NASL – Aiding the Growth of Football in America

NASL – Aiding the Growth of Football in America

This month Puerto Rico FC was announced as the newest member of the North American Soccer League (NASL). Puerto Rico, which will join the league in 2016, will be based in Bayamón. The club’s formation comes four years after the Puerto Rico Islanders folded (for declining to take part in the 2013 NASL season). One of the main investors at Puerto Rico FC is Carmelo Anthony who in early June bought the club after it was confirmed as the NASL’s most recent franchise. Currently the NASL has seen an influx of investment by athletes such as current NBA star Carmelo Anthony and former football players Ronaldo and Paolo Maldini. In an interview for ESPN Anthony explained that buying the franchise in his homeland Puerto Rico was a way of giving back to the community: “The island didn't really have anything that they could kind of call their own, that they could represent not just on the island but from a global standpoint”. The expansion of the NASL to Puerto Rico, as well as to Miami---Miami FC will join in 2016---is good news for the league as Virginia Cavalry FC and Oklahoma City FC, have withdrawn from the NASL. According to the Massive Report there has been speculation that the league could also expand to Hartford, Connecticut. Fox CT Sports Director Rich Coppola has reported that the team would be named Hartford City FC. Football in the United States, and Major League Soccer especially has attracted a growing number of fans. Football’s growth in the USA has been aided by the fact that major football stars such as David Beckham, as well as more recently Steven Gerrard, David Villa, Frank Lampard, and Andrea Pirlo have moved to the the MLS. The rising popularity of the league has meant that the MLS has been able to continue to expand, with additional new franchises such as Atlanta and Los Angeles FC scheduled to join MLS in 2018. MLS franchises, however, are expensive and therefore the NASL has become a viable alternative for speculators who are looking to invest their money in North American football. The size of the North American market also means that there are several potential opportunities in which the MLS is not interested. As Don Garber, commissioner of the MLS, stated in January 2015: "It’s very positive that we have multiple owners in an important market that want to come into Major League Soccer." He also added "We have got a lot of decisions we need to make.” With expansion limited to 24 teams, however, some markets will ultimately miss out on MLS football, and could instead turn towards the NASL. Also, as with other U.S. Sports, football in North America has no relegation/promotion system, and as Don Garber announced, there are no plans to include this system in the MLS. This means that teams which participate in the NASL could only move to the MLS if they are able to purchase a franchise, as was the case with the Montreal Impact and the Minnesota United franchise. The incorporation of a smaller soccer market such as Puerto Rico---which might never achieve an MLS franchise---into the NASL, demonstrates that the NASL has become a viable alternative in North American football. A new TV deal, such as the one recently signed with ESPN, also means that the league will receive greater exposure as well as increased advertising income, and therefore could be a much needed stimulus to the growth of football in the United States, and Canada. By Thomas Farines -

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This month Puerto Rico FC was announced as the newest member of the North American Soccer League (NASL). Puerto Rico, which will join the league in 2016, will be based in Bayamón. The club’s formation comes four years after the Puerto Rico Islanders folded (for declining to take part in the 2013 NASL season).

One of the main investors at Puerto Rico FC is Carmelo Anthony who in early June bought the club after it was confirmed as the NASL’s most recent franchise. Currently the NASL has seen an influx of investment by athletes such as current NBA star Carmelo Anthony and former football players Ronaldo and Paolo Maldini.

In an interview for ESPN Anthony explained that buying the franchise in his homeland Puerto Rico was a way of giving back to the community: “The island didn’t really have anything that they could kind of call their own, that they could represent not just on the island but from a global standpoint”.

The expansion of the NASL to Puerto Rico, as well as to Miami—Miami FC will join in 2016—is good news for the league as Virginia Cavalry FC and Oklahoma City FC, have withdrawn from the NASL. According to the Massive Report there has been speculation that the league could also expand to Hartford, Connecticut. Fox CT Sports Director Rich Coppola has reported that the team would be named Hartford City FC.

Football in the United States, and Major League Soccer especially has attracted a growing number of fans. Football’s growth in the USA has been aided by the fact that major football stars such as David Beckham, as well as more recently Steven Gerrard, David Villa, Frank Lampard, and Andrea Pirlo have moved to the the MLS. The rising popularity of the league has meant that the MLS has been able to continue to expand, with additional new franchises such as Atlanta and Los Angeles FC scheduled to join MLS in 2018.

MLS franchises, however, are expensive and therefore the NASL has become a viable alternative for speculators who are looking to invest their money in North American football. The size of the North American market also means that there are several potential opportunities in which the MLS is not interested. As Don Garber, commissioner of the MLS, stated in January 2015: “It’s very positive that we have multiple owners in an important market that want to come into Major League Soccer.” He also added “We have got a lot of decisions we need to make.” With expansion limited to 24 teams, however, some markets will ultimately miss out on MLS football, and could instead turn towards the NASL.

Also, as with other U.S. Sports, football in North America has no relegation/promotion system, and as Don Garber announced, there are no plans to include this system in the MLS. This means that teams which participate in the NASL could only move to the MLS if they are able to purchase a franchise, as was the case with the Montreal Impact and the Minnesota United franchise.

The incorporation of a smaller soccer market such as Puerto Rico—which might never achieve an MLS franchise—into the NASL, demonstrates that the NASL has become a viable alternative in North American football. A new TV deal, such as the one recently signed with ESPN, also means that the league will receive greater exposure as well as increased advertising income, and therefore could be a much needed stimulus to the growth of football in the United States, and Canada.

By Thomas Farines –

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