Unclear Atlanta situation shows clarity in NASL’s new vetting process
As the fable goes, when the clock struck midnight, shit hit the fan. Cinderella lost a shoe, almost lost the love of her life and something about a pumpkin.
Moral of that story was: don’t count down to anything.
Per the original website, Atlanta was scheduled to make a big announcement about bringing professional soccer to Atlanta on April 4. In our interview with CEO Trey Brantley, he told us:
“We are working on an announcement of something, although we’re going to have to readjust our time clock by a week, strictly because we want our local kids involved in the announcement. And it was missed that the time we selected was Spring Break.”
So, we were expecting a delay in the announcement. But, the clock struck midnight.
On Neil Morris’ podcast, NASL’s interim commissioner Rishi Sehgal stated that while they had indeed been speaking with the Atlanta group, the Atlanta bid wasn’t one of the advanced ones. Soon, the countdown on the website disappeared, and everyone was left wondering about the future of Atlanta’s bid.
Brantley’s team sent out a press release this evening via email:
“For a number of reasons, we have decided to reschedule the announcement we had scheduled for later this week. The landscape of American soccer has changed dramatically over the past few months, and rather than conform to an arbitrary timeline of our own making, we are going to take a little more time to evaluate the proposals in front of us. We appreciate your patience as we make the best decision we can for the future of the game in our community.”
Soc Takes spoke to Brantley and he added, “From my perspective, the larger story hasn’t changed. We will be playing professional soccer next year.”
Given the importance of rapidly finding four new expansion teams, Sehgal’s announcement that Atlanta wasn’t one of the advanced bids left us wondering why. While Brantley declined to comment on this, Soc Takes was told by a source that the league is wary of competing with the instant success of Atlanta United.
If true, it would be a piece of evidence supporting the league’s claim of being selective of their future expansion teams.
Currently, the general perception of the NASL is one of desperation. A league that needs to get to twelve teams to survive 2018. Yet, their hesitation of allowing the Strikers back into the fold, carefully waiting on finding a new owner for Jacksonville and the Atlanta story may be signs that the NASL is in control of its destiny. As SF Deltas CEO Brian Helmick revealed to Soc Takes, there is a new vetting committee and it seems to have taken control of the vetting process.
Soc Takes reached out to Helmick for a comment on the Atlanta bid. Helmick told us:
“Other groups are ahead in terms of the application vetting process. Any application where there already is another pro team in the market requires a higher level of scrutiny to ensure the market can justify a second club.”
That statement should be music to the ears of those who have wanted the NASL to step away from the abrasive, competitive and idealistic NASL model of yesteryear.
Of course, it doesn’t mean the Atlanta bid is dead. Certainly, us at Soc Takes believe that the bid has its merits. Just that 1. NASL isn’t pretending they can compete with MLS. 2. NASL likely has other stronger expansion bids ready to deploy.
Other options for Atlanta
What about USL? A source associated with the Atlanta bid told Soc Takes that discussions have taken place to buy and relocate an unnamed, defunct USL franchise to Atlanta. However, Soc Takes understands that USL is currently not interested in Atlanta as a potential market.
Atlanta could wait a year, and join the NASL in 2019. Alternatively, Atlanta could indeed be announced as a 2018 NASL team; just much later than anticipated. Another option would be Atlanta looking to NPSL or PDL. At this point, things are unclear.
An update (sort of) on NWSL
As for the NWSL team, Brantley told Soc Takes:
“Conversations with NWSL are also ongoing. But, those are contingent on us having a stadium ready by 2019. So, we’re taking it step by step.”
While the future of Atlanta-NASL remains unclear, it is becoming increasingly apparent that the NASL truly is changing its vetting process. Unfortunately for Atlanta 2018, seemingly the countdown clock for NASL’s improved vetting hit midnight at the wrong time.
(This author would like to clarify that Chris Jericho appearing at Royal Rumble last year was an exception to the general rule of “don’t use countdown clocks.”
But then the rules don’t apply to Y2J.)