Quelling Rumors – A USSF D2 Update
Rumors have been flying around for the better part of the week that both the Rochester Rhinos and the Austin Aztex had made decisions to move to D3 next year. I have commented several times in that span that I had been in contact with both organizations and these rumors were not true.
Today the same rumor was again circulated on a website. The rumor was supposedly news even though these stories have been floating around for a week.
“Those are false rumors,” stated Rob Clark, owner of the Rochester Rhinos. “We are certainly weighing our options for next season. Right now we are focusing on trying to win a championship. It wouldn’t make sense for us to make a decision at this point and time. When the season is over we will ask ourselves if this (the new USSF standards) makes financial sense for the Rhinos or not.”
Clark also said he’d like to “quell rumors” that he claims are flying around Rochester concerning someone owning a USL franchise for D3 in the area. He stated, “At this time no one owns rights to a USL D3 team.”
Jay Preble, Director of Communications for the United Soccer Leagues, confirmed that statement this afternoon saying, “All of the USL men’s outdoor rights in Rochester are available. The W-League and I-League rights are obviously unavailable.”
Djorn Buchholz, CEO for the Austin Aztex, confirmed an email that he sent to a concerned fan and ended up in the comment section of IMS today. The email stated: “I can assure you that the rumors you heard on XXX (a rumor website) are just that, rumors. This club has no intention of playing D3 soccer. Yes, the new D2 standards are quite strict, but our ownership group has assisted US Soccer in setting those guidelines and we meet them. … rest assured, we will play D2 Soccer for years to come.”
Buchholz told IMS there seems to be a lot of confusion and rumors since the new D2 Standards were set. He stated last week and again this week that the organization has no plans to play D3 and it wouldn’t make any sense from a geographical standpoint to join a league (D-3) which is based on the East Coast.
The Austin Aztex CEO also told IMS that not only did owner Rawlins help D2 with the standards, the team plans on building a soccer specific stadium. Their projection is to have a plan in place in 3 years, which would put them at 2012. Buchholz says that the SSS idea is not anything new but has been in the team’s long range plan since the beginning.
Some of you have also been asking my take on the other teams that are currently playing D2 and are not scheduled to move to MLS next season. Lets take them team by team.
Carolina RailHawks – We know they are looking for investors. Selby Wellman is the majority owner with Bob Young a minority owner. It’s believed the Canadian businessman Young could easily pass the USSF financial standards. The team has an SSS. However, there was speculation that Young may want out of the RailHawks so he could start his own D2 franchise in Hamilton where Young owns the Tiger Cats CFL team.
Hamilton won the bid to host the 2015 Pan American Games. A stadium needs to be built for the event and Young wanted his football team to play there along with a new soccer team that would be affiliated with the NASL and D2. However, Young withdrew his interest in using the stadium when the city council decided to build in a different location than Young had wanted. It’s still unclear if Young is interested in a D2 soccer team, especially now that the USSF standards call for 75% of teams to be based in the US.
Montreal Impact – We know Joey Saputo has been a leader with the NASL and seems to have had good communications with MLS. They are in D2 for one more year. The only question is: if D2 does go dark next year, where will Montreal play? Would MLS allow them to join a year early?
Crystal Palace Baltimore – I’ve explained quite a number of times the financial trouble that CP Baltimore has had this year, yet I keep hearing questions about them having the ability to make the new USSF Standards.
First, I will state again, CP Baltimore is on life support. They have gone through their 350 thousand dollar bond paid to USSF and still needed help from both the USSF and the NASL to get through to the end of the season. (Yes, they both forked out extra money to keep CP Baltimore going through the end of the season.) I believe they have played at 5 different stadiums this year and have had the league’s worst attendance record. They have bills and are in trouble. The USSF doesn’t need any more CP Baltimores, thus the new standards.
NO, CP Baltimore will not be back next year unless they find investors or new owners. If you recall, the USL dropped a lawsuit against Baltimore and Tampa last year when USSF decided to run the league in 2010. The lawsuit was brought by USL (bad PR decision even though they had the legal right) because both teams supposedly had a contract with USL and abandoned it for the NASL.
Point being, if the team wants to play USL-2 (D3) they will need A )New owners or B) Investors, and a lot of apologizing to USL.
AC St. Louis – Suddenly Jeff Cooper has money again? He didn’t tell the NASL he had sold the team to the Vaids last year and they were not happy about that. Then the Vaids stopped paying bills and Cooper was stuck. He ended up having some big issues and folded his WPS team in mid season this year. The USSF was not happy about that. Nor were they happy they had to dip into their bond money for a period of time to make payroll for the team.
Somehow, in some way, Jeff Cooper’s AC St. Louis seem to be fine again and are even spending money on loan players as the season winds down. The team doesn’t seem to talk to the media about such things, so no one has a clue what’s going on within the organization. The black eye that NASL received by having the turmoil surrounding Cooper and AC St. Louis when he was supposed to be the NASL spokesperson has not gone down well with other NASL owners. They are not happy with Cooper either.
So the St. Louis attorney has managed to make enemies of the USL, the NASL and the USSF. Not a good place to be when heading into next year. By the way, Cooper either plays D2 next year under NASL or he doesn’t play at all. Tony Glavin owns the outdoor rights to a USL team and in my conversations with Glavin and James Shipley, GM of the Lions, it sounds as if they would be very interested in fielding a D3 team in St. Louis if the opportunity presented itself. But they would not attempt to do so if there was still a D2 team.
In an interview with IMS last January, Glavin told IMS: “I don’t want to damage anything for the good of pro soccer in St. Louis. If it was Cooper’s group or whomever, I will be supportive as long as their primarily concern is the development of the game and development of players. That’s what I’m most interested in, building the game itself and development of the game in St. Louis.”
A class act that Glavin.
Miami FC Blues – Owned by Traffic Sports, who has funded much of the NASL. Enough said. Oh, they are talking about a rebranding for next year as the Strikers. But they will be back as a D2 team. Traffic can make the standards easily and having Fernando Clavijo as Director of Soccer for Traffic USA has not hurt the organization’s association with both the USSF and MLS.
Puerto Rico Islanders – Lots of questions surround the Islanders, one of the most successful teams in North America on the field in CONCACAF Champions League play and they are on a run again this year.
They were so discouraged by the new USSF Standards that they didn’t even show up in NY for the meetings on August 9. They feel they will not be able to pass the 35% owner who has $20 million standard. PR is owned by a group of business people.
Even though PR had its own football federation, public sentiment seems to be strong in somehow allowing the Islanders a way into D2 next season. The new standard calls for 75% of teams to be from the US. If Montreal and Edmonton were both to play D2 next season, it might be tough to get a waiver in more than one area. PR would need waivers in the financial end and the foreign team quota. No one seems to know if the team could even come up with the bond required by the USSF. Overall, things do not look good for the Islanders who have played D2 since 2004.
NSC Minnesota – See yesterday’s IMS post.
FC Tampa Bay – Owner and president Andrew Nestor has done well with Tampa and the gate has been decent as well. But the team is spending a lot of money. Will they be able to continue at that pace? Perhaps, but for now they have no problems making the USSF Standards and they released a press statement this week saying as much. However, they will need to address their stadium issues in the near future and talk of a SSS seems bit premature for team that’s in its first year.
Nestor is said to be leading the NASL at this point along with Aaron Davidson of Traffic Sports and the NASL.
Bottom line, FC Tampa is “in like Flynn” for D2 in 2010.
FC Edmonton – That’s a long way to fly just to get in a game. However, the team is said to be able to make the grade when it comes to the USSF standards and they are playing a year early to get the organization running smoothly. If the NASL can come up with enough teams they are said to want in. If PR does not make the grade it’s possible they could play. Otherwise, they would be forced into the Canadian Soccer League which is said to be at a D4 level, whatever that means. That would certainly be a disappointment to the organization, which seem to be very genuine about wanting to play highly competitive soccer.
If Edmonton makes it into the league, their biggest issue will be a stadium. IMS explored this issue last February in an interview with GM Mel Kowalchuk.
Other entries into the foray are the three teams from the USL:
Antigua – We’ve not heard much about them since the original announcement, and some USL folks are even asking if this one makes sense. With the 75% US-based team standard it seems unlikely. However, there is talk of a new USL-2, D3 Caribbean League. They might fit perfectly if that plan is true.
Orlando – As I explained last week were led by Steve Donner. The team was originally said to be principally owned by the Titans lacrosse team in Orlando. But that team has dissolved after financial problems and now Donner says they still plan to play D2 but is now claiming Orlando is not the principle owner. What? Again, there’s not enough information available to know where this one is heading.
FC New York – I had a delightful conversation with Doug Peterson this week. He’s the president of FC New York. He assured me that his team could make the financial qualifications of the new USSF Standards with the investors they have involved. However, like Clark from Rochester, they are waiting for the dust to settle before they decide what direction to go. It is possible the team could play either D2 or D3 next season.