Is the American Soccer League for real?

The inaugural season of the American Soccer League kicks off next weekend with three matches slated for Saturday, August 23.

In those matches AC Crusaders hosts Philadelphia Fury, Icon travels to Mass United, and Newark hosts the Evergreen Diplomats. Western Mass Pioneers and Rhode Island Reds have a bye the first week of the season.

Oh wait, you haven’t heard of these teams before? That’s because none of them plays in an existing professional league. Only 2 of the founding 8 clubs recently participated in a league higher than a local or state amateur circuit. Those two are Rhode Island from the NPSL and Western Mass Pioneers from the USL PDL.

Don’t feel bad if you aren’t familiar with these teams. The league refers to some of its own clubs by multiple names, so it seems even they aren’t too familiar.

On the league’s schedule page the teams are listed as: AC Crusaders, Evergreen Diplomats, Icon, Mass United, Newark, Philadelphia Fury, Rhode Island, Western Mass Pioneers

On the league’s “Teams” page, the teams are listed as:
AC Crusaders, Evergreen Diplomats, Icon, Mass United, Ironbound Soul, Philadelphia Fury, Rhode Island Oceaneers, Lusitanos Pro Soccer

The league’s “About Us” page on its website uses three quotes from Sepp Blatter without context to provide the philosophical basis for the league and attempts to justify the money clubs will waste in this venture. Sepp Blatter is widely corrupt, openly sexist, and generally an awful administrator of the game we all love; he’s really the inspiration for your league?

The league kicks off in 8 days and its website is woefully incomplete. Only 2 of the clubs have even partial profiles on the league’s website. It shouldn’t be any surprise that those 2 clubs have the same owner, which brings us to Matt Driver.

Driver is the owner of Atlantic Soccer Factory, a “soccer education” company from southern New Jersey. ASF evokes divided opinion among parents who have coughed up thousands of dollars in fees for Driver’s programs throughout the years.

Driver is the godfather of the American Soccer League but maintains ownership of ASF, which operates the AC Crusaders team. In addition Driver is the owner and head coach of the Philadelphia Fury team. How professional is this league when one man is a head coach, owner of two teams, league president, and league CEO?

The ASL, through Driver, attempted a hype train earlier in the year about challenging USL Pro as the country’s division three league. That will never happen.

The ASL cannot meet USSF’s guidelines to receive sanctioning as a professional league. As such the league should not refer to itself as a professional league. For the coming season, the ASL is sanctioned as a high-level amateur league.

The ASL is an amateur league with apparently professional teams, but even that designation may be in name only. Teams in the ASL will pay players and will operate during the school year so as to prevent collegiate athletes from participating but are hiring inexperienced office staff to run their operations.

Driver is quoted in a news story on the league’s site as saying, “We’re looking for players who are graduating from college, or maybe will come into this league as an alternative to college.” MLS clubs are finding it difficult to convince potential HG players from forgoing college for a soccer career but this shoddy upstart league can. Makes sense.

The fully professional and storied soccer club Rochester Rhinos offers general admission tickets for games against other fully professional clubs in the USL Pro hosted at Sahlen’s Stadium, a soccer-specific stadium, for $10.

First year “professional” team Philadelphia Fury offers general admission tickets for games against other “professional” teams in a makeshift league hosted at a local high school for $9.

Does that math make sense to you? I think there’s more than one dollar difference in the value offered by the Rochester Rhinos and the Philadelphia Fury.

Is the ASL for real?
Unfortunately I think it is and that will be bad news for most of these teams. I don’t expect the league to survive into its second year next fall if it actually manages to play out its full first season.

I am encouraged by soccer clubs that want to turn professional and are looking for a cheaper alternative to what if currently available through NPSL and PDL. When a league is scrounging for member teams, it is incentivized to mislead prospective team owners. Allowing inexperienced amateurs to operate professional soccer club offices is irresponsible and when these clubs fail it will poison the well for future attempts to grow soccer in the United States.

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5 thoughts on “Is the American Soccer League for real?

  1. The ASL seems to be like a joke of a league to me as well. I know players on the Fury, Crusaders, (Ironbound Soul) and Evergreen Diplomats. I have not heard good things yet from any of these players about the organizations or the league. It seems disorganized, slow, and most of all a joke. I think the only teams that pay there players are Fury and Diplomats and they get paid because of coaching most likely not even to pay…. I am not sure what is going to happen this fall season but I would not be surprised if this league folds in 2015 or in the spring of 2015.

  2. It’s discouraging to learn those things about this “league.” When I first heard about it I thought it sounded like a great idea, and I still do. A semi-pro league operating on a regional basis to curb costs? Finally someone is taking one cue from Europe that’s worthwhile. The opportunities that it could provide to young players is excellent, but if, as you say, it is doomed to failure by some combination of its structure in general and participants in particular, then I am sad for all involved.

  3. h come on guys! I find your assessment of the new ASL to be quite harsh and disrespectful of the players who are participating. The level of play is good. Mr. Doherty, on your bio I did not see mention of your own playing career at the college, pdl, or professional levels. Since you are clearly following the growth of soccer in the United States I wonder why you feel so inclined to bash an effort to promote the game? You are unquestionably passionate about the sport (on the internet at least) and appear to be quite active in your support of the Rhinos. I should think that any effort to expand the pool of available and developing players would be welcomed by a fan of the sport such as yourself. The ASL is attempting to fill a niche and to allow players the opportunity to play at a competitive level. The quality on the field is good and the players are happy to keep playing – why is that so bad? At the end of the day – promoting soccer at all levels should be supported. I contend that it is not doomed to failure as you say but is providing options for players to develop beyond college or as an alternative for players who can’t afford to play in college or who were never otherwise given that opportunity. There should be no problem with that. Lets see what happens and give them a chance.

    • I meant no disrespect to the players involved with the teams in the ASL but the league is lacking in professionalism.

      The name of the league and the CEO’s press declarations imply a national footprint. Driver initially pursued national professional sanctioning, which is hilarious considering where the league is now.

      There are quality organizations (at least Western Mass is) but the league itself is either disingenuous or oblivious.

      I like the idea of increasing the player pool and giving another chance to guys (aside from league combines, agency combines, additional combines, and at least one open tryout for every NPSL, PDL, USL PRO, and NASL club) but if the league is not run well, why waste the money?

      I feel so inclined to bash and harshly judge the ASL because I’ve seen two asinine start-up leagues fail in the last 5 years and perhaps whatever investments have been made into this league could be better spent promoting the game in other ways.

      If this league succeeds, I’ll surely admit I misjudged the ASL. At this point, I don’t think it will still be around next August.

      • I remember when MLS first came out. They had cartoony names, cartoony logos and only three people who owned all the clubs. They were playing in over sized football and baseball stadiums. Some even played in high school fields. Even though teams like DC United was a success by winning both North and South American competitions, the league as a whole was struggling.

        The ASL just started in 2014. That wasn’t even a full year before you start dogging them out. Every league have to start off in unattractive fields, website and player quality. The good thing about this league is that they are trying to bring in another professional division into our soccer pyramid. They are also taking risks other divisions are to scared to take by following the FIFA calender and opening doors to soccer players who don’t want to go through college to get drafted into MLS. The last great American professional soccer league was the ASL. The thing that killed them in the end was the great depression.

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