Looking at the 2015 NASL Fall Season Schedule

On Tuesday, January 20, the NASL announced the schedule for the 2015 Fall Season. Each of the 11 teams in the NASL this year will play each other twice for a total of 20 matches. Because of the odd number of participants in 2015, one team will have a bye and will sit out during every regular 5-game weekend fixture list.

The format is similar to the 2015 Spring Season that the NASL released on Wednesday, December 20. The spring campaign will see each team play each other once for a total of 10 matches before the mid-summer break in league play.

Since the NASL instituted the split-season format in 2013, the season has generally maintained a length from the beginning of April until the start of November.

The 2015 spring campaign will last from 04/04/15 until 06/13/15 and the 2015 fall campaign will last from 07/04/15 until 11/01/15.
The 2014 spring campaign lasted from 04/12/14 until 06/08/14 and the 2014 fall campaign lasted from 07/12/14 until 11/02/14.
The 2013 spring campaign lasted from 04/06/13 until 07/04/13 and the 2013 fall campaign lasted from 08/03/13 until 11/02/13.

The total NASL schedule has fluctuated only very slightly since its inception between 26 and 30 games for each team (not counting New York’s 2013 season).

2011: 28 total games
2012: 28 total games
2013: 12+14, 26 total games for 7/8 teams
2014: 9+18, 27 total games for 10 teams
2015: 10+20, 30 total games for 11 teams

The 2015 Fall Campaign will see each team play 20 games, 10 at home and 10 on the road, across 18 weeks. This format requires each team to play two mid-week games during the split season, an increase from just one in 2014.

There are three Friday night matches that are parts of the regular 5-game weekend fixture list. None of the teams that play on Friday will have played since the previous Saturday except for Carolina, who play the Sunday before: August 30 and September 4.

The league will play two games on Tuesday nights, Atlanta hosting Minnesota on September 15 and New York hosting Ottawa on September 22. Atlanta doesn’t play the weekend before that match while Minnesota plays the Saturday before. Both New York and Ottawa play on the Saturday prior their Tuesday meeting.

Teams will compete in 18 Wednesday night games to round out 20 total mid-week matches. Only two Wednesday night games feature a team that played the previous Sunday, all other teams playing the Friday or Saturday before. This ensures that for all but those two games, teams will have at least 3 full days in between games to travel, recuperate, and train between league fixtures. The two exceptions are when Edmonton hosts Ottawa on August 2 before hosting Indy on Wednesday, August 5, and when New York hosts Atlanta on October 4 before Atlanta hosts the return fixture on Wednesday, October 7.

Despite the difficulties of have an odd number of teams, the NASL maintained its commitment to a balanced schedule and proper rest between matches.

Analyzing the 2015 NASL Spring Season Schedule

The NASL released its schedule for the spring campaign of the 2015 season on December 17, 2014. The league will have 11 teams for the spring split and each team will play 10 games.

In 2012, the NASL regular season had a balanced schedule, in which each of the 8 teams faced the other 7 teams four times (twice home and twice away) for a total of 28 games. The season lasted 25 weeks from April 7 to September 23 and contained regular season 112 matches.

The NASL split season format was introduced for the 2013 season but was altered to accommodate a break during the 2014 World Cup. Throughout Latin America, most leagues cut the regular double-round-robin schedule down the middle with a brief break in between. These leagues, like Mexico’s Liga MX, split the season in half and crown a separate championship for each short tournament.

America’s second division has not yet played an equal spring and fall schedule because of mid-season expansion and the 2014 World Cup. In 2013, the NY Cosmos joined the league for the fall season only while the league shifted the break earlier in order to pause competition while on eyes were on Brazil.

The 2015 spring season will feature 5 matches each weekend with one team sitting out each week. In order to maintain the structure in the NASL schedule, one of the 11 teams must observe a bye each matchday.

Between April 4 and June 13, the league will hold 55 games. Only one match is scheduled for Friday evening, the NASL’s Canadian derby as Ottawa Fury SC hosts FC Edmonton on May 29.

With the professional schedule structure in place, there are clearly no instances of teams playing games on back-to-back nights or two games in one weekend as happens in USL PRO. New Minnesota United FC signing J.C. Banks recently told Doherty Soccer that the league’s scheduling was an important selling point in his move to MNUFC. Banks said that the congested schedule in USL PRO, where he played 4 seasons with Rochester Rhinos, threatened players’ health and often didn’t provide enough time for rest and adequate training.

The 2015 spring campaign will last from 4/4 until 6/13

The 2014 spring campaign lasted from 4/12 until 6/08
The 2014 fall campaign lasted from 7/12 until 11/02

The 2013 spring campaign lasted from 4/06 until 7/04
The 2013 fall campaign lasted from 8/03 until 11/02

The 2015 season looks a lot like the beginning of the 2014 season even though there’s no World Cup this year to justify an early break,

The total NASL schedule has fluctuated only very slightly between 26 and 28 games for each team.

2011: 28 total games
2012: 28 total games
2013: 26 total games
2014: 27 total games
2015: 10+?

The league has set itself up for a headache with the fall split of the 2015 schedule.

If the league remains with 11 teams, NASL could double the spring campaign during the fall, playing each other team home and away. This format would still require a team to sit out each weekend and would probably have to feature one or two mid-week fixture dates in order to wrap up a 30-game regular season by the beginning of November.

If the league adds a 12th team for the fall campaign, as reported by Neil Morris with regard to the creation of a team around the Los Angeles market, circumstances change. The 12 teams could play each other once for 11 games or twice for 22 games.A 22 game fall season would mean a 32 game full season for the NASL, which is a considerable increase over recent years.

Another option, regardless of whether the Los Angeles team materializes, is to abandon the balanced schedule. If the league decides to go an unbalanced route, teams may face certain opponents more often depending on geographic proximity or presumed rivalries. The NASL would join USL PRO and MLS if it released an unbalanced schedule for the 2015 Fall campaign.


Cuban National Teams Competing in Four Tournaments

At the end of 2014 and the beginning of 2015, Cuban soccer will be competing on four fronts. Cuban U17 and U20 national teams both qualified for full CONCACAF tournaments out of smaller Caribbean tournaments. A U21 squad will compete in the Central American and Caribbean Games in late November in Mexico.

With a chance to enter the 2015 Gold Cup next summer in the United States, Cuba’s full national team kicks off its play in the 2014 Caribbean Cup on November 11.


Cuba’s U17 finished 3rd place in the U17 Caribbean Cup, a qualifying tournament for the 2015 CONCACAF U17 Championship. Cuba, Jamaica, Haiti, Trinidad and Tobago and St. Lucia will represent the Caribbean Zone in that regional tournament.

Cuba bested Dominica (4-0) and Suriname (2-0) to advance out of the first group stage of Caribbean qualifying for the CONCACAF tournament. In the second round of group play, Cuba demolished Guadeloupe (5-0) and defeated Martinique (1-0) before losing to Jamaica (0-3). By virtue of finishing second in Group B, the Caribbean Lions qualified for the full regional tournament.

As a consolation of sorts after already advancing to the CONCACAF tournament, Cuba beat Saint Lucia (2-0) on October 26 to win third place in the Caribbean competition.

Cuba’s U17 team will play in one of two groups of 6 teams early next year for the opportunity to qualify to the 2015 FIFA U17 World Cup in Chile.

In addition to the five teams from the Caribbean that have already qualified, North America’s three teams (Canada, Mexico, and the United States) enter the CONCACAF tournament automatically. The final two entrants from Central America are still to be decided in three weeks, but Honduras are in as tournament hosts and Costa Rica has assured its passage through one of two qualifying groups.


Cuba’s U20 national team also finds itself in the upcoming CONCACAF tournament. Though the squad started its qualifying campaign rather unceremoniously back in June, Cuba somehow squeaked through.

Cuba was placed in a qualifying group alongside Martinique, Barbados, and Saint Vincent and the Grenadines. After two draws to open the group in late June, Cuba’s 3-1 win over Martinique earned the Lions passage into the second group stage.

In that second round of group play in September, Cuba defeated Curaçao (1-0) before losing to Suriname (0-1). Cuba entered its final group stage match against Trinidad and Tobago with its future uncertain. The young Soca Warriors had already clinched their own qualification and may have taken their foot off the pedal, allowing Cuba to grab the early lead in the game. Though Trinidad and Tobago did battle back for a draw, Curaçao’s victory over Suriname meant Cuba finished second in Group A.

In an odd happenstance, Cuba’s U20 team won the consolation match against Aruba (2-1) to finish third overall in the 2015 CONCACAF U20 Championship Qualifying Tournament in the Caribbean.

Cuba will be joined by Haiti, Aruba, Trinidad and Tobago, and hosts Jamaica from the Caribbean. The three North American teams (Canada, Mexico, and the United States) enter the tournament automatically while Panama, El Salvador, Honduras, and Guatemala qualified out of Central America.

Cuba kicks off its 2015 CONCACAF U20 campaign in early January. The Cuban hopefuls face Mexico on January 10, Honduras on the 12th, Haiti on the 15th, Canada on the 19th, and El Salvador on the 22nd.

The tournament features two groups of six teams each and the group winners automatically advance to the 2015 U20 World Cup in New Zealand. The next four best teams are seeded based on group stage results. These four teams play (1 v 4, 2 v 3) and the winners of each match also advance to the World Cup.

There is a tough road ahead for Cuba’s u20 team but the isolated island nation does have a track record recently at the youth level.

Cuba qualified for the 2013 U20 World Cup in Turkey and even though they finished with 0 points and a -9 GD, the squad showed well for a program with such limited resources.

Cuba’s U20 team turned a few heads at the 2013 qualifying tournament in Puebla, Mexico. Finishing the tournament in fourth place earned the Caribbean Lions a berth in that dubious World Cup. Creative forward Maykel Reyes was particularly impressive and he has continued his participation with the national team program.


Cuba’s under 21 team will take part in the Central American and Caribbean Games in Veracruz, Mexico, in November. There is heavy overlap between the squads for these two competitions.

The 2014 Central American and Caribbean Games is organized into two groups of four teams. Cuba, which starts play on November 19, is in a group with Costa Rica, Haiti, and Venezuela. This tournament uses U21 teams with up to three overage players allowed in the 20-man squad.


Cuba’s full senior national team qualified for the 2014 Caribbean Cup by virtue of lifting the trophy in 2012. Though that surprise title run was in part due to Jamaica and Trinidad and Tobago under-performing, Cuba has a strong opportunity to qualify for the 2015 CONCACAF Gold Cup.

Kicking off on November 11, Cuba faces French Guiana, Curaçao, and Trinidad and Tobago. The top two finishers from each of the two groups advance to next year’s Gold Cup while the better of the the third-placed teams squares off against Honduras for the final berth into the full CONCACAF tournament.

Cuba’s youth teams have both managed to qualify for important Caribbean tournaments and the senior side has performed in recent competitions. However it is difficult to predict whether Cuba is fully prepared for the Caribbean Cup since the team didn’t participate in the qualification cycle.

Jacksonville Armada FC Announces Miguel Gallardo as First Player

Miguel Gallardo was unveiled Tuesday with Jacksonville Armada FC

Miguel Gallardo was unveiled Tuesday with Jacksonville Armada FC

The 2015 NASL expansion team announced on Tuesday, October 21 that goalkeeper Miguel Gallardo is the first-ever Jacksonville Armada FC player. Gallardo will lead Jacksonville after playing four successful seasons with Orlando City SC of USL PRO.

“It is an honor to be the first signing in Armada FC’s history,” Gallardo said on Tuesday.

Gallardo initially joined Orlando City ahead of its inaugural season in 2011 in USL PRO. The 6’1″ goalkeeper played with the Austin Aztex in USL-1 for two seasons before moving with the club to Central Florida. With Orlando, Gallardo amassed 51 wins and 32 clean sheets in 82 appearances over his four seasons. Miguel Gallardo led the City Lions from the back en route to three regular season titles and two playoff championship trophies in USL PRO.

Gallardo apparently did not impress head coach Adrian Heath quite enough to earn an MLS contract alongside Kaká, Salvadoran national team star Darwin Cerén, and 2014 USL PRO MVP Kevin Molino. His four years leading the third division league with Orlando City, however, mean that Gallardo is among the strongest goalkeepers outside of MLS and will lead Jacksonville in the club’s first season.

Armada FC’s General Manager Dario Sala was glowing about Gallardo joining the club. “We are proud to welcome Miguel as our first signing. He encompasses all that we are looking for in our players – a well-developed skill set, strong character, leadership ability, a great résumé and a desire to be a part of our team and our community.”

There are few better players to build a defensive core around than the 29 year old goalkeeper. Gallardo not only put up impressive numbers but formed a powerful connection with Orlando City’s fans. Jacksonville Armada FC are hoping to capitalize on both Gallardo’s career pedigree and his personal characteristics to form the backbone of their squad.

“Today is an incredible moment in the history of the Armada FC and a key building block as we assemble a team that Jacksonville will be proud to call its own,” said Jacksonville Armada owner Mark Frisch.

Armada FC plans to fill out the rest of its 27-man roster by January 2015; look for future announcements about which players will join Gallardo on Jacksonville’s squad in the coming weeks.

Puerto Rico National Team Kicks off Caribbean Cup 2014

After a hiatus of nearly 2 years, since the conclusion of the previous regional tournament, Puerto Rico’s national soccer team is ready to contest the 2014 edition of the Caribbean Cup.

Puerto Rico has a relatively easy pass in the first stage of the competition. Los boricuas face off against Curaçao, French Guiana, and Grenada in Group 4. All group matches will be played from September 3-7 in the Juan Loubriel Stadium in Bayamon, Puerto Rico.

The top two teams from each of the four groups, along with the top ranked third-placed team, move on to the next phase of the tournament. Puerto Rico should be able to see themselves out of this group stage playing at home.

Below is the squad called in by national team head coach Victor Hugo Barros.
Name, player age, national team appearances (Club team or college)

Eric Reyes, 22 years old, 9 caps (Unattached)
Matthew Sanchez, 20 years old, 0 caps, (Loyola University)
Luis Fiol, ??, 0 caps (Criollos de Caguas FC)

Joel Rivera, ??, 0 caps (Bayamon FC)
Juan Velez, ??, 0 caps (Criollos)
Gustavo Rivera, 21 years old, 2 caps (Barry University)
Carlos Rosario, 20 years old, 0 caps (Bayamon)
Sean Sweeney, ??, 0 caps (Fort Pitt FC Regiment; National Premier Soccer League – fourth tier in U.S.)
Alexis Rivera, 31 years old, 24 caps (Bayamon)
Steven Estrada, 27 years old, 2 caps (Bayamon)

Emmanuel D’Andrea, 19 years old, 2 caps (Sevilla FC ‘C’)
Alvaro Betancourt, 20 years old, 4 caps (Bayamon)
Andres Perez, 25 years old, 10 caps (Bayamon)
Eduardo Jimenez, ??, 0 caps (Bayamon)
Juan Coca, 21 years old, 5 caps (Kultsu FC; Kakkonen – third tier in Finland)
Michael Fernandez, ??, 0 caps (Universitarios FC)
Andres Cabrero, 25 years old, 18 caps (Criollos)
Samuel Soto, 22 years old, 9 caps (Bayamon)
Alex Oikkonen, 19 years old, 6 caps (Kultsu, on loan from MYPA; Veikkausliiga – first division in Finland)

Eloy Matos, 29 years old, 3 caps (Bayamon)
Hector “Pito” Ramos, 24 years old, 21 caps (Isidro Metapan; Primera Division – El Salvador)
Joseph Marrero, 21 years old, 13 caps (Kultsu)

Luke Dempsey’s Club Soccer 101 is a Must-Have

In a sport that is wildly partisan and can be frustratingly dry, Luke Dempsey offers a glimpse into the world’s biggest soccer clubs with both respectful impartiality and a refreshing sense of humor in Club Soccer 101. Without boring his readers with mundane or overwhelming details, Dempsey provides useful information in an entertaining fashion. Every American soccer fan should consider Club Soccer 101 either as an introduction to the sport or as a quick read between European matches on the weekend.

The structure of the book, a vignette about each of 101 teams, allows readers to immerse themselves in the identity of a soccer club without getting bogged down by dates and figures. Club Soccer 101 is jam-packed with information but Dempsey does well to present it in an entertaining and digestible manner.

Of particular note for a large segment of American soccer fans (and which definitely piqued my interest in the book), Dempsey covers MLS teams and superclubs from Latin America with the same deference he gives the storied clubs from across Europe. Without missing a beat, Dempsey describes the masses of rave green fans in Seattle or the desperate die-hards in New Jersey who support the Red Bulls in the same tone with which he fills pages with the histories of FC Barcelona and Manchester United.

As a coffee-table atlas of sorts for soccer’s most interesting clubs or as a trove of clever quips to impress your friends while watching matches, Club Soccer 101 is a must have for any fan of the world’s game.

Cuba Falls 4-0 to a Young, Inexperienced Panama Squad

The Cuban national team traveled to Panama to face that squad in a preparation match for the upcoming Caribbean Cup and Central American Cup.

Colombian head coach of Panama’s national team, Hernán Darío Gómez, could only choose players based in that country’s league because Wednesday night’s match was not on an official FIFA fixture date. A further restriction on his selection was Chorrillo FC’s participation in the current CONCACAF Champions’ League earlier in the week.

Cuba never expected to win this match but was using the contest to try out some new faces for the upcoming busy months. As in every case, Cuba’s coaching staff could only choose players from their domestic league because players who leave Cuba are no longer welcome in the national team setup. The island nation is participating in three tournaments in the fall of 2014, though each at a different age level.

The U-17 team dominated the first group stage of Caribbean qualifying for next year’s CONCACAF Championship. Cuba plays three matches of the second group stage of qualifying between September 27 and October 1.

The Central American and Caribbean Games, a sort of regional Olympics, is planning to bring soccer back to its slate of events. A spat with FIFA forced the organizers to drop the sport from the 2010 addition. Cuba is one of 8 nations participating in the soccer tournament that uses U-21 squads with three overage players allowed (born before January 1, 1993. This tournament runs from November 19 to November 28.

The most important of the three, however, is the 2014 Caribbean Cup. 8 teams will compete in two groups before a knockout stage to determine a champion. The top 4 teams will qualify automatically to the 2015 Gold Cup, the 5th place team will hold a playoff against the 5th place team from the Central American Cup to earn a berth to that Gold Cup, but most exciting is the pass to the 2016 Copa América Centenario available to the winner of the Caribbean tournament.

Cuba lifted the 2012 Caribbean Cup trophy over a disappointing Trinidad and Tobago squad and therefore won an automatic place in the group stage of the 2014 edition. The Cubans will have a tough time defending their title but are already preparing for the fight. The 2014 Caribbean Cup starts on November 9 and the title game is on November 18.


Squad for Panama on 8/20
Name (Club), Age, Number of appearances – last national team call-up
Kevin Melgar (Tauro FC), 21, 3 caps – preliminary squad vs Peru
Alex Rodríguez (Sporting SM), 24, 2 caps – August 6 match vs Peru
Óscar McFarlane (Pérez Zeledón; Costa Rica), 33, 34 caps – August 6

Porfirio Ávila (Chepo FC), 22, 1 cap – August 6
Nahill Carrol (Tauro FC), 30, 7 caps – prelim vs Peru
Richard Peralta (Alianza FC), 20, 1 cap – August 6
Joshua Hawkins (Atlético Chiriquí), 32, 1 cap – August 6
Chin Hormechea (Árabe Unido), 18, 0 caps – ???
Fidel Escobar (Sporting SM), 19, 0 caps – prelim vs Peru

Pedro Jeanine (San Francisco FC), 20, 1 cap – August 6
Josiel Núñez (Plaza Amado), 21, 21, 1 cap – August 6
Juan De Gracia (Arabe Unido), 28, 4 caps – August 6
Hécgar/Edgar Murillo (Tauro FC), 20, 0 caps – prelim vs Peru
Justin Simons (San Francisco FC), 16, 0 caps – prelim vs Peru
Richard Rodriguez (San Francisco FC), 18, 0 caps – prelim vs Peru
Francisco Narbón (James Madison University), 19, 1 cap – August 6
Adonis Villanueva (Río Abajo), 21, 1 cap – August 6

Ismael Díaz (Tauro FC), 17, 0 caps – prelim vs Peru
Edgar Yoel Barcénas (Arabe Unido), 20, 1 cap – August 6
Abdiel Arroyo (Arabe Unido), 20, 1 cap – ???
Angel Patrick (Árabe Unido), 22, 0 caps – ???
Armando Paolo (Arabe Unido), 24, 1 cap – prelim vs Peru
Ameth Ramírez (Plaza Amador), 20, 0 caps – August 6


Cuban squad vs Panama
Walter Benítez is the normal head coach but the squad was directed by assistant coach Rolando Ayllón

Name (Club), Age, Number of caps

4 Goalkeepers:
Diosvelis Alejandro Guerra (FC Artemisa), 24, 0 caps
Arael Argüelles (Cienfuegos)
Anoide Sardiñas (Ciego de Ávila)
Danilo Baró (Camagüey)

9 Defenders:
Renay Malblanche (Holguín), 23, 14 caps
Michel Márquez (Isla de Juventud), 27, 0 caps
Hanier Dranguet (Guantánamo), 31, 23 caps
Jorge Luis Corrales (Pinar del Río), 23, 20 caps
Yennier Rosabal (Granma) 31, 2 caps
Dairon Blanco (Las Tunas), 22, 0 caps
Yenier Márquez (Villa Clara), 35, 44 caps?
Yasmany López (Ciego de Ávila), 26, ???
Orisbel Leiva (Ciego de Ávila) ?????

9 Midfielders:
Félix Guerra (Granma), 25, ???
Alberto Gómez (Guantánamo), 26, 24 caps
Yannier Martínez (Villa Clara) ?????
Armando Coroneaux (Camagüey), 29, 15 caps
Miguel Ángel Sánchez (Isla de la Juventud), 27, 1 cap
Liván Pérez (Camaguey) 24, 4 caps
Pedro Darío Suárez (La Habana), 22, ???
Jesús Rodríguez (Ciego de Ávila), 25, 1 cap
Tomás Cruz (Ciego de Ávila) ?????

4 Forwards:
José Ciprián Alfonso (Pinar del Río), 30, 4 caps
Yoandri Puga (Isla de Juventud), 26, 3 caps
Ángel Rodríguez (Ciego de Ávila), 23, ???
Ariel Martínez (Sancti Spiritus), 28, 39 caps


Lineups for Wednesday’s match that ended Panama 4-0 Cuba.

Oscar McFarlane;
Ángel Patrick, Jorshua Hawkins, Richard Peralta, Porfirio Ávila (Eric Davis, 46′);
Amílcar Henríquez, Francisco Narbón (Juan De Gracia, 60′), Josiel Núñez (Richard Rodríguez, 67′), Hecgar Murillo (Abdiel Arroyo, 60′);
Yoel Bárcenas (Darwin Pinzón, 46′), Armando Polo (Ismael Díaz, 46′)

Diosvelis Guerra;
Jeniel Márquez, Renay Malblanche, Jorge Luis Corrales, Yasmany López;
Alberto Gómez, Tomás Cruz (Livián Pérez, 55′), Yennier Rosabal, Jesús Rodríguez (Félix Guerra, 54′);
Ariel Martínez, Yoandir Puga (José Ciprián Alfonso, 68′)

Cuba did well to stymie Panama’s attack through the first half and into the beginning of the second half. A combination of the Panamanian reinforcements introduced into the game and Cuba’s players tiring undid that hour-long hard work.

Second half substitute Darwin Pinzón opened the scoring in the 67th minute before Juan de Gracia doubled Panama’s lead in the 70th minute, only 10 minutes after stepping on the field. Pinzón fired his second and Panama’s third just 4 minutes later to underline a hectic 7 minute period for Cuba’s defense.

Cuba ventured forward a few times after conceding those 3 goals in rapid succession but couldn’t force McFarlane into making saves. Panama capped the thorough victory with a first minute stoppage time goal from Ismael Díaz. The Cuban defense looked in shambles in the second half of this match but hopefully the team can take something from this game going forward.

Even this under-strength Panama squad is likely more talented than most teams Cuba will face in the upcoming Caribbean Cup. Cuba played Guatemala on Saturday night in another preparation exhibition match.