Today they lose a second club.
The Tampa Bay Rowdies announced their departure from the NASL, commencing play in the USL for the 2017 season. The build-up was undeniable, first with rumors of the change, followed by announcements by the USL that expansions announcements would come this week, as well as Rowdies owner Bill Edwards taking in the last Rowdies home game with senior members of USL.
“We are excited to join the United Soccer League in 2017,” said Rowdies Chairman and CEO Edwards. “I have said from the day I acquired controlling interest in this club that I wanted to make it one of the most successful teams in North America. The USL is a vibrant league, and this move is a necessary and positive step toward reaching the long-term goals and objectives of the club.”
The Rowdies have been in the NASL since its inaugural season in 2011, winning it all in 2012. They have not returned to the postseason since then. 2016 saw some friction between the club and the league with rumors persisting that Edwards was denied in his attempt to buy the Ft. Lauderdale Strikers and his open criticism on the quality of refereeing in the league.
“With our league headquartered in Tampa, we are pleased to welcome the Rowdies to the USL for next season,” said Alec Papadakis, the Chief Executive Officer of the USL. “This allows us to expand our footprint into the Southeast with a storied soccer brand while meeting our key tenets of market size, committed local ownership and stadium development. In Bill Edwards, we have a dedicated local owner who has invested heavily in the team’s stadium, front office and media efforts and is considered one of the marketplace’s top business and forward-thinking leaders. Bill is a renowned philanthropist and has donated significant money for children and veterans causes.”
The USL will stand at 31 teams next season, with another expected to join in 2018, but their growth for 2017 may not be done.
The bleeding may not be over for the NASL as Jonathan Tannenwald today reported that Ottawa Fury players were informed of the club’s move to USL next season.
A source who'd know just told me that Ottawa Fury players were told today that the team is headed to the USL next year.
— Jonathan Tannenwald (@thegoalkeeper) October 25, 2016
There are additional rumors that Rayo OKC may go dark for the 2017 season.
A disappointing development for the NASL, they currently look to have 11 clubs play next season with the arrival of the Deltas. If the reports on the Fury and Rayo are true, they will field a nine-team league for 2017.