Multiple teams sign LOIs for 2018 NASL season
What happens if the NASL receives the injunctive relief it hopes for at the upcoming Oct. 31 hearing regarding its federal antitrust lawsuit against the USSF? Turns out, the NASL is locked and loaded to bring in multiple expansion sides.
Per documentation provided to Soc Takes, six teams — mostly current (update 10/19/17 – all are NPSL teams) NPSL teams — signed letters of intent (LOIs) to join the league. These LOIs were signed in September 2017. Those teams are Boca Raton FC, Boston City FC, Detroit City FC, FC Arizona, a team in Hartford, New Orleans Jesters and Virginia Beach City FC. All but the New Orleans Jesters are poised to begin play in 2018. The Jesters are scheduled to play in the NASL in 2019, but would be announced in 2018.
While Soc Takes was unable to confirm the team in Hartford is Hartford City FC, in an interview with NASL expert Chris Kivlehan, HCFC previously declared their interest in going pro. If this team truly is HCFC, all the LOIs will be from existing NPSL teams.
(Update 10/19/17: Hartford City FC confirmed as the group).
Soc Takes reached out to the NPSL for their reaction to the news that multiple NPSL teams could join the NASL, but a spokesperson for the NPSL declined to comment on the story.
Two of the aforementioned teams confirmed that that their clubs: A) are poised to join the league in 2018, and B) signed LOIs in September. Three other teams declined to comment and Soc Takes was unable to contact two teams.
When reached for comment, the NASL stated that it “can’t comment on specific markets” at this time.
Missing from the list of LOIs is Atlanta. Given the NASL’s public declaration of being in discussions with Atlanta, per the lawsuit, this may seem like a contradiction. However, Soc Takes understands that the disconnect is simply that Atlanta signed their LOI before September 2017.
There have also been conversations previously about a Chicago NASL team lead by Peter Wilt, but that bid still awaits a stadium.
Earlier today, Soc Takes revealed that FC Edmonton and the SF Deltas may not return to NASL in 2018. There are also questions about the futures of Puerto Rico FC and North Carolina FC — though both are counted as NASL teams for 2018 in the documentation provided.
ARE ALL THE MARKETS READY?
In discussing the details of this information with well-known shill and bald-headed villain Wes “Mantooth” Burdine of FiftyFive.One, he questioned the preparedness of these markets. It is a fair question, and one with unclear answers at present.
Soc Takes understands that Detroit is still struggling to meet its twenty million requirement for the net worth of its principal owner, while recently the USL has declared an interest in expanding into Hartford.
It is important to note that Virginia Beach City FC’s VB Sportsplex, Detroit City FC’s Keyworth Stadium, New Orleans Jesters’ Pan American Stadium and FC Arizona’s John Riggs stadium all meet the USSF Division II requirement of a minimum capacity of 5,000. It is unclear if those teams will continue their leases with the aforementioned stadiums upon joining the NASL.
Additional considerations include personnel recruitment, marketing, sponsorships, etc. These are non-trivial considerations that usually require months of preparation. A current DII owner recently explained, “If you have not taken at least 8-10 months to promote your team locally, you’re probably doomed for failure.” The same owner cited the SF Deltas and Rayo OKC as examples.
It remains remarkable — even to this NASL supporter — that the NASL has managed to attract multiple teams in spite of the ongoing uncertainty about its financial model and future. Perhaps the reasons are ideological, perhaps the NASL presented an exciting, novel plan that seduced owners. Perhaps they slashed entry fees. Whatever the truth may be, those of us (myself included) who believed that the NASL didn’t really have teams lined up were wrong.
Another question is: Why isn’t the NASL more open about this information? Surely some good news would placate fans of the league. One reason given suggested that the league was worried about the USL scavenging those same markets. While that is possible, it still does not explain why the NASL would not make this information public, although the LOIs were signed in September.
The biggest question overall is the viability of these markets, and that will only become clearer as each team reveals its plans to make its NASL expansion a successful one.
Eight current teams + two California teams + six LOIs signed for 2018 + possible Atlanta team – (possible defections/conclusions of SFD + FCE + NCFC/PRFC) = the NASL could start with 13 teams or as many as 17 teams.
That’s if the NASL starts at all. All of this hinges on injunctive relief. Oct. 31 is going to be a pivotal day for many teams, and by extension, U.S. Soccer.
Follow Nipun on Twitter: @NipunChopra7.
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