The NASL has expanded the 2016 Spring season by two new teams in two new cities!
And yet its size remains the same.
While Rayo OKC and Miami FC are set to kick a ball for the first time this year, this is tempered by the news that the San Antonio Scorpions have ceased operations in the NASL and, just tonight, the league-operated Atlanta Silverbacks will not play in 2016, and possibly ever again.
“The goal all along has been to secure committed local ownership in Atlanta, but despite significant conversations with a number of interested parties, we were unable to identify a group that could lead the Silverbacks in a direction consistent with the rest of our clubs,” NASL Commissioner Bill Peterson said. “It’s unfortunate, and particularly sad for the Silverbacks’ passionate fan base, which has supported the club tremendously throughout the years.”
With the start of Atlanta United of MLS on the horizon, it’s easy to imagine the difficulty in finding a new ownership group who would want to keep the club in its hometown and combat an MLS side.
But, Commissioner Peterson was correct about the passion of its fan base, in which there was plenty of fight. Before the 2015 season, a GoFundMe was created by the Atlanta Silverbacks Alliance Council to support players of a club that was allegedly operating on a shoestring budget. The NASL Atlanta Trust came into operation at the end of the season in a bid to create a lifeline for the club.
But without the ability to find a local ownership group to keep them in Atlanta, it seems that all these efforts were in vain. With NASL clubs footing the bill for the operation of the Silverbacks, it was reported by Sulaiman Folarin’s sources at the Board of Governers meeting in September that only four NASL teams wanted to continue this set-up. At this juncture, it seems a safe bet to say that most of the clubs did not want to be its support any longer.
An 11-team NASL went into the offseason at season’s end and after two expansions, an 11-team NASL will resume operations. Puerto Rico FC will join in the fall, but with Minnesota United on the way out, this is another game of “good news, bad news”. Here’s to hoping the next expansions in Chicago and the West Coast happen by 2017 and that the rest of the league can keep its shape.
What are your thoughts? It seemed to me that the club would fold at some point, perhaps be moved west. The suspension of operations doesn’t really come as a surprise, but it’s the impact on the size of the league as growth was coming that disappoints me. Perhaps it finds new life elsewhere? Comment below.
Any time a team has to cease operations, American soccer loses. However, this is the world we live in. Clubs all over the world go into administration and sometimes fold. Sometimes they get resurrected by the fans (AFC Wimbledon).
In this case though, fans tried their hardest to keep the team going and I commend Paul Scanling and the Atlanta Supporters Trust for their hard work. Sadly though, in this country, with closed leagues and no pro/rel, no one is going to invest in the Silverbacks when Arthur Blank will have an MLS team in his new NFL stadium in downtown Atlanta.
Another thing that stinks is that the league is losing a soccer specific stadium that was built and owned by the club. We can only hope that OKC and Miami can pick up the slack and make us forget about the two tough losses this year in Atlanta and San Antonio.