NASL Officially Returning to Puerto Rico in 2016 with NBA Star Carmelo Antony

IMAGE, NASL

by JAKE NUTTING
NASL Beat Writer

New York Knicks forward Carmelo Anthony has announced that he has officially bought into the North American Soccer League as the owner of Puerto Rico FC – set to begin play in the fall of 2016.

Empire of Soccer first reported on Anthony’s interest in bringing the league back to Puerto Rico last week when the star forward traveled as a special guest of the league for the historic friendly between the New York Cosmos and the Cuban national team. Anthony has been quietly working on the project for some time now, seeing it as an opportunity to raise the profile of the Carribean Island that both he and his wife have strong connections with.

“My passion for soccer has always been there,” Anthony told espnfc.com “I just always kept it to myself and among my circle. Going to games, sneaking into games and just watching and being around the sport over the years. The more time I started spending in Puerto Rico over the past six, seven years I realized that there was kind of a void down there on my island. The island didn’t really have anything that they could kind of call their own, that they could represent not just on the island but from a global standpoint.”

Puerto Rico has been without professional soccer since the end of 2012 when the Puerto Rico Islanders folded due to financial woes. That franchise enjoyed some success during its run in both the USL and NASL, including a 2008-2009 run to the semifinal round of the CONCACAF Champions League. The Islanders competed as a Caribbean nation in CCL qualifying as would Anthony’s new franchise.

While Anthony’s new team will not carry the Islanders name, it will don the familiar orange and will play in the same home venue of Juan Ramon Loubriel Stadium in Bayamon, located 10 miles outside the capital city San Juan. The 12,500 seat venue was originally constructed as a baseball facility but underwent extensive renovations in 2012 to fully convert into a soccer-specific stadium.

The renovations and a celebrity owner are a big first step toward boosting the footprint and local following for the Caribbean club. The Islanders averaged 2,161 fans in 2011 and 1,864 in 2012 before ultimately folding. While Anthony hopes to capture the locals, he also has eyes on the large Puerto Rican population scattered throughout North American.

“For me, it’s more about bringing that global awareness back to Puerto Rico,” Anthony said. “Everyone in the world wants to visit Puerto Rico. And there’s a lot of Puerto Ricans scattered throughout the world, and in America alone. I want to connect to those pockets of Puerto Ricans in New York, Chicago, Philadelphia, Orlando. That’s something I want to tap into.”

While Anthony is the first NBA player to join the ranks of NASL owners, he is one of several well-known athletes to join as owners this year. Brazilian legend Ronaldo became a minority owner of the Fort Lauderdale Strikers at the start of 2015 and former AC Milan great Paolo Maldini was announced as co-owner of the new Miami FC last month. Anthony is the sole owner of the new club at the moment, but there are talks about bringing in a new group of investors in the future.

“With Carmelo Anthony leading the charge, Puerto Rico FC has an owner who is very passionate about the great people of the island and the sport of soccer,” said NASL Commissioner Bill Peterson. “He is an extremely talented and focused businessman who sees the many opportunities that will be developed through the club. Puerto Rico FC will be a very special club, and we’re proud to have them in the NASL.”

Miami FC, who are scheduled to kick off in the spring of 2016, and Puerto Rico FC brings the number of NASL clubs to 13. However, questions still linger about the league-operated Atlanta Silverbacks past the 2015 season.

  • MLS 2

    He could of joined the cosmos ownership and help them get a stadium with his celebrity status or even better, he could of bought red bull with some other billionaires.
    Does he know about mls and whats the difference with nasl and mls.
    Garber should have giving him a signal about red bull.
    Now that Donovan wants be an owner of a mls team, I wonder where he will go.
    Miami with becks, vegas, a new san diego team,st.Louis or buy red bull with some other rich people.
    I think Donovan will end up in Houston with AEG or buying red bull with some other rich people.

    • slowleftarm

      You realize Red Bull has to agree to sell right? Also, Carmelo is not a billionaire. RBNY/MLS are out of his price range.

  • Scott

    Carmelo doesn’t have the money to invest in an MLS team. The expansion fee alone would kill the club. NASL fits his necessary investment.

  • OpenCupFan

    MLS 2 = wtf ru talking about?

    Another MLS bot joins the trolling posse.

    PRFC = road trip!