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)
U.S. Open Cup
San Antonio Scorpions
Minnesota United FC
Minnesota United FC
New York Cosmos
San Antonio Scorpions
Tampa Bay Rowdies
(1 title each)
|Most Supporters' Shields||Carolina RailHawks (2 shields)|
|TV partners||ESPN3 / ESPN Deportes|
|2014 NASL season|
The North American Soccer League (NASL) is a professional men's soccer league with ten teams — eight in the United States and two in 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 New York City.
The league is named for, but has no connection to, the original North American Soccer League. The modern NASL was founded in 2009, and began play in 2011 with eight teams, following a 2010 season that saw NASL and USL teams play in a combined temporary Division II league. The number of franchises is now at ten, with plans to expand to twelve teams in 2014.
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, along with the two teams with best combined spring/fall records meet in a four-team single elimination tournament known as The Championship. The winner of the final claims the Soccer Bowl at the end of the season. While there is no promotion and relegation with other leagues, Commissioner Bill Peterson has stated repeatedly that the league has an interest in introducing it to the pyramid.
- 1 Overview
- 2 Competition format
- 3 History
- 4 Teams
- 5 Organization
- 6 Attendance
- 7 Records and awards
- 8 Staff
- 9 See also
- 10 References
- 11 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. The league has taken great pains to express its affinity to the earlier league, in fact inviting to their AGM Phil Woosnam, who wrote them a kind letter wishing their success in the new league. The New York Cosmos have been particularly mindful of respecting the Cosmos' legacy, involving former players at all levels of the organization.
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 began playing a split-season format in 2013. Similar to Liga MX and Central American leagues, the schedule consisted of two competitions, Spring and Fall, with the winner of the Spring season earning the right to host the Fall champion in a one-game playoff, the Soccer Bowl. In 2014 the postseason was altered again with the introduction of The Championship: The NASL Spring Season and Fall Season champions will now be joined in the semi finals of The Championship by the two clubs with the next best overall records from both seasons combined. The semi final winners will compete in The Championship final. The NASL Spring Season and Fall Season champions will each host a semi final. The number one seed will be awarded to whichever of the Spring or Fall champions posts the better combined regular season record. The number three and number four seeds will be awarded to the next two clubs with the best overall records from both seasons combined. Clubs will retain their seeding throughout the postseason. The top-seeded semi final winner will host The Championship final. If the same club wins both seasons, the clubs with the second, third and fourth best overall records from both seasons combined will qualify for The Championship.
The Spring runs from early April until July 4, and following a one-month break, the Fall season runs from early August until early November. During the 2013 season, clubs played a 12-match Spring and 14-match Fall season. Due to the 2014 World Cup, however, NASL reportedly intends to play the vast majority of its schedule during the Fall to respect the international competition. The official schedule Spring schedule for 2014 was released in December 2013 and features a nine-game, single round-robin format. The Fall schedule will be released at a later date.
The split-season model has several intended benefits for NASL. A break in July that coincides with the international transfer window allows teams to acquire (or sell) players during the summer, providing ample time for new players to become acquainted with their new club and league. Secondly, NASL teams can use this break to generate additional revenue by hosting international friendlies or going on tour. In prior NASL seasons, the competition featured 8 teams playing a 28-game regular season schedule, with 14 home and 14 away matches, meeting each opponent four times. The playoffs consisted of the top six clubs, with the first and second-ranked teams receiving a bye until the semi-final round. The bottom four competed in a knockout round before advancing to the semi-finals. Both the semi-final and the final rounds were played over two-legs, the winner advancing on aggregate goals.
|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|
|2014||Minnesota United||San Antonio Scorpions||San Antonio Scorpions||Minnesota United|
Similar to other American sports leagues (and unlike many European soccer leagues), NASL does not see automatic promotion or relegation for its member clubs. 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-PRO. There are occasional opportunities, however, for successful teams in Divisions II and III that meet specific criteria (most critically, financial) to join MLS as an expansion team, as the Montreal Impact did following the 2011 season.
The Woosnam Cup is a newly created cup to be awarded by NASL supporters to the team with the highest season points total in order to recognize excellent play on the field throughout the entire year. It replaces the regular season champion trophy that was awarded in 2011 and 2012 before the league adopted the split season format.
NASL teams also occasionally play in international competitions, most notably in the CONCACAF Champions League. The best Division II team performances to date were in the 2008-2009 Champions League, when the Puerto Rico Islanders reached the semifinals and the then-Division II Montreal Impact reached the quarterfinal round. NASL teams also play in the aforementioned international friendlies during the league's summer break.
NASL's U.S. based teams also play in the U.S. Open Cup. Division II teams have had some success in Cup play since MLS began, most notably in 1999 when the Rochester Rhinos won the title. Charleston Battery also reached the final in 2008, conceding the championship to D.C. United. NASL did not participate in the 2011 U.S. Open Cup during the league's first season, but joined the tournament in 2012 to some success as the Carolina RailHawks reached the Quarterfinals that year. In 2014, both the Carolina RailHawks and the Atlanta Silverbacks reached the Open Cup Quarterfinals.
The league's Canadian teams, FC Edmonton and Ottawa Fury F.C., participate in the Canadian Championship. This tournament consists of the Canadian Soccer Association's five professional clubs, the winner representing Canada in the CONCACAF Champions League.
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 clubs 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 TD Place 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.
|Planned expansion teams|
|Oklahoma City FC||Yukon, OK (Oklahoma City)||Miller Stadium (6,500)||2013||2016||TBA|
|Virginia Cavalry||Ashburn, VA||Edelman Financial Field (5,500)||2012||2016||TBA|
|Montreal Impact||Montreal, QC||Saputo Stadium (13,034)||2011||2011|
|Puerto Rico Islanders||Bayamón, Puerto Rico||Juan Ramón Loubriel Stadium (22,000)||2011||2012|
Founding members and expansion
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.
Current clubs Former club Club moved to MLS Future clubs
Future planned expansion
On July 25, 2013, the NASL awarded two new expansion franchises: 
The NASL has indicated its vision is to grow to 18 to 20 teams by 2018. NASL Commissioner Bill Peterson has reported interest in Hartford and Miami. Hartford had been home to the Connecticut Bicentennials which played in the previous version of the NASL. Peterson also disclosed on-going discussions with a Miami ownership group and that the area could support two teams. However, the priority remains to add more teams in the West, Midwest and Prairies, 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. Peterson has said the focus to expansion is having the right ownership groups in the right cities. NASL expansion conversations have taken place with interested parties from San Francisco, Los Angeles, Orange County, San Diego, and Las Vegas. In addition, Peterson has criticized the MLS expansion plans in cities with existing NASL teams (Miami, Atlanta, Minneapolis, and San Antonio), suggesting a turf war and increased competition between the two leagues.
In July 2014, it was reported that the NASL and the Canadian Soccer Association were looking into creating a seven team all Canadian league with the help of the CFL by 2016, thus establishing the first top tier fully Canadian league since Canadian Soccer League which folded in 1992. The format would resemble Major League Baseball’s American and National leagues, with the Soccer Bowl taking place between the champions of the American-based NASL teams and the Canadian-based NASL teams to determine the overall NASL champion. The Canadian soccer teams would partner with Canadian Football League teams and play in CFL stadiums. The three existing Canadian MLS teams (Toronto, Vancouver, and Montreal) would not be part of this league structure. FC Edmonton and Ottawa Fury would likely join this league. The Ottawa Fury is already affiliated with the CFL’s Ottawa Redblacks, both owned by Jeff Hunt. Meanwhile, no alliance currently exists between FC Edmonton and the CFL’s Edmonton Eskimos. The remaining potential NASL expansion sites with CFL-ties are Hamilton, Calgary, Winnipeg, and Saskatchewan.
NASL teams also participate in some rivalry matches. Supporters of Minnesota United FC and FC Edmonton created the Flyover Cup, a nod to the clubs' geographic location with respect to the rest of the league. Starting in 2010 when the Tampa Bay Rowdies returned, the Fort Lauderdale-Tampa Bay Rivalry was revived with the creation of the Coastal Cup with the Fort Lauderdale Strikers. The Rowdies claimed the first four Coastal Cups, with the Strikers winning the Cup for the first time in 2014.
|Derby Name||Most Wins||Titles||Other Club(s)||Titles||Recent winner|
|Florida Derby||Tampa Bay Rowdies||4||Fort Lauderdale Strikers||1||Fort Lauderdale Strikers |
|Flyover Cup||Minnesota United FC||3||FC Edmonton||1||Minnesota United FC |
The North American Soccer League operates as a group of independent club owners as opposed to the single-entity structure of Major League Soccer. Each club is a shareholder in the league, with one vote each on issues such as rule changes and contracts. The league requires that each club have a lead shareholder that holds at least 35% ownership in the club and is worth at least $20M.
The league now has 12 ownership groups for its 13 clubs. At one time Traffic owned three clubs and indirectly owned the largest stake in a fourth until Minnesota was divested. With the recent divestiture of Atlanta and Fort Lauderdale. Traffic only holds interests in Carolina.
|Atlanta Silverbacks||Nike||People HRO||Undisclosed||Undisclosed|
|Carolina RailHawks||Adidas||BCBS of NC||Undisclosed||Undisclosed|
|FC Edmonton||Adidas||The Fath Group||Undisclosed||Undisclosed|
|Fort Lauderdale Strikers||Acerbis|
|Minnesota United FC||Admiral||Atomic Data, Mall of America||Undisclosed||Undisclosed|
|New York Cosmos||Nike||Emirates||$1M||2015|
|Ottawa Fury FC||Admiral||Heart and Crown Irish Pubs||Undisclosed||Undisclosed|
|San Antonio Scorpions||Nike||Toyota||Undisclosed||Undisclosed|
|Tampa Bay Rowdies||Admiral||Hard Rock||Undisclosed||Undisclosed|
The league currently does not have any national sponsorship arrangements beyond using a specially designed soccer ball produced by Voit. The design incorporates blue panels with a star designed inspired in the NASL logo, which will be featured prominently over the brand’s logo in the center. The deal replaces an arrangement the league had with Joma since 2011. The league also reached a deal with Seiko to serve as the official time keeper of the NASL starting with the 2014 season. Seiko branding will be prominent on the fourth official’s substitution and timing boards, on goal line advertising boards, on the broadcast game clock and within the league’s official website NASL.com.
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. The Rowdies announced they had reach a sponsorship agreement with Seminole Hard Rock Hotel and Casino Tampa for the 2014 season. This became the first gambling related sponsorship within the league something common with clubs in other countries.
Beyond shirt sponsorship and kit production, teams have had varying success in establishing sponsorship packages with local and national brands. The San Antonio Scorpions were able to land numerous sponsorship arrangements with the opening of Toyota Field including an innovative sponsorship by CST brands Valero Corner Stores. The sponsorship arrangement with Valero involves stadium branding and sponsorship of all corner kicks at home games.
Media and digital coverage
|Carolina Railhawks||WRAL-TV||select home games|
|FC Edmonton||CKEM-DT||All home games|
|Fort Lauderdale Strikers|
|Indy Eleven||WNDY-TV||All home games, select away games|
|Minnesota United FC||KSTC-TV||All 2014 home games|
|New York Cosmos||ONE World Sports||All home games|
|Ottawa Fury FC||Rogers TV||All home games|
|San Antonio Scorpions||KSAT-TV||All home games|
|Tampa Bay Rowdies||WTTA Great 38||13 of 14 home games|
Through the 2013 season all league games were broadcast online on the NASL official website through uStream. For the 2014, the league signed an agreement with Perform Group to provide live streaming of NASL matches as part of a monthly subscription package costing $4.99 per month. As part of the agreement, Perform has also developed new websites for both the league and teams which will feature up to the minute NASL league and team news content and will include special features, premium video content, online team stores, photo galleries, player profiles, statistics, historical and informative content, ticket packages, fan and community interaction, and youth and academy news.
As of 2014 ESPN3 has signed on as the national broadcast partner for NASL Soccer. ESPN3 produces a Game of the Week for the NASL. The first game in their broadcast agreement was Soccer Bowl 2013. It was broadcast on ESPN3 and ESPN Deportes and provided live nationwide coverage with 109 media credentials being issued. The coverage was available for approximately 85 million households.
The Cosmos, through ONE World Sports use 9 HD cameras for all their home games. Under the current structure, the home club is responsible for producing the television broadcasts so the quality of broadcasts can vary dramatically from team to team. For 2014, Indy became the first team to announce they would broadcast select road games through their local television partner.
Stadium attendances are a significant source of regular income for the NASL and its clubs. The average and total attendances are listed below.
|Season||Regular Season Average (Excludes Playoffs)|
|Bold denotes league's highest full year attendance and italics denotes league's highest split season attendance|
Records and awards
NASL club records only include performance while team competed in the NASL.Current through 2014 Season.
|Team||Seasons||NASL Playoffs||NASL Regular Season||
(USOC, ACC, CFUCC)
|Total Honors||Major Honors / Championships|
|Soccer Bowl Winner||Soccer Bowl Runner-Up||Woosnam Cup Winner||Split Season Winner (2013+)||Woosnam Cup Runner-Up||Winner||USOC - Top NASL club|
|Minnesota United FC||4||1||1||1||1||-||–||1||5||2|
|San Antonio Scorpions||3||1||-||1||1||1||-||1||5||2|
|Tampa Bay Rowdies||4||1||-||-||-||2||–||-||3||1|
|New York Cosmos||1.5||1||-||-||1||-||-||-||2||1|
|Puerto Rico Islanders||2||-||-||-||-||1||1||n/a||2||1|
|Fort Lauderdale Strikers||4||-||2||-||-||-||–||-||2||0|
Bold denotes players still playing in the NASL.
Statistics as of December 2013
Goals as of October 16, 2014
- NASL Player of the Month
- NASL Best XI
- NASL Golden Ball Award
- NASL Golden Boot Award
- NASL Golden Glove Award
- NASL Coach of the Year Award
- NASL Fair Play Award
- NASL Goal of the Year Award
- Bill Peterson - Commissioner
- Brian Melekian - Chief Operating Officer
- Rishi Sehgal - Director of Business Development & Legal Affairs
- Toan Hang - Director of Finance
- Neal Malone - Director of Public Relations
- Steven Torres - Manager of Public Relations, International/Hispanic Media
- Daniel Kaufman - Accountant
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