So This is What a Soccer Sinkhole Looks Like
It looks like the days of the North American Soccer League (2.0) are numbered. The always inflammatory Brian Straus posted an article on SI.com yesterday that seemingly set the American soccer internets on fire, again. While Straus didn’t publish any direct quotes from any of the parties involved, he all but wrote a eulogy for the five year old professional league. The highlights are, in essence, that it is highly likely that one of the league’s twelve teams will fold before the 2017 season begins (Rayo OKC), while another will leave for MLS (Minnesota United) and another isn’t actually being funded by its owners anymore (Fort Lauderdale Strikers). Carolina Railhawks, Tampa Bay Rowdies, and Ottowa Fury are rumored to be trying to find a way into USL, or perhaps the would be Canadian Premier League in Ottowa’s case.
These developments, should they come to pass, probably mean that the NASL would no longer be able to function as a second division in US Soccer (not that divisions actually mean anything). There might only be six teams in the league when the calendar hits 2017, which includes the new San Francisco Deltas and a second year team in Puerto Rico. Peter Wilt’s Chicago project probably won’t be off the ground by then. The closest team to San Francisco at that point will literally be FC Edmonton, 1,477 miles away. Bet those guys are PUMPED. A six team league is not a league at all. I’d be shocked if the NASL as it exists could actually play games if that scenario comes to pass.
The shuttering of teams is bad enough for soccer in this country without even broaching the subject of whether it’s good for a whole league to fall apart, which is REALLY bad. NASL is/was an interesting venture to see if soccer can exist in the US as it does just about everywhere else in the world, i.e. without a safety net, where clubs can spend as much money as they want on whatever they want to spend it on. It was pretty easy to tell that Rayo OKC was stillborn, but revelations about the Strikers are surprising until you remember that the NASL let another team invade their back yard in Miami this year and attendance plummeted as a result in Fort Lauderdale.
So what does this mean for Louisville City?
Maybe nothing. But it could mean that suddenly four to six new independent teams join the USL, two of which are fairly close by in Indy Eleven and Carolina Railhawks. It could mean the Cosmos and the Rowdies, too. All four of those teams would make for a much, much stronger and probably more difficult USL, which is good. It would mean another nearby rival up Interstate 65. It would mean more competition for local talent, maybe. It could mean a longer season, but lower average travel costs. It would probably involve a change in the USL division/conference structure, which is a conversation for another day. I imagine that soccer’s popularity in this region might really intensify if suddenly there were four rival teams within a four or five hour drive of Louisville, e.g. Cincinnati, Indianapolis, St. Louis and Nashville. Think of the Florida derbies between Jacksonville, Tampa Bay, Miami and Orlando City B (lol at the last one but you get me). San Francisco might actually have four or five teams to play in their own time zone!
The NASL collapse, if it happens, is bad for soccer. But it could be pretty cool for us fans of the local team and local rivalries.