The 2016 NASL season may have started with 11 teams and ended with 12 but it looks like 2017 will have nowhere near that number, if the season kicks off at all. Here’s a look at the most recent available status of every team that kicked a ball in 2016.
We may never get a final answer on what a RailHawk is (at least one we can share on this site), as the team rebranded last week, becoming North Carolina FC. The team announced a new crest, new colors, bids in both MLS and the NWSL and a push for a new stadium.
“This is a brand restatement,” said North Carolina FC Owner Steve Malik in a release dated November 6th. “We aspire to be at the top level of both men’s and women’s professional soccer, so we are pursuing MLS and NWSL bids as well as a new stadium. We made a conscious decision to brand ourselves as North Carolina’s professional club. A united soccer community will be one of the keys to reaching these goals.”
But, maybe not everyone is thrilled by the re-brand or the team’s use of #ncfc.
— Norwich City FC (@NorwichCityFC) December 6, 2016
And as for their status within the NASL? Like many other things in the lower divisions of American soccer, it’s all fluid.
— Neil Morris (@ByNeilMorris) December 6, 2016
First, the club re-signed Head Coach Colin Miller to multi-year contract after he guided them to a third-place finish and the 2016 postseason.
“The expectation, as it is every year, is to win it,” Miller told the11.ca. “If I said any different, I wouldn’t justify my three-year contract.”
An interview with owner Tom Fath on the same site allowed him to share the faith he had in the NASL and that the Eddies would play in it next year.
“I am still fully committed to playing in NASL,” he shared. “The plan going forward is that the league will be playing in 2017.”
Many, many questions surround the state of the Ft. Lauderdale Strikers. After reports of payroll troubles for the club circulated for much of the season (along with issues paying vendors and some staff), the prevailing question was whether there’d be a 2017 for the team.
After a period of silence from the club, a Twitter post on December 7th suggested there might be one after all.
— Strikers (@FTLStrikers) December 7, 2016
However, it seems the Strikers may still owe some people money.
And when will I get paid? ? https://t.co/aDcezw1uZi
— Giussi Gentile (@GiussiJuice7) December 7, 2016
One of the individuals they definitely owe payment to is the force of nature known as Bill Edwards, the owner of the Tampa Bay Rowdies. Edwards recently launched a lawsuit against the team, claiming he was owed over $300,000 in loans made to them. A promissory note signed by Strikers Managing Director Luis Cuccatti exists, detailing the club had put up their tangible assets, patents, trademarks, copyrights and even the rights to their very name, putting their future in a precarious position.
The team is reportedly being shopped and a tweet from Strikers beat reporter Pedro Heizer on Tuesday evening indicates the club may have attained new ownership.
Not a lot of concrete information is available about the league’s runners-up. Despite being a team that performed exceptionally well, took home hardware and had one of the better attendances in the NASL, the league’s current state of instability still plays a large factor in where they’ll end up.
The only thing known is that the team does intend to take the field in 2017. The question is in which league?
(2/2) Know that Indy Eleven continues to plan ahead for the 2017 season at Carroll Stadium and that we provide updates as possible.
— Indy Eleven (@IndyEleven) December 6, 2016
Nipun Chopra has spent silly season sharing what his sources have offered him on the Indy Eleven specifically and the NASL in general. On December 1st, he indicated that three sources had informed him that Indy was leading the charge to save the NASL.
Five days later, the tune had changed.
— Nipun ?⚽️?⚗️ (@NipunChopra7) December 7, 2016
Wherever they wind up, the club can count on strong leadership as they announced the return of Head Coach Tim Hankinson for the 2017 season.
“As I continue to work regarding the Jacksonville Armada’s future, I am committed to doing what I feel is in the best interest of the team’s long-term viability,” said Mark Frisch, CEO of the Jacksonville Armada, in a statement last week.
“It is my intention to keep the sport of professional soccer alive in Jacksonville and I am working with my leadership team at the Armada to develop a strategy that does just that. Jacksonville’s soccer fans have proven that it is a viable market – and we are working hard to make sure our vision for the future comes to fruition.”
On Sunday, a report from Empire of Soccer indicated that the Armada had given notice to the NASL that they were no longer a part of the league and were in talks with USL. The report also indicates that Frisch may be looking to reduce his role in the team.
EDIT: Empire of Soccer released a report indicating the Armada have terminated all player contracts effective Wednesday.
There’s not much to share about the expansion club that just completed its first year. Rumors abound that USL is not interested in the club because of the Beckham Miami MLS club that’s long overdue. It’s unclear whether Don Garber’s announcement of a deadline for the former Manchester United player to get the team off the ground will have an impact on a league switch for the NASL club, but the team itself has managed to keep things vague when talking about 2017.
— The Miami FC (@TheMiamiFC) December 8, 2016
The team held a groundbreaking ceremony on the site of their new stadium on Monday.
The NASL champions have long been silent on anything outside of their play on the field. Months of deflecting answers culminated in silence in the postseason while the club bled players, coaches, and staff.
Silence until yesterday.
The Guardian published an interview with club chairman Seamus O’Brien on Tuesday where he essentially declared that the 2017 season would not see a team for the green and white take the field for the NASL.
“We are in a situation where over the last few months, we have a position where the NASL has been reduced from what originally looked like 13 teams to potentially seven,” stated O’Brien.
“For us as the Cosmos, playing in a seven-team league potentially, you need to make decisions now. You can’t wait until February, March to see if you are kicking a ball in April. It’s a business decision you have to take now. That’s not an option for us.”
The chairman also dismissed USL as an option.
“The Cosmos couldn’t play in the third division. We just couldn’t do it. And everybody we have spoken to, the discussions we have had internally amongst the group and our major partners, to a man – that is just not an option for us.”
While more open to the possibility of joining MLS, the Cosmos have a serious obstacle to overcome: Don Garber.
“We have two teams in MLS in New York,” said the MLS commissioner in a state of the league address last week. “We are not going to have a third … I wish them [the Cosmos] luck, and I don’t say that lightly. When it reverberates around the world that there is instability in professional soccer, I don’t think that’s good for anybody.”
The Cosmos will have to work to find answers to their current problems, but in the meanwhile, it appears there will be no team to accompany the brand for the foreseeable future.
The club also announced a partnership with the Montreal Impact of MLS, becoming their affiliate, but maintaining their independence.
Puerto Rico FC found themselves in an odd situation in recent months. With their mid-year entry into the NASL, they managed only a half-season of play before the NASL’s future was no longer guaranteed. Since then, they have issued one of the shortest statements in regards to what their plans are for next year.
“We are aware that there are a lot of rumors going around about the NASL and its member teams. Please know that everyone at PRFC is working hard to ensure that we are playing in a competitive league in 2017. We thank all our fans for their patience and will provide any information as it becomes available.”
Nipun Chopra recently interviewed Thomas Payne, the president of Puerto Rico FC. From the responses given by Mr. Payne, it appears that the club believes a future in USL may await them.
“We are committed to soccer in Puerto Rico for the long haul, and changing leagues would not affect that. Right now, we’re still an NASL team and I’ve had no update in quite a few days about league status, but, let’s be clear, we cannot stop the momentum, we need to be playing.”
“It sounds like a merger of leagues (USL and NASL) is possible at this point and let me reiterate that Carmelo thinks highly of the NASL structure.”
But, ultimately a small league would not be an option for the team that barely dipped their foot in the NASL waters.
“Look, I’ve been around soccer for a long time, having worked at LA Galaxy and even in advisory roles within some USL teams,” he added. “A league with only 5–6 teams is not competitive and not meaningful, and ultimately not something we’re interested in. This is why we hope this merger will happen, or we’ll continue to explore our other options.”
Rayo OKC has not offered much clarity into their situation at all, but it seems hard to believe that the club would make a return in any league or any market in 2017. No statement has been available and no reason really exists to believe they will return next year based on reports regarding the team.
The Oklahoman reported that Rayo had no presence at the NASL Board of Governors meetings and that all players had been released from their contracts.Additional claims that players had not been paid by the club gained credibility when Ian Svantesson, a former forward for OKC, tweeted a reply to Gentile’s comment about not getting paid by the Strikers.
@GiussiJuice7 join the club?
— Ian Svantesson (@IanSvantesson) December 7, 2016
Last week, the Rowdies announced #MLS2STPETE, an effort to win a spot in MLS.
“We are committed to expanding the world’s game right here in downtown St. Petersburg, and we feel strongly that joining Major League Soccer is the next logical step,” said Rowdies Chairman & CEO Bill Edwards.
Edwards also unveiled an $80 million expansion plan, privately funded, to renovate and expand Al Lang Stadium to 18,000 seats.
No matter how you cut it, things look dire for the NASL with the definite loss of three clubs and the multitude of questions that surround those that did not leave. Much will hinge on the decisions the USSF will make in regards to the division designations the NASL and USL will receive.