NASL Submits Bid for Division-2 Sanctioning for 2011
IMS has learned that the North American Soccer League (NASL) has commenced the process for sanctioning of Division-2 soccer. The NASL submitted the bid to the USSF on Monday and included only 6 of the 8 required teams. However, the bid process is now believed to be much more fluid than originally thought, and NASL executives are working with the USSF to make sure they are presenting their bid properly. The NASL believes they will eventually have 8 teams who will play in the 2011 season and it’s possible that they could have up to 10.
The six teams that were included in the bid all meet the financial requirements of the new USSF D-2 standards. The teams included were: Carolina RailHawks, FC Edmonton, Miami FC, Montreal Impact, FC Tampa Bay and the Puerto Rico Islanders.
IMS was told recently by a source who is involved with the Islanders that the team’s multiple owners have sold the necessary shares to team president Andy Guillemard-Noble who can meet the financial requirements of USSF.
It’s believed that the NASL is continuing to work with AC St. Louis and the NSC Minnesota Stars to make sure they are eventually included in the bid when they can meet the strict financial thresholds set out by the USSF. Those teams will also be important to achieve the USSF quota that 75% of teams are based in the US. Of the 6 teams initially involved with the bid, 50% are from outside of the US.
Ryan Woods, a St. Louis native, had previously told IMS he is currently in negotiations to purchase AC St. Louis and A-B Park from Jeff Cooper. “We are still in negotiations,” said Woods by phone on Wednesday. He indicated that negotiations continue to move forward and he is hopeful but did not have a deadline on when he believed things might be finalized.
It was also learned that Traffic Sports USA has been in negotiations with the National Sports Center (NSC) to become a partner of the Minnesota Stars and take over the player salary portion of the team.
Kris Bjerkness, general manager of the NSC Stars, would not confirm Traffic’s interest but he did speak of the team’s current situation on Wednesday. “Our status hasn’t changed,” said Bjerkness. “We are not in a position to be able to field a team next season unless we find a new partner or owner. We are still actively searching and have had discussions with numerous parties in that process.”
Bjerkness did not elaborate on his comment about a “new owner” which is not something that was previously discussed by the NSC. “While we support the efforts of the USSF to upgrade the standards for pro soccer, the new standards will necessitate that we find an organization or individual willing to join us as a financial partner,” said Bjerkness in a press release on August 30th.
The Rochester Rhinos are conspicuously absent from the NASL bid, even though team owner Rob Clark has a multi-year commitment to the NASL. Clark was contacted several times today for comment but did not return the calls. Clark has admitted to attending the Division-3 USL Pro meeting in Tampa in September and told IMS he was considering his options.
“I’m going to absorb all of the alternatives for the Rhinos should we choose not to participate in D2 next year,” said Clark in early September. “If the USL D3 league and its owners have their house in order and more importantly make decisions that make sense consistently, then I will have a very hard decision to make this off season.”
It was also learned that USL owners Rob Hoskins and Alex Papadakis attended the September 17th Rhinos home game against Miami FC which the Rhinos lost. The two USL owners sat with Clark in his suite.
Austin Aztex owner Phil Rawlins still seems to be holding his cards close to his chest, but the question is how much longer can he be noncommittal? Rawlins also attended the USL Pro meeting but currently USL Pro has no midwest teams. CEO Djorn Buchholz has said numerous times that Austin has no plans to play D3 and that it would make no sense from a geographical standpoint to join a league (D-3) which is based on the East Coast. Buchholz also said the team has plans on building a soccer-specific stadium with planning beginning in 2012.
It’s believed that Rawlins would not have any issues meeting the USSF financial requirements.