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Puerto Rico Islanders Make Switch Official, Join North American Soccer League

2010 September 9
by Brian Quarstad

The North American Soccer League (NASL)  announced this afternoon the addition of the Puerto Rico Islanders to its list of eleven D2 teams. Baltimore, Carolina, Miami, Minnesota, Montreal, Rochester, St. Louis, Tampa, Vancouver, and expansion team Edmonton had previously decided to affiliate with the organization.

The NASL is a group of team owners who were unhappy with the United Soccer Leagues (USL) and tried to attain sanction of D2 Soccer in the US last year. The attempt was unsuccessful but USL lost the bulk of their D2 teams in the process as well as sanctioning rights. The USSF has been running the league this year giving both the USL and the NASL a year to organize themselves better.

Recently US Soccer set very high standards of ownership in D2 because of the high fail rate associated with the league. The new standards mean that 3 teams, AC St. Louis, Crystal Palace Baltimore, and the NSC Minnesota Stars, all most likely will need new ownership or a major investor to keep the teams active in the D2  league. AC St. Louis is the only one of the three that currently has a serious investor looking to take over the team.

The NASL will be losing Vancouver to MLS next season. Rochester Rhinos’ owner Rob Clark has recently gone on record saying he was considering his options for next season and while he did switch from the USL to the NASL last year, is contemplating a switch back again this off season but says that decision will not be made until after the season.

Puerto Rico cannot make one of the financial requirements of the new tougher USSF standards. It has no one 35% owner with a net worth of $20 million. The Caribbean team is banking on the USSF allowing a waiver for the 2011 season while they look for new investors. Insiders close to the situation believe that US Soccer will make an exception for the successful Puerto Rican team. The Islanders have been involved with D2 soccer since 2004 and have gained great stature in the CONCACAF region with its Champions League play and good league performances in D2.

If AC St. Louis is able to restructure under possible new ownership, and if the USSF allows the Islander’s waiver, the NASL would be one shy of the 8 teams required by FIFA to run a league. However, exceptions are often made allowing teams to operate for a year with a lesser amount if there are plans for future expansion of the league.

Puerto Rico’s switch to the NASL had been rumored for several weeks. Then, in an interview with Selby Wellman on August 31, the Cary News quoted the RailHawks owner as saying the Islanders had made the switch to NASL. But the next day a Puerto Rican newspaper reported that Islanders board had not yet made that official but were interested in many of the organization’s ideas.

The Islanders’ move to the NASL ends a 7-year relationship with the USL and comes on the heels of the organization’s announcement yesterday that they are reorganizing their leagues formerly called USL-1 (D2) and USL-2 (D3) into one league called the USL Pro League. The new league will actually be a continuation of their division 3 USL-2 league with improvements made giving owners more power to make decisions and hoping to expand into multiple regional leagues.

With Portland moving to MLS next year and Puerto Rico switching allegiances to NASL, it leaves the USL with the Austin Aztex as the lone D2 team associated with the organization.

NASL Press Release

NASL to Submit Application for USSF Sanctioning as the Second Division

The North American Soccer League (“NASL”) is proud to announce the addition of the Puerto Rico Islanders. The Puerto Rico Islanders currently compete in USSF Division 2 and have qualified for the group stage of the CONCACAF Champions League for three consecutive seasons.

“We are honored and proud to welcome Puerto Rico to the NASL. The Puerto Rico Islanders, who are the preeminent Caribbean team and whose remarkable accomplishments in league and international play, have elevated second division soccer in the United States,” said NASL CEO, Aaron Davidson. “The Islanders have been at the forefront of the remarkable growth the sport has experienced on the island of Puerto Rico and their addition to the NASL makes our league stronger.”

“It is the perfect time for the Puerto Rico Islanders to continue moving forward to next and better levels in professional soccer. NASL and its members are on the right track and our organization and soccer development in Puerto Rico deserves no less. We are confident that NASL will be excellent for Second Division Soccer in the United States. Through NASL soccer in Puerto Rico will experience the continuous growth that it has achieved thus far. This is yet another step in the right direction as we have done since the inception of our organization,” expressed the Puerto Rico Islanders President, Andres Guillemard-Noble.

He also added: “That the future is promising more than ever and we will continue to showcase to the soccer world that Puerto Rico does it better.”

As the only professional club in Puerto Rico currently aligned with a North American professional league, the Islanders on-field success has led to incredible growth for the sport on the island. The Puerto Rico Islanders have developed one of the Caribbean’s best soccer traditions and history of achievement dating back to the inception of the club in 2004.

In the 2008-2009 CONCACAF Champions League, the Puerto Rico Islanders reached the semifinals falling on penalty kicks to Mexican giants Cruz Azul. In 2009-10, the Islanders eliminated Toronto FC of MLS in the Preliminary Round. In the current 2010-2011 edition of the competition, the Islanders defeated MLS leaders LA Galaxy in the Preliminary Round and are currently tied for the lead in Group D with Mexican club Toluca. Earlier this season, the Puerto Rico Islanders won the 2010 CFU Club Championship after placing second in 2009.

The NASL is committed to developing the highest level professional soccer league below MLS in the United States, Canada and the Caribbean. The NASL will be submitting its application to the United States Soccer Federation (USSF) to officially become the only second division professional soccer league in the United States.

30 Responses
  1. Oskar Blue permalink
    September 9, 2010

    Wow, was that press release written by a 6th-grader? I know most will think it’s picky, but proper grammar and following the rules of the language are usually mandatory for a professional organization, aren’t they?

    LOL

  2. Julio permalink
    September 9, 2010

    Not something unanticipated, but consider this. Puerto Rico is now open territory for US. The Islanders had exclusive territory rights to Puerto Rico and with baseball becoming less of a sport on the island, and soccer increasing, I see USL getting teams from Puerto Rico becoming part of teh Caribbean League USL said they were having.

    You take that with Antiqua and maybe Bermuda, USL has a region down there.

    If NASL is not sanctioned, the Islanders could very well be in a world of hurts. Their decision sounds like a one way street.

    That is a lot of risk to take.

  3. GYU permalink
    September 9, 2010

    @Oskar The release would be fine if they did not keep saying “Puerto Rico Islanders” where simply saying the Islanders or the team would be fine. Really makes the whole thing repetitive and difficult to read. They say Puerto Rico like 100 times in five paragraphs.

    But on point, this is a big move towards what the USSF wants. Clarity between the divisions. D2 represents bigger teams with a national profile and D3 is a regional league good for smaller markets. By no longer confusing the pyramid, the professional leagues will work better and make for a stronger future and yes, a stronger World Cup bid.

  4. September 9, 2010

    From what I understand they have made a decision to go NASL or they will play in the Puerto Rican league.

    It’s also my understanding that the USL Caribbean league that was talked about for a while is not doing so hot. I think USL needs to focus on building on there 6-team American D3 league first. The Caribbean league would be a great addition someday but only as a supplement.

  5. Rabble Rouser permalink
    September 9, 2010

    Oskar, you are not familiar with the work of “renowned journalist” Kartik Krishnaiyer. Silly things like accuracy, proper grammar and transparency are not needed when you have hosted podcasts for more than one website. The man tweets a lot. That means subject and verb agreement are right out.

  6. MarcV permalink
    September 9, 2010

    Possibly count Antigua out of the equation. They cancelled their friendlies with Montreal and Charleston because of financial issues…

  7. Tony in Florida permalink
    September 9, 2010

    Ah Krishnaiyer……I’m about as big a critic of Krishnaiyer as they come. Thank god he no longer blogs- his anti American, pro-Mexican, pro-German propaganda was not only offensive but borderline slanderous. But this release is actually pretty well written when you get beyond the constant repetitive use of Puerto Rico. The problem is that it is well/cleverly written and is filled with half truths and flat out lies, the type that Krishnaiyer was known for in his “journalistic” I mean blogging career.

    1- Aaron Davidson, the President of Miami FC, my sort of local club (I live about 50 miles north of the Fort Lauderdale-Miami area but haven’t attended a game since 2007) which is run like a high school team calls the Islanders the “preeminent” Caribbean team. Try telling Harbour View, Joe Public, Arnett Gardens, W Connection and the other traditional powers from the region this. The Islanders qualified for CONCACAF for the first time in 2008!

    2- Davidson says ” and their addition to the NASL makes our league stronger.” What league? You aren’t sanctioned and if the USSF has any sense, you won’t be sanctioned. You cannot legally call yourself a league. You a group of teams. Krishnaiyer and Davidson both know the distinction and have lied here. USL is actually a league with a professional front office and experience in management not a bunch of millionaire malcontents who have thrown lower division soccer into disrepair as we seek to host a World Cup.

    3- The Islanders on-field success has led to incredible growth for the sport on the island says the release. This is a completely fraudulent statement- an opinion written by a previously opinionated blogger thrown into a news release.

    4- The NASL will be submitting its application to the United States Soccer Federation (USSF) to officially become the only second division professional soccer league in the United States. Really? How can you become the ONLY 2nd division league? USL hasn’t revealed their plans and USL, a proven league with over 20 years experience has laid out a real vision with USL Pro which clearly fits the model needed below MLS. The NASL’s high cost model led by bomb throwers like Davidson, Selby Wellman, Joey Saputo and Krishnaiyer doing the press is not what soccer needs.

    I urge all soccer fans to rally around the USL Pro League and return American soccer to the degree of normalcy we experienced prior to 2009. I also would encourage all fans of NASL teams to push their owners to join USL Pro. Rob Clark of the Rhinos who runs the best current D2 team that is not going to MLS isn’t interested in the high cost, bomb throwing NASL model and others should follow his wise lead.

    USL has the model for the future, not NASL. The Islanders have finished their “run” of the last few years with this ill timed move.

  8. Bart permalink
    September 9, 2010

    Tony in Florida -

    Either you must be a USL employee or you have taken a serious taste of USL Kool Aide.

    Who are you? NASL has a lot of strong benefits, it has Wellman as the “Mouth of the South”, and Davidson as the smart promoter. You need to give them a lot more respect, they will not go down fighting, as they should be.

  9. September 9, 2010

    Tony,

    “I urge all soccer fans to rally around the USL Pro League and return American soccer to the degree of normalcy we experienced prior to 2009.”

    OK, if you want to go back to a 75% failure rate amongst teams I would encourage you to stay the course and not think out of the box or change.

    “USL hasn’t revealed their plans and USL”

    So you think that USL will be applying for sanctioning of D2 with USL Pro teams? Tell me where some of those 6-USL-2 team are going to come up with owners worth $20 mil.

    Now I’m not saying that the new USL model is not a good idea. I’m saying you are so out in left field that I think you might actually be pro NASL wanting to look so caustic that people will think they don’t want to follow USL anymore. In other words, you are not helping your cause.

    BTW, Kartik was sometimes outspoken when he blogged, but I have never met anyone in my life who knows the game inside and out, the people, the teams, the leagues and the politics as well as Kartik. The guy is a walking encyclopedia of knowledge and a good guy to have as a friend. There is no one that I know of outside my friend Bruce of duNord fame who has done more in his own way to promote and support the US National team. And Bruce has a few years on Kartik.

  10. Justin permalink
    September 9, 2010

    I am confused. Everyone keeps mentioning the fact that PR might get a free pass for 2011 on the issue of not having a wealthy majority owner. BQ, you and I exchanged emails, in which you made it very clear that this can’t ever be granted.

    Is it a possibility?

    Why wouldn’t the Stars have the same opportunity?

  11. Saverio permalink
    September 9, 2010

    Tony in Florida:

    Wake up and smell the coffee. The USL was (and I emphasize was) doing a great job of developing second tier soccer in North America, but it is painfully noticeable to most that since the sale of the USL that something is awry. Most of the former owners have little or no confidence in the ownership and/or organization, hence the formation of the NASL. My prediction is that the USL 1 will continue to bleed. Next in line to leave will be Austin Aztecs. USL will now have to focus on D3 and PDL and I wish them well considering our city has a well attended PDL team that is looking to eventually moving up a tier. We must remember that this is business. As much as we might pine for the way it was, we must look to the future (which will probably be NASL) and hope that D2 will be successful.

  12. Steve permalink
    September 9, 2010

    6th grade? C’mon, man, what planet are you on? You give him way too much credit.

  13. fotbalist permalink
    September 9, 2010

    I’m glad to see some criticism of professionalism or lack thereof. I’ve only found 2 soccer blogs that have well-written editorials. Obviously, the comments of readers can’t (and perhaps shouldn’t) be verified for grammar, syntax, etc.

    I am very disappointed that someone occupying the position titled “Director of Communication and Public Relations” is unable to write a coherent press release. I’ve followed Kartik’s work prior to his new job with NASL. As BQ stated there are few who show more in-depth knowledge of the beautiful game. That quality, however, does not make him a good PR officer. Successful business people such as Saputo, Wellman, and the other NASL owners have no excuse for missing out on that point.

  14. fotbalist permalink
    September 9, 2010

    To the specific point of the news piece though, I think the Islanders have made the right decision. In fact, this might actually make up Rochester’s and Austin’s minds. Who knows? Maybe even USSF may receive some more enlightenment about the standards!

    On a somewhat different note, ultimately it’s really silly to claim D2 or D3 status without a true system of promotion and relegation. I know I’m talking about something that seems to be an unachievable goal in North America.

    Thirdly, we can’t even be talking about the born-again USL PRO being a D3 league, simply because USSF did not provide the soccer community with standards/requirements as they did for D2. That’s why I was so disappointed when I saw the D2 standards without anything for D3.

    Lastly, with MLS in D1, the USL PRO having a ‘professional’ league, and the NASL (possibly) not being sanctioned, in truth USL PRO becomes the 2nd tier of soccer on this continent. Sure, there may be a big difference in the level of play between the two, but (whether we like it or not) that will be the new soccer ladder.

  15. pony permalink
    September 9, 2010

    If D2 “goes dark” in 2011 (which I doubt it will), there will not be a USSF sanctioned D2. USLPro will be D3, and nothing more. Remember that before MLS, there was no sanctioned D1 in the USA, even though USL (or whatever it was called at the time) was the top-level of play.

  16. Saverio permalink
    September 10, 2010

    Ultimately, the question of which league becomes D2 or D3 will be determined by how much the players will paid. The money will gravitate to the better players and in turn the better players will gravitate to the money. The quality of the league will be determined by these players. The off field politics will be as exciting as I hope the play on the field will be. On purely practical terms, I think that the USSF will find that its in soccer’s best interest to have a sanctioned D2 league even if all the teams can’t meet the strict requirements, thereby relaxing some of the the requirements for the short term. And hopefully these games of politicking will not deter the fans from coming out to the games (and yes I know that I shouldn’t start a sentence with “And”).

  17. Mikey permalink
    September 10, 2010

    Im pretty sure there are standards for D3, (its a fifa organization, and as such, full of bureaucracy) obviously they aren’t very strict but I remember seeing them when USSF soccer’s website had all the various PDFs a couple years ago and Im sure they all need to be revised to some degree like the D2 standards were.

    What will be interesting is if Puerto Rico joining NASL will effect Rochester’s decision as to which league they will join.

  18. Rabble Rouser permalink
    September 10, 2010

    “I have never met anyone in my life who knows the game inside and out, the people, the teams, the leagues and the politics as well as Kartik.”

    You need to get out more.

  19. yankiboy permalink
    September 10, 2010

    @Tony in Florida: Look, I rarely miss an opportunity to have a go at the propagansist, (the blogger formerly known as Kartiki Krishnaiyer) but c’mon, Bro–seriously:

    Propaganda is in his job description. That is his job.

    While you make some great points, please, please, please–

    Back away from the USL cyanide-laced Kool-Aid. That punch is as about as healthy for you as the NASL Strychnine-grape flavored one.

    Seriously. Kartik has his flaws. You will have to elbow me from the front of the line when it comes to having a go at that guy.

    But his job is propagana. That is what he was hired to do.

    Not sure if your last name is Marcos or Holt or Economides or found on the Nu-Rock Holdings board list.

    And as far as “Harbour View, Joe Public, Arnett Gardens, W Connection and the other traditional powers from the region this. The Islanders qualified for CONCACAF for the first time in 2008!”

    Those same traditional regional powers haven’t done jack outside of W in the last few years. They aren’t the reigning Caribbean champion. They have gone backwards. Which is sad. Because I like to see those teams doing well in regional competition (just as long as they aren’t playing the Islanders or any team based in Puerto Rico not named River Plate).

    That is like me being an Orioles fan saying–The Florida Marlins–how many World Series Championships do they have?!?! Why they only won their first one in the last–what 14 years or something.

    Islanders are the top CFU team right now. That is why there is a championship…

    I’m not sure what they are putting in the water cooler at USL Headquarters, but Bro–take that water to the pool supply company or your local health department coz that water has gotta be spiked wityh something!

    USL has been like a bad joke. The NASL has been like a short bad joke.
    I don’t put much more hope in the USL being able to save American soccer than I do the NASL but if I had to pick one then I would go with the USL over the NASL.

    But let’s not get it “twizted”–I got only about a few more grains full of faith in the USL then I do the NASL. As an Amercian soccer fan, I am not counting on that organization to do jack–other than trying to protect it’s own interests. It is no “savior”; sure it has history. A lot of that history includes ineptitude, greed, and delusions of grandeur. Hopefully they have now put those days behind them…

    I hope that Real Maryland survives so that I can still have a local USL Pro-Team to root for.

  20. Soccer Boy permalink
    September 10, 2010

    I think BQ has made some good points about league/team stability. Pro-NASL or Pro-USL, we need stability and not another D2 league that fails (or has teams fail) after a short period of time.

  21. yankiboy permalink
    September 10, 2010

    See. Now y’all know why it took me days to write the Baltimore 2010 Second Division Preseason review–I kick typos like Rafa Marquez kicks American American goalkeepers (ok, I kick WAY more typos than that–in just one paragraph)…

  22. yankiboy permalink
    September 10, 2010

    Hey, did I miss the required “IMS hates the NASL” post by Joe or somebody else in response to this BQ piece, yet???

  23. September 10, 2010

    :)

  24. Nate permalink
    September 10, 2010

    Tony in Florida -

    “Either you must be a USL employee or you have taken a serious taste of USL Kool Aide.

    Who are you? NASL has a lot of strong benefits, it has Wellman as the “Mouth of the South”, and Davidson as the smart promoter. You need to give them a lot more respect, they will not go down fighting, as they should be.”

    HEY TONY, who are you? Davidson a smart promoter, more like a snake oil salesman. They haven’t had more than 400 people at any match I was at. MIAMI uses there team for other business components, not for the good of US soccer. They are not even owned by Americans! Montreal..not part of America, and they will leave to MLS. Where is Cooper in ST. Louis? not talking? What about the Medd-head at Chrystal Palace…not talking! The US Soccer federation is playing their bills for the end of the season! Puerto Rico ..not in America! (by USSF charter). Proud AMERICANS for American soccer! Come on Mr. Gulati..stand by your new rules!

  25. Trevor permalink
    September 10, 2010

    Xenophobia. MAN does it make for some fun reading.

    And the

  26. yankiboy permalink
    September 10, 2010

    Hey, Trevor, I’m pretty sure that there is no “xenophobia” going on here. I think that Dude was using some “tounge in cheek”.

  27. ERic permalink
    September 10, 2010

    Man, we are way overdue for a “sarcasm” tag on the intertubes.

  28. pony permalink
    September 11, 2010

    Why did the AC St Louis story get pulled?

  29. thomas permalink
    September 11, 2010

    Love it – we need more controversy!

    But as for footballing matters there is only one way this is going – look at all the other soccer organisational models out there in the world and you’ll see that no one person calls the shots, whatever the perceptions are.

    If it is players on the pitch or club execs in the league offices nobody in the game is in such overall control that they can completely dictate how it will go – without exception negotiation is inevitable and essential to success. That’s soccer. As Pele said, it’s a metaphor for life.

    The only fixed lines are on the pitch itself, anywhere else and you get meltdown – just see France at the WC!

    MLS is improving because it made concessions to many of the demands laid out by players and other groups – it listened.

    USSF will improve as it makes concessions to all the disparate interest groups too – the first step was crystalizing financial guidelines for public consumption, the second will be accepting movement on this and retaining its arms-length advisory/oversight role. Gulati stated this was the intention from the outset.

    In legal terms it is inescapable that the teams own the rights to the principle product – the performance of the players on the pitch – since players are contracted to them in the terms of employment (single entity is nothing more than a convenient fraud).

    Fans attend on the basis that the XI we watch will retain some consistency from week to week as we identify with the character they show and this creates a bond between us through all the challenges, struggles and adversity faced. The basis of the industry is the on-field action.

    This fact of life is a hurdle no-one can get over or around – single entity is nothing more than a convenient fraud to temporarily appease the economic powers that be.

    So this announcement by PRI is a simple acknowledgement of the growing power of owner-operators and that official sanctioning is little more than a rubber stamp after the event; D2 NASL is almost a fait accompli. There is just one more step to go to confirm an 8th team.

    Casual commenters would do well to treat it as such because without promotion and relegation there is no effective punishment for fulfilling fixtures outside official approval – the global football market negates the possibility of player blacklisting and except for mounting barricades outside every field in the country to prevent fans from attending there is absolutely nothing anyone can do!

    One single season will prove this beyond question, and the risk of that is too much for the real power players behind MLS to stomach.

    Austin is just a matter of time (well, that and fan activism). And if not Austin, then just one of the many cities where passion flowers for the game.

    I regularly wonder why D2 doesn’t collectively buy two MLS franchises and fill them on merit… or by election… or fixed-term rotation… or, or, or…

  30. September 13, 2010

    Frankly, NASL made the whole thing interesting, in my opinion. Judging from the way the websites were handled, it simply appeared to me that USL was more concerned with its banner than the ranks of its teams. It was difficult to differentiate online between the Puerto Rico Islanders, the Harrisburg City Islanders, and the Long Island Rough Riders. Since MLS in my area has until recently been somewhat of a disappointment (and I thank Red Bull for spending the money to turn that around and turning RBNY into a true New York team, one that only money can buy) I’ve been watching the D-2 games with serious interest.

    But there’s something to be said when you call your family in, say, Miami, and even though they are big fans of the game, they aren’t even aware there is a D-2 team in the state, let alone in nearby Fort Lauderdale. The simple reality is that what the NASL has done is made those distinctions much clearer, and has taken some good steps to make that point– using nostalgia is a great way to promote the sport and get younger generations to ask questions.

    The Puerto Rico Islanders, frankly one of the best teams in the U.S, recognized that savvy and are looking to grow that. And if it were the other way around, I’d be just as hard on the NASL. I can at least see the start of a real rivalry now in the NASL, whereas I can’t see that (nor do I think they want to promote that) officially in MLS. But the times, they are a-changing, and I think the most important thing whoever the overarching body can do is to stop focusing on themselves and start focusing fans on getting to know their local teams.

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