Looking at the 2015 NASL Fall Season Schedule

On Tuesday, January 20, the NASL announced the schedule for the 2015 Fall Season. Each of the 11 teams in the NASL this year will play each other twice for a total of 20 matches. Because of the odd number of participants in 2015, one team will have a bye and will sit out during every regular 5-game weekend fixture list.

The format is similar to the 2015 Spring Season that the NASL released on Wednesday, December 20. The spring campaign will see each team play each other once for a total of 10 matches before the mid-summer break in league play.

Since the NASL instituted the split-season format in 2013, the season has generally maintained a length from the beginning of April until the start of November.

The 2015 spring campaign will last from 04/04/15 until 06/13/15 and the 2015 fall campaign will last from 07/04/15 until 11/01/15.
The 2014 spring campaign lasted from 04/12/14 until 06/08/14 and the 2014 fall campaign lasted from 07/12/14 until 11/02/14.
The 2013 spring campaign lasted from 04/06/13 until 07/04/13 and the 2013 fall campaign lasted from 08/03/13 until 11/02/13.

The total NASL schedule has fluctuated only very slightly since its inception between 26 and 30 games for each team (not counting New York’s 2013 season).

2011: 28 total games
2012: 28 total games
2013: 12+14, 26 total games for 7/8 teams
2014: 9+18, 27 total games for 10 teams
2015: 10+20, 30 total games for 11 teams

The 2015 Fall Campaign will see each team play 20 games, 10 at home and 10 on the road, across 18 weeks. This format requires each team to play two mid-week games during the split season, an increase from just one in 2014.

There are three Friday night matches that are parts of the regular 5-game weekend fixture list. None of the teams that play on Friday will have played since the previous Saturday except for Carolina, who play the Sunday before: August 30 and September 4.

The league will play two games on Tuesday nights, Atlanta hosting Minnesota on September 15 and New York hosting Ottawa on September 22. Atlanta doesn’t play the weekend before that match while Minnesota plays the Saturday before. Both New York and Ottawa play on the Saturday prior their Tuesday meeting.

Teams will compete in 18 Wednesday night games to round out 20 total mid-week matches. Only two Wednesday night games feature a team that played the previous Sunday, all other teams playing the Friday or Saturday before. This ensures that for all but those two games, teams will have at least 3 full days in between games to travel, recuperate, and train between league fixtures. The two exceptions are when Edmonton hosts Ottawa on August 2 before hosting Indy on Wednesday, August 5, and when New York hosts Atlanta on October 4 before Atlanta hosts the return fixture on Wednesday, October 7.

Despite the difficulties of have an odd number of teams, the NASL maintained its commitment to a balanced schedule and proper rest between matches.

Analyzing the 2015 NASL Spring Season Schedule

The NASL released its schedule for the spring campaign of the 2015 season on December 17, 2014. The league will have 11 teams for the spring split and each team will play 10 games.

In 2012, the NASL regular season had a balanced schedule, in which each of the 8 teams faced the other 7 teams four times (twice home and twice away) for a total of 28 games. The season lasted 25 weeks from April 7 to September 23 and contained regular season 112 matches.

The NASL split season format was introduced for the 2013 season but was altered to accommodate a break during the 2014 World Cup. Throughout Latin America, most leagues cut the regular double-round-robin schedule down the middle with a brief break in between. These leagues, like Mexico’s Liga MX, split the season in half and crown a separate championship for each short tournament.

America’s second division has not yet played an equal spring and fall schedule because of mid-season expansion and the 2014 World Cup. In 2013, the NY Cosmos joined the league for the fall season only while the league shifted the break earlier in order to pause competition while on eyes were on Brazil.

The 2015 spring season will feature 5 matches each weekend with one team sitting out each week. In order to maintain the structure in the NASL schedule, one of the 11 teams must observe a bye each matchday.

Between April 4 and June 13, the league will hold 55 games. Only one match is scheduled for Friday evening, the NASL’s Canadian derby as Ottawa Fury SC hosts FC Edmonton on May 29.

With the professional schedule structure in place, there are clearly no instances of teams playing games on back-to-back nights or two games in one weekend as happens in USL PRO. New Minnesota United FC signing J.C. Banks recently told Doherty Soccer that the league’s scheduling was an important selling point in his move to MNUFC. Banks said that the congested schedule in USL PRO, where he played 4 seasons with Rochester Rhinos, threatened players’ health and often didn’t provide enough time for rest and adequate training.

The 2015 spring campaign will last from 4/4 until 6/13

The 2014 spring campaign lasted from 4/12 until 6/08
The 2014 fall campaign lasted from 7/12 until 11/02

The 2013 spring campaign lasted from 4/06 until 7/04
The 2013 fall campaign lasted from 8/03 until 11/02

The 2015 season looks a lot like the beginning of the 2014 season even though there’s no World Cup this year to justify an early break,

The total NASL schedule has fluctuated only very slightly between 26 and 28 games for each team.

2011: 28 total games
2012: 28 total games
2013: 26 total games
2014: 27 total games
2015: 10+?

The league has set itself up for a headache with the fall split of the 2015 schedule.

If the league remains with 11 teams, NASL could double the spring campaign during the fall, playing each other team home and away. This format would still require a team to sit out each weekend and would probably have to feature one or two mid-week fixture dates in order to wrap up a 30-game regular season by the beginning of November.

If the league adds a 12th team for the fall campaign, as reported by Neil Morris with regard to the creation of a team around the Los Angeles market, circumstances change. The 12 teams could play each other once for 11 games or twice for 22 games.A 22 game fall season would mean a 32 game full season for the NASL, which is a considerable increase over recent years.

Another option, regardless of whether the Los Angeles team materializes, is to abandon the balanced schedule. If the league decides to go an unbalanced route, teams may face certain opponents more often depending on geographic proximity or presumed rivalries. The NASL would join USL PRO and MLS if it released an unbalanced schedule for the 2015 Fall campaign.

 

NASL’s newest team launches as the Jacksonville Armada FC

Local political figures joined league commissioner Bill Peterson and the team’s executives during a press conference on Tuesday morning in Jacksonville, Florida.

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Council President Bill Gulliford told the crowd that he was “proud to welcome Jacksonville Armada FC to our city,” while Mayor Alvin Brown declared, “We want everyone to know that Jacksonville is soccer territory.”

After an extensive contest that allowed fans to suggest possible monikers for the club as well as the colors to be used in a logo and team kits, the results could not have been better. The area’s connection with naval history is not a gimmick but something real that came from the fans, themselves.

With regard to the newly announced name of the team, club owner Mark Frisch said that the organization was “honored and proud to reflect the suggestions of our fans in our team name and logo while aligning with the history and tradition of this region.”

Jacksonville Chamber President Daniel Davis stressed that, “Armada FC makes Jacksonville a player in a global game,” which complements well Commissioner Peterson’s comment that, “the Armada is now part of the global soccer community and global soccer economy.”

These quotes and a general buzz around words like “international” and “global” may foreshadow future announcements of marquee exhibition matches. The success of the USA v Scotland friendly match in May of 2012 was a cornerstone of the pitch by the Armada’s ownership team.

Former Argentine goalkeeper and current club general manager Darío Sala discussed his role of bringing “the best talent to the city.” Sala told the crowd that he would use his worldwide network of connections and relationships to draw foreign players while also scouting extensively in the local area and American colleges. As a former player agent, Sala will know the ins and outs of contract negotiations and may have a leg up during negotiations with clubs from Argentina especially.

NASL Commissioner Bill Peterson seemed almost giddy at the prospect of announcing Jacksonville Armada FC. “I love the thought and the process that went into [naming the team],” Peterson said during the press conference. He commended the organization for its strong and deliberative growth so far and set the stage for continued success with cross-state rivalries against NASL’s other Florida teams, Tampa Bay Rowdies and Fort Lauderdale Strikers.

Armada FC will get its chance to take on those teams and the rest of NASL, as well as the US Open Cup field, when it begins play in 2015. Fans can put down a refundable $30 season ticket deposit and learn more about the club by visiting www.ArmadaFC.com.

Immediate 2013 NASL Attendance Statistics and Reactions

The fall season ended this past weekend so we can finally look at the numbers for all of the 2013 NASL season.

Just so y’all know, these figures are based on the attendances that the home team announces for each game. These numbers may bear little resemblance to actual turnout or any eyeball estimations you might have.

I’m going to post some lists in descending order and then explain the data a bit underneath each.

Full season team averages:
San Antonio Scorpions:    6951.3
New York Cosmos:           6858.7
Carolina RailHawks:          4707.6
Atlanta Silverbacks:           4702.6
Minnesota United FC:        4508.7
Fort Lauderdale Strikers:   4268.9
Tampa Bay Rowdies:        4043.9
FC Edmonton:                  2409.7

This is the list most of you came here for. You might be surprised to find that the New York Cosmos finished beneath San Antonio in terms of attendance.

Spring season team averages:
San Antonio Scorpions:     7139.7
Minnesota United FC:        5338
Carolina RailHawks:          4708.1
Atlanta Silverbacks:           4363.6
Fort Lauderdale Strikers:   4313.7
Tampa Bay Rowdies:        4036.7
FC Edmonton:                  2059.3

Fall season team averages:
New York Cosmos:           6858.7
San Antonio Scorpions:    6762.9
Atlanta Silverbacks:           5041.7
Carolina RailHawks:          4707
Fort Lauderdale Strikers:   4224.1
Tampa Bay Rowdies:        4051.1
Minnesota United FC:        3679.4
FC Edmonton:                   2760.1

New York Cosmos started with a blistering 11,929 on opening night at Hofstra Stadium, but finished the fall season with an average attendance less than a hundred better than second-year club San Antonio. In fact, the Cosmos drew 1,222 less on their opening night than the Scorpions did in April of last year (13,151). In 2012, San Antonio averaged an announced attendance of 9,176 and drew 10,000 or more on five occasions, which the Cosmos failed to replicate after the raucous home opener.

But the Cosmos may have made another contribution to the total NASL attendance, as the visiting team.Here is the announced attendance of New York’s visit to the other teams in the league as a percentage of that team’s average attendance.

Hosting the Cosmos as % of average attendance:
Fort Lauderdale Strikers:   181%
Tampa Bay Rowdies:        174%
Atlanta Silverbacks:           115%
FC Edmonton:                   115%
San Antonio Scorpions:     114%
Minnesota United FC:         99%
Carolina RailHawks:           87%

The Strikers and the Rowdies clearly got a boost because the New York Cosmos came to town, as you would expect for clubs with roots to the original NASL. The other 3 clubs with draws higher than average for the game against the Cosmos can be explained as either within the ebb and tide of game-to-game fluctuation or as increased turnout for the season finale. What do you think, did the Cosmos have a positive affect on attendances when they came to town?

Changes from 2012 averages to 2013:
Minnesota United FC:        +87.1%
FC Edmonton:                   +61.5%
Tampa Bay Rowdies:        +29.8%
Carolina RailHawks:          +21.2%
Fort Lauderdale Strikers:   +18.3%
Atlanta Silverbacks:           +4.4%
San Antonio Scorpions:     -24.2%

Every team that returned to the league from 2012 saw their average attendance increase except for San Antonio. If I was a Crocketeer or another fan of the Scorpions, I wouldn’t worry too much though; San Antonio still led the league in attendance. Minnesota has benefited, at least off the field, from its offseason rebranding as attendance soared compared to last season and the club’s social media outreach has been spot-on.

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Any of the numbers stand out to you?

Surprised by some of the rankings?

What’s your take on the return of the Cosmos?

Reconciling the Rivalry Between NASL and USL-Pro?

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

The One Where I Watched an NASL Game

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

The 2012 U.S. Open Cup Is Here

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