Though the NASL faces much uncertainty regarding the 2017 season, the Indy Eleven says it is standing by the league.
The Indy Eleven has certainly been a success, helping to bolster Indianapolis’ soccer scene and emerging as one of the NASL’s most successful franchises. Over its three seasons in the NASL, it has been one of the league’s top draws and, despite a drop, that trend has continued this year–Indy Eleven entered the week with a per-game average of more than 8,300 fans.
That total ranks second in the NASL’s attendance, and with the top-drawing Minnesota Untied FC set to join the MLS next season, there is plenty of room for Indy to move up the charts. However, the same cannot be said for the rest of the NASL.
As we covered at the end of September, the NASL was facing question marks surrounding several of its franchises. Tampa Bay and Ottawa were both reported as candidates to shift to the USL. Furthermore, both Rayo OKC and the Fort Lauderdale Strikers have been dealing with serious problems. Rayo OKC has shown signs of a serious divide within its ownership, while Fort Lauderdale has seen dealt with questions about its ownership amidst an attendance drop and a move to Central Broward Stadium.
Ottawa and Edmonton were also linked to a seperate report indicating that they could join the Canadian Soccer Association. Given that Minnesota’s departure is a certainty and the other franchises remain in question, the NASL will have to work to keep its second-tier status. As the Indy Star notes, the NASL would need 12 teams to retain its second-tier status and a drop to eight teams might make a third-tier status more workable. However, the league wants to prevent that situation, something that was indicated in a statement issued last month in which the NASL said its owners are “undaunted” by the current issues.
While the league is still sorting out some of these complications, it is clear that the NASL will need franchises like the Indy Eleven to remain in the picture. For right now, it seems that Indy Eleven is standing by the league. More from the Indy Star:
There are also attendance problems for the NASL, down 18 percent across the board. The Eleven led the league with an average of 9,809 last year, but attendance is down 16 percent — to 8,216 — despite the franchise fielding a winning team this season.
Sports Illustrated reported four NASL teams have yet to pay their bond for next season. Indy is not one of those four teams. Other core clubs like the New York Cosmos, Jacksonville and Miami have stated their intention to remain in the NASL.
The NASL will pick up a team next year in the San Francisco Deltas, which are set to play at Kezar Stadium. There has also been an effort to expand to Chicago, but it is uncertain whether that franchise will be ready by 2017 or 2018.
Image courtesy Indy Eleven.