The North American Soccer League lost the important part of its lawsuit relating to Division 2 sanctioning, and as a result has cancelled the planned 2018-19 season.
Of the eight teams that participated in the 2017 campaign, two have already folded. The San Francisco Deltas won the title and almost immediately ceased operations, while FC Edmonton shut down its professional side while potentially holding out for the Canadian Premier League.
Two others, North Carolina FC and the Indy Eleven, have departed for the USL, which has become the only official Division 2 professional league.
That leaves four previously existing teams and two expansion hopefuls. Here’s what’s planned for 2018 for those six teams:
The New York Cosmos, Jacksonville Armada, and Miami FC will all run in the 2018 NPSL season. California United FC, one of the planned expansion teams, has been participating in the UPSL as California United II following a takeover of the former OC Invictus FC team. That is expected to continue.
The two big questions are Puerto Rico FC and San Diego. Puerto Rico has so far not announced any plans for 2018 or beyond, and given the ongoing struggles on the island, is far from surprising. Recent posts on the team website and social media state that the club is still working on a plan to play somewhere this year; however, no leagues have made any announcements about the team. Meanwhile, San Diego has made statements indicating that the team plans to delay its official start to 2019 due to venue issues, and has reportedly been in discussions with the USL.
And now for a bit of speculation time.
Will California United and San Diego 1904 ever take the field?
For the former, I think that the existing lower-division infrastructure that has already competed in a UPSL season actually gives them a real fighting shot at continued existence, even if it’s just maintaining their current situation. Their owner, Peter Capriotti, definitely has the financial resources to theoretically launch the team in the USL, USLD3, or NISA. But so far, I’ve seen little to indicate their most likely destination. Now, whether or not the USL wants another team in Orange County and a third team in the Los Angeles metro area is another matter entirely.
— 1904 FC (@1904_FC) February 27, 2018
For San Diego, things are looking very positive. On Tuesday, the club announced it’s finalizing an agreement to join the USL for 2019. While the league hasn’t released any confirmations yet, it’s being reported by San Diego media, along with the fact that 1904 FC officially left the NASL back in January. San Diego’s intention still remains to build a 10,000-seat stadium at the existing SoCal Sports Complex, and failing that, it’ll use USD’s Torero Stadium.
Will Puerto Rico FC survive?
I honestly don’t know. Reports on the current state of affairs are far from promising, and between the continuing recovery process and the team’s financial issues, things aren’t great. And the ownership group has allegedly been dealing with infighting. Maybe they could join USL, and work something out to manage the travel distance and costs. I honestly don’t know, but my gut feeling tells me that it’s not looking good.
Will the Cosmos, Miami or Jacksonville join USL?
If I had my way, they would. Mainly because joining the USL is a better fate than folding, and it’s the only way those clubs can guarantee division 2 for the immediate future. But each one of them have their own issues with USL.
As far as I can tell, Miami is the most likely to join, mainly because they’ve been a consistently well-run organization since their creation, and per Jeff Reuter, they have been in discussions with USL to potentially join in 2019. It would make a lot of sense for the continued survival of the organization, so long as Silva is willing to set aside his differences with USL management. The team would be a great addition to the league, and could continue their existing rivalry with the Tampa Bay Rowdies.
For Jacksonville, one of the major holdups keeping them from joining USL is Robert Palmer’s broadcast agreements. The Armada have been broadcasting in the Tampa Bay, Lakeland, and Orlando areas, among others, since he took ownership, as part of his efforts to market his various companies. Those agreements are apparently in violation with the USL’s regulations.
This would explain why Palmer is not interested in joining USL, given their apparent restrictive broadcast policies. https://t.co/ZLAdjfXWKW
— Miki Turner (@turneresq) February 25, 2018
That’s likely one of the major reasons behind his pursuit of a planned “Division Zero” league. In my opinion, though, attempting to start a new league with these ambitious, if at least superficially agreeable ideas, is much more difficult than just doing what the USL wants and joining that league instead. Yeah, it’s not perfect, but it’s much easier to promote change from within than to attempt to create a brand new league from scratch (see: NASL).
And now onto the Cosmos. Owner Rocco Commisso is such a wildcard, and I have honestly no idea what he’s thinking or planning. I think the Cosmos could be a fantastic addition to the USL, and I’m not alone. But Rocco has been critical of the USL, and his actions have likely only further burned those bridges. If that’s true, I’m not surprised, as he’s obviously not an easy person to work with. But really, I think they might want to reconsider, if only to extend an olive branch to the primary protagonist of the various lawsuits.
If USL personnel want to change Rocco’s mind that they’re in the pocket of SUM and MLS, the best thing they can do is welcome the Cosmos with open arms. But on the other hand, what would Rocco do if they made that offer? We know that he cares deeply about the official designation of Division 2 and USL would offer that. But is Rocco willing to agree to league regulations? Who knows?
The USSF was exceedingly patient with the NASL despite years and years of antagonism and an inability to meet the standards. And the NASL argument that those standards were impossible to meet and anticompetitive fell on deaf ears as: 1) the NASL helped develop the standards, and 2) the USL managed to work its way up from D3 to near full compliance in just a few years.
If Rocco, Silva, and Palmer truly care about their clubs, they should crawl to the USL and ask for forgiveness. I’m sick of seeing clubs fold because of the personal battles of ownership.
Follow John on Twitter: @JohnMLTX.
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