- Posted by Drew Epperley
- On July 26, 2013
- 3 Comments
- Features, MLS Expansion, NASL Expansion
The North American Soccer League announced on Thursday that they would be expanding yet again in 2015 to new new markets, Jacksonville, Florida and Oklahoma City, Oklahoma.
Yes, two new cities to join after they expand to Ottawa, Northern Virginia and Indianapolis in 2014. The league currently has five expansion teams now waiting in the wings with the New York Cosmos set to start off this fall in their expansion year. Hard to believe that the NASL has gone from seven clubs to potentially 14 in just a few short years.
The league hopes to get back the Puerto Rico Islanders who are currently on hiatus by the 2014 season.
So what does all of this expansion in the US second division really mean?
For one, they still don’t have any clubs on the west coast and the majority of their league continues to be focused on the Southeast, a region that MLS is lacking in at the moment. With the addition of Jacksonville, the NASL now has five teams in the Southeast, seven if you want to lump in San Antonio and Oklahoma City.
The NASL continues to state that they want to be a bigger league and even a better league than MLS. The Scoring Third posed an interesting question recently on whether or not the NASL was going to be the next USFL.
The USFL did not compete directly with the NFL, instead initially going with a spring/summer schedule. MLS is one of the few professional soccer leagues in the world to use a “summer schedule” playing from March to November where most play a “winter schedule” from August to May. While the NASL could not immediately offer a schedule in-line with the rest of the leagues around the world, they’ve experimented with a split schedule in 2013 playing in the spring and fall with a break during the summer. Eventually, the NASL could gain the favor of FIFA and other major leagues if they can move to a true “winter schedule” and thus avoid competing directly with MLS.
I’ve always viewed the NASL as another WHA or ABA to MLS. A league that believes they are in competition with the main league but really has not shot of over taking it. The big difference between the NASL and MLS isn’t the salary cap or even history of some clubs. No, it is the owners. MLS has a set of owners that are on the same page (at least the majority of them are, no word about Chivas USA’s owner at the moment). The NASL on the other hand as a few owners that know what they are wanting while a few others that still have their sights set on MLS. I also don’t think it was any coincidence that MLS paired up with the USL-Pro for their development strategy and not the NASL.
The other big difference that still sets these two leagues apart is TV. One has a deal and a solid footprint on the national TV scale while the other is non-exisitent. Until the NASL gets some sort of TV deal like MLS has, they’ll never be in the same conversation as MLS in my book.
MLS isn’t done with their expansion over this vast country, that we know. And their next stomping grounds will likely be in the heart of the NASL as well with Orlando and Miami. I still believe MLS will go to 24 clubs before long and if the NASL attempt to keep up with that pace they’ll need teams on the west coast to make it work. That means a team in LA, one in Phoenix, Las Vegas even. So far the NASL is expanding into markets that are untapped and it is working.
At the end of the day it is still all about growing the game here in the US.