American Soccer League; Another Addition to the Sport’s Alphabet Soup

The new proposed league’s flashy website is high on promise but low on substance. All of the information available on the site is published in the form of a junior high school book report’s PowerPoint presentation.

American Soccer League, while not winning awards on the creativity of its name apparently has commitments from franchises for Connecticut, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, New Jersey, Philadelphia , Pennsylvania, and Delaware for the start of the league in August 2014. Maryland has since been removed from a previous version of the league’s site. A Chicago team was also listed to join the league in 2015.

From the “Expansion Opportunities” section today, February 10:

APS is preparing for its inaugural season slatted [sic] to kick off in spring of 2014. The league has confirmed six commitments from investment groups dedicated to bringing professional soccer to their communities. There are currently teams located in New Hampshire, Rhode Island, Massachusetts, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Maryland. The league is now fielding inquiries from interest parties with proven track records in professional sports.

There are obviously some discrepancies there. I hope the league office knows which list is actually correct.

The latest release from the league is dated January 17 and refers to the league as American Soccer League despite earlier releases calling the prospective league “American Professional Soccer,” which is reflected in the site’s URL.

ASL is a North American soccer league set to kick off its inaugural season in 2014. The league features teams in the Northeast and Midwest regions of the United States. ASL has also partnered with the Canadian Soccer League (CSL) to provide international competition.

This league is apparently taking cues from MLS in terms of URL redundancy. Because MLS lost out to a realty service, its address is MLSSoccer.com, which stands for “Major League Soccer Soccer.” APS/ASL’s site is APSSoccer.net, or “American Professional Soccer Soccer”

Here’s the league’s logo:
This monstrosity doesn’t appear to have learned much from old A-League Word-Art logos as we have another flaming soccer ball.

Mission Statement:

Operate a financially-viable, cost-effective national soccer league that delivers investors a genuine, complete, and professional organization and structure at the minor-league level.

This bit sounds great. Now that we have this idyllic mental image of a national league for local players that isn’t a money pit, one question stands out; how?

We all know the “why,” people love the sport and people love new shiny things and apparently American soccer fans love abbreviations. Even though MLS, NASL, and USL-Pro offer professional opportunities in close to 35 cities around the country, PDL and NPSL offer experience for college players, several national, regional, and state youth development structures exist, and organizations like US Club Soccer and US Adult Soccer Association operate leagues for players from pre-school to mid-life crisis; it’s clearly not enough.

“The United States needs to develop a deeper professional league system.”
– FIFA President, Sepp Blatter

“In such a huge country with 300 million people, if you only have one league [to go to], the professional league – MLS
.. then [there are very few] opportunities,” – Blatter, 2011

“There should be other leagues, and [US Soccer is trying] now to make a second league in order to inspire all these talents.” – Blatter, 2011

Sepp Blatter maybe isn’t the best figure to use as the philosophical basis for your soccer organization. As I noted above, the U.S. has several dozen more leagues beyond MLS.

American Professional Soccer

  • We believe the time is right to enter the American soccer scene in 2014 as the possible USSF-sanctioned third division pro league or as USASA-sanctioned professional league.
  • Our business model resolves issues that have hindered pro leagues in the past including large travel budgets, unorganized league structure, and high entry fees.

I’m actually excited to see this new business model in the flesh. In seriousness, one line from this PowerPoint slide sticks out to me: the possible USSF-sanctioned third division pro league.

Lower division soccer guru Brian Quarstad published a copy of USSF’s 2010 guidelines for division II sanctioning. Attendance wonk Kenn Tomasch points out that the first half of the list clearly states “General Requirements for All Professional Leagues.” Please take a peek over that rather extensive list. I didn’t include it here because the text would have doubled the length of this post.

In order for APS/ASL to get actual professional sanctioning from USSF, the league has to meet all of those requirements. Good luck.

Americal [sic] Professional Soccer

  • APS will kick off in August 2014, we will look to follow the European schedule as closely as possible:
    – 2014/2015 Inaugural Season:
    – August 2014 to November 2014 = Up to 10-12 games.
    – April 2015 to June 2015 = Up to 10-12 games
  • Allows for 24-28 weeks of soccer per season

Following the “European schedule” is a) a dumb idea and b) a dumb name for the FIFA calendar considering that Northern European countries don’t follow that season.

These are tentative dates so I won’t criticize too much, but let’s take a look. My guess is this was thought up at the height of recent hysteria surround MLS switching to the FIFA calendar, which sent the internet ablaze for two days last year before MLS cast aside the rumors.

The league’s geographic footprint is exclusively in the Northeast which means there is no way to have cold-weather teams play away games during October and November. After two press releases from the league discussing a “working relationship” with the disgraced Ontario-based Canadian Soccer League, a prospective team describes ASL as “a new league that features teams in Canada and USA.”

In addition to the split-season format, APS has many differentiating aspects that will set it apart from any other US professional league.

APS is looking to kick off with 12 teams and is still accepting team applications from all East Coast territories. For more information, please click on “Expansion Opportunities” on APSSoccer.net

From everything I’ve read, APS/ASL is not very different from any of the existing leagues in this country. NASL made the switch to a split-season competition format in 2013 in which the Apertura ran from April 6 to July 4 and the Clausura from August 3 to November 2. The tentative schedule for ASL is pretty much the same as NASL’s current setup, including the month long break in the middle of the season.

APS/ASL has between 6 and 8 commitments for the launch of the league in August 2014 and wants 12, all in the East Coast. 10 of 13 USL-Pro clubs, 5 of 8 NASL clubs, and 7 of 19 MLS clubs for a grand total of 22 of the 40 professional soccer clubs in the entire country are located on the East Coast. As APS/ASL is not going to challenge MLS in any way whatsoever, 15 of 21 lower division clubs in 2013 were located on the East coast. Again, good luck.

Even if the league doesn’t fill out its membership rolls with 12 teams, APS/ASL already has commitments from 7 teams. If the league actualizes and operates, that is 7 more professional clubs in the United States. In a piece written by Beau Dure, APS/ASL foudner Matt Driver singles out the late-blooming college player as the main target for the teams in his new league. The current crop of expansion clubs in the NPSL and PDL as well as specifically targeted sports agency and independent showcase ventures can sweep up most of these players who may have fallen through the cracks.

Agencies now have a better grasp of finding the diamond-in-the-rough type player and have connections to promote that player to existing clubs. Other programs train a squad of guys who international showcase events. Bridges FC from Chicago takes roughly two teams worth of players on an annual summer tour of Europe, playing against teams in several countries. If these guys catch the eye of a scout or an opposition coach, he gets an invitation for a trial which can very easily materialize into a contract offer which is exactly how Aaron Nichols is now playing for Ljungskile SK. Two Trinidadian players who had been playing in amateur leagues in the United States recently earned trials and subsequent contracts in Europe after participating in a scouting combine organized by PSC Soccer Academy.

If there are already growing leagues in this country, each with its own league-wide combine and with each team hosting at least one open tryout, and existing mechanisms to give second chances to late-bloomers, then what’s the point?

Advertisements

4 thoughts on “American Soccer League; Another Addition to the Sport’s Alphabet Soup

  1. I’ve heard about them for a few months and tried to connect with someone, but to no avail. The website looks decent enough, though it makes me think of a flashy and trendy teens clothes online store. 🙂

    As for actual soccer content, it actually suffers terribly, and I believe speaking out of some type of silly fantasy (referring to the USSF D3 sanction) is a disservice to the sport over all.

    Moreover, the Canadian Soccer League (www.canadiansoccerleague.com) lists this APS/ASL as their partner league. That partnership would worry me even more, as the CSL is in grave trouble itself for a number of reasons.

    Lastly, I agree with the author, the USA has plenty of leagues. We don’t need any more leagues. We just need a comprehensive and cooperative structure.

  2. Thanks for the comments, Zach and Tim.

    Whether this league survives its first season or not, this is definitely something we’ll all be watching as it develops.

    The new website launched at http://ASLsoccer.us late this past week and while the interface is slightly different, the content sadly comes from the same powerpoint slides.

    “Wait and see” mode?

  3. On the surface, a year round “professional” league that is truly ‘regional’ makes a lot of sense. Plus, given the structure of college soccer, it becomes another alternative to college soccer. Even though “college first” is the prevailing and (uniquely) American mindset.

    Second, in Europe there is a true pyramid. The higher the level of play the more extensive the travel. In the larger countries, in the third and fourth tiers it is rare for a team to travel more than a couple of hours for league games. Personally, I like that.

    I think the MLS partnership with USlPro is probably the best thing that could happen to minor league footy in this country. (Other than a unified, promotion/relegation system….as opposed to competing leagues.)

    I think there needs to be a year round, ‘professional’ option available to players that, for whatever reason aren’t interested in being student athletes. And this is where the PDL and NPSL fail. because the players don’t get enough games crammed into a summer only season.

Let me know what you think...

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s