Fulton and DeKalb counties.

The group plans to build a large youth sports complex in DeKalb and has the support of local officials.  Two stadiums would serve as the centerpiece of the DeKalb complex, a smaller stadium with a turf field and bench seating, and a mid-sized stadium with a grass field and individual seating.  The smaller stadium will be ready by Fall 2017 and the mid-sized stadium would be ready in 2019.

The group is considering names for both clubs.  For the men’s side, the historic NASL name the Atlanta Chiefs is under consideration, while the Atlanta Silverbacks name is not due to its rights being owned by another entity.

The Atlanta group is targeting a Spring 2018 debut.

More on the Atlanta NASL:  Midfield Press interview with Trey Brantley.

 

Chicago

Chicago is expected to join in 2018

Summary: Peter Wilt and Club 9 Sports are working to bring an NASL team to Chicago.  The idea is for the team to play in the city of Chicago, which would allow it to provide an urban alternative to the suburban MLS Chicago Fire.

The key issue needing to be resolved before Chicago is accepted into NASL is finalizing their venue.  Chicago NASL has identified Soldier Field, Wrigley Field and US Cellular Field as its ideal places to play.   Peter Wilt told Neil Morris on the Inverted Triangle Podcast that if none of the major league Chicago venues work out after talks reopen in November, then the group will look at building a modular stadium in the city.

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.  

Peter Wilt shed light on Chicago NASL’s progress in a great interview with the Flakoglost Podcast.  Wilt said, “We have got the investors lined up.  We are in a holding pattern on the venue situation.  There’s a few venues in town that meet the criteria we’ve established, which are essentially major league facilities that can hold five figures plus.  That limits you to three venues: where the White Sox, Cubs and Bears play.  And those aren’t the easiest venues to secure.  We have not given up, which means there is opportunity with one or more of them.  I can’t really go into specifics about it.  We believe that come November, we will be reengaged in some of those talks, and on course for a 2018 launch.”

Wilt also provided an updated the club’s planned supporters trust, which was previously mentioned to potentially own up to 10% of the club: “We have the legal work all done.  We have a supporters trust board of directors in place, 5 persons.  They have met regularly, about once a month. We give them updates.  We are very transparent with them.  The concept is to sell eventually 3000 shares at $500 a piece plus a season ticket.  Those folks would get a vote in who [the supporters trust’s] five board representatives are, and one of those five will be a representative on the team’s board, and they’d have a full vote on everything we do.  They would have transparency into our business and they would have actually more than 1/7th vote on certain issues that are critical to fans.  For example, maybe changing the team colors or changing the team’s name… something like that would have to be approved by the supporters trust board. So it’s exciting.  I love that idea, because it engages the fans.  Not only those 3000 shareholders that become vested in the team, but really all fans of the team become vested because they’ll have a sense that this is the people’s team and it belongs to the community.”

February 2017 Update:  Chicago NASL remains expected to join the league in Spring 2018, with finalizing the venue thought to be the primary obstacle holding up official acceptance into the league.

NASL interim commissioner Rishi Seghal spoke about Chicago NASL to 551.  “It’s a big market,” Sehgal said. “Peter’s certainly made his efforts in Chicago very public. There’s another professional team in the market. We won’t make a rash decision about going into any or all of these markets. What we do know is that we’ll grow — we have to.”

More on Chicago NASL:  http://www.chicagonasl.com/, Peter Wilt’s February 2016 AMA and Midfield Press’ interview with Peter Wilt.

 

San Diego  

Albion is one of two San Diego NASL bids

Summary:  There are two groups interested in bringing NASL to San Diego.

Albion SC operates a large youth academy and an NPSL team called Albion SC Pros.  Starting the NPSL was a step towards their next goal, creating a full season professional side in NASL or USL to give them a full development system from youth ranks to pro soccer.  In an interview with Midfield Press, Noah Gins, CEO of Albion SC, said “We continue dialogue with NASL. We are seeing the stability and are liking the direction. At one point, there was a rush to try to get teams in the league for Fall 2017. That has backed off, which is a good thing. Everyone is targeting Spring of 2018.”

The other San Diego NASL group came forward when Demba Ba went on record when speaking with Eric Wynalda on his SiriusXM FC show.  “Me and a group of investors, a couple of players as well in the project, are doing something for San Diego now,” Ba told Wynalda.  “We are finalizing now and are close to getting the license.  We are working with the guys from Club 9 Sports.  We have a LOE from the NASL.  We are very close to finalizing the team in San Diego, which will be something big.  We have some players in our group of investors, one of the most famous guys you know is Eden Hazard.  Very close friend of mine and he’s excited as well.”

In addition to the two NASL groups and two MLS groups looking to bring pro soccer to San Diego, a new USL group has emerged led by Keisuke Honda, according to Nipun Chopra.  The USL group intends to debut in 2018 as well.

More on Albion SC: Albion SC Pros official site and Midfield Press Interview with Noah Gins.

 

NASL Rumors With Multiple Sources and/or League Commentary

Baltimore

The Baltimore Comets played in NASL 1.0

Summary: In an otherwise grim article about NASL, Sports Illustrated reported that one of the expansion groups looking to join the league is based in Baltimore.  The city has long been on the NASL radar. Baltimore was expected to be part of the new NASL when it began in 2011, but former USL franchise Crystal Palace Baltimore failed after the 2010 season in USSF D2 before it could join the league.  

The league’s sponsorship deal with Baltimore-based Under Armour earlier this year led to speculation that UA founder Kevin Plank or someone else with ties to Under Armour might launch a team.  This speculation was fanned by reports of Under Armour’s plans for a new 50-acre campus include a 7,000 seat waterfront stadium.

A Baltimore NASL bid could find itself in a race to market against the potential relocation of the USL’s Wilmington Hammerheads to the metro area.

February 2017 Update:  Brian Straus of Sports Illustrated and Michael Lewis of Big Apple Soccer listed Baltimore among the cities with expansion groups in discussions with the NASL.  In a tweet, Straus mentioned that Bill Peterson hinted to him that the Baltimore group was led by foreign investors.

 

Detroit

Could NASL be talking to 2 groups in Detroit?

Summary: Detroit City co-founder Sean Mann shared with Midfield Press that the team is working on a move to a full season professional soccer league is and talking with both USL and NASL, as well with the MLS bid group led by Tom Gores and Dan Gilbert.  Mann said “We have been very open that we’ve been talking to investors about going up to the professional ranks in the near term.  We want to play more games, and play on a national stage. We have a fan base that deserves that.  In terms of which league, we are having those conversations with our investors and that is a focus of this offseason.”

In September 2015, a Detroit expansion group presented at the NASL Board of Governors meeting alongside San Francisco and OKC, according to reporter Sulaiman Folarin.  The group was reportedly not connected to Detroit City FC.  

February 2017 Update:  Detroit was named by Brian Straus of Sports Illustrated as being in advanced discussions with the NASL about expansion.

551 reports that Detroit the group in discussions with NASL is not Detroit City FC.  “I can’t really comment on who the group would be,” said Rishi Sehgal told 551. “I can say that Detroit is a market that we’ve been interested in for a long time.”

“Personally, I have a vested interest in Detroit, having grown up in Toledo. We’re all aware about the excitement that Detroit City FC is bringing. I went to one of their games as a fan two years ago and it was amazing. The success they’ve had building a crowd and a community, and the improvements to their stadium, speaks to the strength of their project. Whether they’re a group that comes in or it’d be a different group isn’t something I can comment on.”

Given Sean Mann’s comments that Detroit City looking at going up to the professional ranks was a focus of this offseason, could there be two groups vying to bring Division II pro soccer to Detroit?

More on Detroit City FC:  Detroit City FC official site and Sean Mann’s interview with Midfield Press.

 

Hartford

Hartford City FC debuts in NPSL this year, but is NOT the NASL Hartford group, sources say

February 2017 Update:  Brian Straus of Sports Illustrated and Michael Lewis of Big Apple Soccer listed Hartford among the cities with expansion groups in discussions with the NASL.  Straus mentioned the Hartford group as in advanced discussions with the league.  Our sources tell us the group is not Hartford City FC, the new club starting play in the NPSL this year, and that a Hartford NASL expansion team would be several years out.  A renovated Dillon Stadium would likely be the target location of an NASL expansion team in Hartford, though any group looking to do that would have to contend with baggage left over from the prior attempt to renovate Dillon.

 

Las Vegas

The Quicksilvers played in NASL 1.0

Summary: Midfield Press learned that the Las Vegas Football Club group is working to bring professional soccer to Vegas.  The investor group consists of local business leaders committed to bringing pro soccer to the area, and they are sufficiently capitalized for either a NASL or USL bid. It is not clear whether the group will choose NASL or USL, and a suitable venue is the main hurdle in the group’s way at this point.  In addition Las Vegas FC, the group also has registered the classic Las Vegas Quicksilvers name.

February 2017 Update:  Midfield Press understands that the Las Vegas group remains interested in re-engaging with NASL now that the dust has settled with the USSF sanctioning decision.  

 

Orange County / Los Angeles

Eric Wynalda once led a SoCal soccer club to glory. Could it happen again?

February 2017 Update:  At one point there were two separate Los Angeles and Orange County NASL groups.  The original Orange County group was led by Joe Sumner and PJ Harrison.  Instead of going with NASL, that group chose to launch City of Angels FC in the NPSL.  City of Angels FC will play in Los Angeles.  This group was the basis of the rumors around the musician Sting, who is Sumner’s father, and Everton FC, who Harrison was a consultant for, bringing a NASL team to Orange County.

Our sources close to situation say that the Los Angeles group has since shifted their focus to stadiums in Orange County.  Peter Wilt confirmed an Orange County NASL effort to the LA Times, who reports the group is looking at several sites in Orange County.

Two stadiums that may be under consideration by Orange County NASL are Titan Stadium at Cal State Fullerton and Santa Ana Stadium.  Titan Stadium offers the benefit of being basically ready to go, but its drawbacks are that it is in a suburban area and that the USL’s Orange County Blues did not draw well at Titan from 2011-13. Santa Ana Stadium would need some renovations, similar to what the San Francisco Deltas are doing to Kezar Stadium, but is located in the downtown of a city called the new face of California by the New York Times due it to its 78% Latino population.    

Consistent with what Noah Gins said about San Diego NASL, our sources say that there had been some discussion of the group joining for the Fall 2017 season, but they are now focused on Spring 2018.

We are told that the group has or at one point had Eric Wynalda at the top of its list of potential managers.  When asked on Twitter, Wynalda issued a non-denial, “You are talking about a fictional team and a fictional job – at the moment.”

Later Wynalda responded to a follower asking him if he was going to be the manager of a new Orange County team by saying, “Gotta love the convention lol- but if I’m honest that’s the job I would love – huge opportunity in the OC.”

 

Single Source Rumors

New Orleans

The Jesters are currently the highest level soccer club in NOLA

February 2017 Update:  Michael Lewis of Big Apple Soccer listed New Orleans among the cities with expansion groups in discussions with the NASL.  

 

Lower League Clubs Looking At Moving Up To NASL

Albion SC Pros

See San Diego entry above.

 

FC Arizona

FC Arizona’s owner would like the team to join NASL by 2019

Summary: New NPSL club FC Arizona, based in the eastern part of the Phoenix market, has set a goal to join NASL within the next 2-3 years.  In an interview with the American Pyramid blog, FC Arizona founder Scott Taylor said, “Five year goal, we really hope to have been in the NASL for 2 or 3 seasons by then, keeping the NPSL team for development, etc. I decided the NPSL’s connection to the NASL was important. Never really considered the UPSL. Although I’m sure that it has it’s place in some markets, it wasn’t for us.  We do have very big plans. But, first things first. Year Number 1 must be done right.”

February 2017 Update: Scott Taylor reiterated his intention to bring his club up to NASL to Midfield Press in our recent interview with him.  “Rather than talk, we would rather show people what we can do. We definitely have a vision, and we plan to execute that vision based on what we know has worked with other clubs in other cities, but tailored to our market. We plan on doing things the first year right and seeing how the community responds at the gate. Yes, I have 2 very, very large local investors waiting to see how 2017 goes and if it goes well they are all in.

“I have exchanged emails with the NASL front office, they are aware of us. We are interested in breaking down some barriers in US Soccer, that just because a team isn’t in MLS, doesn’t mean they are not quality. That is how the public perception is, and we plan on changing that in a big way.”

More on FC Arizona:  FC Arizona official site and Scott Taylor’s interview with Midfield Press.

 

Detroit City FC

See Detroit entry above.

 

Philadelphia Fury

The Fury are looking for investors to back a move to NASL

Summary: Jonathan Tannenwald broke the story that the owner of the American Soccer League’s Philadelphia Fury, which plays in the South Jersey suburb Glassboro, is looking to partner with investors to bring a NASL team to the Philadelphia market.   The Philadelphia Fury is a classic NASL brand. Tannenwald reported that potential investors could include a La Liga club as well as parties from Dubai and Las Vegas.  

Midfield Press connected with Philadelphia Fury owner Matt Driver in September for an interview updating the status of the club’s NASL ambitions.  Driver continues to work on getting investors for a NASL move but there is currently not investment in place.  He is working with Jack Cummins and Club 9 Sports, of the Chicago NASL bid, as consultants to help him with his NASL plan.  

Driver understands that playing in a stadium in Philadelphia or close to the city, such as Campbell’s Field in Camden, would be critical to the success of a Philadelphia NASL team.  In terms  of his own role in the NASL club, Driver sees himself as a potential Sporting Director while leaving the business operations to other partners.  He sees the American Soccer League, which he runs today, as a potential talent feeder for the Philadelphia Fury.

February 2017 Update:  Nothing new.

More on Philadelphia Fury:  http://furyasl.com/  

Possible NASL footprint for 2018

Early Stage Rumblings

We hear from several sources that there is an effort to bring a NASL team to Oakland / the East Bay Area underway… Peter Wilt mentioned to Neil Morris on the Inverted Triangle Podcast that he is working with a group that wants to bring pro soccer to Cleveland, though no specifics on NASL or USL… The Foundry St. Louis MLS group, which has been passed over as the preferred MLS bid in favor of SC STL, replied to my tweet asking them if they’d consider starting up a team in another league such as NASL by saying, “Yes.  We already are” and “Details forthcoming when the #SCSTL dust settles.”

 

Having achieved its long standing goal of Division II sanctioning on a provisional basis, USL is ready to build on its momentum.  We can expect to see the league continue to expand at an aggressive pace.  USL President Jake Edwards told Jason Davis of SiriusXM FC,  “We’ve got three new clubs joining the league, and we’ll be announcing shortly the next cluster of clubs coming in for the ’18 and ’19 seasons, opening a few new soccer-specific stadiums, and rolling out a couple of other initiatives this year such as our new CSR platform, the USL foundation. There’s going to be a lot happening this year that we’ve been working on for some time, but certainly I think the Division 2 sanctioning gives us a real strong platform to bring those programs out.”

Clearly Nashville SC is set to join USL in 2018, having already been announced.  DC United is looking to launch a II team playing out of either the Maryland Soccerplex or the University of Maryland, according to Steven Goff of the Washington Post. FC Dallas is another MLS team thought to have interest in a reserve side playing in USL, according to Will Parchman of Howler.  Nipun Chopra of the Indy Eleven Championship Podcast reports that Birmingham and Memphis are USL targets as the league seeks to expand its footprint in the Southeast.  The owners of PDL clubs in Albuquerque and Tucson have also expressed interest in a move up.  Perhaps most imminent among potential USL clubs is San Diego, which Nipun Chopra suggests could be announced as soon as March.

 

Announced USL Teams

Tampa Bay Rowdies  

The Rowdies will play their first USL match against Orlando City B

The Tampa Bay Rowdies officially announced their switch from the NASL to USL on October 25th, two hours before the Ottawa Fury announced the same.  “We are excited to join the United Soccer League in 2017,” said Rowdies Chairman and CEO Bill Edwards. “I have said from the day I acquired controlling interest in this club that I wanted to make it one of the most successful teams in North America. The USL is a vibrant league, and this move is a necessary and positive step toward reaching the long-term goals and objectives of the club.”

Those long-term goals include a bid for an MLS franchise.  The very next day after the Rowdies USL announcement, Don Garber spoke at USF with Bill Edwards reportedly in attendance.  Garber spoke about the great progress in the Tampa Bay market.

February 2017 Update:  The Rowdies have doubled down on their MLS ambitions, releasing some beautiful stadium renderings and rallying around the MLS2StPete hashtag.  They were one of 12 bidders to submit an application to MLS for spots 25-28 in the league.

They are bringing several prominent players from their NASL squad to USL, including Joe Cole, Georgi Hristov, Matt Pickens, Neil Collins, Darnell King, Tamika Mkandawire and Keith Savage.  New signings include Leo Fernandes (Philadelphia Union), Luke Boden (Orlando City) and Damion Lowe (Minnesota United).

The roster Tampa Bay has assembled is likely to translate to among the highest, if not the highest, payrolls in the usually fiscally restrained USL.

 

Ottawa Fury

Ottawa will be the USL affiliate of Montreal

The Ottawa Fury officially announced their switch from the NASL to USL on October 25th, two hours after the Tampa Bay Rowdies announced the same. “We’re excited to be joining the fastest-growing soccer league in the world,” said Fury FC President, John Pugh. “The USL’s goal is to be the top second division in the world and we are thrilled to be part of it.  Our growing and loyal fan base deserves and can expect a very high caliber of play and tremendous competition.  Go Fury Go!”

Previously,  Midfield Press provided insight into what led up to this move.

February 2017 Update:  The Ottawa Fury signed up to be the MLS affiliate of the Montreal Impact.  The Impact in turn shut down their MLS II squad, FC Montreal.

“There will be some players from Montreal Impact, but there’s no requirement to play them, so each player that comes from Montreal Impact has to earn their minutes on the field,” Fury FC head coach Paul Dalglish told the Ottawa Sun.

The affiliation move is consistent with the Ottawa ownership’s desire to reduce costs by moving to the USL.

 

Reno 1868

Reno will host Orange County SC in their USL debut

Summary: Reno 1868 will start play in 2017.  The club is owned by billionaire Herb Simon, who also owns the NBA’s Indiana Pacers.  Sacramento Republic FC played a friendly in Reno against the Liverpool FC U-21s before a crowd of 6,287 at 1868’s future home of Greater Nevada Field.   Reno 1868 has surpassed 1000 season tickets sold.

Reno signed a two-year affiliation agreement with the San Jose Earthquakes.   San Jose will run all aspects of Reno’s soccer operations, making the partnership look more like Houston Dynamo’s arrangement with Rio Grande Valley than a traditional MLS-USL affiliation.  Reno will still handle the business side of its operation.   Former Atlanta Silverbacks GM Andy Smith was hired to run Reno’s soccer operations.

February 2017 Update: New manager Ian Russell has begun assembling Reno 1868’s roster, which will include USL’s leading scorer since the league rebooted in 2011, forward Dane Kelly.  Joining Kelly are defender Jimmy Ockford (Seattle Sounders/New York Cosmos), midfielder Junior Burgos (Tampa Bay Rowdies), midfielder Matt LaGrassa (Sacramento Republic), forward Antoine Hoppenot (FC Cincinnati) defender Brenton Griffiths (OC Blues) and defender Nick von Niederhäusern (FC Vaduz).  Reno’s direct signings will be augmented by loans from the San Jose Earthquakes due to their affiliation agreement.

More on Reno 1868.

 

Nashville SC

Nashville USL will be known as Nashville SC

Summary: DMD Soccer has been awarded a USL franchise for 2018 contingent on acquiring a soccer-specific stadium.  The DMD group includes investors with ties to health care companies including Marcus Whitney, former chairman of Nashville FC of NPSL, David Dell president and COO of LifePoint Health and Christopher Redhage, co-founder of ProviderTrust.  Chris Jones will serve as the GM of the Nashville USL club.  Nashville SC has surpassed 1500 season ticket deposits.

The Nashville USL group decided against using the Nashville FC brand as originally intended, opting to use a new name and logo, Nashville SC.  Previously it was reported that they acquired the brand of NPSL team Nashville FC in exchange for a 1% stake in the club and a seat on the club’s board.  However, since there could be a potential trademark conflict with a local youth soccer organization that also uses the Nashville FC name, the USL group chose this other direction.  

DMD intends to create a similar investment model for members of the NPSL Nashville FC club.  “During the August 29 meeting DMD reiterated its desire to provide for formal supporter investment in the USL franchise on the same terms as previously proposed to NFC. In light of the foregoing, the Board of NFC agrees that the most appropriate manner of accomplishing this is through a new nonprofit corporation,” the board of Nashville FC wrote to its members, according to the Nashville Pitch.

Meanwhile, Nashville SC will enter a PDL club next year rather than an NPSL club, which makes sense as PDL is part of the USL system.  The team will be known as Nashville SC U23.

A potential soccer war for Nashville was over before it ever really began, with Bill Hagerty, the former head of the Nashville NASL group, re-focusing his efforts on bringing Major League Soccer to the Music City.

Nashville SC hired Soccer United Marketing executive Court Jeske as their first CEO.  Jeske told The Tennessean that his “No. 1 goal is to get the word out, make sure that people in Nashville and Middle Tennessee understand what we are doing and be a part of the community.”

February 2017 Update:  Nashville SC and the group looking to bring MLS to Nashville are in merger talks, according to the Nashville Business Journal.  “We are united in our goal to bring MLS to Nashville and view our efforts as one movement. We are having discussions about how we move forward together,” Clint Brewer, spokesperson for the Nashville MLS group told the Business Journal.  Nashville SC declined comment.  Bill Hagerty, a member of the MLS bid, one led an effort to bring NASL to Nashville before shifting his sights to MLS after then-NPSL club Nashville FC announced for USL.

Meanwhile, Nashville SC is working to build its organization in Tennessee.  The first signs will be when Nashville SC U-23, which replaces the NPSL team, debuts in PDL this year.  “Obviously the PDL is our first jump with the Nashville SC brand,” Redhage told USLsoccer.com. “We’re looking to build the foundation, identifying our core values, identifying our vision and beginning to push that out at the amateur level. Our hope is that it builds our foundation so in 2018, when we come into the league, we have a rabid fan base that already understands what Nashville SC is about, where we’re going and what we want to accomplish.”

“Our partnership with the Tennessee State Soccer Association has been really successful,” Redhage said. “We’re working hand in hand. A lot of these things take a while to build, but when you’re building a foundation, you’re building it not for today but for the future, so that’s what we’re excited about.”

Redhage told USLsoccer.com that they have reached over 3000 season ticket deposits.

More on Nashville SC.

 

Dormant USL Teams

Austin Aztex

Summary: The Austin Aztex have been on hiatus since the 2016 season their home field, House Park, was damaged in flooding.  The club does not seem to have made much progress towards getting back on the field.

“There is no suitable stadium. Until there is, the Aztex won’t field a team,” Bobby Epstein, chairman of Circuit of the Americas and a majority investor in the Aztex, told the Austin American-Statesman.

Club owner Rene van de Zande told the Statesman,  “Nothing is formally confirmed, but taking the suitable soccer venue needs into consideration, 2018 has become a more realistic target.”

“I want Austin to have pro soccer,” Epstein said. “If there was a stadium, the Aztex would be playing now.”  The Statesman reports that the club found University of Texas’ Myers Stadium too expensive, while they have also ruled out playing in high school football stadiums because they wouldn’t be able to generate revenues from alcohol sales.  The paper reports that there has not been progress on the offer extended by the Austin Huns rugby club to share a stadium with the Aztex.

“I’m probably out of the stadium-building business,” Epstein said. “We’ll keep looking for long-term solutions.”

USL president Jake Edwards told MLSsoccer.com that the club is working on getting a stadium built in Austin.  This runs counter to prior comments from Bobby Epstein that he is “out of the stadium-building business.”

February 2017 Update:  While reporting on USL’s ascension to D2, the Austin American-Statesman got a quote from owner Rene van de Zande that may hold a flicker of hope for fans for pro soccer in Texas’s capital. “Yes, 2017 is out,” van de Zande told the paper. “The Aztex are in continued discussions with the league to return in 2018.”  The venue continues to be the issue holding back the return of the Aztex.

More on the Austin Aztex.

USL footprint for 2017 season

Rumored USL Teams

Albuquerque:   In an interview with Midfield Press earlier this year, 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.

The Albuquerque Sol hired a consultant to do a feasibility analysis on a 5,000 to 10,000 seat stadium in the city. “The goal has always been said 2018 to go what’s called USL pro, which would be the equivalent of say the Isotopes,” said General Manager for Albuquerque Sol, Larry Espinoza, told KRQE.  The club is looking for investors to help fund the stadium.

February 2017 Update: Albuquerque Sol owner Ron Patel continues to make progress on his efforts to bring a soccer specific stadium to town to support the addition of a USL club. According to KRQE, the city will spend $15,000 to investigate the benefits of a stadium.

Baltimore:  The Wilmington Hammerheads supporters group the Port City Firm reported on their Twitter account that Baltimore is the top relocation target for the Hammerheads ownership group.  

Steven Goff of the Washington Post dug into the Hammerheads potential move to Baltimore.  Goff reports that the team aims to play at Johnny Unitas Stadium at Towson University.  Names floated for the club include such creative options as FC Baltimore and Baltimore FC.  Goff reports that the University of Maryland Baltimore County was also looked at as a potential venue for the club, but an agreement could not be reached.  That indicates this process is pretty far along.  Goff suggests the league has spoken to investors interested in expanding to Baltimore in addition the the relocation interest from Hammerheads owner George Altirs.

Sports Illustrated also reported that investors are interested in bringing a NASL club to the Charm City.

February 2017 Update: The Baltimore Bohemians PDL club has shut its doors for the 2017 season. There may be hope for USL in Baltimore within the official statement left on the Bohs website:  “As of the 2017 season, the Baltimore Bohemians Soccer Club will be on hiatus until further notice. We are taking this time off to refocus our efforts on bringing a legitimate professional franchise to this great city.”

 

Birmingham: Scratching The Pitch reported Birmingham, Alabama as a potential USL city along with their own rumors on Nashville and San Diego USL teams.  The site reported that a link between the Birmingham Hammers NPSL team and the USL bid is not evident.

Rumors of a Birmingham USL team picked back up on Twitter from local podcaster Maddux Mullinax, suggesting there will be announcement before the end of the year.  Mullinax reported that a USL team is a done deal and is likely to play out of BBVA Compass Field at the University Alabama Birmingham, and that the team is looking for a coach with MLS experience.

February 2017 Update: Nipun Chopra of the Indy Eleven Championship Podcast reports that Birmingham and Memphis are USL targets as the league seeks to expand its footprint in the Southeast.

 

Boise:  Boise could be the home of a USL team soon, either an independent club or a Portland Timbers affiliate. T2 and Swope Park Rangers played a match in Meridian, Idaho, near Boise, to test the market.

Idaho is considered Timbers “territory” in MLS terms, and the club already has partnerships with youth programs in the state.   Portland executive Gavin Wilkerson shared the club’s plans to develop the Idaho market further with USLsoccer.com:  “We want to look at a way to eventually have more games in Boise and in Idaho and then eventually will the league, will USL, allow us to have another team there? Is it a viable business decision? These are questions that we’ll be asking ourselves. This is definitely a trial match. It has many, many purposes and we’re very happy with the initial response.”

“We’re at the exploratory phase of going down this path,” Wilkinson said. “There’s conversations with the USL. There’s conversations about how we could be involved if we weren’t able to run the USL team in Idaho. What we’re looking at, in all honesty, is we’re exploring all avenues and all options.”

An article on the Idaho Business Review outlined several details of how pro soccer may unfold in Boise.  Bill Taylor is leading a local group of investors who want to bring pro soccer to town.

“We will have serious talks starting in July (with government people and potential investors),” Taylor said. “The energy is legitimized. There is a return on investment now. Now you can go to people who are not necessarily soccer people. Now we just have to go to the next level with our government people.”  

The article goes on to explore several locations in the Boise area where a stadium could be built.  The mayor of Boise, David Bieter, is on board with the idea of a stadium. “Downtown needs a multi-use sports facility,” Bieter said. “I’m convinced that a public private partnership that brings minor league baseball and soccer as well as concerts and other events to downtown will pay great dividends.”

The Timbers remain interested in developing the market.  T2 may host six to eight “home” games in Boise over the 2017 season.

February 2017 Update:  USL President Jake Edwards referenced the Portland Timbers’ interest in moving their T2 team to Boise in an interview with Sports Illustrated in October 2016.  Speaking of the model of providing soccer operations for an independent local ownership who handles the business side that is being followed by San Jose with Reno and Houston with Rio Grande Valley, Edwards said, “I think more and more MLS teams are looking at that. Portland are looking at an independent group we’ve put together in Boise. Seattle is looking to partner with a group in Tacoma. I think this will be a model we see more of. It certainly makes sense toward achieving everyone’s goals. Some [MLS] teams will still be committed to that ‘second team’ structure, and maybe that will work for them. Where we are now with this partnership and this affiliate model isn’t where we’re going to be in a couple years … It won’t be a dramatic shift for next season but I think you’ll see some changes for 2018. Whether they’re MLS-owned or independent teams, if they’re not able to meet the standards and operate a team and create an environment at the level we require, they won’t continue.”

 

Cleveland:  Peter Wilt reported on Neil Morris’s Inverted Triangle Podcast that he is consulting with an investor group looking to bring professional soccer to Cleveland.  It was not specified whether the league would be USL or NASL.

February 2017 Update:   Nothing new.

 

FC Dallas 2: FC Dallas has been rumored to be interested in starting its own USL squad for a while.  Jason Davis reported that Dallas’s reserve squad may debut in either 2017 or 2018.  Will Parchman reported that Dallas has preliminary plans to put a team in USL in 2018.

February 2017 Update:  Nothing new.

 

DC United II:  DC United is planning to launch a USL reserve team in 2018, according to a report from Steven Goff of the Washington Post.  The Post reports sites under consideration include the Maryland Soccerplex, which once hosted the USL club Real Maryland and the University of Maryland’s Ludwig Field.  Goff adds that the club has discussed building a 5000 seat soccer stadium along with George Mason University.  The facility would serve as DC United’s training ground, the USL squad’s primary stadium and would serve the youth academy as well as George Mason U’s soccer teams.  The model for the USL franchise would follow New York Red Bulls II.

 

Detroit: Detroit City FC co-founder Sean Mann shared with Midfield Press that the team is working on a move to a full season professional soccer league is and talking with both USL and NASL, as well with the MLS bid group led by Tom Gores and Dan Gilbert.  Mann said “We have been very open that we’ve been talking to investors about going up to the professional ranks in the near term.  We want to play more games, and play on a national stage. We have a fan base that deserves that.  In terms of which league, we are having those conversations with our investors and that is a focus of this offseason.”

February 2017 Update:  Nothing new.

 

El Paso: MountainStar Sports Group is reportedly working to bring a USL team to El Paso.  MountainStar owns the El Paso Chihuahuas AAA baseball team as well as FC Juarez across the Mexican border.

February 2017 Update:  Nothing new.

 

Fresno: A Fresno group other than the Fuego PDL club has its eyes on a USL franchise. According to a report from Evan Ream, the Fresno Fuego were being pressured to pay the USL’s expansion fee by the end of 2016 or the other group may get the rights.

The Fuego have long been interested in moving up to the pro ranks.  “I really think Fresno is ready for professional soccer,” said Scott Alcorn, former coach of PDL Fresno Fuego told the Fresno Bee in July 2015. “It’s something that has never been done in the Valley. Pro soccer would be something that’s totally new, and I think we’re ready for that.”

“The USL has asked us for the last eight years if we want to move up to the next level, but it hasn’t been in our best interest given the economic challenges of 2008 through 2012,” Fuego GM Jeremy Schultz told the Bee. “It wasn’t time for us to make that move. But over the last couple years the Fuego has been profitable, which is a great accomplishment.”

“You look at some of the cities where soccer is flourishing, and I really believe Fresno has the fabric of a soccer town,” Schultz said.

“It’s ingrained in us. We kind of grow up with a little chip on our shoulder how we’re viewed in this state, and I think that mentality is perfectly suited for soccer.”

USL president Jake Edwards spoke to Soccer Nation about the league’s future plans for expansion in California. “California is a hub for premier soccer in America. The size of the state, its demographic composition and diversity provide a solid foundation and growth opportunity for owners and fans alike. It’s an added bonus that the USL harbors three teams in the Golden State. We are fortunate that this part of the country is so passionate about soccer and firmly believe that it will help expand and grow the game in all facets nationwide. Many great players, coaches and teams from youth, collegiate to the professional levels have come from California. We built our Western division first through anchor club Orange County Blues. That growth has spread north and we have had tremendous success in Sacramento. We are in discussions now with some very impressive ownership groups in several key California markets so expect to see a little more expansion in the state over the next few seasons.”

February 2017 Update:  Nothing new.

 

Grand Rapids: Grand Rapids FC is in talks with investors about a move up to USL, according to Michigan Live.  Costs for an 8,000 seat soccer stadium for the club are estimated at $40M.  “It has been a lot of work the past couple months but it has also been great,” team owner Matt Roberts said. “I think the evolution of soccer in West Michigan is just going to keep moving forward.”

“The next step is a major one and that is to get the financial backing to get it done,” he said.

 

Las Vegas:  The Las Vegas Review-Journal reported in March 2016 that the USL was interested in bringing a team to Cashman Field in Vegas.  USL spokesperson Brett Lashbrook told the Review-Journal that there was a precedent of minor league baseball and USL sharing a stadium.  The Las Vegas 51s AAA team is looking to move out of Cashman into a new stadium.

Midfield Press learned that the Las Vegas Football Club group is working to bring professional soccer to Vegas.  The investor group consists of local business leaders committed to bringing pro soccer to the area, and they are sufficiently capitalized for either a NASL or USL bid. It is not clear whether the group will choose NASL or USL, and a suitable venue is the main hurdle in the group’s way at this point.  In addition Las Vegas FC, the group also has registered the classic Las Vegas Quicksilvers name.

February 2017 Update:  Nothing new.

 

Memphis: Nipun Chopra of the Indy Eleven Championship Podcast reports that Birmingham and Memphis are USL targets as the league seeks to expand its footprint in the Southeast.

 

San Diego:  Nipun Chopra of the Indy Eleven Championship Podcast reports that Japanese soccer star Keisuke Honda leds a group of Japanese investors who wish to put a USL team in San Diego.  Chopra suggests Qualcomm Stadium and Torero Stadium may be sites under consideration for hosting the team.

Independent research shows that Honda owns a company called Honda Estilo.  Honda Estilo USA is based in Southern California.  Brian Waltrip, one of the coaches at the North County Battalion, a PDL club that switched from NPSL over the offseason, is listed on the club’s website as Director of Coaching with Honda Estilo USA.  The Battalion recently announced a partnership with the San Diego Surf youth soccer club. During the time of the NSCAA convention, North County Battalion owner Jason Barbuto tweeted, “So any things I’d like to say and comment on tonite. Congrats San Diego. Do not look back. The future is very very bright. #MLS #USL #PDL”  Since then, the North County Battalion and San Diego Surf formed the brand SoCal Surf which the PDL team is using going forward.

Meanwhile, the San Diego Zest PDL club has Japanese ownership, similar to what Chopra suggests Honda’s group will have.  On the Zest club website, they promote the following vision:

  • Promote the PDL brand definition and advancement in San Diego and Japan
  • Enhancement of a soccer exchange program between Japan and the U.S.
  • Support of Japanese soccer players pursuing sports in America.
  • Support of American players pursuing sports in Japan

Previously, USL president Jake Edwards confirmed the league has held talks with groups interested in bringing USL to San Diego.  “San Diego is a thriving market with a millennial population, considerable interest in soccer and high participation levels. We have received numerous expressions of interest from very credible groups and will continue to explore options in the market based on our three core tenets: strong local ownership, an attractive market and plans for a soccer-specific stadium,” Edwards told Soccer Nation.

 

Tacoma:  The Seattle Sounders are exploring the possibility of moving Sounders 2’s home to Tacoma.  The club is working with the AAA baseball Tacoma Rainiers on a plan that would see the B side relocate from Starfire Soccer Complex to a new stadium.

“There’s a group of individuals working on a soccer complex and possibly a soccer stadium,” Hanauer told Sounder at Heart. “The team is a separate issue. We’ve been working with the Rainiers, with whom we would theoretically have some sort of partnership. We haven’t talked about how equity would work. Notionally, we like the Major League Baseball model where we’d run and pay for the technical side and they’d run and pay for the business.”

“We were very curious about what would happen to the soccer market there,” said Hanauer, noting the advantages of getting a little farther away from Seattle. “We did that game down there and I remained in contact with the folks from the Rainiers. We check in every six months or so. I think we concluded at that time that Cheney [Stadium] wasn’t a good long term location, but if there was ever a possibility for a soccer-specific stadium in Tacoma that it would be very interesting.”

The Sounders seem focused on Tacoma, but have also considered moving their 2 side to Boise, Everett and Spokane, according to the Sounder at Heart report.

February 2017 Update:  USL President Jake Edwards referenced the Seattle Sounders’ interest in moving their S2 team to Tacoma in an interview with Sports Illustrated in October 2016.  Speaking of the model of providing soccer operations for an independent local ownership who handles the business side that is being followed by San Jose with Reno and Houston with Rio Grande Valley, Edwards said, “I think more and more MLS teams are looking at that. Portland are looking at an independent group we’ve put together in Boise. Seattle is looking to partner with a group in Tacoma. I think this will be a model we see more of. It certainly makes sense toward achieving everyone’s goals. Some [MLS] teams will still be committed to that ‘second team’ structure, and maybe that will work for them. Where we are now with this partnership and this affiliate model isn’t where we’re going to be in a couple years … It won’t be a dramatic shift for next season but I think you’ll see some changes for 2018. Whether they’re MLS-owned or independent teams, if they’re not able to meet the standards and operate a team and create an environment at the level we require, they won’t continue.”

 

Tucson:  “We believe the time is right for the Tucson market to move up to the USL,” FC Tucson managing partner Greg Foster told the Arizona Daily Star. “We have a huge head start because our venue, Kino Stadium, is already in place.”

Foster told the publication that FC Tucson’s ownership has formed a steering committee to find investors to back the move to USL. “We’ve been running our PDL team like a USL team,” said Foster. “We believe we can significantly increase our footprint.”

“A USL team often has as many as four or five MLS players at a given time,” said Foster. “If we get a wholly owned affiliation, it would be a merger of our brand with an MLS franchise.”

Previously Midfield Press spoke with Rick Schantz, who signaled FC Tucson’s future intent on pro soccer.

February 2017 Update:  Rick Schantz resigned as the head coach of FC Tucson to take on an assistant coaching role with Phoenix Rising FC.  Schantz will remain in the ownership group of FC Tucson.

 

Dead USL Rumors

LAFC2:  The Orange County Register reported that LAFC is looking at building a complex in Tustin, California, which would include a 5,000-8,000 seat stadium, a suitable size for a LAFC2 USL squad.

USL president Jake Edwards confirmed that LAFC will not launch a USL team for the 2017 season.  “We have had discussions with LAFC but with the amount of work they have to do between launching the team, an academy and building its stadium it doesn’t make sense to attempt a USL club right away. The discussions we did have centered on a distinct brand for any potential second team,” Edwards told Soccer Nation.

February 2017 Update: LAFC has signed a multiyear partnership with Orange County SC (formerly the OC Blues) that will make it unlikely we will see a LAFC2 anytime soon.

Possible USL 2018 footprint with hottest rumored cities

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.

Detroit City FC:  Detroit City FC continues to grow in NPSL, with a 48% increase in attendance in 2016 over 2015 as the club moved into its new home of Keyworth Stadium.  Supporters raised $750,000 for renovations of Keyworth, and due to the success the club was able to return $107,000 to investors in the project.  DCFC ultimately aims to return 35% of investors money in the renovations.   Detroit averaged 5,255 for its 10 home matches, a number that would put it in the upper half of attendance in both NASL and USL.

Detroit City co-founder Sean Mann shared with Midfield Press that the team is working on a move to a full season professional soccer league is and talking with both USL and NASL, as well with the MLS bid group led by Tom Gores and Dan Gilbert.  Mann said “We have been very open that we’ve been talking to investors about going up to the professional ranks in the near term.  We want to play more games, and play on a national stage. We have a fan base that deserves that.  In terms of which league, we are having those conversations with our investors and that is a focus of this offseason.”

Lansdowne Bhoys:  Celtic-affiliated Lansdowne Bhoys of the Bronx/Yonkers area of New York indicated an intention to go pro by 2018 amidst their US Open Cup run.

San Francisco City FC:  San Francisco City FC has new investors that intend to take the team to a professional league by 2018, reports Evan Ream.  That league would likely be USL.  

USL president Jake Edwards spoke to Soccer Nation about the league’s future plans for expansion in California. “California is a hub for premier soccer in America. The size of the state, its demographic composition and diversity provide a solid foundation and growth opportunity for owners and fans alike. It’s an added bonus that the USL harbors three teams in the Golden State. We are fortunate that this part of the country is so passionate about soccer and firmly believe that it will help expand and grow the game in all facets nationwide. Many great players, coaches and teams from youth, collegiate to the professional levels have come from California. We built our Western division first through anchor club Orange County Blues. That growth has spread north and we have had tremendous success in Sacramento. We are in discussions now with some very impressive ownership groups in several key California markets so expect to see a little more expansion in the state over the next few seasons.”

While NASL fought for its survival and USL jockeyed for Division II sanctioning, MLS was busy laying out the process for franchises 25-28.  With Miami still the presumptive 24th franchise, MLS created an application process and received submissions from groups in 12 cities/regions:  Charlotte, Cincinnati, Detroit, Indianapolis, Nashville, Phoenix, Raleigh, Sacramento, San Antonio, San Diego, St. Louis and Tampa Bay.  Notably absent from the list were Las Vegas and Austin, both linked with MLS bids in the past year, as well as Louisville and Oklahoma City, whose ownership groups have made moves toward new stadiums that could support MLS.

 

Announced MLS Teams

Atlanta United FC

Summary: Set to debut in 2017, Atlanta United FC is owned by Home Depot founder Arthur Blank and will share Mercedes-Benz Stadium with Blank’s NFL Atlanta Falcons.  They have set up an affiliation with the Charleston Battery of USL.

Atlanta United is bringing former Barcelona and Argentina national team manager Gerardo Martino as their first head coach.  “We are delighted that a manager of Gerardo’s caliber and pedigree will be leading our team into our inaugural season,” Atlanta United president Darren Eales said.  “His deep experience and success at both the club and international levels speak for itself, and his vision and approach aligns very well with our club philosophy. We’re confident in his ability to help build a winning culture both on and off the pitch.”

Meanwhile, the team will start its first season off at Georgia Tech’s Bobby Dodd Stadium while it waits for its full time home, Mercedes-Benz Stadium, to be ready, rather than kick its tenure in MLS off with three months of road matches.  “With the amount of excitement we’ve seen for the club, especially over the past few months as our season ticket sales have continued to rise, it was evident that playing at home for the first part of the season was in the best interest of our fans and our players,” United president Darren Eales said.

February 2017 Update: Atlanta United is building a competitive squad as it looks to make a fast impact on MLS. The most notable signings are Designated Players Miguel Almirón and Héctor Villalba.  Meanwhile the club has acquired USMNT capped players Greg Garza, Zach Loyd, Jeff Larentowicz and Michael Parkhurst.   Atlanta renewed its affiliation agreement with the USL’s Charleston Battery for another year.

Atlanta will play its first ever game at NPSL club Chattanooga FC on February 11th.  The club will make its MLS debut at home against the New York Red Bulls on March 5th.

More on Atlanta United FC.

 

Minnesota United FC

With Minnesota United FC’s 2017 debut and the continuity of their brand confirmed, the club must now prepare for the move to MLS.   The team is working on plans for a soccer-specific stadium in St. Paul, Minnesota, aimed to be ready in 2018.  Minnesota will play at the University of Minnesota’s TCF Bank Stadium for at least once season as it awaits the completion of its own home.  The league will hold an expansion draft that Minnesota and Atlanta can partake in, and Minnesota will be allowed to sign players from its current NASL squad that it feels are up to the challenge of MLS.

With its MLS debut date finally cemented in August, Minnesota United is off to a good start from a business perspective, with over 8,000 season ticket deposits in place.

February 2017 Update:  Minnesota United reacquired USMNT player Miguel Ibarra from Leon.  Ibarra joins forward Christian Ramirez and defenders Kevin Venegas and Justin Davis as players who starred with the Minnesota United NASL club joining the team in MLS.  Minnesota will play its first MLS match at the Portland Timbers on March 3rd.

More on Minnesota United FC.

 

Los Angeles FC

Set to debut in 2018, Los Angeles FC’s investor group includes famous names such as Magic Johnson, Mia Hamm, Nomar Garciaparra, Will Ferrell and Tony Robbins. The club kicked off the construction of its downtown stadium in August, on the site of the Los Angeles Memorial Sports Arena.  Banc of California was revealed as the stadium’s naming rights sponsor.   A venue it controls in a location away from the Carson-based Galaxy will give LAFC a distinct advantage that Chivas USA never had as the second MLS team in the LA market.  

The Orange County Register reported that the club is looking at building a complex in Tustin, California. MLS may not be the only league LAFC enters in 2018, with rumors that minority owner Mia Hamm will spearhead efforts for an LAFC NWSL club.

LAFC has set a goal of having 15,000 season tickets sold, which would put them ahead of the LA Galaxy’s 11,500.  The club already has over 10,000 season ticket deposits in place. “If we look back at the beginning, we spoke of making history here in the heart of L.A.,” Tom Penn, LAFC’s president, told the L.A. Times. “And now today, two years later, we have several major milestones to add to our story.  Our arena demolition is completed, stadium construction is underway, and we have over 10,000 season ticket deposits sold.”

February 2017 Update: Still over a year away from their MLS debut, LAFC is being linked to star players.  Yahoo reports that the club is interested in Zlatan Ibrahimovic as a Designated Player, while other rumors have them going after Mexican striker Javier Hernandez.

Former MLS star Logan Pause has taken a position on the Los Angeles FC coaching staff and will serve as the head coach for the club’s USL affiliate Orange County SC next season.  LAFC and Orange County SC have signed a multiyear partnership.

Meanwhile, the club released new renderings of a completed Banc of California Stadium.

More on LAFC.

 

Presumptive Team 24

Miami

David Beckham’s investment group includes media mogul Simon Fuller and Sprint CEO Marcelo Claure.  They group has looked for an additional investor to provide financial backing for the team.  

Don Garber spoke in optimistic tones about Miami finally nearing resolution at Copa America, but then seemed to walk back those comments at the U.S. Open Cup final.  “As you know, it’s 28 teams for us. We’re a long way from 28, still haven’t finalized our 24th team. So that gives us five more teams to fill over the next however many years,” Garber said according to Goal.com.  The MLS commissioner’s phrasing there would imply that another group could step in Miami’s place.

“I am confident [Miami] will be our 24th team,” Don Garber told the Miami Herald. “We’ll continue to work hard on finalizing a deal there. There are a lot of moving parts, but we are making progress. We need that team to get announced before we make any decisions going forward. We’ve got all hands on deck.”

February 2017 Update: The Miami Herald reports that Miami remains a top priority for MLS despite its focus on the 12 new expansion candidate cities.  “We are very focused on Miami being our 24th team. And we’ll continue to work with them to try to achieve that,” Garber said. “I remain a big believer in the importance of Miami to extending MLS’s reach to south of the border and to connect with a very diverse and culturally important city in our country.”

MLS’s 23 plus Miami

Formal Bidders For MLS Teams 25-28

Charlotte

Lead Investor(s):  Marcus Smith

By The Numbers
TV Market Rank: 22nd overall / 6th among bidders
MSA Rank: 22nd overall / 6th among bidders
Highest Level Club: Charlotte Independence, USL (D2)
2016 Avg Attendance: 1,375 / 12th among bidders
Fortune 1000 Companies: 17

Summary:  Marcus Smith, CEO of Speedway Motorsports, has submitted a bid to bring MLS to Charlotte.  The Charlotte Independence USL team is not part of Smith’s bid.

Pros:  Fast growing market. Lack of an MLB in town means that there is no Spring-Fall major league competition.  Strong Fortune 1000 base for sponsorship.

Cons: Charlotte’s USL team has attracted very little support, in stark contrast to success stories in Sacramento and Cincinnati.  Lack of local government support on stadium.

Potential MLS Rivals: Atlanta, DC United

Competitive Bids In Region: Raleigh, Nashville, Tampa Bay

 

Cincinnati

Cincinnati drew over 35,000 against Crystal Palace at Nippert Stadium

Lead Investor(s):  Carl H. Lindner III

By The Numbers
TV Market Rank: 36th overall / 12th among bidders
MSA Rank: 28th overall / 9th among bidders
Highest Level Club: FC Cincinnati, USL (D2)
2016 Avg Attendance: 17,296 / 1st among bidders
Fortune 1000 Companies: 13

Summary:  18 months ago no one was talking about Cincinnati as a potential MLS city, but the unprecedented success of FC Cincinnati changed the game.  FCC not only became by far the best attended soccer club below MLS, it actually finished with a higher average attendance than five MLS teams including in-state rivals Columbus Crew. Like Sacramento before them, soccer fans in Cincinnati forced their way into the conversation with their incredible support.

Pros:  Huge support for FCC already puts them on MLS attendance levels. Carl H. Lindner III is a former owner of the Cincinnati Reds, providing a connection to the other major league sports.

Cons: Cincinnati is the smallest TV market among the bidders.  Already a small market, it is also growing slowly relative to other bid cities. Despite FC Cincinnati’s tremendous success at Nippert Stadium, the league may require a soccer specific stadium, which could introduce challenges for the bid.

Potential MLS Rivals: Columbus, Chicago

Competitive Bids In Region: Detroit, Indianapolis, Nashville

More on FC Cincinnati

 

Detroit

Lead Investor(s):  Tom Gores and Dan Gilbert

By The Numbers
TV Market Rank: 13th overall / 3rd among bidders
MSA Rank: 14th overall / 2nd among bidders
Highest Level Club: Detroit City FC, NPSL (D4)
2016 Avg Attendance: 5,208 / 6th among bidders
Fortune 1000 Companies: 17

Summary:  NBA owners Tom Gores (Detroit Pistons) and Dan Gilbert (Cleveland Cavaliers) are teaming up in a bid to bring MLS to Detroit.  The group plans for a stadium in the heart of Detroit’s sports and entertainment district.

Pros:  One of the largest markets without MLS. Detroit City’s huge organic support in NPSL speaks to the market potential. MLS like its ownership groups to have ties to other major league sports.

Cons: Stagnant market in terms of population growth. With all 4 major league sports in the city, Detroit is a somewhat saturated market.  Outspoken opposition to MLS from the hardcore supporters of Detroit City.

Potential MLS Rivals: Chicago, Columbus, Toronto

Competitive Bids In Region: Cincinnati, Indianapolis, St. Louis

 

Indianapolis

Lead Investor(s):  Ersal Ozdemir, Mickey Maurer, Jeff Laborsky, Mark Elwood and Andy Mohr

By The Numbers
TV Market Rank: 27th overall / 8th among bidders
MSA Rank: 34th overall / 10th among bidders
Highest Level Club: Indy Eleven, NASL (D2)
2016 Avg Attendance: 8,396 / 3rd among bidders
Fortune 1000 Companies: 9

Summary:  Indy Eleven was a surprise last minute entry into the MLS bidding process.  The club has received outstanding support since its inception in 2014.

Pros:  Strong support for Indy Eleven; Lack of an MLB in town means that there is no Spring-Fall major league competition.

Cons: Relatively small market in both MSA and TV terms compared to the other bidders.  Indy has previously had some difficulty getting a soccer specific stadium funded.

Potential MLS Rivals: Chicago, Columbus

Competitive Bids In Region: St. Louis, Detroit, Cincinnati, Nashville

More on Indy Eleven

 

Nashville

USMNT have drawn well at LP, but MLS will want Nashville to have their own stadium

Lead Investor(s):  John Ingram, Bill Hagerty and Will Alexander

By The Numbers
TV Market Rank: 29th overall / 10th among bidders
MSA Rank: 36th overall / 11th among bidders
Highest Level Club: Nashville SC, USL in 2018 (D2)
2015* Avg Attendance: ~1,500 / 10th among bidders (*Nashville FC in NPSL)
Fortune 1000 Companies: 11

Summary:  Nashville’s MLS bid has its roots in a group led by Bill Hagerty that wanted to bring NASL to the city.  When NPSL club Nashville FC announced a deal with DMD Sports to bring USL to town, Hagerty pivoted into an MLS bid.  At present, the MLS and USL groups remain separate entities though there is the possibility of them joining.  Mayor Megan Barry joined the Nashville MLS group in submitting their bid at MLS HQ in New York, and supports the plan to build a stadium at the Nashville Fairgrounds.

Pros:  Fast growing market. Lack of an MLB in town means that there is no Spring-Fall major league competition. Strong support from local government.

Cons: Not incorporating Nashville SC could alienate supporters of what was a grassroots NPSL club. Relatively small market.

Potential MLS Rivals: Atlanta, Columbus

Competitive Bids In Region: Raleigh, Charlotte, Cincinnati, Indianapolis, St. Louis

 

Phoenix

Lead Investor(s):  Berke Bakay, Brett Johnson, Mark Detmer, Tim Riester and David Rappaport

By The Numbers
TV Market Rank: 12h overall / 2nd among bidders
MSA Rank: 12th overall / 1st among bidders
Highest Level Club: Phoenix Rising FC, USL (D2)
2016 Avg Attendance: 1,470 / 11th among bidders (as Arizona United SC)
Fortune 1000 Companies: 13

Summary:  New investors acquired the struggling Arizona United SC last year and rebranded the club to Phoenix Rising FC during the offseason.  The Phoenix Rising ownership has shown a strong commitment by investing in a modular stadium for the USL team as well as entering a bid for MLS.  With the signing of Mexican star Omar Bravo, the new ownership could be cracking the code to the Phoenix market.

Pros:  Second largest TV market and largest MSA among bidders, Phoenix is growing fast.

Cons: Both USL clubs – Phoenix FC Wolves and Arizona United SC – drew little interest. Weather may require a more expensive, domed stadium to keep temperatures under control in the summer months. The market may be saturated with all four major league sports in town.

Potential MLS Rivals: Colorado, Salt Lake, Dallas

Competitive Bids In Region: San Diego, Sacramento, San Antonio

More on Phoenix Rising FC

 

Raleigh

North Carolina FC would look to move from WakeMed if they join MLS

Lead Investor(s):  Stephen Malik

By The Numbers
TV Market Rank: 25th overall / 7th among bidders
MSA Rank: 44th overall / 12th among bidders
Highest Level Club: North Carolina FC, NASL (D2)
2016 Avg Attendance: 5,058 / 7th among bidders
Fortune 1000 Companies: 3

Summary:  North Carolina FC, formerly known as the Carolina Railhawks, announced their intention to make a bid for MLS in December.  The club intends to move from Cary, NC to a stadium in downtown Raleigh with an MLS move.

Pros:  Fast growing market. Lack of an MLB in town means that there is no Spring-Fall major league competition.  Addition of NWSL team raises the profile of the organization as first division caliber.

Cons: Relatively small market in both MSA and TV terms compared to the other bidders. Splitting focus among MLS bid and NASL, NWSL, PDL clubs may take its toll on the organization.

Potential MLS Rivals: Atlanta, DC United

Competitive Bids In Region: Charlotte, Nashville, Tampa Bay

More on North Carolina FC

 

Sacramento

Lead Investor(s):  Kevin Nagle, Meg Whitman, Jed York.

By The Numbers
TV Market Rank: 20th overall / 4th among bidders
MSA Rank: 27th overall / 8th among bidders
Highest Level Club: Sacramento Republic, USL (D2)
2016 Avg Attendance: 11,514 / 2nd among bidders
Fortune 1000 Companies: 0

Summary: Sacramento’s MLS application got off to a rocky start when it was learned that the initial submission did not include Sacramento Republic FC.  Without the tremendous support the Republic have built since its inception, Sacramento would not be on the MLS expansion radar.  The Mayor of Sacramento brought the parties together to resolve the issue so that the MLS bid will use the Republic name.

Pros:  Sacramento Republic FC’s strong support. Local government support. Downtown stadium site approved. Investor group includes NFL & NBA owners. Lack of MLB team means no Spring-Fall calendar major league sports competitor.

Cons: Ownership group infighting. A source tells Evan Ream some in MLS may not want the Sacramento market. Lack of Fortune 1000 companies for sponsorship (though they could potentially draw from the San Francisco Bay Area).

Potential MLS Rivals: San Jose, Portland, Seattle, LA Galaxy, LAFC

Competitive Bids In Region: San Diego, Phoenix

More on Sacramento Republic FC.

 

San Antonio FC

Lead Investor(s):  Spurs Sports & Entertainment

By The Numbers
TV Market Rank: 32nd overall / 11th among bidders
MSA Rank: 25th overall / 7th among bidders
Highest Level Club: San Antonio FC, USL (D2)
2016 Avg Attendance: 6,170 / 4th among bidders
Fortune 1000 Companies: 7

Summary:  Spurs Sports & Entertainment launched San Antonio FC in USL last year with the express purpose of moving the team to MLS within a few years.  SAFC effectively replaced the NASL’s San Antonio Scorpions in the market.  SS&E has a deal in place with the city and county for the use of Toyota Field that incentivizes them to reach MLS in the near term.

Pros:  One of the country’s fastest growing MSAs over 1M population. No major league sports competition on Spring-Fall calendar. Stadium deal in place to expand Toyota Field to MLS capacity. Shared ownership with NBA Spurs.

Cons: One of the smaller markets among the bidders, both in terms of MSA size and TV market. MLS already has two teams in Texas – does it need a third?

Potential MLS Rivals: Dallas, Houston

Competitive Bids In Region: Phoenix

More on San Antonio FC

 

San Diego

Lead Investor(s):  Mike Stone, Steve Altman, Peter Seidler, Juan Carlos Rodriguez and Massih & Masood Tayeb.

By The Numbers
TV Market Rank: 28th overall / 9th among bidders
MSA Rank: 17th overall / 3rd among bidders
Highest Level Club: Albion SC Pros, NPSL (D4)
2016 Avg Attendance: ~2000 / 9th among bidders
Fortune 1000 Companies: 5

Summary:  Investor Mike Stone leads a group of investing include San Diego Padres owner Peter Seidler to bring MLS to San Diego.  The investor group has a stadium plan that would replace Qualcomm Stadium and be shared with San Diego State University’s football team.

Pros:  Chargers moving to LA leaves a void in the market MLS could fill. A San Diego MLS club could form rivalries with LA teams and Club Tijuana.

Cons: Is the SoCal soccer market too saturated between LA teams and Xolos? The San Diego TV market is on the smaller side relative to competitors. San Diego does not have a track record with a successful NASL or USL club as some other bidders do.

Potential MLS Rivals: LA Galaxy, LAFC, San Jose

Competitive Bids In Region: Phoenix, Sacramento

 

 

St. Louis

Lead Investor(s):  Paul Edgerley, Dave Peacock, Jim Kavanaugh, Terry Matlack.

By The Numbers
TV Market Rank: 21st overall / 5th among bidders
MSA Rank: 20th overall / 5th among bidders
Highest Level Club: Saint Louis FC, USL (D2)
2016 Avg Attendance: 4,923 / 8th among bidders
Fortune 1000 Companies: 18

Summary: MLS has long desired the St. Louis market, and years ago came close to awarding a franchise to Jeff Cooper but went with the Philadelphia Union instead.  The NFL Rams leaving the city for Los Angeles renewed momentum behind bringing MLS to the city.  Two groups emerged as prospective bidders, SC STL, which includes the owner of USL’s Saint Louis FC, and Foundry St. Louis.  MLS has selected SC STL as the preferred bidder, despite Foundry St. Louis’s intention to privately fund a stadium.  

Pros:  St. Louis’s place in US soccer history. The void left by NFL Rams could attract support to an MLS team. Long standing desire from MLS to be in St. Louis.

Cons: Governor of Missouri is opposed to public financing of a stadium. Stagnant market in terms of population growth.

Potential MLS Rivals: Sporting KC, Chicago Fire, Minnesota United

Competitive Bids In Region: Detroit, Indianapolis, Nashville

More on Saint Louis FC

 

 

 

Tampa Bay

Lead Investor(s):  Bill Edwards

By The Numbers
TV Market Rank: 11th overall / 1st among bidders
MSA Rank: 18th overall / 4th among bidders
Highest Level Club: Tampa Bay Rowdies, USL (D2)
2016 Avg Attendance: 5,878 / 5th among bidders
Fortune 1000 Companies: 7

Summary:  When Bill Edwards moved his team from NASL to USL last Fall, it was the final move prior to announcing that the Tampa Bay Rowdies would pursue MLS.  Don Garber immediately offered his support for MLS in the Tampa Bay area.  With Miami’s bid hanging in the balance, Tampa Bay offers both an alternative to going to South Florida as well as a strong bid in its own right. There is an already fierce rivalry between the Rowdies and Orlando City SC in place.

Pros:  Al Lang Field gives the Rowdies a beautiful waterfront stadium to expand upon. The rivalry with Orlando City would be additive for both clubs. The historic Tampa Bay Rowdies brand would be a prestigious add for the league.

Cons: While Edwards has invested heavily in the Rowdies, he also has a bit of a checkered past that may cause concern about him as the lead MLS investor. MLS was in Tampa Bay once before and the team folded. If Miami MLS comes to pass as team 24, will MLS want three teams in Florida?

Potential MLS Rivals: Orlando, Miami*, Atlanta

Competitive Bids In Region: Miami*, Charlotte, Raleigh-Durham, Nashville

* = Tampa Bay could serve as a replacement for Miami if it doesn’t come through.  If Miami succeeds they could make good rivals.

More on Tampa Bay Rowdies

 

 

 

The Race to 28: 12 Cities Fight For 4 Spots In MLS

Beyond 28:  The owner of the Oklahoma City Energy acquired 37 acres of downtown land with eyes towards building a soccer specific stadium for the club that would help it push for MLS… Louisville City FC’s stadium study confirmed the team’s need for a 10,000 seat soccer specific home of its own in order to continue the club’s growth.  The report also contains information on a larger scale stadium that would be needed for MLS … Las Vegas has tried for MLS in the past, only to be turned down.  With the NHL coming to town and a potential Raiders move, Vegas could be more attractive down the line Austin was mentioned by Don Garber in 2016 as a potential MLS market, though the Aztex ownership group has not been able to keep the USL team on the field.

After months of rumors and speculation, the Canadian Premier League is a real thing in development.  The league hired its first employee, former Toronto FC executive Paul Beirne. According to the Hamilton Spectator, Beirne’s role is as project manager to get the league off the ground. Beirne told the Spectator that the league could start with between 6 and 10 teams, and that a 2018 start was “totally viable” though the debut could push to 2019.

Canadian Soccer Association president Victor Montagliani told the Toronto Sun that there has been strong interest in the Canadian Premier League from potential ownership groups in a dozen cities across the country.  “We’ve been working on the business model,” Montagliani told the Sun. “These things take time. They’re not going to happen overnight.

“But we’ve also had expressions of interest from a significant amount of ownership groups across the country. We’re doing our due-diligence on that.”

“We should be in a position in the early part of 2017 to have letters of intent that are required to move forward with the business plan and the technical side with the league.”

“Basically it will be a CFL-NHL mix of ownership,” John McGrane, a minority partner in the prospective Hamilton soccer team, told The Hamilton Spectator of the potential Canadian Premier League.

Duane Rollins reports the CanPL will likely look like the Canadian Football League minus Edmonton.  The CFL has teams in Toronto, Montreal, Vancouver, Ottawa, Calgary, Winnipeg, Regina and Hamilton in addition to Edmonton.

Possible Canadian Premier League teams:

Calgary

While not necessarily tied to the Canadian Premier League, the Calgary Foothills Soccer Club is investing $10M into a year round training facility.  The Calgary Metro reports that the team has ambitions of playing in a professional league, citing a desire to move to MLS within 10 years. “By having this facility it allows us the flexibility to train like an outdoor team but in the confines of the winter season,” said Tommy Wheeldon Jr., the club’s technical director.  The Foothills currently play the fourth tier USL Premier Development League.

The Calgary Sports & Entertainment Corp, which owns the NHL Flames and CFL Stampede are thought to be the likely Calgary CanPL investors.  Last year the group unveiled plans for a $890M arena and stadium complex that included a FIFA regulation soccer field.

Edmonton

FC Edmonton joining the Canadian Premier League is less likely than Ottawa Fury doing so because the owners of Edmonton, the Faths, are invested in the North American Soccer League.  Tom Fath played a large role in saving the NASL this past offseason.  

When asked if Edmonton would follow the Fury to USL, Tom Fath said to the11.ca, “There’s zero chance of our team moving to USL. We have no interest in moving to that league.”

Given Fath’s passionate response regarding USL, if the NASL should collapse, perhaps FC Edmonton would seek refuge in the Canadian Premier League.

Halifax

Sports & Entertainment Atlantic is working with the Canadian Premier League to develop a team, according to the Chronicle Herald.  “Halifax is a growing city. We are accumulating an amazing mix of public assets from the new central library to the new discovery centre to the Nova Centre, while urban density is increasing due to the boom in construction of ​residential dwellings in the downtown,” Derek Martin, president of Sports & Entertainment Atlantic, said.

SEA is looking at building a 5,000-8,000 seat modular stadium on the city’s Wanderers Grounds.

Hamilton

Hamilton Tiger-Cats were reportedly close to placing a team in the North American Soccer League in 2015, but got cold feet around the time of the Traffic scandal.  The club shifted its sights towards a domestic Canadian league, and is one of the driving forces behind the Canadian Premier League.

Hamilton registered two potential team name trademarks, the Hamilton Steelers and Hamilton United.  The Hamilton Steelers was the name of a team that played in the Canadian National Soccer League.

Ottawa

Now that the Ottawa Fury have moved to USL, one has to wonder what that means for their potential inclusion in the Canadian Premier League.  In theory, the Fury will have paid an expansion fee to USL (the going rate is $5M) and their recent affiliation with the Montreal Impact could bind them more closely to the USL model.

“We’re excited to be joining the fastest-growing soccer league in the world,” said Fury FC President, John Pugh. “The USL’s goal is to be the top second division in the world and we are thrilled to be part of it.  Our growing and loyal fan base deserves and can expect a very high caliber of play and tremendous competition.  Go Fury Go!”

Toronto

The Toronto Sun reports that leaders of Toronto FC have taken interest in a potential Canadian league and will meet with Canadian Soccer Association officials to discuss how TFC might get involved.

“Opportunities for more Canadian players is something Toronto FC wants to support,” team president Bill Manning told the Toronto Sun last month. “We just have to figure out how we can be involved.

“Is it the right model? Is it some kind of hybrid with the USL? We want to have those conversations and be supportive of it. If the CPL is going to go forward, we want to be involved.”

“I don’t want to create confusion in the marketplace,” Manning said. “I told [CSA president] Victor [Montagliani] we want to be involved and want to be at the table when this league or division comes about.”

Manning added: “It’s not a competitor to MLS.”

“If we can provide for our young players coming up and (TFC) can put a team in that league, we’re interested,” Manning added.

A League Of Their Own: Groups in as many as 12 cities may be interested in joining the Canadian Premier League
Chris Kivlehan
Chris Kivlehan enjoys writing about lower league US pro soccer because of the rapid growth of the sport at that level. He is a New York Cosmos season ticket holder and occasionally goes to Bethlehem Steel FC games because they are closer to his home. You can follow him on Twitter @kivlehan

2 thoughts on “NASL, USL, MLS & CanPL Expansion News & Rumors Tracker – February 2017 Edition

  1. CFL team in Calgary are the Calgary Stampeders, just for clarity sake. One market that’s very close to home for me is Regina. Original rumours held that the CFL franchise there, the Saskatchewan Roughriders, were the group behind a proposed CanPL club in Regina. Anyone who’s tried to get any info about a CanPL club in Regina hasn’t been able to find any details at all. A friend of mine, who is heading up the supporters group in Regina in the hopes that city does get a CanPL club, tried to find out any information directly from the Roughriders office. They maintain they have no involvement and don’t know anything about the league. My feeling is they are watching the developments in other markets to gauge if it’ll be worth their while to get involved. Regina just built a brand new stadium for the Riders that’s going to debut as the team’s new home next fall. It’s already held a test football event (University of Regina Rams vs. University of Saskatchewan Huskies) and is going to host a few concerts before this year’s CFL season starts. Many still believe Regina is one of the guaranteed 6 founding clubs.

  2. The CPL will be a dub 3 league at best IF it Evers gets going.., it remains a speculative league…CSA should complete their promise to develop a national tier 3 league before talking about any national league

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