NASL Commish Ends Oklahoma, Virginia Expansion, Doubles Down on Pro/Rel

Bill Peterson talking NASL

by JAKE NUTTING
NASL Beat Writer

NASL commissioner Bill Peterson spoke on a number of topics in an interview with The Telegraph that posted stateside early Monday morning. The biggest take away from the interview may be how strongly Peterson is trying to portray the NASL as an “international league” that exists within the global soccer landscape — unlike MLS. He also hit on the always popular topic of expansion and once again intently stated his desire to implement a form of promotion and relegation in North America after months of staying relatively quiet on the subject.

Forming a New Pyramid For Promotion and Relegation

Peterson has been anything but shy about his hopes of building the NASL into a league much more aligned with how the rest of the world’s leagues operate. That includes the biggest third rail topic in American soccer; promotion and relegation. The commissioner believes that the openness of the system is pivotal to unlocking the full potential of domestic soccer in the region.

“I don’t think we become the soccer powerhouse that we can until every community is engaged in the pro game through a tiered system that has promotion and relegation. When that happens, we become the largest soccer economy in the world bar none,” Peterson told The Telegraph. “At that point a lot of interesting things can happen.

“Without engaging every community in this country then all you have is a regional phenomenon, similar maybe to ice hockey in the United States, where if a city has a team there’s interest but if you don’t have a team there’s not much interest.”

Here is the snippet, though, that will be of most interest to proponents of the implementation of pro/rel.

“Not everyone has to participate, it’s a free country, but we’re going to continue to strive and move forward and start to take action at some point to build this out.”

Peterson indicates that he is in favor of pursuing the more traditional system even without the participation of all the leagues, namely MLS and also likely the third division USL. He mentions the amateur NPSL in the fourth division as an interested partner in shifting the paradigm to promotion and relegation. The commissioner seems to have qualms about his league being the point leader on forming a new pyramid system in North America, separate from MLS, to get an open system deal done down the road. Even he admits that getting the right fit for North America in place will take time, as the NASL and rest of the lower divisions continue to build roots.

Westward Expansion … and the end of Oklahoma, Virginia

Possibly the biggest roots that need to take hold are future expansion clubs in regions where the league has no footprint. The 11-team league is adding a fourth Florida team in Miami next season and is also returning to Puerto Rico with celebrity owner Carmelo Anthony after a two-year hiatus. Peterson told the Telegraph that the league previously announced expansion clubs in Oklahoma City and Virginia are finally dead in the water after years of delay. The league will now funnel the majority of its expansion energy into establishing clubs in the western region of the country where no NASL club currently operates.

Peterson is hopeful that the league will announce western expansion team’s by year’s end.

“We expect to make some announcements this year regarding new teams in the league based on the West Coast,” Peterson added. “So we start to get to a number of 15, 16 or 17 and from there we have to be careful what we do with the last three, which is a great place to be for us.

“We don’t have a hard deadline but within around 18 to 24 months we will be at our 20 teams and have a nice footprint on the East Coast and West Coast and we’re going to fill it in the centre of the country and in Canada as well.”

The west coast expansion would finally satisfy the standards set down by the US Soccer Federation for the NASL to have a toe on both sides of the continent. Peterson, though, seemingly shrugged off the requirement from USSF as something that never troubled him in the first place. He claims that the federation’s mandates were never the guiding force in the young league’s expansion plans.

“There’s standards [from US Soccer] that require a West Coast team but we have plenty of time to conform to that. It’s never played a role in our decision-making,” he added. “We keep this very simple, find the right owners and the right cities and when everything is in the right place and proper manner and we feel the club is going to be in place for a long time, we’ll make the decision to go forward. We can’t let other perimeters or deadlines affect our decision-making – or you’ll end up making bad decisions.”

  • maso

    Under this proposal, would NYCFC get relegated?

  • OpenCupFan

    I don’t think anything he said here is new, except in degrees.

    – Talk on pro/rel is not knew, but here he has gone from broad generizations to starting to give some details – albeit, vague details themselves ex NPSL talk is new as is his reference to his experiences in Europe with sports fans there.

    – Walking away from OK/Virginia is not knew either.

    – Expansion talk is much firmer this year than it was last year, specifically notable to me is the shift in talk from previous uncertain calls for an unknown amount of total clubs to a firm and specific number of 20 clubs. To me this was the most notable change in his message because it puts him on the hook to explain what the next step in the evolution of the league (or pro/rel developments) will be when/if they hit 20 teams.

    Interesting times. Wonder what the mls will do now? Buy up the entire NPSL? Or maybe the NPSL joins mls and then the chairman of NPSL gets a new job with mls? Along those lines, also wonder how mls is going to react to the USMNT youth joining NASL/Cosmos. There was a report of another signing in NASL about a week ago but that seems to have stopped, wonder what happened behind the scenes. Fascinating stuff really.

    • Jake Nutting

      This is the first time that anyone from the league has stated that OKC & Virginia are officially dead.

      • OpenCupFan

        I’m 99.99% sure he has said this before, if it isn’t in print it might have been in a radio/podcast interview. Unless I’m now hallucinating Peterson sound bites.
        Also, they were both removed from the NASL website a while back, which whether or not clearly annunciated is an indication to the world of the status of those teams in the NASL’s plans.
        Anyway, good article, wasn’t trying to criticize you, just commenting on his statements.

    • slowleftarm

      Yeah I’m sure Don’s real upset about 2 17 year olds signing with Cosmos.

      • OpenCupFan

        I’m sure he is upset because McWendys relies on cheap teen labor – and stealing money from poor little kids soccer academies.
        .
        Hey ‘”Slow” what do you think is going to happen if mls tries to steal some solidarity payments from the Cosmos? Can’t wait to see that.

        • slowleftarm

          I think Cosmos will cry like a bunch of babies like they do about everything else. My understand is that MLS is prevented from making those payments by US antitrust laws – go complain to Congress.

          • OpenCupFan

            Show me the law that says that.
            Again, to be clear, I said law – from Congress – not mls press release.
            .
            I’ll be waiting.

          • Luis

            Hey Slow why are u such a little Bi*ch

    • NASLfan

      new*

  • Kevin

    WHat about that team in Sacramento that gets incredible attendance. Cant they be something to look toward for expansion in the NASL. I know he does supposedly have a deadline to get teams onto the West Coast. Wouldnt that team make sense or is that something I just made up. And your right everything else is not new. Virginia and Oklahoma were never organized enough to get going

    • DanGerman

      Sac Rep. is the fall back expansion team if Minnesota or Miami can’t make it for 2017 . They’re only interested in MLS.

  • Hockey is hardly comparable to soccer in The US. Most new immigrants don’t come from hotbeds of hockey. You can play soccer in every state outside and for a very low cost; can’t do that with hockey.

    Look at The NBA and NFL. They seem to do just fine with teams in select cities.

  • CosmosPetke

    TV is a big driver for revenue so aside from the great national deals that MLS signed this offseason, these markets need quality local programming. Cosmos One World Sports is not a standard package for most carriers.

    The monetary commitment that Garber got from the MLS owners makes pro/rel not something that will be entertained for a decade at least. EPL provides parachute payments for teams that are relegated for the next 4 years. The money involved to make this happen is not around now.

    • NYCSPORTSPUNK

      I think a certain Network who just got the #EPL for the next 6 years would be a great fit for a Pro/Rel league. They could bill it as America finally has a real league with competition & consequences.

      • OpenCupFan

        I’d love to see the kind of numbers OWS gets at the end of the season.
        .
        But yeah, wouldn’t be amazing to see NBC – EPL lead-ins for NASL weekend games?

        • slowleftarm

          As long as NASL is a minor league (i.e. forever) it’s potential for growth is limited.

          • OpenCupFan

            Your comments, forever and ever, are minor league.
            .
            #bushleaguemls

      • CosmosPetke

        I should have said how much they give. It totals around $100 million per team for the 4 years in total. That doesn’t exist and NBC wouldn’t cover that for sure. Plus everyone was crying like little bitches on how the MLS players needed more salary and once an EPL team gets relegated they are contractually obligated to take up to a 50% cut.

        Too many factors that everyone is not including in their daydream.

      • Larry’s A Simpleton

        nasl on nbc? roflmao. seriously man, when you get out of high school you should head to hollywood to write comedies.. you’re pure gold!

  • freewilly

    I rather have this guy as an MLS commissioner than the don …. This guy would do a better job . I hope rele/ pro happens here

    • OpenCupFan

      Lol, don’t mean to be a cynic, but if he was mls commish he wouldn’t want pro/rel either.

  • VASoccerNut

    I don’t understand why the NASL never looked at the Hampton Roads area. Virginia Beach has 6000 seat soccer-specific stadium already built and has a population of 400K. It would have been a great market to expand to

  • Hydrahamster

    I was hoping that organizing the soccer pyramid into where promotion and relegation makes sense was Bill Peterson’s plans. It’s strange how every answer I had for the NASL are answered three days after complaining about the lack of detail about NASL’s promotion and relegation dreams on a different site. Thankfully they picked a plan that makes logical sense, unlike MLS. I can rest easy. However, Since Bill Peterson is the Chairman of the NASL and Commissioner, the best thing the NASL can do right now is find another commissioner while Peterson act as chairman or the other way around. Please add something with experience with global soccer inside and out.

    With Peterson going deeper into details, it makes it easier to follow the league without any fears of supporting a league’s dreams blindly. I’m happy it’s not something he is hoping the USSF will get the lower divisions into doing, but instead offering those lower division clubs a choice if they want to do it or not. That’s the right approach. Even how he is not planning to rush into any west coast teams for the USSF’s stupid rules make me feel at ease. Las Vegas is the only western city that looks like a good expansion choice right now. San Francisco and San Diego looks like nice locations, but very unknown how they will handle a soccer team. San Diego are more fans of a Liga MX team near by them and having a team in the San Francisco area will run the risk of drawing less crowds than San Jose’s MLS club (that gets around 10,000 supporters on average).

    With newers leagues that started last year called, American Soccer League (ASL) and Champions Soccer League USA (CSL USA) that are considered professional leagues not sanctioned by the USSF also planning to start promotion and relegation, I wonder if there could also be a partnership/merger in the future.

    • Kevin

      Doesnt San Diego have the Surf. Which interesting enough was an original NASL team back in the day..I think that’s where the kid the cosmos just signed is from. And I did not know about the fact teams take a financial hit when they get relegated.that’s really interesting

      • Hydrahamster

        They do because the top league have a better TV and sponsor deals. Plus attendance and marketing numbers usually decrease also.

    • slowleftarm

      Sj has sold out every game in its 18,000 seat stadium this year. The 10k average was because that’s all their previous stadium held. Nice try though.

  • alex gago

    In the spirit of pro-rel Bill. Please let USL D3 winner to join NASL D2 next year?

  • Hydrahamster

    True, but those players still get more than MLS. In promotion and relegation, not just the teams who get relegated suffers, but the players as well. If you do not have enough quality and consistency to stay in the top division, do not expect top division money playing in D2.

    MLS and the USL is most likely not included in the NASL’s promotion and relegation because MLS said more than once it will never happen for them. Meanwhile, the USL is to much of a MLS reserve league to be considered unless the independent clubs within it move to the NASL.

    If promotion and relegation do happen in the NASL, it will be nice if both MLS and NASL have have a spot in the CONCACAF Championship League with both leagues getting two spots each. Good luck to the NASL on making THAT happen.

    • Hydrahamster

      Crap. This was meant to be a reply.

    • send over the RFP

      who’s responsible for giving out CL spots? CONCACAF itself?

      • slowleftarm

        US Soccer

  • Kevin

    San Diego already has a team, the Surf. Which interestingly enough was an original NASL team. I think thats where the kid the Cosmos just signed was from..Interesting about the financial hit that is taken by team and players when they get relegated.I didn’t know that. I seriously learn something new about soccer everyday from u guys. I really do..

  • nasl & npsl

    Perfect together. Chattanooga with 18,000+ ain’t too shabby and ripe for promotion.

    • send over the RFP

      that Chattanooga match was more of a county fair atmosphere than a soccer game. there’s no way they could draw more than 2k on a regular basis

      • OpenCupFan

        Don’t they draw like 3k regularly?

        • Larry’s A Simpleton

          just like the fake cosmos

  • MTF

    The more Peterson talks about pro/rel, the more he is signalling that the NASL is entering a do or die phase. They have been beaten by the MLS – USL tie-up. They should get to a negotiating table with MLS soon and tie-up with them as an affiliated second division. Perhaps there could be pro/rel between the USL and NASL. If the NASL wishes to remain independent and compete with MLS, MLS will work to have the USL designated D2 and will seek to crush the NASL. I still hope that the Cosmos work out a 12,000 seat stadium deal, perhaps in Coney Island, Brooklyn, or at Aqueduct in Queens. Then pony up the expansion fee and try to get into MLS. However, I think MLS going with NYCFC really marks the death knell for the Cosmos.

    • send over the RFP

      the death knell for the Cosmos would be languishing in NASL for anything more than 3 years. as an NYC fan I really hope they swallow their pride and join MLS if Garber comes calling because it’s obvious the area can support 3 teams

      • slowleftarm

        Garber isn’t calling. I doubt the NYCFC owners would be too thrilled about paying $100m and then having another competitor on their doorstep. They already knew RBNY was there, that was part of the deal, but not a third team.

        Face it – Cosmos had their chance, didn’t want to pay the expansion fee because they thought MLS needed them more than they needed MLS. It’s crystal clear they were dead wrong, at least judging by the 3k crowds at the lacrosse stadium.

        • Anonymous

          Agreed

          The lesson learned here is that D1 matters. The Cosmos could have been shockingly profitable.

          D2 is such an uphill battle

        • MTF

          Yeah, you are exactly right. MLS didn’t need the Cosmos or their brand (like all the Cosmos fanboys believe), they didn’t want to pony up the expansion fee and so Garber and Co. moved on. The Cosmos are really up a creak. If they don’t want to fold they will have to swallow their pride and come to the realization that they are a minor league team. Their owners will eventually start to close the money tap. Regarding the Red Bulls and Cosmos, I don’t see Red Bull selling any time soon. I also think the Cosmos brand is as valuable as people think. Nobody under 40 can honestly say they remember the old club. It’s a cool name with a unique history, but it’s no more valuable a brand at this point than the Seattle Sounders or Portland Timbers.

        • Hydrahamster

          Not really. It was more about not wanting to give up independent ownership than the Cosmos being a diva. The Cosmos want full control of the club including player’s contracts. With MLS’s large expansion fee, it allows no freedom to grow organically like a global club. It would be under the same boat as a club owner in the Cosmos position. If I started a team, it will run at my and the club’s pace, not the other clubs pace for forced parity.

      • DanGerman

        If NYCFC was struggling with attendance, I’d think Garber may have entertained the idea but from everything seen so far the team (NYCFC) has been a revelation so I don’t think the league would be looking to add the Cosmos. I do see the Red Bulls buying out the Cosmos and re branding, I think that’s more likely or maybe someone buying the Cosmos and the Red Bulls and re branding the Red Bulls to the Cosmos. I don’t see the league wanting the current Cosmos owners anywhere near MLS they had there chance and they pass.

        • send over the RFP

          who even owns the Cosmos? isn’t it a bunch of shady people out in Saudi Arabia? what if they sold?

        • send over the RFP

          also RB being rebranded as the Cosmos would be absolutely hilarious. after all the **** people here have spewed about them being a real club it would be great to see them playing as their third iteration in New Jersey in the league they’re always said they don’t want to be a part of

          • Anonymous

            Would be interesting.

            Remember the early Kemsley / Umbro days? Garber said his phone was blowing up with international interest in the Cosmos.

            He learned that the word “Cosmos” and that round badge can be turned into big piles of money, if playing in the FIRST DIVISION

            He’ll definitely want to buy it on the scrap heap, but he won’t want three teams in New York.

            Strange times

            • slowleftarm

              No one under 35 or so ever even saw the original Cosmos play and this fake current iteration isn’t making many new fans. If it was ever a “global brand” those days are long gone. Just enjoy going out to Hempstead and watching minor league soccer and forget the delusions of grandeur. Nothing wrong with minor league sports – just accept it for what it is.

              • send over the RFP

                they still are an internationally recognized brand. I see people in Manchester England wearing apparel from them – they’re a very popular team among football hipsters. plus you have to admit it’s a sick uniform

        • nova

          Why would the red bulls pay money for another brand name and then take on their name?!?! That’s just absurd…

    • R

      It sounds like more of a “die” phase. Unless they negotiate, USL/MLS will hurt them from both ends, with USL becoming a stronger minor league and MLS picking off the best of NASL. Eventually, NASL will go under and USL will absorb the viable teams. In that scenario, USL could split and become two leagues, or just have one big 2nd division grouped into regions.

  • Matt Diggs

    He sounds like a man treading water, looking for a life line. Pro/rel is not happening and can’t legally happen since MLS is a single entity structure. The only way it could possibly happen would be for MLS to own all the division and for it to be set up as MLS First Division, MLS Second Division…etc.

    • Anonymous

      Leagues don’t get to make that call, the Federation would but there’s no way in hell USSF is going to do that.

      It’s possible that he’s talking about a separate Federation for whatever clubs and leagues want in.

      This is the part where we sit back and laugh at him.

      • Matt Diggs

        MLS’s single entity structure would prevent them from being forced into pro/rel by USSF without there permission. You would essentially be forcing a business to move an asset that they own and place it under the control of another league.

  • Max

    agree that the cosmos are dead in the water with their 3000 attendance at a college turf lacrosse field in long island, they blew their chance to get in MLS, that was the ticket to their “worldwide” fanbase who doesn’t care b/c they are minor league/2nd division.

    and someone referenced San Jose’s home attendance, by the way it is listed at 21K average for league games, numbers nasl could only wet dream about, and that is a smaller MLS market.

  • OpenCupFan

    It’s amazing NASL and Cosmos haven’t each folded already. Isn’t it?
    .
    Especially with how strong mls is right?, gee whiz Beave, how are NASL and Cosmos still around?
    .
    It just doesn’t make any sense!

    • R

      Give it a few years.

    • slowleftarm

      There’s a market for live soccer in markets MLS doesn’t have teams. Like Long Island. I think it’s great that there’s soccer teams all over our great country. But let’s not pretend some team in a college lacrosse stadium in Long Island is as good as an MLS team.

    • Cirris

      They’re being propped up by behind the scenes investors. That’s the only way it makes sense.

  • Max

    it is amazing the cosmos have not folded yet, I agree it may happen soon, and also agree with slow left on live soccer and MLS level.

    There is no way cosmos are not hemorrhaging money with only 3000 fans showing up to a Hofstra owned field, I’m sure their Saudi Arabian backers have deep pockets to give it a ride for a while, but they’re not heading anywhere good being a minor league team in the US. They only have a couple retired MLS guys, 2 40 yr olds, and haven’t developed anyone young to move up to MLS or Europe…

    • OpenCupFan

      Neither has the mls, and they’ve been around for, like, ever.

  • Hydrahamster

    The giant split within the American Soccer fan base is because of the USSF. Starting a league for whinny people who wants a fan entertainment league over for both sports and fan entertainment purposed is the reason why our country had over three first divisions in the past over the normal number of one and two most countries go through. This may be the only country in the world that wishes for ill will against a lower division league because it don’t agree with the sloppy Americanized system that’s currently the reason for mediocre players. In a normal soccer loving country, fans would be jumping up and down about mostly every city and state have a soccer team in the future under a system where every club have a chance to move up the soccer pyramid.

    What the NASL wants is something our youth players say over and over again about wishing this country have. The fact that the NASL and it’s clubs are risking it’s own league for this shows how much passion they have to grow the American soccer the right way. If MLS fans can not handle that, then it’s your choice to support MLS, just MLS over American soccer. I may have doubts the NASL will succeed in this, but the fact they are trying something that will help out the other lower division clubs win my support.

    How I see it as, it’s MLS fans versus Association football. Why support the sport if you don’t support the sport?

  • US Soccer Fan

    well, if you support the future growth of soccer in the US you should support MLS, that is where a majority of all national team players will play or be developed at some point, in the decades to come.

    The nasl has not produced or developed any players of national team consequence yet (nor hardly any that even improved up to MLS level),

    the national team list is very long for MLS – Dempsey, Donovan, Altidore, Bradley, Howard, Guzan, Yedlin, Beasley, Besler, Cameron, Beckerman, now Mix, Gonzalez, Zardes, Zusi, etc. etc.)

    soccer fans can support teams at all levels all over the country, as long as they realize their proper position in the development structure in whatever league they are in – believe most do, except for some dumb cosmos fans who think they are taking over the soccer world with their 3000 long islanders.