North American Soccer League
|Other club(s) from||Canada|
|Founded||November 10, 2009|
|Number of teams||11|
|Levels on pyramid||Division II (US)
Division II (CAN)
|Domestic cup(s)||U.S. Open Cup
|International cup(s)||CONCACAF Champions League|
|Current champions||New York Cosmos (1st title)
|Most championships||Minnesota United FC
New York Cosmos
Tampa Bay Rowdies
(1 title each)
|TV partners||ESPN3 / ESPN Deportes|
|2013 North American Soccer League season|
The North American Soccer League (NASL) is a professional men's soccer league with eight teams in the United States and Canada. It is sanctioned by the United States Soccer Federation (U.S. Soccer) as the Division II league in the American league system, under Major League Soccer (MLS) and above USL Pro. Its headquarters are in Miami, Florida.
The league is named for, but not affiliated with, the original North American Soccer League. The modern NASL was founded in 2009, and began play in 2011 following a 2010 season that saw NASL and USL teams play in a combined temporary Division II league. The number of franchises has remained at eight, with some teams coming and going, but the league plans to expand in 2014 and 2015.
The NASL uses a split season schedule running from April to early November, with a four week break in July. The spring and fall champions face each other in the Soccer Bowl at the end of the season. There is no promotion and relegation with other leagues.
- 1 Overview
- 2 Competition format
- 3 Championships
- 4 Teams
- 5 History
- 6 Founding and expansion teams
- 7 Sponsorship and television coverage
- 8 Attendance
- 9 Staff
- 10 See also
- 11 References
- 12 External links
The NASL is owned and operated by its member teams through the Board of Governors. The Board consists of a representative of each member team. The Board oversees the League rules and regulations, governs the expansion and commercial strategy of the League, and oversees the league office. Aaron Davidson is the Chairman of the Board.
NASL has no official tie to the former NASL that operated from 1968 to 1984. Several of the present-day NASL teams, however, operate in cities where the former NASL had teams. In particular, the Fort Lauderdale Strikers, Tampa Bay Rowdies, and New York Cosmos clubs share the same names and similar jersey designs as their NASL predecessors.
NASL has elected not to invest money into obtaining TV contracts, and instead streams its games online free of charge on the nasl.com website.
Players generally earn in the range of $15,000 to $30,000 per season, according to IM Soccer News. NASL does not have a salary cap. NASL limits active rosters to 30 players and limits teams to 7 foreign players.
NASL teams have augmented their revenues by signing sponsorship deals. For example, the NY Cosmos landed Emirates Airline as a jersey sponsor, FC Edmonton signed Sears Financial as a jersey sponsor, and the Carolina RailHawks have had Blue Cross as their jersey sponsor since 2009.
The NASL season has operated under a split-season format since 2013, with the winner of the spring season hosting the winner of the fall season in the 2013 NASL Soccer Bowl. The spring season runs from early April until July 4, and following a one-month break, the fall season runs from early August until early November. NASL's split-season format is similar to the format used in many soccer leagues in Latin American countries.
The split-season format has several benefits for NASL. First, with only two teams qualifying for the playoffs, there is a far greater emphasis on the importance of regular-season matches, and greater reward for the regular season champions. Second, a break in July that coincides with the international transfer window allows teams to bring in key players during the summer. Third, NASL teams can use the summer break to generate additional revenue by hosting international friendlies or going on tour.
In prior NASL seasons in 2011 and 2012, the competition format had featured 8 teams playing a 28 game regular season schedule, with 14 home and 14 away games, playing each opponent four times. The NASL’s playoff format consisted of the top six teams, with the first two teams receiving a bye until the semi-final round, and the remaining four teams playing in a single-game playoff to advance to the semi-finals. The semi-finals and the finals each consisted of a two-game home and home aggregate goal system.
Similar to other American sports leagues (and unlike many European soccer leagues), NASL does not see automatic promotion or relegation for its members. The champion of Division II NASL is not automatically promoted to Division I Major League Soccer, and the team finishing last in NASL is not automatically relegated to Division III USL. There are occasional opportunities, however, for successful NASL teams that meet MLS criteria to join MLS as an expansion team, as the Montreal Impact did following the 2011 season. Other previous Division II soccer teams now playing in MLS include the Seattle Sounders, Portland Timbers, and Vancouver Whitecaps.
NASL teams also occasionally play in international competitions. Several Division II teams have played in the CONCACAF Champions League. The best Division II team performances were in the 2008-09 CONCACAF Champions League, when the Puerto Rico Islanders reached the semifinals and the then Division II Montreal Impact reached the quarterfinals. NASL teams also play international friendlies during the summer break.
NASL's U.S. based teams also play in the U.S. Open Cup. Division II teams have had some success in the U.S. Open Cup since MLS began, with Rochester winning the cup in 1999 and reaching the finals in 1999, and Charleston reaching the finals in 2008. NASL teams did not participate in the U.S. Open Cup in NASL's first season in 2011, but NASL teams have participated in the U.S. Open Cup in 2012 and 2013, with the Carolina RailHawks defeating MLS team Chivas USA to reach the quarterfinals in 2013.
FC Edmonton, the only Canadian NASL club, participates in the Amway Canadian Championship. This tournament consists of four (4) major professional Canadian clubs. MLS side Toronto FC, and former NASL clubs, now competing in MLS, The Vancouver Whitecaps and The Montreal Impact. The winner is crowned Canadian Champions and represents Canada in the CONCACAF Champions League.
NASL teams also participate in some rivalry cups. For example, supporters of Minnesota United FC and FC Edmonton created the Flyover Cup. Also, Tampa Bay, Ft. Lauderdale and Puerto Rico have participated in the annual Ponce De Leon Cup since 2006.
|Season||Spring Championship||Fall Championship||Soccer Bowl||Woosnam Cup|
|2011||not instituted until 2013 season||NSC Minnesota Stars||Carolina RailHawks|
|2012||Tampa Bay Rowdies||San Antonio Scorpions|
|2013||Atlanta Silverbacks||New York Cosmos||New York Cosmos||Carolina RailHawks|
|Team||City||Stadium (Capacity)||Founded||Joined||Head Coach|
|Atlanta Silverbacks||Atlanta, GA||Atlanta Silverbacks Park (7,500)||1998||2011||Brian Haynes|
|Carolina RailHawks||Cary, NC||WakeMed Soccer Park (10,000)||2006||2010||Colin Clarke|
|FC Edmonton||Edmonton, AB||Clarke Stadium (5,000)||2010||2011||Colin Miller|
|Fort Lauderdale Strikers||Fort Lauderdale, FL||Lockhart Stadium (20,500)||2006||2010||Günter Kronsteiner|
|Indy Eleven||Indianapolis, IN||Carroll Stadium (12,100)||2013||2014||Juergen Sommer|
|Minnesota United||Blaine, MN||National Sports Center (8,500)||2010||2010||Manny Lagos|
|New York Cosmos||Hempstead, NY||James M. Shuart Stadium (11,929)||2010||2013||Giovanni Savarese|
|Ottawa Fury||Ottawa, ON||Frank Clair Stadium (22,500)||2011||2014||Marc Dos Santos|
|San Antonio Scorpions||San Antonio, TX||Toyota Field (8,000)||2010||2012||Alen Marcina|
|Tampa Bay Rowdies||St. Petersburg, FL||Al Lang Stadium (7,250)||2008||2010||Ricky Hill|
|Virginia Cavalry||Ashburn, VA||Edelman Financial Field (5,500)||2012||2014||TBA|
Planned expansion teams
|Oklahoma City||Oklahoma City, OK||Taft Stadium (7,500)||2013||2015||TBA|
|Team||City||Stadium||Joined NASL||Last Season||Status|
|Montreal Impact||Montreal, Canada||Saputo Stadium (13,000)||2011||2011||Team with same name and ownership joined MLS|
|Puerto Rico Islanders||Bayamón, PR||Juan Ramón Loubriel Stadium (22,000)||2011||2012||On hiatus|
On August 27, 2009, multi-national sports company Nike agreed to sell its stake in the United Soccer Leagues (USL) to Rob Hoskins and Alec Papadakis of Atlanta-based NuRock Soccer Holdings, instead of to the USL Team Owner's Association (TOA), a group comprising the owners of several USL First Division clubs and St. Louis Soccer United. After the purchase, several prominent TOA members began to voice their concerns about the state of the league in general, its management structure and ownership model, the leadership of USL president Francisco Marcos, and about the sale of the league to NuRock, which the TOA felt was counter-productive and detrimental to the development of the league.
Within several weeks, a number of TOA member clubs threatened to break away from USL and start their own league. On November 10, 2009, six USL-1 clubs along with St. Louis applied for approval to create a new North American Division 2 league. On November 20, 2009, one team from both USL-1 and USL-2 announced their intentions to join the new league, taking the membership of the new league to nine teams.
The official name of the league was announced on November 23, 2009. According to the official press release, the NASL name is intended to "pay respect to the players, coaches and leaders who were pioneers for men's professional soccer in North America, many of whom remain involved and committed to the growth of the game in various capacities throughout the U.S. and Canada".
The USL issued several press releases questioning the legality of the teams choosing to break away, suggesting that it considered litigation to protect its interests and those of the USL-1 teams from any breach of contract. The USL claimed that the NASL and the TOA ownership group was "interfering with USL-1 team owners that are contractually obligated to participate in the 2010 season" and "made several misleading statements in a variety of press releases to taint the reputation of USL and its long history of developing the sport of soccer."
NASL's inaugural season was expected to begin play in April 2010. However, after announcing that it would not sanction either the NASL or the USL First Division for 2010, U.S. Soccer announced in January 2010 that it would run a temporary USSF Division 2 Professional League for the 2010 season that included 12 teams from both the NASL and USL-1, putting the NASL on hold for at least a year.
Following the 2010 season, NASL consolidated its member franchises to meet the new Division 2 standards set out by U.S. Soccer. The NASL submitted its formal application for Division 2 sanctioning to U.S. Soccer on November 11, 2010. NASL was provisionally approved by U.S. Soccer on November 21, 2010.
The provisional sanctioning was revoked by U.S. Soccer in January 2011 due to the collapse of two of the ownership groups involved with NASL and serious questions about several others. On February 12, 2011 U.S. Soccer again provisionally sanctioned NASL to operate a Division II men's professional soccer league for the 2011 season.
David Downs became NASL Commissioner, effective April 4, 2011. Downs had previously worked for ABC Sports where he had secured the US television rights to every World Cup from 1994 to 2014, worked for Univision, and had been Executive Director of the unsuccessful US Bid Committee to bring the 2022 FIFA World Cup to the United States.
NASL began regular league play in April 2011 with eight members comprising former clubs from the USL First Division, the USL Second Division, plus expansion franchises. The first official match of the first official NASL season began April 9, 2011, with expansion side FC Edmonton notching an away win over the Fort Lauderdale Strikers, 2-1.
On June 20, 2011, NASL officially announced that an expansion franchise had been granted to Ottawa Fury FC. The team will begin play in 2014, pending the refurbishment of Frank Clair Stadium. The stadium issue is related to the city's proposed return to the CFL, meaning that Ottawa could have two teams beginning play in the same year.
In February 2012, Commissioner David Downs signed a two-year contract extension to remain as NASL Commissioner, although with an option to leave at the end of the 2012 season.
The 2012 season saw strong fan support for the newcomer San Antonio Scorpions. San Antonio led the league in attendance, averaging 9,178 fans, and selling over 3,000 season tickets, causing San Antonio to consider accelerating their plans to build a new stadium.
On July 12, 2012 the NASL announced that the New York Cosmos would be joining the league in the 2013 season. The original New York Cosmos were the most visible team in the original NASL, and played their games in four stadiums, most prominently Giants Stadium. The Cosmos will play home games at Hofstra University's James M. Shuart Stadium, where the original Cosmos played during the 1972 and 1973 seasons.
On October 4, 2012, Commissioner David Downs announced that he would be resigning after the end of the 2012 season, citing a desire to return to his home in New York. On November 27, 2012, NASL announced that Bill Peterson would be the new NASL Commissioner. Peterson was formerly the Senior VP of AEG Sports and Managing Director of the Home Depot Center from 2000-2006, a position where he oversaw the management of numerous MLS teams and the development of soccer-specific stadiums.
In July 2013, NASL teams took advantage of the break afforded by the new split-season schedule to host several international friendlies, including several matches against Mexican, Brazilian, and Guatemalan teams, while the N.Y. Cosmos travelled to London to play lower division English teams.
Founding and expansion teams
In late 2010 announced its formal bid to the USSF for Division 2 sanctioning with the required minimum eight teams. With provisional approval for the league to begin play in 2011, eight clubs were officially confirmed to launch the inaugural season: Atlanta Silverbacks, Carolina RailHawks, FC Edmonton, Fort Lauderdale Strikers (formerly Miami FC), Montreal Impact, NSC Minnesota Stars, Puerto Rico Islanders and FC Tampa Bay.
Four of these eight teams—the Carolina RailHawks, Miami FC, Minnesota United (formerly Minnesota Thunder/Stars) and Montreal Impact—played in the USL First Division in 2009, and were among the set of TOA teams that initiated the original breakaway from the USL. FC Tampa Bay had been scheduled to be a 2010 USL-1 expansion franchise, but switched to the NASL shortly after NASL was officially formed. The Atlanta Silverbacks played competitively in USL-1 in 2008, and spent 2009 on hiatus from the league prior to joining the NASL. FC Edmonton was an expansion team that was founded in 2010. The Puerto Rico Islanders played in the USL in the 2010 season.
Several teams scheduled to join NASL did not ultimately end up playing in NASL during the 2011 inaugural season. Crystal Palace Baltimore of the USL Second Division had planned to join the NASL, but announced in late 2010 that it would not play in NASL in 2011 due to a needed restructuring. The Rochester Rhinos of the USL First Division joined NASL on November 30, 2009, but as of October 25, 2010, the Rochester Rhinos had decided to join the new USL Pro League for 2011. AC St. Louis, part of the initial TOA group that formed NASL, closed in late 2010 after only one season due to financial difficulties. The Vancouver Whitecaps did not play in NASL in 2011 because the Vancouver Whitecaps FC joined MLS in 2011. The Minnesota Thunder ceased operations due to financial problems, and were replaced by the NSC Minnesota Stars under different ownership.
The league continued with eight teams in 2012, losing one team and adding one team. The Montreal Impact joined Major League Soccer. The San Antonio Scorpions FC joined NASL as an expansion side. The team is mostly owned by former real estate developer Gordon Hartman and plays at the South Texas Area Regional Soccer Complex (STAR Soccer Complex) in north central San Antonio.
As of 2012, Traffic Sports USA owned the Fort Lauderdale Strikers, and were part owners of the Carolina RailHawks and Atlanta Silverbacks, although both Traffic Sports and NASL were interested in finding other owners for Carolina and Atlanta to eliminate the multiple ownerships.
NASL played the spring 2013 season with seven teams, with one team on hiatus. NASL announced in December 2012 that the Puerto Rico Islanders would not play in the 2013 spring season. The Islanders were undergoing a reorganization, and with a change in government, there was uncertainty as to whether and how much of a government subsidy the Islanders would receive. The New York Cosmos restored the league to eight teams when it joined for the fall 2013 season, playing its home games at Hofstra University's James M. Shuart Stadium. NASL's expansion into New York marked the first time the league expanded into a city where an MLS team was already present, marking the beginning of a slight shift in NASL expansion strategy, with NASL later considering expanding into other large markets with MLS teams, such as the northern Virginia suburbs of Washington DC, and Los Angeles.
Future planned expansion
The NASL plans to add three teams for the 2014 season: the Ottawa Fury FC, the Virginia Cavalry FC of Ashburn, Virginia, and Indy Eleven of Indianapolis. The Ottawa Fury will move over from the USL Premier Development League following the refurbishment of Frank Clair Stadium. The Virginia Cavalry plan to play in the new Edelman Financial Field. The Indy Eleven are in talks to play at Indiana University – Purdue University Indianapolis until they complete their own stadium. On July 25, 2013, the NASL awarded expansion franchises to Jacksonville and Oklahoma City for the 2015 season.
In addition, the NASL has indicated its vision is to grow to 18 to 20 teams by 2018. They hope to add more teams in the West and Midwest, with an eye on placing teams in the 25 largest metropolitan areas without professional soccer teams in order to tap into greater media exposure and sponsor interest.
Sponsorship and television coverage
|Team||Kit||Sponsor||Annual Value||Year Expires|
|Carolina Railhawks||Adidas||BCBS of NC||Undisclosed||Undisclosed|
|FC Edmonton||Adidas||United Way||Undisclosed||Undisclosed|
|Fort Lauderdale Strikers||Joma||None||N/A||N/A|
|Minnesota United FC||Admiral||None||N/A||N/A|
|New York Cosmos||Nike||Emirates||$1M||2015|
|San Antonio Scorpions||Nike||Toyota||Undisclosed||Undisclosed|
|Tampa Bay Rowdies||Admiral||Mainsail Suites||Undisclosed||Undisclosed|
|Ottawa Fury FC||Admiral||TBD||N/A||N/A|
|Virginia Calvary FC||TBD||TBD||N/A||N/A|
Some NASL teams have been able to attract shirt sponsors over the past several seasons. The largest deal to date was the Cosmos signing Emirates through the 2015 season for $1M annually. Toyota's sponsorship of the Scorpions is tied into several other sponsorship programs involving the team and team ownership. Indy Eleven announced on October 1, 2013 that they had reached a three-year deal with Honda Manufacturing of Indiana LLC and central Indiana Honda dealers worth $1M annually to be the shirt sponsor for the team, the deal is on par with the one announced by the Cosmos earlier in the year.
All league games are broadcast online on the NASL official website through uStream. To date, no national television contract has been signed, though each team has contracts in place to broadcast their home games on local TV.
|Season||League avg.||Highest team||Lowest team||Ref|
|2011||3,770||11,507 (Montreal Impact) (L)||1,676 (Minnesota Stars)|||
|2012||3,810||9,178 (San Antonio Scorpions) (F)||1,525 (FC Edmonton)|||
|Spring 2013||4,662||7,140 (San Antonio Scorpions)||2,059 (FC Edmonton)|||
|Fall 2013||4,676||6,859 (New York Cosmos) (F)||2,543 (FC Edmonton)|||
- (F) designates the team's first season in NASL; (L) designates the team's last season in NASL
- Bill Peterson - Commissioner
- Brian Melekian - Chief Operating Officer
- Rishi Sehgal - Director of Business Development & Legal Affairs
- Michael Preston - Director of Public Relations
- David Cruz - Manager of Finance
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