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USL PRO Club Puerto Rico United Looking to Merge with Mayaguez FC

2011 May 6
by Jay Long

With contributions from Brian Quarstad

Another financial crisis seems to be facing a USL PRO franchise based in Puerto Rico: This time it’s Puerto Rico United.

Although a deal has yet to be finalized and officially announced, Eduardo Cantore reported on Wednesday that USL PRO team Puerto Rico United may combine forces with Puerto Rico Soccer League (PRSL) club Mayaguez FC.

The two teams are both located in western Puerto Rico. United is based in the town of Aguada while the city of Mayaguez is located approximately fifteen miles away.

Since Cantore filed his story, other reports of PR United’s problems have been published.

Puerto Rican soccer journalist Esteban Pagan confirmed to IMS Thursday evening via Twitter that there were issues within the club that stemmed from financial troubles and that the international players on the team had not been paid. He also reported that the Antonio Jardon, vice president of the organization, had left the club several weeks ago.

This morning Pagan has a feature story that quotes a number of the international players who posted their frustrations on Facebook. One of those players agreed to talk to him under conditions of anonymity.

“We are people who have left our country to seek a better future. But we got here and  have been dealing with this (situation). It has been very difficult,” said the player, who revealed that he has not been paid any wages  since the season started the first week of April.

Pagan writes: According to the player, the management had promised the players apartments and cars to share during their stay. However, 17 players were housed in some rooms located under the athletic stands in Aguada with no car and no way to communicate.

According to Cantore, executives of both Puerto Rico United and Mayaguez FC have negotiated and are attempting to unite the two sides. The goal is to field a stronger, more financially stable and unified squad to represent western Puerto Rico in USL PRO. By doing so, they hope to give the region a better chance for exposure, not only in the United States but also internationally.

A United Soccer Leagues spokesperson said they were surprised by the news, according to Tom Spears and Dan Grady of the Star News Online, a publication that covers the Wilmington Hammerheads of USL PRO. Their report stated that a call to Jason Arnold at the USL office seemed to surprise him. “That’s news to me,” the USL PRO operations manager said, although he noted that the league’s initial experience with its new Puerto Rican clubs is that rumors can “get started out of nowhere, so I don’t know where this came from.”

Yet in another report filed by Rita Ramirez on Thursday, Marcelo Cavanna, chairman of Mayaguez United FC, confirmed the report and stated that a meeting this weekend may determine the fate of the Puerto Rico United–Mayaguez United FC merger.

United Soccer Leagues and PRSL announced an agreement last year that allows certain clubs within the PRSL and selected by USL, to participate in USL PRO. The PRSL clubs chosen were Puerto Rico United, River Plate-Puerto Rico (Fajardo) and Sevilla FC-Puerto Rico (Juncos).  All three are members of the USL PRO International Division that currently compete in both USL PRO and the PRSL. When the teams face each other, the results are used for both leagues’ standings.

It was originally reported that Mayaguez FC was also interested in joining the USL. It remains unclear why they were not included in the USL’s Puerto Rican expansion.

There was recent speculation that Puerto Rico United was going to withdraw from USL PRO before the two clubs began negotiating a deal to cooperate.

The Mayaguez FC organizational structure will basically remain intact with Cavanna at the helm.

Cantore also reported that if the merger was to take place, PR United players would be incorporated into the Mayaguez United FC squad. Puerto Rican internationals Andres Cabrero and Hector “Pito” Ramos will join with the unified club. The former Cuban U-23 international, goalkeeper Jose Miranda, is also reported to be making the same move.

Other Puerto Rico United players were reportedly released, allowing them an opportunity to sign with other clubs. Rumors indicate that three may move to River Plate Puerto Rico while some others could sign with Sevilla FC-Puerto Rico.

Despite the problems in the front office, PR United is 1-2-2 with 5 pts. and sit in third place in the 5-team USL PRO International Division.

Oddly there are some indications that PR United could continue to participate as an independent club in the PRSL. It is expected that clarification will be forthcoming in the next few days if the deal is finalized.

It was previously reported that Sevilla FC-Puerto Rico almost withdrew from USL PRO before the season began. Less than two weeks ago, it was revealed that it might also be forced to change its name after a falling out with Sevilla of La Liga.

31 Responses
  1. May 6, 2011

    Luckily they play in a regional league so their costs should be low, right? I’m sure a trip Fullerton in July to play fellow international team the LA Blues won’t bankrupt the team.

  2. ERic permalink
    May 6, 2011

    “A United Soccer Leagues spokesperson said they were surprised by the news” :rolleyes: They’re always surprised when their cobbled-together teams turn out to be made of toilet paper.

    I despair of the USL ever being any different than it always has been.

  3. Bart permalink
    May 6, 2011

    I wonder what PRSL did to convince USL that placing three unknown teams into USL Pro was a prudent thing to do. It makes no sense that USL would simply agree, during an inaugural season, to place unknown teams from an untested market with their US based teams.

    Time will tell on this one.

  4. Strikers Return permalink
    May 6, 2011

    @Bart – Oh man! Bart, you gave me the best laugh I’ve had all week. I really thought all of your anti-NASL and pro-USL rhetoric was mostly just for fun. Are you pulling my leg here Bart? USL and prudent in the same sentence?!? LOL USL doing something that makes no sense to anyone outside of their HQ?!?!? LMAO I’d actually feel sorry for the LA owner, if it weren’t for the fact that he seemed as clueless as everyone else when he made those comments about the PR federation helping visiting teams with expenses awhile back, comments Holt wasted no time correcting a day or two later. Don’t be surprised if the International Division disappears at the end of the season. Heck, don’t be surprised if it happens sooner. Unless of course you’re USL Pro Operations Manager, as then it would of course “be news to me!” LMAO Unreal. Just incredibly unbelievably unreal. They had to keep Marcos on and give him something to do….and look what happens…….

  5. taly permalink
    May 6, 2011

    Agree, Seamonster. What was USL thinking when they added LA Blues to teams that are from a poor country.

  6. jw7 permalink
    May 6, 2011

    We have no reason to pick on USL PRO anymore…
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    But they sure do make it easy to do, now don’t they!

    PRO = Provide us with some more money please we can’t even get of of May.

  7. Jay Long permalink
    May 6, 2011

    @Taly: While economics clearly play a part in the problems that at least two of the USLPRO clubs have already encountered, I would beg to differ with you.

    You appear to believe that the core problem lies in the fact that the clubs are based in Puerto Rico (which by Caribbean standards is usually considered to be stonger economically than most of their island neighboors).

    To date, Puerto Rico Islanders have managed to survive because they had access to the sort of economic resources that are needed to participate in a league that is not based in Puerto Rico.

    Any club selected to play in a league like USLPRO needs to have the economic resources in order to be able to compete and fufill its financial responsibilities.

    Let me put it to you another way:

    Baltimore has a decent economy by US standards. So does Calgary and Edmonton. So does the San Francisco market

    Yet, I’m not going to Palace USA/Baltimore matches this year. The Mustangs, Aviators and the California Victory all needed bailouts relatively early in their seasons before they all gave up the ghost.

    With all due respect, I think that your comment about “the poor country” was an incredible oversimplification of the prioblem that the we are discussing here.

    Edmonton FC has demonstrated that it has economic resources. If Baltimore or Calgary or San Francisco can find ownership groups that have the sort of economic resources they need to be able to compete, then maybe those citites could also make a comeback.

    Those are not all “pooor towns” and should all be considered again if the economics were in place to make them work.

  8. Trevor permalink
    May 6, 2011

    News to the league office? If someone called you for comment on a subject like this, why would you say anything at all, especially if it were news to you? Very professional. Wow.

    The correct response when confronted with an unsubstantiated rumor is to 1) reply no comment, and then 2) check with your boss and the people involved to make sure it’s not true.

  9. rafijoepr permalink
    May 6, 2011

    This is very sad news for the sport in Puerto Rico, but for Puerto Rican fans it’s not that unexpected.

    In my opinion this goes on par with the theory that some of these teams where brought up too soon and used to justify having an “International Division” whose purpose was mostly to screw with the Islanders for not staying in USL and for all of the years that it is rumored they opposed relinquishing their exclusive rights to the Puerto Rico region in order to allow another USL team in the area.

    The relationship between PRSL/USL clearly exists as Francisco Marcos was presented as PRSL’s CEO, and games between the USLPro squads count towards both leagues. The PRSL composed of 6 teams, 3 of which play in USLPro of which 1 has recently signaled that it is close to folding and was put on sale, 2 are merging to avoid folding, 1 is loosing its affiliation with its parent club after almost folding prior to the start of the season.

    With USL being in cahoots with PRSL it means that Puerto Rico’s “top pro league” would control the 2 berths to the CFU tournament (which the Islanders are currently the champions of) thereby also controlling the chances Puerto Rico teams have to qualify for one of the three spots in the CONCACAF Champions League. Hence if the Islanders don’t play in the PRSL, they would not be able to qualify directly for CFU, and would have to ask to be invited to the tournament based on merits alone.

    Some people from PRSL even went to the Islanders forums in order to try to rally the fans supposed lack of patriotism due to the fact that the Islanders where ignoring the local “top pro league” and jeopardizing their future participation in CFU and CONCACAF Champions league by deciding not to participate in PRSL. To this day most Islanders fans have understood the intentions of PRSL/USL and ignored calls for revolution, and as time goes by the decision appears to be the correct one.

  10. WeatherManNX01 permalink
    May 6, 2011

    Surprised by the news? You mean, given USL’s history of randomly creating teams out of thin air for their leagues (or even pulling Puerto Rico locals simply to be able to field a division with Antigua) that this still surprises them? The only thing that surprises me here is that USL still doesn’t get it.

    I can’t wait for USSF to overhaul D3 standards and regulations, and I hope it puts a major crimp in USL’s style.

  11. May 6, 2011

    @Bart “Time will tell on this one.” &
    @jw7 “We have no reason to pick on USL PRO anymore…”

    Bullshit!

  12. Kenneth permalink
    May 6, 2011

    Seen this comming since the start!

  13. Jim permalink
    May 6, 2011

    Exactly Bart, this is exactly why I can’t wait to read your comments. I never know for sure what angle you’ll take on something but it is always entertaining.

    I think blaming the PRSL for anything is just brilliant and totally unexpected. Oh man, I just peed myself!

  14. May 6, 2011

    Not shocked at all by this. Not good news for soccer in general in PR.

    U: Unstable S: Soccer L: League

    This sort of thing must be reinforcing the Islanders decision to jump to NASL.

  15. Bart permalink
    May 6, 2011

    @Strikers Return

    Ok, prudent may not have been the correct word, but cautious sure should have been. With all the NASL fuss, I cannot imagine USL would be so stupid as to take risks this season, and if they did, without logic, then shame on them.

    I for one, don’t even understand why USL is even in PR. It had it’s own separate Federation and they ain’t Canada.

    Rumor does have it that PRSL promised a bunch of stuff to entice USL to place these teams. And yes, only time will tell if it works for them.

  16. Jay Long permalink
    May 6, 2011

    @F19: There are some (myself included) who believe that this would have most likely never have happened if the Islanders had not “defected” to the NASL.

    Prior to leaving the USL, the Islanders ownership never demonstrated any serious intentions to waive their USL exclusive territorial rights in Puerto Rico. This situation has taken place in the vacuum that was left after they decided to sever ties with the USL.

  17. Strikers Return permalink
    May 6, 2011

    @yankiboy Jay – It seems in hindsight that the Islanders were doing the USL a favor at the time by not relinquishing those rights. At worst what you have here is the geniuses at USL Pro deciding to try and thumb their nose at the Islanders and their defection by attempting to gain a foothold in PR and try and try to cut into the Islanders success however they could. At best, you’ve got the SOS with USL having very little in the way of standards or scrutinization regarding who they let into their league. Either way, it’s becoming what a lot of us guessed it would before they ever began the season, and that’s another failure.

    It’s incredibly difficult to step back and look at this whole International division experiment and find ANY solid, logical reason for it, especially in a year when the league is trying to regather itself and start fresh. They should have played the season with the 10 other teams and made LA stay at PDL until they can get some more west coast teams to move up. But again, they seemed to be in such a hurry to “show up” the NASL (are you kidding me with trying to put a USL Pro team in Ft. Lauderdale even?!?) that they didn’t spend a whole lot of time working up this whole new, regional league model. Quite a shame. And I’ll say this. If for some reason the better franchises in USL Pro after this season start glancing at the NASL and running through some what if scenarios, Holt, Papa, and Co. will have no one to blame but themselves…..

  18. Steven Beauregard permalink
    May 6, 2011

    Hmmm..Why aren’t those Rochester guys like Soccer Sam and Devo commenting on this and ranting about how unprofessional USL PRO is??

    Wasn’t NASL supposed to fold mid-season while USL PRO flourished and proved to everybody what a great choice Rob Clark made?

  19. Ski Dawg permalink
    May 7, 2011

    Wow. It looks like I was right to question the stability of USL Pro. First this, now I’m hearing that Orlando City, which was last year’s Austin Aztex in D2 before self-relegating to USL Pro (despite the fact they finished 3rd), want to jump up to MLS.

    http://www.mls-rumors.net/16474/2011/05/expansion-orlando-city-sc-to-be-mls-20th-team/

    At least the “promoted” MLS teams – Seattle, Portland, Vancouver, and next year Montreal – had the decency to play D2 soccer just before going to MLS.

  20. May 7, 2011

    Ski Dawg, Phil Rawlins said from day 1 of moving the team to Orlando that his intentions were to move to MLS. Nothing new there. Even if he hadn’t, why would that be a bad thing. Wouldn’t that be the intention of any soccer team owner in the US if given a chance?

    Also, there is no promotion or relegation so what difference does it make if the team starts new like Philly or move up from playing NPSL, D3 or D2. If you are in an acceptable market and have the money then you go to MLS. No shame whatsoever in that.

  21. Bart permalink
    May 7, 2011

    I would say the Rochester guys are not talking because home games for Rochester are only beginning now that the tundra has thawed a wee bit.

    From a pure logistics perspective, I would bet the US based USL Pro teams would love the possibility of PR going away. That will cut some serious travel costs, and bring some added net cash flow to the US organizations.

    I had always thought that the USL strategy was to have a separate Caribbean league anyway. And frankly, here in the US, no one really cares about the island anyway, unless you have family there.

    @rafijoepr – You are kidding, correct? Marcos was introduced as the President of PRSL? USL would allow this? Would this possibly be USL’s way of escorting Marcos out the door? Why don’t they just s–t c-n him like employees of other companies?

  22. Jay Long permalink
    May 7, 2011

    @Strikers Return: The points that you just articulated so very well are held by a lot of people who follow Puerto Rican soccer.

    Very well stated, Sir.

    @Steve Beauregard: Thanks. I’ve been wondering the same about our Rochester brethren. Hopefully, they will contact Brian Quarstad and invite him back to discuss what is developing down in Puerto Rico with USLPRO.

    @Bart: I agree with you that most of–if not all–the US clubs would be happy if the International division just went away. Regarding “no one caring about the Island…”.

    Almost no one thought about it as bringing anything to the table until the second incarantion of Puerto Rico Islanders was launched in 2003. In hindisight, I would guess that most of the A-League/USL1, USSF D2, and NASL clubs would tell you that the Islanders added value to the leagues that they participated in. They helped to raise the regional awareness of the US second division with their on the field success.

    Prior, almost no one in the Caribbean or Latin America knew or cared anything the US second division until the Islanders started getting good results on the field , especially in CONCACAF Champions League. Getting a cover on ESPN Deportes and being discussed on tv and radio shows has helped raise the profile of the division.

  23. El Padre permalink
    May 7, 2011

    @Bart: I for one was fascinated by the emergence of soccer in Puerto Rico when the Islanders reformed in 2004 and that was before I found out I’d be moving here three years later. It added an exotic quality to the second division as much as Montreal- if not even more so. It was also shocking as I couldn’t figure out how a baseball island could pull such a venture off.
    Your statement seems to reveal certain personal prejudices and doesn’t speak of the whole of American Soccer culture. Everyone I know in the States is as enchanted by the underdog tale of the Islanders and the franchise has rightly created a mystique about itself on rival with the chupacabra (another product of Puerto Rico). As far as the rest of the teams in PR, I think there was a desire on the part of USL to maintain some of the international character that the Islanders provided when playing in USL1. I think the biggest problem was simply too much of a good thing.
    River Plate PR would have been a logical choice to fill that role. The problem was the desire to get more “bang for the buck” for the teams travelling to the Caribbean. They wanted to crank out a few games on one trip to justify the cost of travel. They didn’t take enough time building their markets before making the jump.
    If I were you, I’d be hesitant to state that it was the PRSL which promised things to the USL rather than vice versa.
    By the way, Puerto Rico is a beautiful island filled with wonderful people and a rich culture. I’d expand my cultural horizons, if I were you, and get to know this gem of a Caribbean Island and her people. I never had family here, but now I feel like I do.

  24. Bart permalink
    May 7, 2011

    @ El Padre

    I have been to PR several times. For me, it is the beginning of that beautiful journey through that wonderful place called the Carribean. I find the people friendly and the culture and lifestyle fantastic.

    My comments meant no disrespect to the residents of PR, but the fact does remain that the Ugly Americans still consider PR to be a foreign country, in spite of the facts. From the mainland, most folks simply do not care about how a team is doing in PR, it does not matter what division it is in.

    Clear water, palm trees and great weather or not, with a separate Federation not connected to the mainland (and I am talking solely from the USL Pro side, not NASL), there should not have been a team from PR in USL Pro, it just does not make sense.

    Unlike some of the rest of the naysayers on this blog, I simply cannot believe that the USL brass did not think the issues through before they allowed the PR teams to join. They had to have thought the teams would have survived by virtue of the municipality monies that the teams seem to have been promised.

    This sounds like a brokered deal and the only party that was a broker in this case was PRSL. I have no facts to back this up, but as I said, time will tell.

  25. Jay Long permalink
    May 7, 2011

    @Bart: That has to be one of the articulate and thoughtful posts that I have ever read from you. By far!
    Please stop. You are starting to freak me out. 🙂

  26. Jay Long permalink
    May 7, 2011

    @El Padre: I refrained from posting any sort of response to your comments because I thought that the correct thing to do was to let Bart speak for himself. Now that he has, I would like to share a few thoughts with you:

    I am thrilled that you have fallen in love with Puerto Rico, as have I. But I would like to respectfully suggest that the “p” word is one that we should be very careful about using in this particular type of situation. The word “prejudice” almost exclusively has very negative connotations, these days.

    I am always eager to “expand to cultural horizons” but I have no problems admitting that I can’t tell you anything about the football situation in St. Croix. I can’t name one soccer club there or even mention a Crucian player by name, not at any level.

    I don’t pretend to speak for the American soccer culture as a whole but I think that chances are pretty strong that very few of us who follow American soccer are interested in Crucian soccer unless we have some sort of connection to the island or family there. Honestly, I can’t recall ever having one discussion with anyone who follows American soccer about Crucian soccer. Not even after the success of the Islanders.

    Now, if a Crucian team joined the USL or NASL then my interest would most definitely increase–just as it did with Bermuda and the Hogges.

    I don’t think that my lack of interest, to date, reflects any sort of negative bias against the Crucians.
    While I have encountered some American fans that were fascinated by the Islanders’ “underdog tale” I have noticed that many that hold a much more cynical and negative view; they resent the Islanders.

    Sometimes it has to do with the club’s style of play. But in many cases, their animosity is rooted in their perception that the Islanders have somehow “robbed” MLS of a Champion’s League berth. After explaining the federation distinction and qualification process, there are still others who have communicated that the Islanders success reflects very poorly on MLS. Or that it’s not “fair” because of the fact that MLS clubs face such difficult scheduling demands compared tp the Islanders. Or the MLS clubs had such small rosters, etc.

    Even after you shoot down a lot of other misconceptions, there still seem to be excuses or amusing reasons while they don’t want to give the Islanders the sort of credit that they deserve for their success. I actually thanked one American for his honesty when he posted that he was cheering for Cruz Azul to beat the Islanders in the CCL semis a couple years ago.

    He believed that if Puerto Rico Islanders somehow managed to win the championship, that would made the region look bad. He didn’t want a second division club winning the regional tournament. He just assumed that they would be slaughtered in the World Club tournament and that would reflect poorly on CONCACAF. As much as he “hated” cheering for a Mexican team, in any sort of competition–he stated that he felt absolutely compelled to do so, given the circumstances. After the Islanders were defeated, I encountered more Americans who echoed the previous gentleman’s sentiments.

    Bart could have definitely been more diplomatic in his choice of words but I understood the point that he was trying to make. His horizons appear to be a bit wider than you may have originally thought.
    I agree with almost everything regarding your take on the USL desire to take on some of the PRSL clubs; However, I think that the USL and the PRSL made some promises that they clearly weren’t capable of keeping. Not only to each other but also to the other clubs involved in USLPRO.

    I’d love to invite you to a drink or maybe we can catch a match together if you are interested, sometime when I get back down to the Island.

    Even when we occasionally disagree over a few points, I always enjoy your take on things, especially given your knowledge of Puerto Rican soccer. I also appreciate the historical context that you have for American soccer.

  27. CHHSfan permalink
    May 8, 2011

    This is a shame for Puerto Rican soccer, which I don’t think anyone wants to see damaged. Looking back, River Plate looks like the most prepared even with the stadium issue. They had tried to get into USL-1 before, and they are the only ones without office issues. I hope for their and Antigua’s sake that something can be worked out.

  28. Dave permalink
    May 8, 2011

    Antigua are tied to PR. Without those teams, there is no point to them in USL-Pro.

    I feel bad for the LA Blues. They are spending a good deal of money on their roster. It might be better than any NASL roster outside of Montreal. But they drew just 600 fans to their last home game and can’t deal with the travel costs.

    This was sort of inevitable, wasn’t it?

  29. El Padre permalink
    May 8, 2011

    @Bart- I’m glad you are as enchanted as I am with “La Isla del Encanto”. The fans of whom you speak who resent the Islanders’ success, need to know that the only thing that is keeping them from the MLS is $40 million. If they want to host a bake sale or some other fundraiser to get the Islanders into D1 so the region isn’t embarrassed by their success, I’m sure the ownership group will gladly accept their gift for the good of CONCACAF. 🙂

    @Jay Long: I will gladly buy you a Pina Colada in Bayamon… Bart, you’re invited too. (Just get in touch with Brian Q, who is also always welcome, as he has my contact info.)

  30. Jay Long permalink
    May 9, 2011

    @CHHSfan: When you evalutate the three USLPRO franchises, River appears to clearly be in the best prepared to make the jump.

    They also have faced some crisis recently: Their founder, Sr. Steven Alvarez has been dealing with some very serious medical issues. Just before the season started they were forced to make organizational changes and new investors are now involved. Sr. Mike Roca, the former PRSL president and founder is now at the helm along with a very respected journalist/media specialist, Sr. Claudio ALvarez-Dunn.

    There are concerns about whether or not the Fajarardo is an economically viable market for the club (even with their own stadium).

    If the other two USLPRO Puerto Rican clubs go under than River will have an even harder road to success.

    @Dave: I have to agree with you: Things haven’t looked good for LA. Since day one, things have only gotten worse. Those attendance figures are just another issue for concern. Right now, from where I sit, it looks like they have a very nice roster, a bag full of soccer balls and a lot of sleepless nights waiting for them as the International Division soap opera plays itself out.

    Antigua should be worried. But let’s not forget that Barracuda stiffed the Montreal Impact last year. They failed to keep their commitment to play a friendly against the Montreal Impact at Estade Saputo after Montreal had travelled to play one in Antigua.

    Hopefully they are fine but that incident should have been a glaring, “red flag” for anyone partnering with them. It didn’t reflect very well on the organization.

  31. El Padre permalink
    May 9, 2011

    According to Futbolboricua.net on facebook, River Plate Puerto Rico just released most of its foreign players due to financial problems and restructuring of the team. While I have never been a fan of River, this really doesn’t look good for soccer on my beloved island.

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