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USL Announces Orlando City Soccer Club as New USL PRO Team

2010 October 25
by Brian Quarstad

Orlando City SC will be the name of the new USL PRO side that will compete in Orlando, Florida in 2011. In a press conference this afternoon Steve Donner, who will be the club’s CEO, introduced Phil Rawlins, owner of the Austin Aztex.

Rawlins announced that he would indeed be moving his Austin Aztex to Orlando, Florida. Orlando Sports Holdings (OSH) will be the name of that organization. OSH will be comprised of majority owner Rawlins, who is also partial owner and on the board of Stoke City in the English Premier League, along with Brendan Flood, the majority owner of the English Championship’s Burnley F.C., and Dan Williams.

According to Rawlins, Orlando City Soccer Club will have a direct affiliation with Stoke City. This affiliation will help make Orlando an international destination for soccer, bringing top teams from Europe, Central and South America to Central Florida for international exhibitions, pre-season training camps and other soccer competitions.

Rawlins said his new investor/partners wanted to move the team to Orlando. “Our new investors were intrigued by Orlando as a market,” said Rawlins. “We thought, let’s take a successful franchise and move it into a market that we believe has got major-league potential.”

The Austin Aztex owner also stated that his new organization has MLS aspirations and would like to do so in 3-4 years time.

“We can confidently say we’ll see two international exhibitions here next summer, and our goal is to take that July window and have teams vie for the Orlando slot because we’re going to do this on an annual basis,” Orlando City S.C. CEO Steve Donner said.

The organization also announced that Adrian Heath, who has coached the Aztex the last two seasons and who recently inked a new 3-year deal with the Aztex, will be the team’s first coach.

Rawlins also announced that the Deal that caused Austin to move to Orlando was actually done early last week which would be contrary to the Austin Press release on Friday. That statement said: The ownership group has been working hard to pursue additional investors to secure the long-term future of the club and continues to do so. At this point in time, there is nothing concrete to report on that front, but we will continue to pursue all of our options and will make an announcement as soon as anything is solidified.

Rawlins said the Aztex currently have 24 players under contract and that will make up the base of the roster for the new Orlando team.

Tim Holt also spoke and said when all is said and done the USL expects to have 20 teams playing USL PRO in 2011.

68 Responses
  1. WSW permalink
    October 25, 2010

    USL PRO sucks. Death of D2.

  2. Bart permalink
    October 25, 2010

    Hey Dan,

    Can you please tell us how you really feel? Please don’t sugar coat this for us….

  3. October 25, 2010

    Is Phil Rawlins Britian’s payback for Tom Hicks?

    Could you imagine Rawlins or Burnley’s Brendan Flood moving Stoke City or Burnley to another city in the UK? Of course not. But no problem moving the Aztex to Orlando.

    I guess Rawlins just discovered a map of the United States and suddenly realized there were no D2 teams near Austin. Maybe he was waiting for the Houston Dynamo or FC Dallas to be relegated.

    Professional American soccer has enough problems. Spare us these British owners.

  4. October 25, 2010

    These guys are opportunists who don’t give a rats ass about the growth of soccer in North America. USL loves these kinds of guys as it’s dollars in their pockets as well. Here’s hoping both USL and this new Orlando City club go down in a blaze of flaming fail!

  5. Leroy permalink
    October 25, 2010

    Mr. Wittman, as the self appointed NASL lover of life, it is somewhat self serving that you make this comment. Since you are a St. Louis follower, how is Mr. Cooper any better?

    Why the self righteous act? Rawlins did from a business perspective what he believed he had to do. That is wrong? No fan can walk the shoes of an owner that foots the bill.

  6. Bart permalink
    October 25, 2010

    Jeff,

    What basis do you make this statement? And on what basis do you make this most sophomoric and childish statement above?

  7. WSW permalink
    October 25, 2010

    My take on all of this:

    Austin was D2 and had a great fanbase, then the fans get side-swiped. USL is USL they just wan’t the franchise fee and you are on your own. NASL has and i hope will continue in the future the only way for soccer to grow in the U.S.

    This isn’t the USL of old where Sounders,Whitecaps and Timbers built their fanbase. This is a D3 ponzi scheme and I bet no team in USL PRO will ever have a chance at MLS. never ever.

    Montreal, TB, Ft. Lauderdale, Carolina, Puerto Rico, Edmonton are teams with a vision and they can build for the future. IF USL PRO wins. Lower division soccer is dead.

    The reason for a sports franchise is to go see elite athletes of their sport compete against each other. It’s not to go see a bunch of college drop outs, bunch of amateur players who you could go visit at a local Wendy’s each day for lunch because they work at the sport part time.

    NASL is creative thinking.

  8. October 25, 2010

    Leroy,
    I haven’t been an apologist for Cooper for quite some time. I have had a bellyful of his antics, too. But at least he didn’t move his team after attendance INCREASED 25%. Like I said, we have enough problems in US soccer without importing foreign owners who would never pull these shenanigans in their home countries.

    And yes, any fan can walk the shoes of an owner that foots the bill. The notion that owners are above criticism is absurd. Of course they are free to do what they want with their teams, but as fans we are equally free to voice our opinions about their actions.

    If you can stomach it, read “Bad Sports” by Dave Zirin, a book about the antics of American sports owners and their greed. There is even a chapter about Tom Hicks.

  9. Bart permalink
    October 25, 2010

    Oh, Gerry, so your wisdom from St. Louis comes from the simple fact that because a 25% increase in fans justifies the reason to stay in Austin, in spite of the fact that Rawlins has stated that his majority investors, something that Cooper does not have, requires a different marketplace?

    The money folks rule, Mr. Wittman, not some fan’s petty observation of pleasure that they get during a game.

    I would suggest that you get the St. Louis house in order before you start passing judgment, but that would kind of ruin your blog of the NASL fanatic, now would it not?

    He who is without sin should cast the first stone, we all live in glass houses.

  10. Joe permalink
    October 25, 2010

    Steve Donner and Rawlins want to take the Orlando franchise to MLS in 3-4 yrs?…..you guys in Orlando better do your research on Donner, he sold that to us in Rochester back in the 90′s. He nearly destroyed our club, and the city of Rochester forbid him majority ownership in the AHL team he owned . And Dan Williams is no stranger to Rochester either, he tried to buy the club , that didn’t work out. The USL is a good old boys club, letting Donner back in just proves it even more.

  11. Ali permalink
    October 25, 2010

    The twat said he signed a deal early last week.
    So what the heck was the point in the aztex press release on friday?

    Silly English charlie uniform november tango.

  12. Giggsy permalink
    October 25, 2010

    if Rawlings investors wanted a better market and picked Orlando they are dumber than a sack of hammers.

    Orlando is a tourist shitehole in a state stuck in the middle of a great depression. there is no recovery here in FL and we are soon to elect the former crook CEO of HCA/Columbia hospitals who defrauded the US Government out of BILLIONS of dollars. the state is all down hill with that scumbag in charge.

    meanwhile Austin is the perfect city for soccer. it is filled with young, hip, cool, counter culture people. it is a liberal oasis in the middle of Fundamentalist, TX. it had every opportunity to be an amazing D2 soccer market. the Aztex had managed to build on their fanbase and the team did just about ZERO marketing and had ZERO social media presence to attract and exit young hipster potential fans.

    this is an utter fail.

    i hope Orlando City SC dies horribly in a fire. plus how do you put a D2 team in Orlando and not strike up a partnership with Orlando Pirates FC (S. Africa) and name the team Orlando Pirates SC? Burnley? really? f**king Burnley? ask Baltimore how it works out when you partner with tiny arse nPower Championship teams.

  13. Brian permalink
    October 25, 2010

    With Austin moving to Orlando, and switching to USL Pro….same with Rochester….what does mean for the NASL or USSF D-2?

    What does this mean for AC St. Louis? Regardless, there is NO team remotely close, so travel expenses will be out the wazoo.

  14. WSW permalink
    October 25, 2010

    Well NASL has Montreal, Tampa, Ft. Lauderdale, Carolina, Puerto Rico, Edmonton. 6 teams.

    How much is needed for sanctioning? Wait for St.Louis…maybe start San Antonio in 2011 instead of 2012. Atlanta?

  15. drebin permalink
    October 26, 2010

    Just when you think the years of minor league clubs either folding or relocating would finally meet its end when USSF set their ground roles, you have USL once again pull this stunt of allowing the fans to suffer. I can understand certain actions by owners if it makes business sense but this whole thing just reminds me of USL’s past habits and I bet reinforces public perception that this secretive Old Boys network is still alive and thriving.

  16. MarcV permalink
    October 26, 2010

    USLPro plans for 18 to 20 teams in D3 in 2011. By next season’s end, guess how many of these will feel like they’ve been thrown under their nice yellow tour bus (or yellow submarine in the Caribbeans)? For USL, this will be another make or break season: they will make a lot of dough and break a lot of teams. And dealing D3 as a detour to D2 to D5 teams defies logic…

  17. thesuperrookie permalink
    October 26, 2010

    1) Am I the only one that sees the benefit of a team in Orlando?
    2) I hope the Rowdies follow suit and join up with the USL as this would mean there are more teams closer than ever for me to go and travel to watch! Orlando, Charleston, Carolina etc…
    3) Regardless of the 75% attrition rate of the USL, I think their moves to completely undermine the NASL in this backdoor fashion are brilliant. Kudos to the business acumen of the gents that publicly stated they wouldn’t go after D2 sanctioning, yet in just a few months have regained the upper-hand in minor league soccer in America. Well, done.

    While I do not agree with everything the USL has done in the past, I do believe that some things have changed and it will be the NASL clubs looking in from the outside wishing they were still involved in a few years time.

    Now, just bump up Des Moines, Rochester, and Thunder Bay and have the Stars go “down” a level and bam you have a nice division in the Heartland. Because, if their isn’t a Div. 2 soccer league, the Div. 3 league becomes the new Div. 2.

  18. GumbyGrrl permalink
    October 26, 2010

    If “USL” stands for United Soccer Leagues, what does “PRO” stand for?

  19. Grant Stephens permalink
    October 26, 2010

    Hey Giggsy…it also reminds me of The California Victory! Does anyone remember them and their fancy ‘partnership’ and how that lasted about a year? Cant help but think that is what USL wants…a team that pays the franchise fees to hang on for a year, then collapses. This way, The USL will HAVE to go get another team (read as Franchise Fee!) to replace folded team and the whole cycle starts over again.

  20. thesuperrookie permalink
    October 26, 2010

    For the record: I LOVE THIS DRAMA! It is like high school math club all over again, but way better and cooler.

  21. smatthew permalink
    October 26, 2010

    “Because, if their isn’t a Div. 2 soccer league, the Div. 3 league becomes the new Div. 2.”

    This right here is why I don’t get the complaints from Rhino fans about joining USL Pro. Unless USSF is gonna bend to every single demand they had for D2 sanctioning the NASL isn’t gonna get it and without any “D2″ division why wouldn’t the “D2″ talent just move to the next highest level league?

    I was originally upset when the news leaked out about Austin moving to Orlando; but honestly lower division soccer needs to cut down on travel expenses. If the USL is honest and working to build up local divisions in USL-Pro than it was the right move by Rawlins and I hope the league succeeds.

    So who is next to from NASL to join USL-Pro, Montreal or Tampa? Actually I wonder if Montreal would be too far north?

  22. MarcV permalink
    October 26, 2010

    @smatthew
    In Montreal, filling up 13000 seats to watch Impact beat up on Dayton or Harrisburg would be quite a challenge one year away from entertaining Galaxy and Sounders. I know it would be a challenge to get ME in one of those seats. My feeling is either D2 or taking a year off in 2011 for Impact FC.

  23. yankiboy permalink
    October 26, 2010

    @MarcV: I hear what you are saying and I appreciate your take. Your comments just add to the irony of Uncle Joey helping to lead the revolution. If he hadn;t helped lead the Great Migration to the NASL, one can speculate that you guys would have been playing 2nd division competition for another season before defecting to the MLS (where Uncle Joey had repeatedly said–talking out of whatever the French word is for butt-derriere, maybe–he didn’t want to go.

    That guy kills me. he also appears to have helped kill of the second division.

    Him, Kerfoot, Marcos, Holt, Boris and the guys that I know, love and support…

  24. Trevor permalink
    October 26, 2010

    I’m sorry, but how can anyone be happy about this? I mean seriously, is it not self-evident that picking a growing franchise and brand out of a growing market and plopping in a market with a bad soccer history is bad for US soccer? And that’s saying nothing of the heartbreak that the fans of the Austin Aztex are currently facing.

    This, in my opinion, is worse than what happened to us in MN with the collapse of the Thunder. I have a lot of animosity toward the Dean Johnson, but this is terrible on a whole different level.

    Yeah, the move makes business sense. There’s no questioning that. But was it the right thing to do? Probably not.

  25. drebin permalink
    October 26, 2010

    After thinking about it I am led to believe these shenanigans are part of a tactical maneuver to really hurt the NASL. And this idea that D3 would fill the void of D2 has been tossed around in past discussions on IMS, now I am led to believe this can all become a reality.

  26. ERic permalink
    October 26, 2010

    @drebin: I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again — it will be 10 more years before this all settles down into something stable and satisfying. ‘Course, I said it around year ago, so I guess that means it should be only 9 years.

    Hold on boys, the ride will be rough for a while longer.

    As for Austin, I don’t expect another pro team in town for those 9 years.

  27. yankiboy permalink
    October 26, 2010

    @Drebin: For the sake of some balance, I’d like to ask you if it appears that the NASL tried to kill off the USL1.

    The NASL shennaningans were no different. Seriously. The NASL was pretty much doomed to failure from the start. They played hardball with the USL and now it looks like they are going to lose.

    I give it to Holt, Marcos and the new USL leadership: Looks like you guys are going to get the next last laugh.

    Enjoy it because trying to bring clubs like Barracuda FC and overexpanding into Puerto Rico to form the Caribbean division looks like you guys are going to keep the laughs coming.

  28. drebin permalink
    October 26, 2010

    @Trevor

    I agree. It’s becoming more and more about gaining the upper-hand over the competition and less and less about the fans and soccer in general. And remember this have been going on for more than a year that I feel so exhausted now. Whether you are for USL or NASL, I think we all shared the hope that there would at least be some sort of stability and a unified structure within our lower divisions so that all parties involved are 100% focused on growing and expanding the sport. Now it has come down to “business as usual.” Options that either save the club money or brings in more money, with no consideration for the fans’ input. Maybe I should just move on to hockey.

  29. Trevor permalink
    October 26, 2010

    Any way you slice it, the current situation of D2 and D3 soccer is the direct result of poor business practices on the part of USL.

    Let’s say that Rawlins is justified in moving the team because of financial constraints related to the team’s location. It’s no one’s fault then. But wait! Wasn’t it the USL that sold him a franchise in an untenable region? And shouldn’t he be fuming mad at them for doing so? Well of course not, cause now they’ve promised to give him a different franchise in an equally untenable market (albeit for different reasons) where he gets to pay lower travel costs and lower salaries in a cheaper venue.

    Wins all around for USL; big loss for Austin and US soccer.

  30. drebin permalink
    October 26, 2010

    @yankiboy

    I’m not saying NASL did not do the same. But I wouldn’t say they were intent on killing off USL-1, they just wanted to change the direction the league was going and have some say in day-to-day operations. I think they had a fair point and when their voices weren’t heard they did the right thing to break away. I would probably put the blame of destroying USL-1 on.. well, the USL.

    LOL, they seem to have a track record of “killing off” things, from clubs to their own damn division 1.

  31. Tom permalink
    October 26, 2010

    Unless for some personal ulterior motives, how could anyone view what is transpiring as good. What’s good about cities losing teams. What’s good about the overall soccer landscape here in the US deteriorating. What’s good about teams stepping down to a lower level of soccer. What’s good about soccer professionals having fewer opportunities to hone their skills and most likely making less money during their short careers. I am happy if some cities will now have a team that did not exist before, but the bad IMO is far outweighing the good.

  32. yankiboy permalink
    October 26, 2010

    @drebin: I would say that the USL did a great job killing of the USL1. You got a great point there.

    But I disagree that the NASL was not intent on destroying the USL1–which I personaly didn’t have a problem with– “survival of the fittest”.

    Problem is that they BOTH are SORRY and about the “fittest” thing about them both are the egos in play.

    Maybe Economides is right when he says that a lot of the key USL decision makers learned from their mistakes of the past.

    I certainly hope so. But Barracuda FC, Donner, the Puerto Rican expansion and other decisions such as the I Leagues, makes me seriously doubt it…

    More of the same. packaged. Repackaged…

  33. RedRover permalink
    October 26, 2010

    Forget about Orlando making the move to MLS in a few years. That dog will never hunt. With Steve Donner running things, Orlando won’t even have a pro team in that span of time.

  34. MarcV permalink
    October 26, 2010

    @Yankiboy
    I can’t speak for the other chaps you mentioned, but please remember that Joey S. and the Impact have been in D2 since before it was D2. I don’t think Joey willingly wants to do away with this level of play before moving on to better pastures. It’s just that the ego wars have escalated to the point where no one will back down without losing face. Unfortunately, as is the concensus on this thread, soccer fans are the biggest losers…

  35. ERic permalink
    October 26, 2010

    @MarcV — “…soccer fans are the biggest losers…” are you Jim Rome?;)

  36. sedlie permalink
    October 26, 2010

    @Tom

    “What’s good about cities losing teams.” — Reduced travel costs.

    “What’s good about the overall soccer landscape here in the US deteriorating.” — This offseason (although the season still isn’t over) looks stronger than last offseason. Things looking better than last year is an improvement.

    “What’s good about teams stepping down to a lower level of soccer.” — Stability, in that an owner could see it working out financially in D-3 whereas it wasn’t in D-2.

    “What’s good about soccer professionals having fewer opportunities to hone their skills and most likely making less money during their short careers.” — Stability. If the market can only support so much financially, it can only support so much. If the demand is not there, it’s not the owners fault that it can’t pay the player more for a seemingly undesirable product.

  37. Giggsy permalink
    October 26, 2010

    i think a good question would be does USSF really allow the country to go without a D2? does it essentially allow the fly-by night hucksters of USL to pull a fast one on them and get to be D2 without actually having to meet any of the standards they set? i cannot think for one minute that the people who run USSF want to either A. be seen as having instituted rules to strengthen D2 that essentially killed it off and B. see their authority to set up rules to institute some higher standards in D2 specifically to address the shenanigans of USL be undermined by USL effectively circumventing the rules by saying “hey, we don’ need to follow those rules we’re only D3. of course with your help we were able to kill off D2 so in effect we are D2 without any of the rules but hey, them’s the rules that you just made up!”

    frankly i don’t see the USSF wanting to concede the next level of soccer below MLS to those scam artists of the USL. i mean they were half the reason they made the rules in the first place.

  38. Bart permalink
    October 26, 2010

    A lot of name calling on this blog. As John Wayne said in one of his westerns, when there are two big guys, both wanting to control the territory, at some point there will be a fight.

    And frankly, and even more importantly, contrary to most of your posts, I don’t see the fight. USL decided to focus on a different level of league play in soccer, while granting to NASL the ability to take the D2 position. Why would this be USL’s fault?

    All NASL has to do is find 8 guys worth $20,000,000, willing to lose about $1,000,000 a year for about 3 years so they can get their league sanctioned. But wait, they already have 6 idiots that will do this (actually 5 because Montreal makes money, Saputo is another topic), so all they need are 2 more geniuses that will all play together nicely.

    Funny thing about bleeding money, one finds that over time, they will not play nicely. One gets tired real quick and looks to patch the wound.

    All Traffic has to do is plunk down $40,000,000 to to teams to qualify them for D2 (make sure they are US teams, though), and their problem is over.

  39. Trevor permalink
    October 26, 2010

    @sedlie

    Reducing travel costs at the expense of up and coming soccer markets is probably not a great idea. By that logic, all US soccer should just be run like PDL and NPSL. There are more considerations to be taken into account than simply the cost of travel.
    (And even if travel cost is of key concern, then Rawlins and USL both knew it when the Aztex came into the league. A tiny amount of planning would have saved a lot of trouble.)

    “This offseason (although the season still isn’t over) looks stronger than last offseason. Things looking better than last year is an improvement.”
    -In what way does this off season look better than last? Last season we had two viable D2 leagues trying to prove that they could put the best quality product on the field; this season we have one oversized D3 league and possibly no D2. To make it worse, the new USSF standards all but ensure that great teams like PR will have no place to play next season.

    “Stability, in that an owner could see it working out financially in D-3 whereas it wasn’t in D-2.”
    -If Rawlins had a problem with running a D2 club on a deficit, he should never have gotten into the business. That’s the name of the game for the first decade AT LEAST. Especially in a recession. And there’s not even any proof that the current venture in Orlando, a city with a TERRIBLE soccer track record, will work out any better.

    “If the market can only support so much financially, it can only support so much. If the demand is not there, it’s not the owners fault that it can’t pay the player more for a seemingly undesirable product.”
    -But demand was there in Austin, and it was growing. There is no evidence to suggest that there is any more demand in Orlando for a D3 team than for a D2 team in Austin.

  40. Trevor permalink
    October 26, 2010

    And Bart, there are serious problems with Traffic owning more than a single team in a league, even if they wanted to. The only reason it was allowed in MLS was the league’s single entity business model.

    And as far as your insinuation that NASL needs to go find a bunch of morons with cash, I fail to see how what USL is doing is any better. In fact, I see it as worse.

  41. Tom permalink
    October 26, 2010

    Bart – when you said that there is “A lot of name calling on this blog” where you trying to make a comment or prepare us for your later comment of “But wait, they already have 6 idiots that will do this……”
    I actually agree with your first comments as there truly isn’t a fight as USL opted to step down to a lower level.
    I hope USL is successful as it will be good for soccer in the US.
    I hope NASL is successful as it will be good for soccer in the US.
    If NASL does fail, there will be no D2 soccer in this country (no “de facto – by default, “if we keep calling D3 soccer as D2 then maybe folks will think it is”, etc…). USSF established guidelines for D2 that USL opted not to pursue (which makes USL-PRO D3) and it remains to be seen if NASL will even be able to meet them. IMO, if will be kind of sad for soccer here in North America when the next best level of soccer after 20 large market MLS cities has teams in smaller markets like Harrisburg, Dayton, and small Caribbean towns

  42. October 26, 2010

    So what was the final resolution of all the Rochester minor league stuff with Donner and friends? When it all collapsed up there, the papers made it read like some real underhanded – if not illegal – financial shenanigans were going on.

    Did the collapse of the Raging Rhinos not taint Steve Donner? Was he not at ground zero? Who, in the end, took the fall? It wasn’t Economides, he got out early – escaping to Carolina before being pushed out by new owners (and into the USL front office).

    Given the last I read about the old Raging Rhinos saga, can someone fill me in on h0w the old team (and associated hockey/lacrosse teams) got wound up and Steve Donner got introduced as leading another professional soccer team?

  43. October 26, 2010

    What is the aphorism: fool me once, shame on you, fool me twice, shame on me, fool me several more times, I am a season ticket holder of a USL team?

    http://www.democratandchronicle.com/blogs/devo/2008/01/so-another-business-has-come-forward.html

  44. Bart permalink
    October 26, 2010

    Tom,

    It always gets back to the basics. Does D2 make sense at this point in history with US soccer if each owner, but for those on the Canadian border, lose $1,000,000 a year? This is what happens in Tampa, Carolina, and Miami. Miami is different because it is a multi-billion dollar company from Brazil and Mr. Davidson, the self appointed leader of NASL (according to the NASL website) has no personal skin in the game. He is nothing but an employee, and not that important of one at that.

    USL in the past, as with all organizations, did not adjust to the realities of the marketplace. It appears they are doing so now. I am not an insider, mind you, it just appears that way at this point in time, based upon the information they are releasing.

    There are a lot of sour grapes at hand, and for reasons within the local fan bases that I completely understand and emphasize with.

    D2 may not be what the US needs at this time, and that is a harsh reality. If the model loses money, why should it be done? The fan base does not support reality.

  45. thesuperrookie permalink
    October 26, 2010

    What is the horrible track record of Orlando soccer people have discussed?

  46. Miami Ultra permalink
    October 26, 2010

    I like how people are quoting USL PRO’s regional setup as a positive, and a good reason for Austin to move to Orlando. A regional setup does make sense but you all seem to be ignoring the fact that USL PRO, as it stands right now, has 11 teams stretching from Rochester to Antigua. That’s 2,000-some miles. Orlando is only reasonably close to Charleston. Other than that they are not much better off then they would have been in Austin in the NASL(and they would have had a nice close rival in San Antonio in a year’s time).

    Plus teams like Pittsburgh, Dayton, Harrisburg etc., accustomed to a D3 budget and travel setup, now have to travel to Orlando, Puerto Rico and Antigua. Seems like more of the same old crap from USL, just repackaged. They’ve circumvented the USSF standards, sold Rochester and Austin on their new “regional” league, and presumably hope to reclaim sole possession of the D2 game by default.

    And still the fact is Rawlins move of the Aztex was classless. He pulled a near-Baltimore Colts and snuck out of town in an instant, no respect to the solid fan base they were building. Citing travel costs is bogus. He knew what he was getting into in 2009 when the team formed.

  47. WSW permalink
    October 26, 2010

    I’m sick of USL here is the track record:

    virginia Beach mariners – folded
    california victory- folded
    cleveland city stars – folded

    their is plenty more who went to PDL

    So that is USL.

    NASL wants to make a difference if only they get a chance.

  48. Strikers Return permalink
    October 26, 2010

    At this point I think we’ve all read and said a lot of the same arguments regarding the position D2 is in and how they got there. It seems we’ve gotten to a point of let’s agree to disagree on that. What I’m interested in most now, once we have enjoyed what I am sure will be a thrilling final match between the Railhawks and Islanders, is where is everything going once that final whistle blows.

    I’ve concurred all along with the comments above regarding USSF’s position in this scenario. They have a number of reasons to do what’s needed to help NASL, and by proxy D2, survive, at least in the short term (1 – 3 years). They didn’t spend time (and money) coming up with D2 standards so that the division could be vacated immediately following their release. The USL strategy of hoping (and helping) the NASL to fail so that they will be “the top level of pro soccer below MLS” and yet say no thanks to the USSF’s D2 standards, would be a complete slap in the face that the USSF could not, and should not allow. You can call it shrewd, or savvy, or whatever else – but if you’re the USSF, you can’t ignore it.

    A couple of things to keep in mind as we look toward next year and beyond. First, and maybe BQ would be best positioned to learn anything about this – but strange as it sounds, the self-relegation of Austin and Rochester to D3, might just save NSC Minnesota (more likely) and St. Louis (less likely I think). If you’re in the NASL FO right now, here’s what you’re looking at: Strikers, Tampa FC, Carolina, Montreal, Puerto Rico, and Edmonton. You still need two more American teams to make this work. A while back a rumor was floated that maybe Traffic would get involved in financially backing Minnesota. At this point, if nothing else materializes in the next few months as far as a new investor, I don’t see that NASL and Traffic have any other options. They HAVE to back Minnesota, and maybe have to do the same for St. Louis some how as well. If they do, they should buy themselves at least two years to strengthen and improve their prodcut as San Antonio would replace Montreal in 2012.

    Considering everything that has gone on in the last year, USSF pretty much is going to have to allow the NASL to do whatever it can to get itself up and running. Letting them die before even getting off the ground would look incredibly stupid for them with FIFA. And I don’t want anyone saying anything stupid like USL Pro will be able to strengthen enough of it’s teams ANYTIME soon to apply for D2 sanctioning itself. It will NEVER happen. Not only that, but now that the USL has caused even further egg on the face trouble for the USSF, if I was them, I’d be holding on tight for what USSF decides to do with regards to D3 standards. Make no mistake, they will be forthcoming. Obviously they won’t be as strict as D2, but whose to say they won’t be stringent enough to have the same scenario that just happened play out for them again where whatever teams they have left are forced to self-relegate or fold yet again? Same story, different details for USL. But as has been pointed out numerous times, it doesn’t seem to matter to the folks running the USL show. Once they have your franchise fee, all they need is another sucker. (Ok, so I took a couple more pokes at USL…..hard to resist. LOL)

    Mostly I’m looking forward to whatever BQ can uncover regarding the NASL’s plans going forward. I hope he can be as solid in digging up info and passing it on to us, his avid readers, as he has been for the USL business.

  49. October 26, 2010

    WSW, a lot more than that have folded. Read my four part series on Rethinking Division II Soccer in the US. The link is on the sidebar with a special image. It’s actually 39 teams in 15 years that have either retracted or folded. 75% of all teams that have participated are no longer in the league.

    However, USL is looking at a new model. Am I bit skeptical about some of the teams they are bringing in for 2011? Yes. Do I think the new model with a board of governors composed of team owners is a good idea? Yes I do. Will the USL really allow those owners to make all the decisions about the league including approving new teams that come into the league (perhaps the most important power of all-proper vetting)? Time will tell, but the concept is exactly what the NASL was asking for a year ago and is an excellent idea that I think USL is embracing. They knew that the old model wasn’t working anymore, if it ever did.

    Listen, Marcos saw a professional soccer landscape in the US when no one else did. Give him some credit for that. Most people involved with soccer in the US, including many of the NASL guys will tell you that Marco’s role in pro soccer in the US was instrumental to getting where we are today. However, he kept trying the same tricks and those tricks were no longer working. A new model was needed and I think the new ownership has seen that.

    Personally, I commend the USL for giving this a shot. But, if we start to hear of teams coming and going within a year or two I think there’s going to be an awful lot of people who are going to be saying, “here we go again”.

    Do it right USL. There are watchful eyes on you.

    Unlike Bart, I would still like to see a division 2 in the US as well. To me, the more soccer leagues, the more soccer teams, the more we grow the talent. So the big question is, can we sustain teams in either league and can all the models work for different reasons? I don’t think anyone has that answer.

    BTW, I haven’t really weighted in personally on the Austin move. My heart goes out first and foremost to the employees of the Aztex who will not be making the jump to Orlando.

    Secondly it goes out to all those supporters in Austin who worked their asses off and embraced the team just like Rawlins asked them to only to have this happen. How many times have we seen this asking for loyalty in sports and then it’s not reciprocated. It does seem curious when the team seemed to be moving in the right direction that this happened.

    However, like it or not pro sports is a business and perhaps this is a move he had to make to bring down his own personal cost. Although I do like what Miami Ultra wrote about that just 2 comments above this one. But I do have to say he handled this quite poorly and his comment he made to the Austin press yesterday was really over the top and classless. Particularly for a guy who I’ve been told by many who know him and have worked with him that he is a class act. Well he sure didn’t show that on this one.

    “Asked why season-ticket holders weren’t made aware of the team’s financial struggles, Rawlins said: “Why would they be? When you’re talking about investment on the scale and the range we’re talking about, you’re talking about investment from business people and executives in the community, not a season-ticket holder”

  50. Brian permalink
    October 27, 2010

    BQ: Can you fill us in on the AC STL situation. I hear from one person that everything is just fine an some good news is coming soon……THEN I hear from some higher-ups in the St. Louis soccer community that Jeff Cooper has NO additional investors and its days are numbered. They tell me that Ryan Woods, who has been mentioned to be the guy that was going to buy the team, has fallen on hard times financially.

  51. fotbalist permalink
    October 27, 2010

    It was wrong and sad to move the Aztex out of Austin. I’m happy that Orland got a team, but not at the expense of another city; especially one with a very rapidly growing soccer culture. Simply WRONG!

    @ Tom – you indicated that if USL PRO decided not to pursue the USSF D2 requirement, that automatically makes them D3. I don’t feel that’s so. Did the USL PRO pursue to fulfill the requirements for D3. If not, they are simply a league without a specified division level.

    @ BQ – More importantly however, the USL called the USL PRO the ‘next level under MLS’…should the USSF question them on that. Are they sanctioned at all by USSF? If so at what tier of soccer.

    Perhaps we should get rid of privately run leagues altogether! Just thinking outside the box…

  52. [yankiboy permalink
    October 27, 2010

    @WSW: Yeah, the USL has an abysmal track record of clubs folding. Who’s gonna argue that. Like BQ indicated. That is one heck of a long list.

    But let’s look at the NASL, the would be “saviors” of second division soccer.

    C’mon, now: Let’s keep this REAL-

    St. Louis-Life support, looking for new cash

    Baltimore-Life support, busting their butts to try and survive.

    NSC Minnesota-Life Support

    ATL-NEVER PLAYED A GAME (don’t get me started on Boris again).
    Rochester-Defected back to USL
    Carolina-Still looking for a new investor.

    Montreal-Killing time, waiting to move.

    Vancouver-Already blew the goodbye kiss.

    Miami-I’m not even going to laugh at traffic right now coz they cash, a corny name change and a lot of hype…

    Edmonton-Out on a land locked island. Why even bother to play in anything other than a CSL or USL PRO Western Canadian regional.

    San Antonio-See above.

    Puerto Rico-Speaking of being on an island. I adore Puerto Rico. The ownership is smart and savvy and have brought my life a lot of joy. I hope that they didn’t burn any bridges with USL so that they can make like Rochester.

    WSW, all I am saying–without taking a shot at you is that tthe NASL track record is *********** MISERABLE, as well.

    As a NASL club (Baltimore) season ticket holder and a guy who loves a second NASL team (Puerto Rico), I am going to ttone down my selection of words for a few moments and just say this:

    I’m so sick of the NASL track record…

  53. Bart permalink
    October 27, 2010

    BQ,

    To clarify, there is nothing more than I would want is a complete D1/D2/D3 series of leagues interacting with each other here in the US. As a caveat, I would want each of these leagues to be self-sustaining, with a long term outlook in mind.

    The problem is that the fans simply don’t support this in most of the US. The sports writers generally ignore soccer, except for MLS and certain small high school or local youth club events. There certainly is no television, and for what little there is, the viewership is abysmal.

    What is ironic is that all of this occurs in spite of the fact that the local youth clubs enjoy unsurpassed increases in soccer membership. It seems that interest wanes just short of graduating high school. Hopefully this changes in a few generations, but with so many different sports options in the US, and with Lacrosse making huge strides, it may very well be that soccer may never be the success it deserves to be in the US.

    Not what I want, but certainly the lay of the land.

  54. October 27, 2010

    Thanks for the clarification Bart.

    fotbalist: No one can have a league in the US where the players fall under FIFA (meaning they can transfer to other sanctioned teams and qualify for US Open Cup competition or for their national teams) without being sanctioned by US Soccer. Tom is correct, USL decided that only a few of their teams would have qualified for the new tough USSF D2 standards so they “merged” their existing D3 teams with their one solitary D2 team Austin and created USL Pro. They do not have to get special sanctioning because they are already sanctioned at the D3 level. Because they are sanctioned US Soccer told me that USL will need to provide an annual report, as do all professional teams, but they do not need to submit a new application.

    As to the: ‘next level under MLS’ Of course it’s marketing and rhetoric. I pressed USL President Tim Holt on this point back in September and he clarified that USL Pro would be playing at D3 level. http://is.gd/gmnPQ

    If NASL should fail to get sanctioning then they will be correct and that’s what they are betting on at this point.

    BTW, D3 will also have a new set of standards issued according to US Soccer but there is no date on when.

  55. October 27, 2010

    Bart, I hope this is a foretelling of your concern about youth playing not transferring to soccer supporters buy tickets at the gate of pro teams.

    http://www.socceramerica.com/article/40128/mens-attendance-is-on-the-rise.html

  56. Strikers Return permalink
    October 27, 2010

    BQ,

    Couple of questions….first, to your latest post there, do you know of any analysis ever done regarding the correlation of college soccer attendance to pro/semi-pro attendance? I’m sure there are hard core soccer fans around the country in markets where both exist who actually attend both. But I’d hazard a guess to say it’s not necessarily a direct correlation. But hey, the point of any soccer attendance on the rise in this country is a good thing!

    My other question is, in my last post from yesterday (a bit long-winded I know, sorry!) I mentioned my thought process regarding the affects of the Rochester and Austin defections on Minnesota, in that it would appear Traffic and NASL have even more reason to make sure Minnesota, especially as a playoff team from last year, survives. Any insight, or even just your thought on this?

  57. October 27, 2010

    “in that it would appear Traffic and NASL have even more reason to make sure Minnesota, especially as a playoff team from last year, survives.”

    I would agree. Whether it happens or not is another question. The NSC will talk to me but not about any specifics at this point and time.

    I attend a lot of high school and college soccer games and the thing is, I’m seeing a far more educated youth soccer demographic than 10 or even 5 years ago. I think this is because it has become more accepted in our society just because of how long it’s not been around and because so many youth have played it for so long that their friends also now understand that sport. That and you can never underestimate what having ESPN cover soccer does and of course all the work FSC have done in promoting the game. It means youth at college soccer games are getting into the sport, sining the songs, chanting the chants and realizing that soccer has a unique footprint in the states that makes it different than other US sports in the way the fans interact with the game. Don’t underestimate that.

    Now don’t go saying bq says soccer will be the next big thing in the US cause I’m not saying that. But I think those stats are very telling.

  58. Tom permalink
    October 27, 2010

    Just how much less expensive is it to run a D2 team versus a D3 team (nothing to do with the USSF ownership requirements)? Would love it if someone could provide more tangible facts. My thoughts:

    If you know how to navigate yourself around a P/L statement, there are obviously some reduced costs in D2 versus D3:
    1) Regional travel will reduce travel costs due to lower airfares, bus rides, etc…
    2) D2 had a 30 game schedule (15 away games) while D3 had a 20 game schedule (10 away games). 1/3rd fewer away games.
    3) Player salaries would be reduced since the season is shorter, plus (and this is an assumption as I do not know as a fact) that a D3 player makes less (if you could equate it to an hourly wage) than a D2 player – this would just seem to make sense.
    These would seem to be significant cost savings but I am sure there are other minor ones as well.
    However, what some folks don’t seem to take into consideration is that the top line will also drop significantly.
    1) If the number of games stays the same (20 – and with 11 teams this makes for a perfect home-away scenario), then if attendance holds steady, total season game receipts will be reduced by a minimum of 33%. This must also take into consideration “true attendance” as we know that what is reported as a total can be quite different than what is “paid attendance”. I remember the free MYSA tickets that could almost double Thunder attendance…
    2) For those teams dropping down from D2 to D3, will they be able to charge the same ticket costs for a lower level?
    3) For those teams dropping down, will (and this is a big if) attendance remain constant when a team like Rochester is now playing Harrisburg versus Montreal or Portland?
    4) If attendance drops then there is a proportional drop in concession revenue.
    5) Sponsorship/advertising is usually local so that should not be impacted except for the teams dropping down (assuming only 20 games is played) as it will be tough to charge the same since viewership/exposure will be down 1/3rd.

    From what I can determine, there is obviously less risk associated with D3, but still no guarantee of profitability. Less expenses, but also less revenue. If I do my math correctly, if you have 13 home games (10 regular season + 3 exhibitions/Cup games, etc…) and you can average 2,500 in PAID attendance at $10 per game then game receipts would equate to $325,000. Add in other top half revenue and these teams might approach half a million. Am I right or could the next level of soccer below MLS (if D2 fails for 2011) consist of a collection of very small businesses?

  59. Tom permalink
    October 27, 2010

    sorry, meant D3 versus D2 in the very first line…..

  60. yankiboy permalink
    October 27, 2010

    Tom: In regards to your questions about the difference between travel and salary–based on info public statements of FO inside FO info that I have been privy to and info from players salaries that they voulnteered to me–I would never ask anyone how much they make-NEVER.

    So call the following somewhat informed guestimates.

    The best that I can tell you is that the annual travel budget for teams moving down from D2 to D3 have been estimated around $160K (Charleston and Richmond the most recent to mke the move.

    Salaries: Thhe average D3 salary has been estimated at being around $1400 a month (unless you are Richmond or Charleston who tend to pay more). A D2 big star salary is now around $4k (unless you are a Traffic employee or work for Uncle Joey’s Impact or palyed in Vancouver–then you could make more).

    The living stipend is usually a bit higher in D2 or an apartment provided. Some franchises offered guys rental cars to share with teamates orr if they had a family and were big enough, sometimes they got their own car.

    Like Economides recently stated in the USLPRO propoganda, it appears that people and clubs have learned from their previous mistakes. The days of Donner, DuRoss, Eco and company in Rochester’s glory days of paying “6 figures” ($6k per month) are over.

    Uncle Joey’s situation was different because he HAD to increase salaries if the Impact ended up in the black due to the nature of his not for unique provincial situation relating to Montreal (previous) not for profit status.

    Across the board, most D2 owners had to contract spending budgets, generally speaking.

    So I am going to give you an estimate of $350K and say that that is conservative quote on the possible difference between a D2 club who moves down to D3, understanding that if your travel costs from PR or MN or Austin to play current USSFD2 clubs are already going to be high. If you are Charleston Battery and you can start taking the bus to Richmond, Maryland, Pittsburgh, you can see how Mr. Andrew Bell’s estimate of going from $200 large to maybe $40 large makes a lot of sense.

    Besides, dudes can nod off on the Kickermobile if they have to. If you fly into town you are going to need a hotel room for at least one night, often two…

    Hope that helps a little bit.

  61. WSW permalink
    October 27, 2010

    @yankiboy

    Life support is better than dead and that’s what happened to previous USL teams, they don’t exist. PERIOD.

  62. Brian permalink
    October 28, 2010

    Does anyone have any news on AC STL? Are they IN or OUT?

  63. Trevor permalink
    October 28, 2010

    One thing that seems to have slipped through the cracks as far as the conversation regarding the lower player costs of D3 is this: just what sort of player does USL Pro think they’re going to draw into their league?

    Sure, some of the more financially stable clubs will spring for higher salaries at first, but then what’s the point of their playing only nearby clubs, which can’t field the same well-paid rosters?

    In addition, many D2 players relocated to their club’s region for the duration of the season, living in club or club sponsored housing, and working other local jobs to help make ends meet. Will we still see players from around the country moving to make D3 money? Teams will certainly be able to cull more local talent in the regional model, but NASL doesn’t win sanctioning, USL will have engineered a monumental gap in salary between the highest (MLS) and 2nd highest (USL Pro) levels of soccer in the US. Where do the players who are above the USL Pro pay grade but below the MLS pay grade go?

  64. Chris A. permalink
    October 28, 2010

    @Trevor & others:
    One way players could get some decent salaries below MLS would be to unionize league-wide. Despite the politicization of the word “union”, it would give the players a seat at the bargaining table. Now that would be one interesting organizing campaign! Of course management/owners would probably reflexively be against it because paying dirt-low salaries is part of the business model. The level of below-MLS soccer will only ever be as good as the talent they attract. A union would want the NASL/USL/OTHER to succeed to provide jobs for its membership. Stable franchises are in everyones’ interest.

  65. yankiboy permalink
    October 28, 2010

    @Chris A: Unioninzing would seem to me to the quickest way to help kill off soccer below MLS level in the country.

    Hope that the WPS players know what they are doing since they are talking about going that route after the Commish has walked away and they lost two franchises this calendar year…

  66. Chris A. permalink
    October 28, 2010

    @yankiboy: I disagree. The owners and league administrators seem to be doing a fine job of killing it off on their own. ;) A union would be a stabilizing force.

  67. fotbalist permalink
    October 28, 2010

    @ BQ – Thanks for the clarification above. Very helpful! Any news on the USL PRO clubs yet? I remember 20 teams being mentioned. Also, is there any news on the NPSL? I’d be curious to hear some more news about the MN Kings and St Paul Twinstars.

  68. yankiboy permalink
    October 29, 2010

    @Chris A.: We’ll just agree to disagree on the union stabilizing the Titanic one, Bro. :)

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