NASL’s Peterson on Chicago expansion, Puerto Rico FC, League Growth, USSF Legal Action

IMAGE, NASL.COM

by JAKE NUTTING and DAVE MARTINEZ

NASL Commissioner Bill Peterson has addressed several topics surrounding the league in his conversation with EoS, including his take on the USL’s D2 run, the league’s West Coast expansion, Traffic Sport’s involvement in the league and the loss of the Atlanta Silverbacks and San Antonio Scorpions.

The following are some more highlight’s from our interview:

ON CHICAGO EXPANSION

On the potential arrival of a Chicago expansion team:

“It is similar to a lot of different process we have been through. We were approached by a group of potential owners and we met with them and they are great people, very successful people. They have the wherewithal to do this and they very much believe in Chicago and Chicago soccer. This is a city that could support much more than one, even two clubs. They have a belief in how the game should be organized and structured. We have been going through those conversations with them and they have been going through local conversations about securing a stadium and going through the checklist.”

On the feasibility of a supporter’s trust in Chicago:

I know they want to do it. I also know it is much harder to do in real life in this country than it is as a concept. The concept is easy. It is a great concept. But first of all, these teams are still in investment mode so there is cash coming in. So what is the tender? What is the mechanism you would be holding on to as a fan? Is this something you would have to pay every year to cover losses? Is it something that is trade-able? Is it something that has to be monitored by the SEC? Is this something that will cost $2-3 million a year to administer? What happens in five or ten years from now? Just a lot of questions surrounding it. People believe in the concept and I believe they are working through the realities of it.”

On Peter Wilt’s Involvement:

They made the decision to bring Peter on, and that is exciting for us. He built the Chicago Fire to a very successful club at the time. That was probably one of the higher revenue clubs in that time, when I was around. This group believes they can do it again and I wouldn’t bet against him. He is in the Illinois soccer hall of fame. He is the man there.

ON PUERTO RICO

Puerto Rico’s Current Operations:

“I know their technical people and the coach have been everywhere. They are at all the combines and doing all they can. They have an interesting challenge putting a squad together a little bit later, so what players will be available? Which aren’t? That is a real challenge.”

Puerto Rico FC’s Fall Season start:

Making the decision to start in the Fall was smart. They needed extra time and there were reasons they wanted to do that. However, assembling a roster is a real challenge. A couple of years ago when the Cosmos did this, everyone thought it was a huge advantage for them. You walk around in March and April and you try to find talented players that aren’t working? It doesn’t exist. What Gio Savarese pulled off that first year was amazing in my opinion. These guys have the same challenges. It is going to be a challenge.”

Puerto Rico FC’s Chase For CCL Inclusion:

“The Champions League issue is being discussed for sure. Without NASL there, they have a pretty clear cut league that they run. It is easy to figure this stuff out. As soon as you put a team there from another league and arguably a better team, then yes, it becomes a problem for the [Puerto Rican Football Federation]. We have had discussions with them and Puerto Rico SC. They will work that out and they will do it in conjunction with CONCACAF as well. I am not sure where the conversation is today, but it will all work out. What I think the existing teams will see is that this is an advantage and an asset for them. PRFC is not going down there to run these guys out of business. Quite the contrary. They need them to develop more great players and for great competition. I am just not sure how they sort out Champions League but they will sort it out. There are a lot of possible solutions.”

NASL’s GROWTH

NASL Four Years In:

The league is exponentially stronger than it was three years ago — at the ownership level first and foremost. The guys we have here now, the guys that have come in the last couple of years — Fort Lauderdale, Carolina, Tampa — it is a very strong, very dedicated and passionate group of guys that love their communities and love their clubs and are pushing them to grow. Everyone has started to push each other. You see it in Fort Lauderdale this offseason. What they have done with player signings and coaching, and off the field, signing sponsors, pursuing stadiums, fixing the stadium, doing a bunch of things there, participating in this tournament the last couple of weeks — those things weren’t happening before. Now all of a sudden they have come in and are turning it around and want to be one of the best teams in the league. That forces all [teams] to raise their game and ultimately that is what you want. You want everyone on the field to compete against each other and even off the field to some extent, strive to be the best in the league and that raises all the boats.

Next phase of NASL growth:

We feel like the league has matured a lot the last couple of years. We have put a lot of things in place that maybe weren’t in place at one time as it relates to governance and administration. Now, we really believe we are entering a different phase where we have to focus on the growth of the commercial aspect of this. That is the business of pro sports.”

“Television, sponsorship, licensing — We are focusing on that. PR, we are constantly looking at how we can deliver better for our fans. We have spent hours and hours this offseason discussing how we can get better in giving our fans the information they want.”

ON LEGAL ACTION

Reaction from USSF regarding the NASL’s letter of complaint on proposed changes to first division standards:

You would have to ask them what their reaction is. We are engaged in some discussions to try to sort through some things and we have agreed we will keep those discussions private. We are going to honor that.”