NASL: 17 teams by 2017?

NASLWith new Puerto Rico and Miami teams on tap for 2016, North American Soccer League (NASL) commissioner Bill Peterson says his circuit is on route to be at 17 teams by 2017.

Miami FC was announced in May, and Puerto Rico’s FC fall season entry was announced in June. That puts NASL at 13 for the fall season, and Peterson says the addition of four more teams is possible for 2017. From the BBC:

“There is a big opportunity right now for football here in the US,” says ex-NFL Europe and AEG executive Mr Peterson. “There have been major changes over the past decade.

“Going into the 1980s you had millions of kids who played the sport, but there was not a chance for them to connect with clubs. Now they can connect to clubs, albeit often through TV, and often to overseas teams.”

The broadcasting of overseas football, including England’s Premier League, had created a new, soccer-savvy US supporter, he says.

NASL has a different business structure than MLS: it is a traditional franchise structure, with no league limits on salary or payroll. That’s in contract to MLS, where team owners are basically investing in the league for the rights to operate a team in a region. New sports leagues tend to have ownership structures like the one found in MLS, so it’s interesting to see NASL offering an older model that focuses the league on things like national TV contracts, sponsorship arrangements, and licensing deals.

Whether NASL can keep the momentum going will be a challenge. Unless something goes wrong, MLS will be in Miami by 2018, although if there’s any market (past New York City) that can support an MLS team and an NASL team, it would be Miami — particularly with owners Riccardo Silva and Paolo Maldini (shown above) having a very focused business strategy that depends on existing relationships. With Minnesota United FC scheduled to leave the league after the 2017 season, we will certainly see a test of that momentum.

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August Publications