If you’re new to following soccer in the United States, you may not be aware of the mini soccer war waged in 2009 and 2010 between two camps of clubs from the United States Leagues. If you have been following minor league soccer in this country for a few years, you are probably all too familiar with this story. The institutional bickering between the new NASL and USL-Pro has also inspired widespread calls for a centrally led league structure (not just from naive kids like me).
Throughout the history of American soccer, there is a well documented pattern of failure of independently organized leagues. [If you fancy, you can read about the historical "Soccer War" from Slate.com by clicking this bad boy] In fact, the only relatively successful national league in American history is Major League Soccer, which is operated in close connection with the United States Soccer Federation and the United States National Team.
It may present as appalling to the American independent entrepreneurial spirit, or some other load of malarkey, but it is very much in the best interests of the soccer in America for one centralized body to operate what are now separate leagues throughout the country.
A Simple Anecdote for a Complex Situation
This past summer, my friends routinely asked me what league the Rochester Rhinos played in and what separated the Rhinos from MLS. When I spoke about USL-Pro and NASL they just didn’t get it. Without knowing any of the background information on the TOA owners’ split in 2009-2010, it was simple math for my friends. Take the 8 teams in NASL and add the 11 teams from USL-Pro and then an expansion team and there is a balanced 20 team league. Continue reading
What conclusions can I draw from watching one full NASL match? Quite a few apparently…
On Sunday afternoon I took the time to watch the full 90 minutes between the Fort Lauderdale Strikers and FC Edmonton. After watching Tottenham Hotspur squeak out their first win at home this season in the morning and grabbing lunch off campus but before I started reading for my Monday classes, I was able to watch the whole NASL match. Previously this season I had only caught a few minutes here or there of NASL action in addition to seeing the weekly highlights show on YouTube. I was initially blown away by the product on the field.
During the USL-Pro season I attended all Rhinos’ home games and tried to watch every away game on U-Nation’s streaming service. I also watched all of the United States’ and Mexico’s international matches and the Euro Tournament. Now that fall is upon us, I watch college soccer (both my own school and nationally ranked division I colleges on television), Mexican league and cup games, and a fair share of European club soccer. During this whole time I’ve been watching every Red Bulls’ game and a number of other MLS matches of national significance. The point is I watch a good deal of soccer and NASL ranks pretty highly in that pantheon.
I’m not arguing that NASL is the end-all be-all for American soccer; that’d be silly. MLS clearly operates at a higher level on and off the field, but the style of play utilized by many teams in NASL is very promising. Watching this NASL game, between 5th placed Fort Lauderdale and 8th placed (out of 8 teams) Edmonton, I observed a more exciting brand of soccer than the average MLS match exhibits. Several MLS clubs boast world class players like Robbie Keane, Thierry Henry and Fredy Montero, but as a whole this NASL game had a much more attacking feel than an average MLS game. Continue reading
2012 marks the 99th edition of the U.S. Open Cup and thanks to a formatting change, it also marks the first time every professional soccer team in the country will participate. The 2012 format includes 32 professional teams: the 16 U.S.-based Major League Soccer clubs, 6 U.S.-based North American Soccer League clubs, the 10 U.S.-based United Soccer Leagues-Pro clubs; and 32 amateur teams: 16 from the Premier Development League, 6.5 from the National Premier Soccer League, 9 teams from United States Adult Soccer Association, and .5 teams from US Club Soccer (one team from NPSL will face off against the USCS representative in a one game play-in match).
The 2011 U.S. Open Cup only included only 40 teams; 8 from MLS, 11 from USL-Pro, 9 from PDL, 4 from NPSL, and 8 from USASA. This means that more teams are entering the tournament from every division this year. NASL teams were disallowed from the 2011 cup partially because of late sanctioning and partially for political reasons. Fortunately, for the sake of competition and integrity, all domestic-based professional teams are participating this season. Continue reading