NASL Ceases Operations of Atlanta Silverbacks, Club’s Long-term Future in Doubt

IMAGE, ATLANTASILVERBACKSFC.COM

by JAKE NUTTING

The franchise that kept on kicking and kicking despite setback after setback may have finally received its final blow.

The North American Soccer League announced late Monday night that it has suspended operations for the Atlanta Silverbacks for the 2016 season — and “possibly beyond that.”

“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,” said NASL Commissioner Bill Peterson. “It’s unfortunate, and particularly sad for the Silverbacks’ passionate fan base, which has supported the club tremendously throughout the years.”

The NASL took over operations for the troubled club before the start of the 2014 season when it became clear that owner Boris Jerkunica could not provide the necessary financial support to maintain the club. Since then, the league has held firm with its commitment to find a new, dedicated and local ownership group to secure the club’s long-term future in Atlanta, but ultimately Peterson says they never discovered investors who checked off all the necessary boxes.

“We have made incredible strides in just five short years, and one of the key pillars of our league’s growth and improvement has been the emergence of a group of committed owners who believe in the long-term NASL plan,” noted Peterson. “Unfortunately in Atlanta – a market we continue to believe could be successful in the NASL – there wasn’t an ownership group identified that met the very specific standards we hold ourselves to as a league.”

A decision was originally meant to agreed upon by the league’s Board of Governors back in November, but the issue was tabled for another month in a last-ditch effort while talks continued on perspective owners. Silverbacks president and general manager Andy Smith tweeted out that discussions were ongoing with potential investors in December, but he finally conceded that the fight was over in the league’s pres release on Monday.

“This is obviously a disappointing day for anyone that has been involved with the club over the years,” said Smith. “The organization created some great memories for the city of Atlanta and its soccer fans, but as we all know, you need ownership to continue on. We appreciate all of the time and effort the league and its owners have invested in their search for long-term Silverbacks ownership – they truly turned over every rock in the process. On behalf of the organization, I want to thank all of our staff members, players, coaches, partners, and most importantly fans for their loyal support.”

The Silverbacks, who experienced financial difficulties throughout their near 20-year history, were a founding member of the modern NASL in 2011. During their time in the league they captured the 2013 Spring Season and lost to the New York Cosmos in the championship final that same year.

The NASL’s Spring Season is expected to kick off in April with 11 teams competing. On top of the Silverbacks, the league is losing the San Antonio Scorpions, whose branding may be purchased and moved to another market at a later date. Expansion sides Miami FC and Rayo OKC are set to begin their inaugural seasons in the spring, while Carmelo Anthony’s Puerto Rico FC will join in the Fall Season to bring the league total to 12.


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  • Mr. Sarcastic

    The NASL can’t find enough investors who are willing to ride out the toughest of times. The investors are afraid of losing, and undestandably so. If only there were some kind of mechanism that kept teams afloat when they struggled – a mechanism that promoted success. Anybody know of a soccer league that has such a thing? I’d like to be a part of that.

    • Anonymous

      Lol! Yeah, because clubs never go out of business in England.

      • Mr. Sarcastic

        Lol. Did you think that I was referring to the Premier League as a league that protects its teams? If you’re always looking at distant shores you won’t see the pearls that you are standing on.

  • Let me state the obvious one more time…unless NASL some how aligns itself with mls,in the end it will fail. As lame as mls is,this country will never support two pro soccer leagues. No way no how.

    • Branki

      Yaki, you are 200% correct.

    • Larry’s A Simpleton

      2 pro soccer leauges? MLS is one, whats the other???

      • Branki

        Your morher is Larry

        • Larry’s A Simpleton

          f.cosmos and the nasl are deader that bowie. face it chump

  • Larry’s A Simpleton

    somebody pull the plug! mercy!

    minnesota bails out
    san antonia disappears
    atlanta folds
    carolina looking to get out
    f.cosmos on life support.

    why don’t they just fold this farce of a league? typical nasl. come on fan boys tell us how the nasl is the only true league in this country.

  • Larry’s mother

    Get out of the basement larry.

    • Larry’s A Simpleton

      lol. cant stand reality can you doosh? f.cosmos are dead men walking and so is their little league.

  • Dr. Freud

    Larry’s hatred of the NASL is really a reflection of his own self-loathing. He hates himself for being fat, unemployable, in the closet and living in his mother’s basement so he makes himself feel better by aligning himself with the recognized 1st division so he can feel better about the struggles of the lower divisions. Sadly, Larry, being ignorant of word soccer, thinks MLS is a top flight league & doesn’t recognize that his idea of achieving success is to wallow in mediocrity in a closed system that limits US player development. Larry is very sad case who needs to come out of both the basement and closet, hit the gym and open his eyes to the world around him. Ignorance is bliss and Larry is the happiest person we know.

  • ted dev

    dr. freud, perhaps you should use your writing skills to articulate how the nasl is on a sad slow implosion/train wreck in slow motion.

    nasl business model is a failure and they just can’t compete with MLS, even acknowledging things may not be perfect in the top flight either but it’s by far the best we’ve got here and the future player development will be there as well.

    even the USL is better since they beat nasl teams 7 games in a row, any other decent teams left other than the cosmos will be leaving for MLS soon also…

    • Dr. Freud

      You may be right from the business standpoint, but MLS has done little to develop the national team in the US & that is its failure. Round of 16 in 1994. Round of 16 in 2014. Same old crap.

      • johnny99

        It was much easier to make it to the round of 16 in 1994, when the US did so as a 3rd place team (with 4 out of 6 third place teams advancing). If they had done the same in 2014 as they did in 1994, they would have gone home after the group stage.

        When MLS launched, I think most people would have been happy with the national team qualifying for the WC (which was not anything close to a guarantee before MLS) and would have been thrilled to make the second round. Now, 20 years down the road, we all absolutely expect and assume that we will qualify and not making the second round would be a major disappointment. So I think the national team has gotten stronger and more accomplished, with increased expectations, since MLS started. MLS is not the only reason for that progression, but it’s absolutely one of the reasons.

        Having said that, I’ll also argue that it’s not MLS’ primary mission to develop the national team, although everyone hopes that a strong MLS will do just that. MLS exists first and foremost to provide a top level professional league in the US (and now Canada), and it’s hard to argue that it hasn’t succeeded in that mission.

        • MTF

          Exactly. MLS is a business. It’s not worried about the National Team other than the MLS marketing opportunities provided by USMNT players being selected from MLS. However, having a strong domestic league obviously gives American players an option for where to ply their trade.

      • Larry’s A Simpleton

        lol dr fraud. you and the fanboys are grasping at straws. the nasl and the f.cosmos are on life support. pull the plug! show some mercy!

        physician heal thyself!!!!!

      • Larry’s A Simpleton

        little to develop the national team??? is that what you morons are hanging your hats on now?

        wtf has the nasl and the f.cosmos done to devolp the nats? NOTHING. face it morons mls is division one and here to stay and the f.cosmos are ready to go belly up.

        oh btw dr fraud-jspec-onionsack-opencup fan or whatever name you post under today. by your way of thinking the barclay league is a failure, because you know the english national team suck ass.

        • Dr. Freud

          You are a very lonely man. You need to accept your shortcomings & try to become a better person. Owning a Pirlo jersey & eating danish in your mother’s basement while pretending to look for a job is not the answer.

  • Kevin

    oh good some one brought up the USL again against the NASL. Another tired argument. And are we really going to go along again Larrys remarks, Carolina and the Cosmos are now failing, come on. Atlanta is gone, not surprising. San Antonio and Minnesota were eventually going anyway. They both have wanted to move on. They lose some teams, they gain some teams. Its just unfortunate that this is how it will seemingly be for the NASL.

  • Scott

    The USL vs NASL in Open Cup play is tired excuse. While the level of competition between NASL and USL is not very different the NASL is still a league that can succeed. The NASL has only been around for 6 years. Can you draw the comparison to the MLS in 2000? No one in the seats, limited TV coverage, signing aging players? Sounds familiar. I have nothing against the MLS I am a big fan myself, as well as a fan of all levels of US Soccer. Rather then troll the leagues support the development of soccer in the US. As for Larrys rant about teams failing and leaving. Minnesota was pushed out by Vikings Ownership interest of bringing an MLS club to their new venue. Ultimately they had no choice. There is a strong possibility Scorpions relocate to Las Vegas where MLS has already denied giving an MLS franchise so the ceiling will be high for the club in Vegas. Carolina might want to promote to MLS soon but, it will not happen in the next five years I bet. As for the Cosmos in a tough market as a cities third team, they are making noise and winning. Just hard in a market like Long Island. A stadium is the game changer there.

    • MTF

      The key difference between MLS in year six and NASL in year six is that the MLS didn’t already have another more established league with which it had to compete for TV eyeballs or butts in the seats. Having the Red Bulls and NYCFC makes life harder on the Cosmos. Atlanta has been squeezed out. If Beckham gets Miami off the ground life will be tougher for Maldini and Co.

  • Mrs. Garber

    MLS is not good..NASL is worse. No argument.
    NASL on it’s own will be what it is forever.

    As much as I don not like the quality of soccer in the MLS, or it’s approach to developing (not developing) top US young talent, we need to focus on making that league better.

    NASL, USL,etc. does not have the audience, funds or attention of the media to counter the crap league we all are watching on TV (MLS).

  • Anthony

    Atlanta was always a candidate to fold once MLS expanded to Atlanta with NFL owners. Not sure that is a reflection on NASL much less the Cosmos.

    That said, this kind of volatility is not good for growth. Losing Atlanta, San Antonio and Minnesota and replacing them with Puerto Rico, OKC and Miami is at best a zero sum gain. ANy momentum from adding those teams is lost when you lose 2 good franchises (and 1 not so good).

    Bottom line is NASL needs to find and keep good owner/investors and keep them around if they want to continue to grow.

  • ted dev

    MLS avg. attendance year 6 was 15K (lowest ever was 14K) – nasl current attendance = 5K

    that is the comparison – MLS attendance 3 times greater in same timeframe

    and don’t even mention the general media coverage (on national TV and regional sports networks that MLS was on) and soccer/media attention was much, much higher for MLS.

  • Kevin

    But if the NASL is so decrepit and going out the door y do so many of u haters come back on nasal specific forums and make ur comments. If it’s nonsensical league y waste ur time.. I have nothing against MLS and I’m a die hard cosmos season ticket holder that would love to see us in MLS. But u also don’t see me on ur teams forums because they don’t bother me, so how can the Cosmos and the NASL be something ur obsessed with. This league isn’t going anywhere for the time being. So y not just enjoy the league as it is.

  • Mrs. Garber

    MLS started out as a horrible league, full of stadiums with empty seats after the first game of each franchise. Giants stadium had to have empty seats covered in red tarp for years and that was in the lower tier!!! The new stadium looked nice and empty for play off games. It’s a shame because it’s actually a really nice stadium.

    Metro stars/Redbull have successfully cornered the market on 15,000 soccer fans in NJ, yes NJ. Took them 20 years. I can say that for every MLS franchise but one, Seattle. We have more people watching premier league games in the US, then attending our own team’s home games.

    Soccer growing in this country is like trying to watch grass grow.

    We all want it to be a top sport, talking about attendance is not where I would start my argument, for any US soccer league. Quality players are too few, and I’m tired of celebrating semi-retired players that need the entire first half to warm up.

    Something needs to change, then the fans will come to every game, not just free t-shirt day.

  • jameson

    stop supporting nasl, its a product that is dead in the water or will be soon, the teams can’t even beat USl teams.

    young players for the future are being developed in the MLS academies, our investments in future US soccer should go there.

    • Dr. Freud

      If you think that MLS is doing a good job developing players, I have a diagnosis for you as well:

      https://www.psychologytoday.com/conditions/delusional-disorder

      The only truly great player MLS has ever developed (and by great I mean stars in MLS, in Europe & at the World Cup), is Tim Howard.

      Let’s not lie to ourselves. It is unhealthy.

  • Kevin

    Oh good another troll with the USL argument . I was getting worrie,it has only been about 3 hours since some one else used that tired fact. Very original

  • Alexlgago

    USSOCCER Federation is at blame as the take MLS marketing dollar’s to fund a monopolised MLS system announcing expandion in Atlanta, Minnesota, and Miami.Yet, these cities have now clybd soon Miami FC & Fyl Strikers will fold. Monopolositc anti competitive practices will force other clubs to fold, its time for the Justice Dept to investigate USSOCCER.

  • Seth

    MLS is a joke league has been players, uneducated soccer mom & dad. USL teams play in high school stadiums operating under never having a chance to join MLS joke league. How many can pay $100 million none.

  • We are a sad and delusional soccer country. We need help Freud. NASL doa, MLS a pipe dream, USMNT fast become a Mickey Mouse team…where is some good curling when you need it

  • jameson

    I think MLS is working on doing a better job of developing future young players (and putting greater investment into this area every year) with all the homegrowns, young signings, etc.

    MLS has helped develop Dempsey, Howard, Bradley, Altidore, Yedlin, Miazga, some other foreign players, etc.

    Some are better than others and they are trying to do better for the future along with USL, don’t think nasl is doing much – no academies like MLS!

  • jameson

    forgot Zardes is MLS developed also, and maybe Morris the Seattle academy product will also make it at some point wherever he ends up…

    • Dr. Freud

      They are good MLS playerss. They are not World Class. Let’s not be delusionsal. MLS has developed precisely one great world class palyer in Tim Howard. That is it.

  • johnny l

    agree MLS has not produced many world class players yet, but neither has the EPL for England with 10,000 times the resources as perhaps top league in the world. If they can’t do it then it is even tougher for MLS, who are working at it and increasing development every year, their effort will bear some fruit eventually.

    the answer is definitely not Nasl teams which have no academies and their avg. player age is older actually, so no US players will be developed there, the main push is coming from MLS teams to improve the situation.


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