Checking in on the American Soccer League as the Fall 2016 Season Kicks Off

The American Soccer League claims to be the missing link for American soccer between high school or college and the professional ranks. The league, the brainchild of Matt Driver, also claims to offer professional contracts to players to play on professional teams despite being sanctioned through the United States Adult Soccer Association, which governs amateur soccer.

I have published serious doubts about the league for over two years, on this blog and in other places, and the league has done next to nothing to assuage those concerns. The league’s current campaign, the Fall 2016 season, began this past weekend but some news from the league’s schedule raises the same old questions.

The league started out with a handful of teams clustered in New Jersey and New England: Philadelphia Fury, A.C. Crusaders, EverGreen Diplomats, Ironbound Soul SC, Icon FC, Mass United FC, Rhode Island Oceaneers, and Western Mass Pro Soccer.

Of those 8 founding members of the league, only two still participate in the ASL. Those teams happen to be the personal projects of the two men behind the league: Matt Driver’s Philadelphia Fury and Jim Antonakas’s Mass United FC.

The league played a full season, split between the fall of and spring session, but ejected Ironbound Soul SC before campaign finished. In the league final, Western Mass fell to Icon FC; neither of those teams is still participating in the league.

A projected Fall 2015 season was cancelled but the league returned in the spring on this year with several additional teams to replace those who had left. Delaware Stars FC (original called Delaware Copperheads), Lancaster Lions, Long Island Express, IFK Maryland, Connecticut United FC, New Hampshire Bobcats, and New England FC joined the league to bolster its ranks to 10 teams.

Teams in New England quickly unraveled, though, and NEFC was forced to forfeit every match of the Spring Season. NEFC and New Hampshire Bobcats were also owned by Jim Antonakas, and the Bobcats also ran into some trouble.

Between NEFC and the Bobcats, the teams were only credited with a single win in the Spring Season, which was a forfeit in New Hampshire’s favor when the two teams were scheduled to play each other.

New England FC reportedly missed a league deadline to register players but the ASL still had the team travel to play matches that had already been forfeited. As you might imagine, NEFC players weren’t quite up for this experience and their performances were rather abject.

“A recent game involving New England FC raised eyebrows when the team lost on the road to Connecticut United FC by a shocking score of 14-0. The visitors only brought nine players to the match and were out-shot 50 to 3 (39-1 on frame), while Connecticut managed 274 more passes in the game.”

– ASL Stutters in Second Season

The Bobcats story is slightly different in that the team was credited with scoring goals in game that were not forfeits. On the league’s website (the maintenance of which is notoriously poor), the list of results for the Bobcats either shows a few coincidences or suggests that the team also forfeited matches.

The team lost 7 games by a 1-0 scoreline, was the beneficiary of NEFC’s earlier forfeiture, and then lost to Icon FC 2-1 and to IFK Maryland 3-1.

For some fairly obvious reasons, New England FC is no longer participating in the American Soccer League. In its place, however, the league has added Atlanta Futuro, a team in Georgia with ties to Jim Antonakas. The closest team to Atlanta, Georgia plays in Maryland.

A fairly successful team during the Spring 2016 campaign was Connecticut United FC. CT United was owned/controlled by Greg Bajek, who also owned Icon FC. Bajek, who showcased Connecticut United against a Polish professional side that recently earned promotion into the second division over the summer, is apparently focusing on the team in New Britain and Icon FC is no longer listed in the league’s schedules or standings.

Another team to drop out from the spring to the fall sessions in Delaware Stars FC. The ASL touted the involvement of former professional Jeremiah White but the team fell away, especially on social media. Delaware posted only once to Instagram on June 14, hasn’t tweeted since June 26, and has posted on Facebook just one time since June.

For those keeping track at home, there are now 8 former ASL teams and just 8 current ASL teams. Sadly this league has not learned any lessons since 2014 but hopefully aspiring soccer players will not have to be on the receiving end of 14-0 blowouts this season.

One has to wonder why 50% of all teams in the American Soccer League have failed or left the league. Is that uncertainty creating an environment for players to prosper in their development to a professional quality?

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3 thoughts on “Checking in on the American Soccer League as the Fall 2016 Season Kicks Off

  1. Never understood the demand for a national footprint has a benchmark for success. America is just too big. What is wrong with a strong regional league? Travel cost go down. Scheduling is easier. Then there’s the internet streaming option. In the same way the players need minutes to get better, so do the FO/owner groups. Organizational knowledge is critical. Has the ASL proved. When ESPN was just starting and cable was a luxury for most, they needed to fill the time between Sports Center rebroadcasts. Lacrosse. Aussie Rules. Anything they could find.
    Regional Fox is ripe for that pitch. Love the NASL but. The Commish needs to be realistic. Hate the ML$ but they have abyss deep pockets. And the US Soccer Mafia to block any rival. I would love to have them stay east of Mississippi. Build a strong presence that allows clubs to build ala MNUFC. Being a Detroit City supporter, the carnage in the NPSL off season is legendary. Lost an entire conference one time. 4 out of 6. Talk about scheduling nightmare. One where we missed the playoffs because one of the above mentioned clubs had a -128 GA rating. And the last spot was based on?
    Could be a subject for an ongoing series for your blog. Why can’t US Soccer allow regional leagues? Love the knowledge you’ve gained. I understand why you don’t have time to unravel the NPSL/PDL attendance silence. Can a team be successful if no one sees the match? Soccer in a tin can located in an industrial park. Bucks. I believe the players deserve better. Sorry personal digression. (Find US Open Cup 2015 match DCFC/Bucks. Silence when NGS not chanting. Will say the reverb was brilliant.)
    Keep up the good work. Cheers. DCTID

    • On the superficial level, the league is called the American Soccer League and not the “Eastern Seaboard Regional League”. The travel argument would hold up if the league didn’t add a random team in Atlanta, Georgia.
      NPSL obviously isn’t perfect but people I’ve talked to in the league and from teams in the league are realistic about what it is. NPSL is a short summer season league. I’ve gotten so many different answers from nearly everyone I’ve asked about what the ASL even is.

      US Soccer has no interest in regional leagues because those leagues wouldn’t be professional and would therefore fall under the jurisdiction of the USASA. USASA sanctions the ASL, and true regional leagues like EPLWA. You didn’t specifically mention this, but sometimes it’s good to provide some fresh ideas outside of the existing leagues. Teams in Texas wanted the NPSL to run a winter session because weather allowed for it; league dragged its feet so the teams formed their own league. That stuff is all good but the ASL is unique in its disconnect from reality.

      The ASL was started as a potential rival to USL for division 3 status. The league currently meets about none of the sanctioning guidelines for it.

      I’m all for regional leagues providing opportunities and community focus under the USASA umbrella, as it stands, but the ASL is not that hill to die on.

      Thanks for reading and reaching out, Will.

      • Followed the Texas league for awhile. All comes down to money and who’s in charge. If England has FA and non Football league tiers in small island, guess egos/$$$ involved.
        Good stuff. The debate is being stifled by US Soccer elites. I follow the lower tiers of soccer. St. Pauli. FCUM.

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