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.