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USL-1 Team Owners Association Fire Shot Accross the Bow to League Officials

2009 August 31
by Brian Quarstad

This press release just in from the Carolina RailHawks at 4:00 pm CT today:


Atlanta, Carolina, Miami, Minnesota, Montreal, St. Louis, Tampa and Vancouver to Aggressively Explore all Options for Future

August 31, 2009.  Following extensive negotiations with USISL, Inc., the parent company of the United Soccer Leagues (USL), to restructure the USL First Division (USL-1) into a league owned and controlled by its teams, the Team Owners Association (TOA) today announced that it has accelerated its pursuit of all league options for the 2010 season and beyond.  The TOA, led by the Atlanta Silverbacks, Carolina RailHawks, Miami FC, Minnesota Thunder, Montreal Impact, St. Louis Soccer United, Tampa Bay Rowdies and Vancouver Whitecaps, reached this decision following the announcement by Nike, Inc., the parent company of USISL, Inc., that it had concluded the sale of USL to a third-party (NuRock Soccer Holdings) which does not own a team in USL-1.

The TOA has been and remains committed to a restructuring of USL-1 into a truly professional soccer league which complies with the international rules established by FIFA, the governing body of international soccer.  These rules include the requirement that the league be owned and controlled by its teams.  Despite this rule, USL has historically been owned by a single corporate entity responsible for, among other things, league governance.  The TOA believes that this ownership structure has stunted the growth and recognition of both the league and its teams during USL’s nearly 25-year existence.  Consequently, over the past several years, the TOA has engaged in discussions with the owners of USL to restructure USL and is therefore extremely disappointed with Nike’s decision to sell USL to a non-USL-1 team owner.  Accordingly, the TOA now reconfirms its commitment to achieving a team-owner controlled league and will pursue all avenues to do so.

“The TOA and its teams thank the fans, media, coaches and players for their unconditional support and patience as we explore all options for the future,” stated Selby Wellman, majority owner of the Carolina RailHawks and spokesperson for the TOA.  “The teams are confident that this process will lead to decisions and changes that are essential for the further growth of soccer in our respective markets and throughout North America.”

About TOA
The TOA was formally established in January 2008. Carolina, Miami, Minnesota, Montreal and Vancouver are all playing in USL-1 this season, but have not recommitted to USL-1 for 2010. Atlanta withdrew from USL-1 after the 2008 season due to the continuing uncertainties of the negotiation and restructuring of USL.  Tampa is scheduled to begin playing in USL-1 in 2010. St. Louis Soccer United, owner of the St. Louis Athletica in WPS, is committed to establishing a men’s professional team.  Notwithstanding the fact that Vancouver will be joining MLS in 2011, the Vancouver ownership group is committed to playing in 2010 and to exploring establishing a team in another market for 2011 and beyond.

8 Responses
  1. Jon M. permalink
    August 31, 2009

    Okay – but what does this mean? Breakaway league?

  2. Travis P permalink
    August 31, 2009

    Im with the TOA on this one I just hope it doesn’t end up being like the F1/FOTA thing.

  3. Super Rookie permalink
    August 31, 2009

    I am just stoked that someone mention F1/FOTA!

  4. August 31, 2009


    seriously, bq, keep the information coming, you and Kartik, are doing good work … our game is not for ‘regular’ journalists anymore … it’s the sport of the internet (quote attribute: Brucio, duNord)


  5. Jeff Wolter permalink
    August 31, 2009

    Change Is Good, especially now after this buddy-buddy sale by Nike/USL.
    I support the TOA, they’re the ones that put the teams on the field we go to watch.

  6. jack permalink
    September 2, 2009

    There are rumors that the new league created by the TOA will be called the NASL (North American Soccer League) with teams from the USA and Canada and Mexico. Traffic is very interested in getting some Mexican teams in the new league. In tradition of the old NASL they will bring back the shoot-out and the 35-yard offside line to make things more exciting. The main difference between this new NASL and the old NASL is that the new NASL will have revenue sharing amongst the teams so that the smaller teams can survive with the larger teams. If the old NASL had revenue sharing then it might have survived.

  7. September 3, 2009

    “they will bring back the shoot-out and the 35-yard offside line to make things more exciting”

    Jack, sounds as if someone’s been talking to Chris Economides. 🙂

  8. chuck permalink
    September 11, 2009

    I think the organization’s goal should be to be a professional, respectable alternative to MLS. That means what the article says – following the international norms, not just by being owned by the teams, but by using internationally recognized transfer seasons, winter breaks (though a longer winter break here would be forgivable), not playing on international dates, no salary caps, and using promotion/relegation. Calling yourself the NASL and acting like the NASL with weird rules and shootouts is NOT the way to go.

    Further, the league should market itself as a “purer” form of soccer than MLS, and an easy and symbolic first step is to call itself the American Premier League or United States Premier League. That would show fans and the MLS the new league’s high ambitions. Firing a shot across the bow, if you will.

    Finally, the league must get the the big markets brought in. Easiest is to bring in an ownership team from NYC. There was already a group coming in to USL; can they be won over to the secession? I believe that a respectable team in NYC would quickly and easily convert Red Bulls’ fans (both of them) and become THE followed team in that market. If this league puts a team in the NY market that people care about, this league will surpass MLS in popularity in less than a decade. Its the media hub, financial hub, and corporate hub of our nation and success in NY = success. The other big market is SoCal. The Galaxy have a good following, but a rival SoCal team is necessary. It doesn’t have to be SoCal – resurrecting the SFB Blackhawks might be an alternative – but the point is that this ownership faction lacks ANY west coast representation, which it must have.

    Overall, I’m impressed with efforts of the secession. I’m very surprised that Charleston is not involved. Any answers as to why? Contractual obligations? Rochester’s uninvolvement would have surprised me a couple years ago, but now it seems to be an organization in disarray and its decision to back the pathetic status quo over a giant leap forward is not surprising, in spite of the fact that it seems to be one of the markets that could most benefit from secession. I would hope that less wealthy team owners are involved somehow as they, too, have much to gain from this. Charlotte jumps to mind. Crystal Palace Baltimore, too, but my guess is their real interest is in youth development and thus a split from USL goes against their raison d’etre.

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