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Traffic Sports CEO Julio Mariz Resigns; Ramifications for NASL Unclear

2011 October 10
by Brian Quarstad

A story involving Traffic Sports’ loss of TV contract was reported last July that went largely unnoticed. That story may have already had consequences with the Traffic Sports Group out of Brazil. Traffic is the benefactor that supports three of the eight teams in the North American Soccer League (NASL).

In mid July it was reported that Traffic Sports lost the broadcast rights to Integrated Sports Media.

Integrated Sports Media has secured the rights to more than 40 CONCACAF WC qualifiers from Traffic Sports USA, while Schramm Marketing Group, through a pact with rights-holders Full Play Group and Al Jazeera Sports, is representing 72 CONMEBOL matches.

While many know of Traffic’s dealing in the world of players rights, that aspect of their business is relatively new. For over 30 years the bulk of Traffic’s income has actually derived from TV rights to sporting events and sports and event marketing. With soccer-passionate countries from South America like Brazil, Argentina, Uruguay, and Colombia, the CONMEBOL WC qualifying matches were one of the many pieces of their income stream.

The article goes on to say they have also lost future CONMEBOL rights which may or may not be true, depending on whom you talk to.

From the same article: Joe Schramm, principle of Schramm Marketing, said his company has been working with Full Play — which has gained the rights to the 2015, 2019 and 2023 Copa America tournament, whose rights were previously held by Traffic Sports with the current tourney airing on Univision Communications networks – since 1999. The last round of CONMEBOL WC qualifying matches were represented by Sports Capitol Partners.

According to Aaron Davidson, President of Traffic Sports USA, Traffic still owns the rights to Brazil’s World Cup qualifying matches. In the past they would use those high demand matches as leverage to negotiate deals with other TV rights distributors with the goal of getting pay-per-view rights to other CONMEBOL matches. Being the host nation for the 2014 World Cup, Brazil has an automatic berth into the games and therefore plays no qualifiers in this cycle. That means Traffic cannot leverage those rights to acquire other CONMEBOL rights.

Davidson takes exception with one of the article’s claims. “We didn’t lose 72 matches,” said Davidson. “Using the Brazil leverage we split those rights equally with Full Play.”

Full Play is claiming they have the rights but Davidson says Traffic still owns the rights with COMMEBOL for 2015 and the right of first refusal after that. While he would not go on record as to why he makes that claim, other sources have told IMS that Traffic lost a lawsuit surrounding the deal in which there still may be litigation.

Julio Mariz

But the bigger news in all of this is Traffic Sports in Sao Paulo announced the resignation of Julio Mariz as CEO of the organization on September 28th. Mariz oversaw all aspects of the Traffic Group in Brazil. Mariz was first the President of the American operation of Traffic before taking the CEO position in Brazil in 2008. He worked closely with Davidson who then took over his position as president of the US office in Miami, Florida. Whether the loss of those TV contracts had bearing on the decision is not known. In several articles from Brazil it stated Mariz’ resignation was for personal reasons. Davidson said he did not know the exact reason for Mariz stepping down but also believed it to be for personal reasons.

It is known that Mariz was a supporter of Davidson and that each were advocates for breaking away from the USL and starting a new Division II league; a move not everyone at Traffic Sports Group in Brazil were convinced of. The NASL group originally known as the Team Owners Association (TOA) started breaking away from the Division II USL in 2008. With diminished support from owners for the USL First Division and the bulk of those same owners moving to support the NASL, the new league was eventually sanctioned to run a Division II soccer league in the U.S. under the umbrella of the USSF. But the February 2011 decision to sanction the league was provisional, as the US governing body of soccer was concerned with the amount of support that Traffic was giving the NASL.

Initial reports on Mariz’ resignation said that Traffic Sports Group would have more information last Tuesday explaining Mariz’ departure and his replacement but no such announcement could be found. However, Davidson said Mariz’ replacement would be Traffic Sports owner J. Hawilla’s son, Stefano Hawilla. He also explained that Mariz will continue to be involved with Traffic Sports while the position transitions to Stefano.

Stefano Hawilla also spent time working for Traffic Sports USA and lived in the US. It’s said he is very familiar with American culture and has a good grasp of strengths and weaknesses of soccer in the U.S.

A source who has previously given IMS information regarding US Soccer, USL and NASL states that both Davidson and possibly NASL Commissioner David Downs have been requested to travel to Brazil in the next several weeks to discuss the status of Traffic Sports USA and the NASL.

It was also announced this past week that Traffic Sports has been awarded the rights along with Grupo Águia, to sell hospitality packages in the host country Brazil for the 2014 World Cup and 2013 Confederations Cup.

Traffic Sports owner J. Hawilla said, “We are proud of having been appointed exclusive sales agents with Grupo Águia for one of the key areas of the most important sports events in the world. The 2014 World Cup is the ultimate proof of the evolvement and professionalisation of Brazilian football. We are truly excited that we have been granted this privilege to apply our more than 30 years market experience.”

91 Responses
  1. Max Dorn permalink
    October 10, 2011

    I have only been following division 2 soccer for two years, so I cannot compare the NASL with the USL, but as a fan I have been very impressed with the professionalism of the league, and the quality of the product. I am hoping David Downs is not going to be getting any bad news when he gets to Brazil- is it all but a forgone conclusion that the league would go dark next year without Traffics support?

  2. October 10, 2011

    Never a dull moment with Traffic/NASL.
    Let’s hope this doesn’t affect the league.
    Go Strikers!

  3. silly permalink
    October 10, 2011

    This should lead to some fun discussions during the offseason.

  4. Grant Stephens permalink
    October 10, 2011

    While this is interesting soccer news, I can see no reason to jump to any conclusions. Doesnt sound like Traffic is going away. Doesnt sound like Traffic is saying they want to cut their ties with NASL. Traffic has a presence in alot of places besides The US and business decisions will be made and re-made all the time. This just sounds like there has been a shake up at the top, new people put into place, and we’ll see what happens. Could this have ramifications for NASL? yes. Could this benefit NASL? perhaps yes. I understand that IMS is in the business to report this, but unfortunately IMS readers have a tendency to ‘misinterpret’ what they read based on their emotions and league ties.

    Ill be waiting for something more ‘official’ from either Traffic or The NASL.

  5. Strikers Return permalink
    October 10, 2011

    I’ll agree with Grant for the moment. Let’s wait and see. The person who is taking over, judging by the information in the story at least, seems to be pro-US soccer just like his predecessor. If word came out that Mariz was forced out because of Traffic’s involvement in the NASL, I’d be far more concerned at this point. Traffic has a lot of options on the table with respect to the NASL and its teams. I think clearly everyone would like to see them divest their interest in at least one for the upcoming year. Of the three the Strikers would be by far the easiest to sell right now one would think, but then the Strikers are Traffic’s “original” D2 team, and Davidson imparticular seems to have a personal interest in them.

    I for one think at the very least Traffic has in front of them a decision to make about the next couple of years that might have to come sooner than originally thought or hoped. Do they continue as they are, trying to find investors for Atlanta and Carolina? If they want to keep the NASL going, but HAVE to get out of at least one team, and the Strikers are the only immediate option with a buyer, that makes for another tough decision. If they don’t want to let go of the Strikers and make either the Silverbacks or Railhawks their “main” NASL team, what do you do with them? Are they more committed to the Strikers individually than the league as a whole?

    If the money for ATL and CAR is turned off, and no new ownership is found, the league is dead, at least at D2. Do you drop two teams and drop your whole operation to D3? I personally doubt that option is on the table. Do you drop the two teams, in essence killing the league, and join with the other survivors in trying to get back into USL? Despite the egos, USL would be the biggest arse-clowns around if they didn’t readily accept them back into the fold. Or do you do something totally different, like announce a bid for MLS if the Strikers are really your main focus, and everything else is a by-product of that commitment.

    Lots of waht-ifs, lots of possible outcomes, some good, some not so much. As always it will be an offseason full of speculation, rumor, predictions, and unexpected turns. One thing never changes – being a lower division soccer fan is gut-wrenching year round, and it’s sure to provide plenty of twists and turns. I feel badly for fans of non-Traffic teams, as it probably feels very much like your team, its owners, and you are not at all in control of your destiny. I hope everything works out for the best and that the positives we’ve seen from the league this year help give it a chance to battle for an opportunity to grow over the next couple of years.

  6. October 10, 2011

    Grant, I think that is a pretty fair statement. I don’t necessarily see it benefitting the NASL, however. But it doesn’t mean that anything dramatic is going to happen right now – although it could. I think the fact that Mariz is staying aboard with Traffic and easing the transition and may also stay involved is a sign that they are not dumping him so to speak.

    I have heard that Traffic is just as anxious to sell the 3 teams they have a stake in as the USSF is in getting them to find owners. But that’s a very tough sell right now. I’m hearing there may be interest in one team at the moment. If that happened it would be good for the league and Traffic.

  7. October 10, 2011

    @ SR,
    “The person who is taking over, judging by the information in the story at least, seems to be pro-US soccer just like his predecessor.”

    The story does not infer that. It just says he is familiar. Just because he understands it doesn’t mean he is pro US soccer. He may actually be a bit more realistic of the numbers. Davidson has also worked with Stefano. As everyone says, at this point its a wait and see.

    Also, the D3 thing is a non-starter as has been discussed here many times. Davidson said time and again when trying to win sanctioning for the NASL, that Traffic was not interested in D3.

  8. Strikers Return permalink
    October 10, 2011

    @BQ – Didn’t mean to change the meaning of your story, just felt like what you said could be construed at this point at least as no worse than neutral. I like your line of reasoning on the way they’re using Mariz as well being a possible sign that nothing is imminent of happening at least.

    Very curious to hear more about this possible interest you’re talking about in one of Traffic’s teams. Don’t know if it was on purpose or not, but your statement that

    “I have heard that Traffic is just as anxious to sell the 3 teams they have a stake in…”

    is very interesting to me as well, especially given some of the long term thoughts I’ve been having regarding the Strikers. I think we’ve all been guilty for awhile now of just assuming the Strikers were Traffic’s team, and one way or another they’d continue to be. But as I said above, if the mandate comes down from the new boss that they need to get rid of at least one of the teams as soon as possible, I would think the Strikers would be the easiest to sell for a reasonable price. If they continue this run they’re on and are able to finish it off with a championship, you’d have to think that would add to the value. I’ve speculated here and elsewhere to Striker fans that I can see a situation developing that would make the Strikers a candidate for an MLS bid. If someone were to be interested in buying the Strikers, I’d have to think MLS would be on their mind as well.

    But I could be way off base and Carolina’s fine showing this season has gotten someone in Cary to take notice, or maybe even the better than expected results in Atlanta attendance wise have been seen by someone as someting to build on. In the world of lower division soccer we’re all always guessing! LOL Would really LOVE to hear more about your news regarding a possible investor for one of Traffic’s teams, and mostly, which one it might be. Being able to divest itself of one of these teams might jsut be the key to convincing the new honchos in Brazil that this NASL involvement might be worth continuing with for the time being.

  9. Bart permalink
    October 10, 2011

    While staying calm is a good strategy for the NASL enthusiast, the fact remains that a stalwart supporter of Davidson has left the Traffic trenches.

    The son of the owner, Stefano Hawilla, is likely far more interested in how Traffic will get a return on their capital investment, and if not, how to stop the never ending bleeding that eminates from that black hole known as NASL.

    If Stefano is indeed someone familiar with the US soccer landscape, then he will more than likely not be misled into believing in that pot of gold that is laying under the NASL rainbow.

    Running a league is NOT what Traffic does for a living. It is not part of their core business plan. Traffic basically pulled the plug on their team in Portugal, after not having spent near the amount of funds that have been spent on NASL, and Portugal was Traffic’s gateway into the European labor market.

    While this is indeed a time to “wait and see”, there would have to be some Angel of Love that dramatically appears to give Traffic comfort that any further investment would be warranted. At an average fan base of 2,500 per game, I don’t see that as any encouragement.

    As for the Strikers moving to USL, I would be shocked if that were ever considered by Davidson. His emotional outlay towards USL is publicly known, and I suspect he would rather shut the the team down before kow-towing to his vassal enemy.

    A bigger question would be, as I ponder, is what happens to poor Morgans Wonderland in San Antonio if NASL does not field a season? That wonderful park desperately needs the massive profits that will be generated by the San Antonio team in order to stay afloat.

    I will light a candle.

  10. Grant Stephens permalink
    October 10, 2011

    Bart’s take on NASL affairs: 95% chance of ‘biased against’ and a 100% chance of being wrong! Just like a bad weatherman…

  11. Danwolf permalink
    October 10, 2011

    Bart is your wife beating you again. lol

  12. Bart permalink
    October 10, 2011

    For those of you with rose colored glasses, it seems clear that you recognize a shift in the wind, but you fail to note the potential sunami associated with the underlying tectonic movement that accompanied this.

    Mr. Stephens, I agreed with a wait and see attitude, but I should warn you that the clouds are dark and rain may be an inevitable outcome. Be sure to wear your snickers.

  13. October 10, 2011

    You’ve been raining on everyone’s parade since before NASL’s first game. It’s as if they stole your girlfriend, ran over your pet, and then for good measure, took a whiz in your flower bed. This really is personal for you, eh?

    I’m not saying you’re necessarily wrong here; nowhere in US/Canadian soccer is there major stability–even MLS has its problems. But it says something that I’m actually surprised that there were eight other posts before you posted about how terrible NASL is.

  14. Bart permalink
    October 10, 2011


    I am surprised, how do you know that my girlfriend was stolen and that Davidson ran over my terrier? But more surprising, did you drive by my rose garden?

    No, this is not personal for me. I do want D2 in the US. I am not confident that NASL is the right group to start the process.

  15. Tom permalink
    October 10, 2011

    If these are his posts and he wants D2 to succeed, then I’d cringe at what Bart would write if he wanted D2 to fail…………

  16. Grant Stephens permalink
    October 10, 2011

    “No, this is not personal for me. I do want D2 in the US. I am not confident that NASL is the right group to start the process.”

    I dont know Bart, your attitude for several months kinda reveals your true colors on this one. I feel bad for you because if your right (not likely!) and NASL/Traffic/TOA falls flat on their face…then that will be the worst case scenario for eveyone. The worst case scenario for American soccer. Nobody who is a fan of a NASL team will have the chance or desire to patronize a USL team (mostly based on proximity) and that will mean thousands of lost fans. Not converts to USL, not converts to MLS, not growth and prosperity for USL teams…just lost and disgruntled fans! All of us in the NASL camp will remember only your negativity and will probably find something else to do with our Spring/Summer, something that has little to do with soccer since we will have a bad taste in our mouths from the experience. There wont be anyone choosing to go watch Orlando City FC games instead now that The Rowdies are gone. Stars fans wont become Dayton Dutch Lions fans, so on and so forth. US Soccer will just have 6-8 jaded fanbases who will be forever reluctant to open their wallets for minor league soccer in the future. I can speak only for myself and say that if FCTB folds….thats it for me…and Ive had season tickets to 6 teams in 5 different leagues over the past 20 years, and theyve all gone away (not FCTB yet!) The economy and my heart wouldnt allow me to go find ‘some other’ team to support. This isnt about whats good for soccer in America, this is about having soccer down the road to go watch. The average sports fan (who all soccer leagues hope to attract if they want to raise their 2,500 per game attendance) isnt worried about league stability, division sanctioning, or any of that garbage that we all know too much about. They want Soccer on the cheap, Soccer thats accessible. Whats accessible in most markets is either USL or NASL…not both! Get over it and just support Soccer for the sake of having soccer to watch! The diehards are already front and center and accounted for. There isnt some magic bullet thats gonna make Soccer in America all of a sudden popular. There isnt some hidden base of fans that are waiting for the curtain to be pulled and Traffic to be exposed BEFORE they drop $100 on season tickets. Its always the USL crowd that wants to see NASL fail, not the other way around. NASL wants to have a solid 3rd division, but USL Pro-ers seem to want destruction for NASL so they can be a de facto 2nd division. Could that be anymore counterproductive? Could that be any further from what would happen? If Traffic pulls out and NASL fails, its not like someone is going to step in and take the chances theyve taken. The USSF isnt going to say “okay USL Pro, its your turn! Have Fun!” It will just be 6-8 folded teams that arent coming back. How could you even call yourself a soccer fan and want this?! As someone who is in NASL’s market, I never even consider ill will towards USL. I want success on all levels. I tell my brother to go to Orlando City FC games to support the game locally. Bart, you seems to want doom and gloom for NASL more than anything. You cant wait to get to these comment sections to forecast peril. It doesnt make any sense! Guess what? If NASL aint cuttin the mustard, neither will USL Pro. The USSF isnt gonna take kindly to an ‘International Division’ or musical chair franchises that leave one city in the lurch to go to another so that they may one day reach MLS. From where I sit, USL was the top dog, they split, and now are losing that battle for being Second Division. Its petty that they would want NASL to fail. Wendy’s isnt happy to see Burger King fail if its because nobody eats fast food hamburgers anymore! geez…could we just have some common sense?

    Bart…if your right, we all lose! If your wrong, your credibility is shot! Sounds like a lose-lose situation for you to be so anti-NASL (and on a site devoted to lower division soccer, no doubt!)

  17. Bart permalink
    October 10, 2011

    @Grant Stephens

    “…..Its always the USL crowd that wants to see NASL fail, not the other way around. NASL wants to have a solid 3rd division, but USL Pro-ers seem to want destruction for NASL so they can be a de facto 2nd division….”

    Really? If you think NASL is so holy, catch a plane to Montreal and ask Saputo how he feels about USL, and then fly right back to Florida and ask Davidson the same thing. NASL would like nothing more than to see USL self destruct. I imagine that USL would like the same thing for NASL. The bad blood between the two is self evident.

    You are correct however, in that if D2 dies, then the US will have lost something special for soccer fans and players alike. However, I disagree with you that if NASL folds, no one else will try to come in and start anew. I think that there may be several folks on the sideline that, but for the individuals in NASL, that would want to take a financial position on a new and structured D2 league in the US.

    I don’t think USL would attempt to go back to D2 at this point. From what I have read, they don’t like the costs associated with the individual teams, and they think the model is flawed. So any fear that USL will attempt to take over is unfounded, in my opinion.

    All of this will play out shortly after the championship game, in any event. That is when folks have to put their money where their mouth is, and that means fronting $750,000 in security for the 2012 season. It also means putting the 2012 budgets together and agree on how much money Traffic has to fork out in losses for 2012.

    This is not negative, it is the simple truth.

  18. Grant Stephens permalink
    October 10, 2011

    And dare I say it, Bart, but I LOVE Traffic! My team isnt even owned by them and I love them! Because of them, they have given 6 American, 1 Canadian, and 1 Puerto Rican markets a soccer team to follow! How, as a soccer fan, could I even find a way to disrespect that?!

    People lining up to scewer the one organization that is ACTUALLY giving us what we want makes no sense!

    I raise my glass to Traffic! May they be forever successful….for the sake of us ticket-buying American Soccer fans!

  19. Grant Stephens permalink
    October 10, 2011

    Im sure that now, after USL self-relegated to D3 and NASL took the reigns, Saputo and Davidson have nothing but hopes for USL to succeed. It would be ridiculous of them not to. Otherwise, the bad blood as you call it might be the undoing of lower division soccer in America and that would be a travesty.

    In this economic landscape, I feel that NASL is the only hope going forward for D2. True, someone might pick up the reigns someday…but who/when/how? The USSF has already stated that they are getting serious about D2, and how could another failed league be okay for the whole landscape? For the sake of the next decade, I think this current structure as it stands today is the best bet. Nobody is going to ‘try’ soccer in Tampa if NASL folds, Minnesota would be better just cutting their loses and waiting for MLS, San Antonio would be finished, Edmonton would be set back, Carolina gone, etc. D2 wouldnt just be some ‘turnkey’ operation that a wealthy businessman would step in and take over from Traffic. This would be 6-8 ruined markets. Which cities would pick up the slack? I see nobody!

    We need to have:
    first divison – MLS
    second divison – NASL
    3rd and 4th division – USL

    Its the only way unless you blow the whole thing up. If that happens, goodbye American Soccer other than MLS until about 2025!

  20. Bart permalink
    October 10, 2011

    @ Grant Stephen

    How sure are you that FCTB does not receive funding from Traffic? Puerto Rico does. Who actually fronted the required $750,000 LOC for them? Do you really think this bunch of vino bottle breakers did this on their own?

    And do you really, truly think that after USL “self-relegated” (which is not true, as they always had a D3 division, USL just opted not to play poker at the D2 table anymore) that Davidson and Saputo just became overly altruistic folks who just wanted to get “along”? A zebra does not change it’s stripes, and humans generally don’t either.

    Now, why give USL a D4 designation? I would think they need to stabilize their own D3 house first before they go chomping at something else.

    And IF NASL does fold (I would bet 60/40), these teams would not be left holding the bag. They could set up their own league. Lot’s of options here. Tampa would not necessarily be out of a team, either. I could see lot’s of interest if some professionals were running the club that had some sports marketing experience.

    I will toast to your optimism, though!

  21. Tom permalink
    October 10, 2011

    “They could set up their own league. Lot’s of options here.”??? Wouldn’t some entity need to sanction this league? If not USSF (who has already laid down the D2 requirements) then whom?

  22. Grant Stephens permalink
    October 10, 2011

    Exactly, Tom!

    There wouldnt be anyone with enough clout to start this thing up. Its not like there is some grand alternative to Traffic. Its not like people are just buying up Minor League soccer franchises all the time. If Traffic owns three teams (and maybe more…Im not sure!), then there is truly a reason for this. If FCTB is receiving funds from Traffic, then so be it. I dont know one way or the other. I realize that this would be against The USSF’s sanctioning guidelines, but wheres the alternative? Its the whole ‘dont throw the baby out with the bathwater’ problem. Why would USSF shut everyone down because of an overzealous company keeping the whole ship afloat? If a company like Traffic sees fit to fund multiple American soccer franchises, dont you think there is more going on than meets the eye? It doesnt make sense…but were all open to hear some alternatives, bart!

    USL didnt want to lose money at the D2 poker table? Fine! Have fun doing your thing at D3 and D4 (PDL) and get on board with what NASL is doing. I dont know what Davidson’s and Saputo’s feelings are on USL Pro…and does it matter?

    My biggest problem with you Bart is a clear lack of alternatives. You show up and announce a gloomy forecast, but never have a better plan. You say you want D2, but then you randomly declare a 60/40 chance of NASL folding (WHAT??? from where???) For all the time, energy, and ‘fact’ that you throw around here….how about contributing to a solution as opposed to predicting the end of the world.

    Toast my optimism? You’ll do no such thing! You sit by the computer hoping and waiting for any news that paints Traffic in a bad light so that you can ‘declare’ the end in sight.

  23. BrazilYinzer permalink
    October 10, 2011

    “Full Play is claiming they have the rights but Davidson says Traffic still owns the rights with COMMEBOL for 2015 and the right of first refusal after that. While he would not go on record as to why he makes that claim, other sources have told IMS that Traffic lost a lawsuit surrounding the deal in which there still may be litigation.”

    I seem to recall from some articles in the Brazilian press that Traffic’s claim to the 2015 stems from they were originally awarded 2009 (along w/ 2004 and 2007), and since that was cancelled they feel they’re due the next tournament in line, 2015. I’ve no idea where that litigation stands, however.

  24. Bart permalink
    October 10, 2011

    @Grant Stephens

    I am not a player in this environment, so the alternatives I have would be of no use to the real decision makers at the D2 level. I am a big believer in the fair market system, however. If NASL did fold ( and I am not saying definitively that they are), then others would step in that could fill their shoes and continue running D2.

    If you are saying that there IS NO ONE ELSE that can step up, then NASL is doomed to fail no matter what, as they simply cannot grow, something that has to happen for them to have any stability.

    Then, much like the NASL of the 1970’s, the league would fail, and as happened with D1 soccer after the demise of the original NASL, a vacuum would exist with US soccer, something we collectively hope will never happen.

    So, as my glass filled with an adult beverage clinks (make that toasts) your optimism, I think we simply will have to wait this one out, and see what happens.

  25. Tom permalink
    October 10, 2011

    since you threw it out on the table, regardless if it was of any use to the D2 decision makers – and being that we are all looking for solutions, just curious what your alternatives might be.

  26. Bart permalink
    October 10, 2011

    @ Tom

    Simple…. 8 investors that own 8 individual teams that can pass the USSF net worth requirements put forth each a $750,000 Letter of Credit as surety to USSF for an upcoming season.

    League passes USSF threshold, league move on. Case closed.

  27. Tom permalink
    October 10, 2011

    @ Bart,

    Seriously (as I’m under the impression that your post above is in jest) that’s your alternative? If so, your blog cred just took a serious hit and maybe Grant Stephens has a point.

  28. WSW permalink
    October 10, 2011

    It’s funny how USL fans want NASL to fail because of jealousy, that NASL is a D2 league, no team folded mid-season.

  29. Mike permalink
    October 10, 2011

    There are NASL fan boys, and then there’s WSW. I don’t quite know how to describe him, so I won’t bother trying.

  30. October 11, 2011

    @Grant Stephens

    “And dare I say it, Bart, but I LOVE Traffic! My team isnt even owned by them and I love them! Because of them, they have given 6 American, 1 Canadian, and 1 Puerto Rican markets a soccer team to follow!”

    Really ??? NASL came into being and developed teams from nowhere ? I know there are plenty of USL haters here, it seems to be a prerequisite. But the truth is, while USL reached a point where the model did not work well at the D2 level, without them and many others at the lower levels, there would have been NO TEAMS to start with !

  31. silly permalink
    October 11, 2011

    I knew I could come back a day later and this thread would be all blown out of proportion. As of yet nothing has changed and both leagues are moving forward with plans for next season.

    Grant- Sorry to hear that you will give up the game if Traffic pulls out and NASL fails. That doesn’t mean that Tampa would completely have to go away. Tampa, Ft. Lauderdale, and (Atlanta, and Carolina if they can get investors) would fit nicely into USLPROs regional model. That is an option so that you don’t have to give up the game you love.

    WSW- There are no USL fans here gloating and wanting NASL to fail. There is only Bart trying to piece together what he thinks will happen with Traffic and how they will spend their money.

  32. Bart permalink
    October 11, 2011

    @ silly

    Sanity has finally appeared. When something this significant occurs in any business, the first step is to logically attempt to analyze the next step that business will take. In most cases, I would always follow the money trail, as that is the overriding factor in the business environment. I am not a USL fan or an NASL fan pe se, I am a US soccer fan, wanting what is best for soccer growth in the US. I would love for 8 solid financially astute team owners to come together and form a legitimate league where is one of the teams pulled out, the other 7 could pull together and find 2 more financially astute owners to come into the league to create sustainability. This simply is not the case with NASL/Traffic.


    As incredible as you might think the solution is, it just takes 8 individuals/companies that can follow the USSF guidelines. In a country of 300,000,000 where 5% of the population are described as millionaires, there is a pool of 15,000,000 potential candidates, and D2 only requires 8, representing .000000533% of the eligible population.

    I like those odds.

  33. Grant Stephens permalink
    October 11, 2011

    @ Silly…I wouldnt ‘give up’ the game, I just dont see a soccer team being created within 80 miles of Tampa if this current incarnation goes away. Period. As Ive stated before, there isnt an alternative to Traffic. If there is, tell me about it. Not a hypothetical. Not a ‘what if’. Someone show me an organization who is willing to drop money, in this economy, on minor league soccer. If FCTB went to USL Pro because something happened to NASL…fine! I would be happy with that! I just want soccer to watch, and currently, its The NASL (Traffic) who provides that (thankfully)

    @ Bart…I see what your saying about ‘just 8 individuals/companies’, but if it were that easy, it wouldve already happened. USSF said each team must have one majority owner (or something like that) Do you think that Traffic hasnt been looking? You said yourself they arent in the business of running teams, so then where is this individual/organization to help them? It looks to me like we only need 3 individuals/owners…and it still doesnt happen. Hate NASL/Traffic if you want, but the line is thin at the ‘soccer ownership’ counter. A requirement that you left out: the ability to bleed money for several years without turning a profit. That line just got even thinner, didnt it?

    @ Dan Barnes…clearly you havent read the post where I said Im NOT against The USL. I greatly appreciate The USL…but once again…and Im gonna say this clearly so that USL people dont get a complex…THEY ARENT IN MY MARKET AND NASL IS! Its not about liking one league over the other, its about availability. Im with NASL because they decided to have a league and include a team from my market. Why is that such a tough concept to understand? Like I said to Silly above, Its not like The USSF had a choice of ‘Traffics’ to choose from. They didnt crown NASL the second division out of a ‘pool’ of league ownership groups. Traffic/NASL was it! One organization stepped up, while one organization stepped back to focus on what they do well. Sounds to me like The USL ‘yielded’ to NASL to be the second division. There wasnt a fight. There wasnt a winning and losing bid to be second division. The USL said ‘no thanks!’ and NASL stepped it. Plain and simple!

  34. Grant Stephens permalink
    October 11, 2011

    @ Dan Barnes…and you talk about NASL ‘creating teams out of nowhere’…that appears to be an American soccer problem because I seem to remember USL creating an entire division in 2011 that couldnt even finish the season. Not good! Creating teams out of nowhere is a little like the Austin Aztex moving to Orlando at the drop of a hat. Thats great for The Rawlins bottom line and all, but devastating for a fanbase on the rise in Austin. Im greatful that The USL has given markets in this country soccer to watch, but they are ill-equipped to be pointing fngers at other leagues business plans.

  35. Silly permalink
    October 11, 2011

    Grant- Thanks for clarifying. I misread your post as NASL or nothing. I think in your case you will be fine either way. I could see Tampa having the strength to continue on without NASL/Traffic. If Bart’s way comes true they have proved they can afford to continue the D2 course and if not they could join USLPRO.

  36. Grant Stephens permalink
    October 11, 2011

    @ Silly…I hope you are right and appreciate the vote of confidence for FCTB. I agree that they seem strong enough to weather whatever storm might come…I just hope that storm doesnt come. All of us Florida soccer fans long for the day that FCTB, Strikers, and OCFC can battle it out on the field, especially in a model that would cut travel costs considerably. Ive always had the utmost respect for The Charleston Battery, as well, and would love to see a day when we could play them regularly. I would just hope that if NASL fell apart, FCTB could be given a home somewhere. I would just be afraid if a Tampa area team (or any team for that matter) had to start over from scratch because this is a poor economy for such a venture.

  37. Bart permalink
    October 11, 2011

    @ Grant Stephens

    “…I see what your saying about ‘just 8 individuals/companies’, but if it were that easy, it wouldve already happened…”

    Not necessarily. Not every smart business person enjoyed the personalities of the NASL founders. Wellman, Saputo and Davidson, and even the boy toy Nestor, were folks that other reputable folks probably did not want to do business with. Why do you think Orlando decided not to go the NASL route? As this entire board claims, they certainly are qualified to do so.

    A requirement that you left out: the ability to bleed money for several years without turning a profit. That line just got even thinner, didnt it?

    I am not sure how much thinner it really got, if only one oranization, that being a Brazilian media company, was willing to step up to the table, in spite of their owners not being confident this was the smartest move they needed to make. If the only white knight is Traffic, then we have some serious issues at the minor league soccer level here in the US, and fundamentally, I just don’t believe that.

  38. Tom permalink
    October 11, 2011

    So much of this reminds me of the parents who send their kids to public school who criticize another family for sending their kids to private school. It’s not their kid, it’s not their money – so why should they even care. Same goes with NASL. It astonishes me that folks find issues with a league and/or teams that have zero impact or connection in their lives (and please spare me the altruistic “good of the game” or “developing soccer infrastructure” BS)??
    I understand those folks who have a rooting interest in one of the NASL teams and fear they might lose them, but I sincerely doubt that’s the issue with the vast majority of comments on this topic.

  39. October 11, 2011

    @Grant Stephens

    I guess I did read a bit too much into your comment. Mia Culpa 🙂

  40. Grant Stephens permalink
    October 11, 2011

    @ Bart…I can see why Orlando would choose The USL. It makes sense especially considering their ownership’s familiarity with that organization. They are more than capable of competing in NASL…IF they kept the team they had in 2011. One could argue, going forward, that they will look less like the Austin Aztex of 2010 and more like the Pittsburgh Riverhounds or Charlotte Eagles of any other season. It was one thing to keep the players they had under contract for the 2011 season, but future budgeting would need to get more in-line with D3 numbers, wouldnt it? They dominated this season, and it doesnt take an expert to see that they were a ‘big fish in a small pond.’ Needless to say, Im eager to see what 2012 version of OCFC looks like.

    But I digress…

    If your in the business of owning a soccer team, wouldnt you be more concerned with other aspects other than what the personalities are like of two owners? Remember that Saputo is gone, and Nestor has certainly done nothing to indicate that he is ‘troublesome’ or ‘bothersome’ (thats strictly opinion on Bart’s part!) Davidson doesnt run the league, and Wellman was trying to get out. Looks to me like its quite the opposite problem than you present. Appears to me that an owner can get into NASL and ‘rule the roost’ if he has his house in order. Granted, I know your talking about the past…but this league IS moving forward and Im sure every prospective owner – present or future – can see that 2011 and beyond is different than the ‘split years’ of 2009/2010.

    I actually agree with you about your last paragraph, I just have a different way of looking at it. Instead of being dissapointed that the only white knight is Traffic, I choose to be optimistic that ‘at least’ Traffic exists to give us what we want (in 6-8 markets, of course!) Hey! Like I said, if someone else wants to step forward and take some pressure off of Traffic, Im all for it. Problem is, I still hear crickets chirping on that idea. So, in the meantime, Viva la Traffic!

  41. Grant Stephens permalink
    October 11, 2011

    @ Dan Barnes…no worries! its all good discussion, right?!

  42. Grant Stephens permalink
    October 11, 2011

    @ Tom…I agree with you. There is no reason at all that a person should be against the league that ISNT in their immediate proximity. I jumped at the chance to give my brother – an Orlando resident – a primer on USL so that he would go and support it for what it is: The league that thankfully gives him soccer to watch locally. On that front, I like OCFC. On the NASL/FCTB front, I was upset that Austin went away from my potential league set-up. I enjoyed watching them as The Aztex. As a soccer fan, there is so much to like about the USL…unfortunately for me in a NASL market, Im exposed to none of those things that The USL brings to the table. This is why I hope, unwaveringly, that The NASL succeeds! (and not in the face of USL)

    It shouldnt be USL vs. NASL….it should be USL/NASL/Soccer for everyone vs. ruin and nothing for some. Its quite obvious…

  43. Strikers Return permalink
    October 11, 2011

    Wow, leave it to Bart to get a debate going, where one really isn’t even needed. LOL Don’t have any idea what you’re basing your point on Bart, but please let us know who all these deep-pocketed investors are that could step in and support D2 teams the moment Traffic decides to pull the plug. All this business of everyone hating on Traffic is always so overblown. For what? Turning on the spigot and allowing enough cash to flow in to give those of us in 8 markets exactly what we want – pro soccer? How terrible of them. Get real Bart.

    In the end there doesn’t need to be any debate. Those of us who support our teams, support Traffic. Whether we want to or not isn’t even relevant. Without them we wouldn’t have soccer to watch. Looking big picture, the only team that probably even consider joining USL Pro if Traffic pulled out of the NASL would be Tampa. But then, according to Bart, we’d have people popping out of the woodwork and resurrecting D2 soccer. If that was true, what would keep them from joining now? Traffic WANTS to get rid of its majority interest in at least two teams. This has been said publicly, it’s not a secret. They were one of the drivers along with Saputo to set up a league where EVERY TEAM had a say at the table on how things were run. So what do these people who would be willing to risk their money as you claim Bart, what exactly is it they are waiting for?

    Statistically speaking, Bart’s numbers do make sense. His idea that they’re somehow waiting for Traffic to fail makes zero sense. In fact, seeing someone else fail would be more likely to tell a smart businessman to try a different risk to invest his money. I think a far more likely scenario is that there may indeed be some people sitting on the sidelines, somewhat intrigued by owning a soccer team, but they’re waiting to see if enough of this league can stabilize to a point where they’re willing to join in.

  44. Grant Stephens permalink
    October 11, 2011

    @ Strikers Return…Here, Here! I couldnt agree with your post more! The downfall of Traffic would surely have negative ramifications for American soccer….as much as some may hate that.

    I wonder if people would view Traffic differently if they were, say, a company owned and run by someone like Lamar Hunt? His business interaction with MLS – at a far more pivotal time – was welcomed with open arms. There are statues erected to what LH did. I know that this has been hashed out on these boards before, but what if Traffic were an American company? Wouldnt their interaction be considered ‘noble’? singlehandedly proping up the American Second Division?

  45. Bart permalink
    October 11, 2011

    @ Strikers Return

    I love the way you wear your blinders on this subject. If I hum a few bars, I might be able to get to the mantra…. “See No Evil….Hear No Evil….Feel No Evil”.

    You do make a solid point in that if you support an NASL team, you by default support Traffic. That does not however, make the structure financially feasible on a long term basis.

    Let’s just see how this all plays out. I don’t think anyone will gloat if the wall comes tumbling down…..

  46. William permalink
    October 12, 2011

    The NASL will be around next year. However, if Traffic EVENTUALLY withdraws financial support which makes sense given the enormous loses thus far for the company, the league will need to develop a stable structure., which quite honestly is not there right now So while Bart is over the top and fatalistic, much of what he is saying could come to pass if things don’t change in 2012 or 2013 for many of the teams.

  47. Grant Stephens permalink
    October 12, 2011

    Agreed, William, but one could say that about the NBA as well. Its not much of a stretch to predict doom for a minor soccer league in recessed America 2011 and beyond. Since were dealing in ‘what ifs’ around here, ‘what if’ Traffic finds 3 investors for other teams? Problem solved! Case Closed! NASL succeeds! Surely Traffic will keep control (mostly) of one team and thats okay.

    Bart will counter with ‘They wont find them because people dont like them!” or something, but if the structure is in place, and wealthy businessmen have soccer money to spend, why wouldnt they invest? The USSF is going to tell Traffic that they have to let go and step back, which Traffic knows, but will The USSF have the cajones to act if those businessmen dont step forward. Each year that NASL attempts to fields a league, The USSF is obligated (in my opinion) to hear them out. Look what happened this year. It was a huge game of chicken which The USSF knew would be a bad idea to ‘pull out of!’ In the end, The USSF doesnt want 6-8 markets to crash, so as long as someone has their checkbook ready, the games go on! 2011 proved that (to a degree) C’mon….provisional sanctioning? what is that? Thats The USSF acknowledging that 8 teams playing soccer is better than 0 teams playing soccer. All of that is my opinion, of course.

    I think its The USSF that needs to get the stuff together. They appear to be a huge mess!

  48. October 12, 2011

    @Grant, A point and a question.

    Not to defend Bart but I believe in this thread he stated that with all the millionaires in the US it shouldn’t be too hard to find investors for teams. He is just questioning the business model of the NASL right now.

    Question: How is USSF a mess?

    I don’t see anything that points to that. Everyone complained when the USL had teams coming and going in the USL First Division. So they made tough new standards to stop the churn. Last year even Aaron Davidson said the standards were a good thing. Not only where their concerns last year about teams not coming up with the $750K letter of credit that was supposed to be in the bank by all teams on a certain date and were not in the bank as of that date, but NASL still asked for various waivers from those D2 standards.

    Eventually all the teams got their acts together and pulled together the letters of credit and USSF gave waivers. But if they are to follow through with their standards and there are still numerous waivers that will be needed again this year then it might once again have to be provisional.

    Just so you understand, I think the NASL did a good job of running the league this year and that will most certainly influence some factors of the USSF Board of Directors decision. But understand, the board of directors makes this decision and that board is made up from a panel of influential soccer people from players to executives. It’s not a decision being made by a couple of executives.

    The reality is, no league, including MLS and USL gets cart blanch sanctioning. In some sense or anther they are all provisionally sanctioned in that each league needs to file an annual report each and every year which is then scrutinized. If that annual report did not meet the general or league specific standards, then questions would be asked.

    Unless the league is not able to field 8 teams or don’t come up with the financial standards including the 3/4 mil letter of credit for each team, I’d say the NASL has a very good chance of getting sanctioned again next year.

  49. Bart permalink
    October 12, 2011

    And frankly, to follow up on BQ’s comments, I certainly agree that NASL did a pretty good job running the league in it’s inaugural season. They had a quality website with generally current data, the games were played without much of a hitch, and for the most part, had good live streaming for most games.

    As has been pointed out numerous times, no team failed during the season, and it appears the players all got paid according to their contracts.

    All this is important to USSF in their upcoming decision to sanction, and for those players that are on the board and basically made the affirmative vote last year, I would wager that these facts would sway them to vote favorably on sanctioning again.

    So, as BQ states, if the $750,000 LOCs get posted with USSF, and NASL fields 8 teams, it would appear to be a bad wager to go against NASL for USSF sanctioning.

  50. On the Outside permalink
    October 12, 2011

    Fun debate, great site Brian…my two cents.

    First off, I’m a fan of lower tier pro soccer in N.America (USL, NASL), and hope that all incarnations continue to exist in a beneficial format…I’d like my objectivity to show.

    Would everyone agree that Sports = passion? And that passion for sports is a main reason so many people would love to be involved in it (in at least one form or another: fan, supporter, worker, athlete, owner, etc.). Definitely the reason we are all on this message board. We probably all love soccer and all want to see it “succeed” in North America (whatever that means, but that discussion may take a weekend in Vegas to better argue).

    However logic and uncontrollable variables always seem to interfere with passion…so here goes:

    Should one company owning 4 clubs and probably losing between 5 and 10 million in a given year raise eyebrows…yes. Doesn’t matter what your name is, it’s bad business (logic), especially when no one really knows if the reasons / philosophy for doing so will equate to any financial or strategical leverage (short term or long term).

    Should recent news in Traffic land raise eyebrows…without a doubt. If the company is able to off-set it’s losses in NASL with big business in other areas (short term), then OK they obviously have a plan (only time to tell if it is good or bad). But I think Bart has put the pieces together for you and is saying, what if your money trail is drying up on the other end? Way to ruin the party Bart.

    When we talk about uncontrollable variables, this has plagued lower tier pro soccer for years. Look at the evolutions of the USISL, A-League, USL. I remember in 1998/99 there was approx 25 or so teams in the league. Where you had the Rochester Rhinos on one end of the spectrum, pulling 10,000 fans a game, big player payroll (able to sustain it), and on the other end someone like the Maryland Mania, playing on HS fields, getting 100 fans a game and not paying any bills. As the USL cleaned up it’s act and started to focus on quality instead of just franchise fees (Marcos already paid for his house in Portugal so it’s OK). Let me get to my point…you have different levels of ownership in different marketplaces, the main reason the USL split and the NASL came to fruition. For Ex: Montreal, Vancouver and Portland, they wanted more (stretch the season, travel all over the place) because they knew (or at least hoped) they had bigger things on the horizon in their marketplace (and they did). Point being there are different levels of a club and it’s maturation in it’s specific marketplace. The troubling part has always been to balance this in a massive geography.

    Bottom line not only do you need multi million dollar owner(s), who are passionate about soccer, but they must be willing to bleed for years, and they probably need to have a passion for the MARKET that they are in. (Bart, I would imagine this shrinks your percentage of available millionaires by a good bit). And not only do you need a willing owner in ONE market, but for a league to happen you need X number in a region (with similar MATURATION) in order to create the infrastructure for potential success. Geography is the great beast in this country, no way of avoiding that. Sorry for bemoaning the obvious.

    The great thing about the USL and NASL at the moment is that there are two options for an aspiring soccer market city / club. The problem is there aren’t enough of them in a position to do so. The evolutions will continue. Only time will tell and maybe in 20 years we will look back and say, “Wow, look at how far we have come”. Let’s hope.

  51. Grant Stephens permalink
    October 12, 2011

    @ Brian…True and fine about Bart’s questioning of The NASL business model, but the problem is his whole argument relies on ‘shouldnt be too hard to find investors’ Its apparently very hard to find investors! The current business model – whether anyone likes it or not – is the only business model. It was good enough for The USSF earlier this year, and since there is no alternative, why poke holes in the one model that brought us a successful 2011 NASL season? Especially when the whole alternative argument is held up by ‘shouldnt be too hard….’? It shouldnt be too hard for FCTB to find a spot for a new 5K-7K stadium….but it is. Its very easy to sit on the side and ‘question’, but its harder to find the answers. I dont have them, Bart doesnt have them. Traffic and The USSF are working on them and are much closer to finding them than Bart. In the end, if we want new investors, The USSF knows that they will be attracted by solid franchises – on and off the field. If the only way to showcase those franchises is for Traffic to ‘foot the bill’ so that they play, then that seems like a better model than Bart’s dreams. The road to soccer bliss in this country is paved with ‘what ifs’ and ‘if onlys’, but the road to soccer in this country today is littered with ‘quick fixes’ and companies like Traffic or Lamar Hunt picking up the slack (unfortunately) Still, its Bart’s right to question. Fair enough.

    About The USSF…I just dont like their timing on decisions. D2 and D3 soccer in this country hasnt had a proper offseason in years, and much of that has to do with The USSF’s interaction late in the process. For instance, they are gonna hold NASLs feet to the fire in February, but The USL gets to start and fold franchises on a whim (once again, Im NOT against The USL) I understand not wanting the ills of the past, but does The USSF have the guts to get serious? especially when ‘getting serious’ could destroy soccer markets for the future? I understand your point, and admit that I dont know much about the USSF. My comments were opinion-based. To me, The USSF looks like a father teaching their child to ride a bike. Right now, the child has HUGE training wheels on the bike (Traffic), but if the father says ‘no training wheels and no help’, the kid is most likely going to crash or get off the bike. Since ultimately the father wants the child to ride the bike, they will allow the training wheels and offer support until it is mastered….making the threats of ‘No training wheels and no help’ moot. I just wonder if that kind of interaction helps or hurts?

    Great discussions, by the way! This is why I love IMS!

  52. Grant Stephens permalink
    October 12, 2011

    @ On the Outside…you made alot of great points that I sort of echoed. Sorry! I was too busy leaving it all on the keyboard here 🙂 I agree with you 100% that its a good thing that prospective owners have USL and NASL to choose from. It gives them a chance to select a league better suited to their market or needs. I would like to sit with you in 20 years and reflect happily on the growth that we hopefully will see.

    @ Bart…Good last post! I agree 100%! Its funny how your predictions for the future are always gloomy, but your assessment of the current situation is usually pretty positive. In the end, how can any soccer fan – on a USSF board or not – disagree with what has happened in 2011? One step at a time, I think. No need to fix it all today!

  53. Strikers Return permalink
    October 12, 2011

    @BQ – Any chance of you elaborating on your comments about there being some interest by investors in one of Traffic’s teams? We all recognize that, at least at the moment, Traffic is the lynchpin to D2. That has been the bottom line of a lot of Grant’s comments. We also all recognize the inevitability of Traffic divesting themselves of at least two of those teams, one way or another. The possible sale of one of Traffic’s clubs would go a long way toward providing everyone involved at any level of D2 soccer with some confidence going into 2012 I would think.

    A lot of good work was done this year. There is a LOT of good work needing to be done before the idea of D2 being here to stay can be solidified. There are tons of theories and models, and this and that people espouse as the way to do it, if it’s even possible. One thing that we all know for sure is that the fanbases for the 7 returning teams that will play in 2012 need to be increased. We need D2 teams across the board to be in the neighborhood of 5,000 eventually to remain stable enough long term to survive. Everything hinges on figuring out how to get there in each individual market. This one underlying principal would then need to hold true for all new expansion markets as well.

    I think we all hope for pro soccer in North America and the Caribbean to grow and stabilize at all levels. We have seen a lot of growth in the sport since 1994. When you look at the recent success of teams like Seattle, Portland, and Vancouver, you get a sense that there is still plenty of room for the sport to continue growing in North America, especially when the right markets are identified and tapped. I think Traffic and the other NASL owners are in business now thinking that the growth rate of the sport overall is continuing, and that they’re positioning themselves on the cusp of it, hoping to grow over the next few years as well. That means taking losses now. But there really aren’t many business ventures in the world where you don’t have to put money in up front in order to get the payoff in the future. I’m not saying that will for sure happen with the NASL and its teams. It just seems to me that’s what Traffic and the other owners are hoping for.

  54. October 12, 2011

    No idea.

  55. Grant Stephens permalink
    October 12, 2011

    @ Brian….you cant just have a 2 word response here! 🙂 This is clearly a ‘5 paragraphs or nothing’ comment section! LOL!

    @ Strikers Return…Your assessment of increased attendance is right on! Im hoping that FCTB has a good long offseason of no bumps in the road to help achieve this (of course, this is coming from me, the guy has hasnt renewed his season tickets yet…dont worry, Ryan Helfrick…Im coming!) Nothing will look better to prospective investors than a nice uptick in attendance numbers (I hope!)

  56. Strikers Return permalink
    October 12, 2011

    @BQ – Come on BQ! You can’t leave us in suspense like this! Does your “No Idea.” comment mean you heard there is interest in one of their teams, but that’s all you know? Or are you holding out on us?!?

    @ Grant – To me, the #1 priority for FCTB in the offseason should be acquiring the Rowdies name. That would be an instant boost to the marketability of the team.

  57. October 12, 2011

    The number one priority should be getting more butts in the seat. If they can do that then they will have no problem affording the cost of buying the name from Classic Ink Inc. I don’t believe that just acquiring the Rowdies name is going to put people in the stands. I think Mr. Nestor, Hinds Howard and David Laxer would have already done that if they felt it was worth it.

  58. Grant Stephens permalink
    October 12, 2011

    @ Brian…I totally agree! The area is already trained. Everyone still calls them The Rowdies and come to think of it, nobody that I know calls them FC Tampa Bay. The only reason to get the name back would be to print it on shirts/apparrel, and I dont think its that worth it. After talking to my ticket guy today, they seem optimistic that a long and proper offseason and a semi-permanent home at Al Lang Field will help tremendously with ticket sales. I couldnt agree more!

    @ SR…that doesnt mean that I dont want the Rowdies name, though! I think seeing ‘Strikers’ printed everywhere is cool and brings back memories. I also like the idea of old NASL nicknames reappearing in some form.

  59. Tony in Florida permalink
    October 12, 2011

    I think Bart is excessively anti-NASL and that clouds his credibility on these sorts of issues


    I am told from where I sit and whom I speak with that their is a real strong possibility Traffic will stop funding 3 of the 4 teams they own. I am told they will still fund the league office and one of the teams, presumably Ft Lauderdale. That means Carolina, Atlanta and Minnesota need new owners by next season or they are below 8 teams. I have heard Traffic Brazil has soured on the NASL project and are sick of the money loses. On the other hand, I have heard Traffic is still making money off its non NASL related American businesses including selling TV rights. They just sold an FA package to FOX Soccer. Keep in mind they have more than COMNEBOL but also the England FA, Canadian National Team, and most of Central America including Honduras, Panama and Costa Rica. So basically if Traffic USA can reduce NASL loses, they’ll be fine. From what I have heard they make alot of money on TV rights and commercial sales and that profit and more has been blown on owning NASL teams. This season D2 average attendance was the lowest in over a decade. With Montreal leaving, next year will be even lower. Certainly, this is a problem.

  60. yankiboy permalink
    October 13, 2011

    @On The Outside: Seriously STRONG post, Bro!
    Bonus points for the Maryland Mania reference. 😀

  61. Bart permalink
    October 13, 2011

    @Tony in Florida

    While you may think I am anti-NASL, it is only in terms of its structure. I am certainly a strong advocate for a D2 league.

    As @Grant Stephens has mentioned, he questions my theory that there are enough millionaire investors out there or they would have already shown up. If he is correct, and Traffic wants to divest themselves of the teams (no secret there, this is also a USSF mandate), then they have about 60 days to make the deals happen.

    If I owned Traffic, I certainly would be unhappy that all the fat rich profits the company is making off of media rights are being blown on that black hole. Baby’s got to get new shoes…….

  62. yankiboy permalink
    October 13, 2011

    ^This is the BEST thread activity here that we have had in MONTHS and all I added to the discussion was “Great post dude!”.

    After my last public display of affection for Bart, I was somewhat traumatized by the vicious backlash that I experienced. A few sponsors of the IMS NASL podcast actually threatened to drop the show.

  63. Grant Stephens permalink
    October 13, 2011

    Well, Bart….Looks like its time for your ‘just 3 out of 15 million’ plea to come into play. Assuming Tony’s info is correct (no slight to you, Tony, this is just sudden news that you break!) This would put that theory to the test!

    In the end, Bart, this might be your day! Traffic gone?! How do you contain your joy? Youve been wanting that forever. I guess the only real sacrifice here would be…oh, lets see…the entire Second Division! But, I guess there is still a full 60 days for 3 multi-millionaires to decide to take a chance on American minor league soccer during a recessed economy and hemmorhage money for the foreseeable future…but Im not holding my breath. Im sure your glad at the prospects of being rid of the ‘Soccer Management company’ that was a huge fish-out-of-water with this whole ‘Soccer Team Management’ debacle in NASL. Who were they to even think they could do it? Might as well get someone who knows nothing about soccer and wants to just burn money, right?

    Cant believe Im gonna say this…Bart, You may have been right! Congratulations! It would be the worst case scenario that I envisioned, if its true. Thanks for warning us foolish NASL fans with your unfortunate insight.

  64. JXU permalink
    October 13, 2011

    If I recall correctly, the TOA’s premise/assumption was that if they were running the league, they would invest more in marketing, which would bring higher attendance. I’m not sure if that marketing investment happened or not, but if it did, at least one of the other existing owners must be questioning whether or not their original premise was correct.

    Or maybe that was just Traffic’s position with Miami/Ft. Lauderdale?

  65. yankiboy permalink
    October 13, 2011

    @JXU: That’s the way that I recall it.

    I also thought that it was odd that the revolution was being lead by two guys (along with Traffic) who had already planned to take their teams to MLS. And another club that needed to to have its supporters stage soccerthons in order to try to show the ownership that it was worth not pulling the plug on the team.

    And that another franchise ran into financial trouble just months after surprisingly jumping ships at the last moment.

    Even with all of BQ’s crack journalism and analysis, I still get confused by those particular aspects of the TOA/USL “divorce”.

  66. October 13, 2011

    Tony has left some rather misleading statistics. Not putting you down Tony, but you say the attendance is the lowest in the last 10 years. You are correct. But we need to put some things into perspective. Lets look at a few facts.

    – All teams had less then 3 months to prepare for the season after getting sanctioning. That was especially true for Carolina who had to put all new management into place, Atlanta who had good management in place but hadn’t fielded a team for 2 years, and MN who also had to bring new management in and really didn’t even know if their would be a team.

    –Portland left for MLS this past season bringing down average attendance dramatically. Two years prior it was Vancouver and Seattle. The same will happen this coming year with the loss of Montreal. This all skews that data greatly.

    –The league also lost Rochester and Austin. Rochester to USL PRO and Austin shut down and started anew in Orlando. While I hear Rochester’s attendance was down again this year, I’m hearing that they are claiming they made more money this season. We all know what happened to Orlando.

    –Looking at individual teams who remain, while PRI was down this season, most teams were actually up.

    –Ft. Lauderdale (formerly Miami FC is up about 90%) from last season.
    –Carolina is also up dramatically even though they went through tremendous changes in the offseason and Swoop did his Phoenix imitation.
    –FC Tampa Bay’s Andrew Nestor in a recent article in Tampa claimed the team was up from last season. I know you may get some that debate that who were actually at the games but they are keeping the stats so they get to make the call. If they are getting cheaper rent then even if they broke even for attendance they did better financially.
    –NSC Minnesota, while a ghost of the prime Thunder years attendance, were actually up from last years team that was owned by the NSC. But their attendance needs to improve dramatically.
    –Edmonton-new team.
    –Montreal, continued to draw capacity crowds.
    –Atlanta, despite their resurrection of their D2 team and poor on field record, recorded perhaps their best attendance of any year they have played at that level.

    So while what you say is absolutely accurate, it’s also somewhat deceiving.

  67. Grant Stephens permalink
    October 13, 2011

    @ Brian….thanks for the perspective!

  68. Bart permalink
    October 13, 2011

    So… the real reason that the overall attendance base is low is due to the departure of the great teams that went to the MLS.

    Let’s see, that would be:

    Portland (never an NASL team, always USL1)

    Vancouver (a former USL1 team that almost died financially, forcing USL to fund the team through a season just so it could survive, before being picked up by the current owner, Greg Kerfoot)

    Montreal (another former USL1 team that almost died financially, forcing USL to fund the team through a season just so it could survive, before being picked up by the current owner, King Joey Saputo)

    Seattle – (Oh wait, this was a USL team before it went to MLS)

    Toronto- (Oh wait, this was a USL team before it went to MLS)

    So, the real reason that attendance is down is due to the MLS stealing all the great teams, so the MLS could get THEIR attendance figures up. Go figure.

    As it relates to the rest of the D2 attendance figures, and no disrespect to BQ for bringing it up, but if you are climbing the highest mountain in the grand canyon, once you reach the peak, you are still in a great big hole… 🙂

  69. Strikers Return permalink
    October 13, 2011

    The one thing that we can all actually agree on is that the single most important factor in the survival of all minor league teams, and by proxy their leagues, is butts in seats. Everything else is built on that. With that in mind, the facts that BQ presented above can all be taken very positively about the first year of the NASL on its own. One of the attendance statistics guys that posts over on BS showed that of the six returning teams this season, only PR and Tampa were down numbers wise. And I’ve heard the same comments made before that BQ talks about above with respect to Tampa, that due to a significantly better situation for them stadium wise with respect to rent and concessions, that made up the difference from the smaller gate.

    And one last word on the Rowdies name. Traffic didn’t really do much more to advertise the Strikers this year than they did for Miami FC in previous years during the season. There was good exposure for the team by having a presence at a couple of the Ft. Lauderdale centennial celebrations. But no one will be able to convince me that the single factor that trumps everything else in leading to the tripling of attendance this year was the rebrand. Tim Robbie and his people have done a great job selling tickets, but I think that job was made much easier this year by having the Ft. Lauderdale Strikers name back in play instead of Miami FC. No doubt about it. And that’s why I continue to think Tampa needs to get that name back. I think the league needs them to get the name back. Tampa fans can say far better than I can what effect it would have in their market, but I can tell you this for sure – being able to market Tampa’s visits here as Strikers vs. Rowdies, would certainly help for those two games at least.

    Anyway, I hear the points JXU and Yankiboy make about advertising money. I can only speak to Traffic with an opinion on this. I think we would have seen more in the way of marketing and advertising for the Strikers if Traffic wasn’t already having to spend so much money backing ATL, CAR, and the league. I don’t blame them for drawing a line and saying, ok, this is where the spending ends this season. And it underscores even more the need to get them divested in two of the teams. Don’t know where “Tony” got his info from, but it seems far more gloom and doom then most of the other commetns we’ve heard. Not saying I’d blame Traffic at all for pulling out of ATL and CAR after 2012 if nothing changes by then. But at this point I believe based on what we’ve seen from teams around the league that 2012 is surely going to happen. Still hoping and praying that if I keep asking, BQ will address further his comments regarding investor interest in one of Traffic’s teams……………

  70. Grant Stephens permalink
    October 13, 2011

    @ SR…I think you are too fixated on the power of ‘The Rowdies’ name! I appreciate your comments and would greatly love having it back…but it is certainly not make or break. As a lifelong resident of the Tampa Bay area, I cant think of an untapped group of fans who are gonna say “Oh look, they are called The Rowdies again! Okay…we’ll go to games now!” I think our attendance drop had far more to do with going to St. Pete and away from the core of the fanbase in Tampa. Look at The Mutiny….they had great attendance (at the time) and they had nothing to do with The Rowdies. We all like ‘The Rowdies’, but those of us who truly care about that name are firmly planted in Al Lang every Saturday for FCTB games and singing songs about ‘The Rowdies!’ ‘Miami FC’ was stale, and they were playing in Ft. Lauderdale which isnt Miami. I think changing the name and recognizing Ft. Lauderdale had as much to do with it as calling them ‘The Strikers’ I bet attendance wouldve been the same if they called them ‘Ft. Lauderdale FC’ Honestly, our hooped socks/sleeves and Green and Yellow color scheme is more than enough of an homage to the original Rowdies!

  71. October 13, 2011

    @Bart, you’re the attorney always checking meticulously, almost anally at times, for the correct syntax. Tony in Florida said: “This season D2 average attendance was the lowest in over a decade. ”

    He did not differentiate between USL and NASL, he just said D2 so that’s what I based my arguments on. You’re dragging in all sorts of facts that are not relevant to this particular and specific discussion. Of course if we are talking this year it’s NASL. If we are talking last year we are technically talking USSF D2. Not USL or NASL although we know each had their affiliations and fees etc… So if we look at the last 10 years and to Tony’s argument, we are looking at teams that played D2 the last ten years. You’re making it more complicated than the original argument which just looked at overall team attendance.

  72. Grant Stephens permalink
    October 13, 2011

    @ Brian…thanks for putting Bart in his place…and since ‘Anality’ is in form here, The Toronto Lynx did not become Toronto FC! C’mon, Bart…even you shouldve known that one!

    One last thing about ‘The Rowdies’ name. At some point, it has to be about the soccer. The game itself. We can market and market and market until the cow comes home, but in the end, people have to want to watch soccer…Plain and simple…and that goes for ALL teams from PDL to MLS! Gimmicks and hocus pocus only peak one’s interest, but eventually people have to like the game of soccer. If were trying to appeal to the crowd that is ‘turned off’ because we arent ‘The Rowdies’, then weve already lost because those are the same people who get scared off by a typical Florida Summer rainstorm. FCTB has on hand for any given matchday no less than 3 former ‘Tampa Bay Rowdies’ players for autograph signing. A Rowdies great (Perry Van Der Beck) is on our technical staff and was a stand-in coach last year. Our supporters group is named after the old mascot of The Rowdies, and sing songs about The Rowdies. We have a ‘throwback’ or ‘legends’ game every season to pay homage, and have the exact same color scheme and uniforms as the original version. If this isnt enough, then it never will be!

  73. Tom permalink
    October 13, 2011

    As I’ve stated before, with D2 “friends” like Bart, I’m not sure they need any enemies…… If he is being truthful in stating that he wants them to succeed, then I’d cringe at what he would write if he wanted them to fail.

  74. Bart permalink
    October 13, 2011

    BQ, you are correct, and yes, when the facts are in your favor, you argue the facts. When the facts are not with you, you make it more complicated.

    This has been a great series of postings, and I hope we can continue debate the future of soccer here.

  75. yankiboy permalink
    October 13, 2011

    @Bart: Not trying to steal your act but…

    “Toronto- (Oh wait, this was a USL team before it went to MLS)”:

    Let the record show, Counselor, that the USL franchise in Toronto dropped down to the PDL and did not go to MLS.

    Just sayin’…

  76. Bart permalink
    October 13, 2011


    Did I say Toronto? I meant that other Canadian team, I keep getting those Canadian (spell that furiner’s) towns confused.

    Objection sustained.

  77. JXU permalink
    October 13, 2011

    I didn’t have the facts in front of me, and I’m very pleased to be mistaken in regards to attendance for NASL teams. If the owners are seeing year-over-year growth in their numbers, I feel much more optimistic about the long-term prospects for this league. Hopefully this is a trend that will continue.

  78. Bart permalink
    October 13, 2011

    @ JXU

    You might want to follow the Yellow Brick Road. It has a more definitive and positive path.

  79. Strikers Return permalink
    October 13, 2011

    @Bart – Good God man, what is it you expect? For EVERY team, EVERY year to see the kind of increase the Strikers saw this year? Is that in any way realistic? Growth, any kind of growth in year one, is a positive. I don’t care how you want to analyze, dissect, or otherwise view it. More butts in seats this year than last year IS a good thing. If teams are going to get more sponsors, they need more butts in seats. If investors are going to decide to join this league, we need more butts in seats. I’m not saying the growth was phenomenol this year for anyone besides Ft. Lauderdale, and maybe Carolina too, but going in the right direction sure beats the opposite.

    Way too much is made of overall league attendance. What Portland drew, what Seattle , Vancouver, or Montreal drew – none of it is relevant to a single other team. Tampa needs to draw enough people to make its own business plan work. It has nothing to do with a league average. If each team can find a way to get to the number it needs individually, that’s ALL that matters in the end. We can toss it 5,000 or whatever number you want. But each team, each ownership group knows what numbers they need in attendance, merchandise and concessions, and sponsorships to get to where they need to be. Whether or not you, me, Grant, BQ, or anyone else thinks the numbers is high enough or not, doesn’t mean squat.

    In year one we needed to see some positives in order to be confident year two would happen. Average attendance increases for four out of six returning D2 teams is a positive. Online streaming improvements were a positive. A greatly improved website was a positive. Making a good hire for comissioner was a positive. A new expansion team being announced (Ottawa) is a positive. The 10,000+ that will be on hand at Lockhart for the Strikers home leg of the finals will be a positive…..oops, caught me looking ahead there instead of reflecting on the season. LOL If this offseason can bring new ownership for one of Traffic’s teams (which one is it BQ?!?!?!?) that will be another positive. The build up for next year in San Antonio to this point looks like another positive. Instead of focusing on anything that could be negative, maybe we need to build on the positives and hope it keeps us moving in the right direction that was started this year.

  80. Bart permalink
    October 14, 2011

    @ Strikers Return

    How do you know that NASL is about to announce Ottawa as a new expansion team?

    More importantly, how is this Ottawa team overcoming the moratorium that has been placed by Canada until they finish their review of the practicality of haivng a D2 league in Canada?

    And no, I don’t expect any team to move their location and change their name each year in order to create more fans due to speculative curiousity. I just don’t see how that is productive long term.

  81. Grant Stephens permalink
    October 14, 2011

    @ SR…Agree with all your views of positivity for NASL in 2010 (mostly your last paragraph)…and thats why there will be a 2011 season. Even if Traffic pulls the plug, Im sure they wont do it now. It would be terrible business of them (no matter how much money they are losing) to just drop the NASL teams like a rock. I would assume that there would be some timeframe that would include the 2011 season.

  82. Silly permalink
    October 14, 2011

    Grant- Why do you think it would be a bad business for them to just drop the teams they no longer have an interest in funding? From a business point of view it would make great sense to cut losses and not continue to lose money funding teams they don’t want.

    Just my opinion but I fail to see why they would continue to fund and lose money on all of these teams just so that their main team the Strikers have a league to play in. The Strikers are clearly not making enough money for that to make sense.

  83. Grant Stephens permalink
    October 14, 2011

    @ Silly…I agree with everything you wrote, but for them to to pull out suddenly would affect alot more people than just those associated with Traffic. I think it would be bad because they wouldnt just be hurting the teams they invested in, but the whole league as well. Several people jumped through hopes for them when the TOA ordeal was going on awhile back, and now I think they would be obligated (to some degree) to leave after things can stabilize a bit. Common knowledge is that Traffic IS The NASL. They set it up that way when they agreed to fund these extra teams before the season started. Dont you think it would ruin their credibility if they just said ‘enough’ and split? Especially considering that they are in the soccer business and would want to save face (hopefully)

    Now, If things couldnt stabilize after a period that they agree upon with other owners, thats a different story. Nobody said that Traffic was obligated to continue losing money long term, but they certainly should give those franchises time to find other sources of income. That, I think, should take through the 2011 season.

    This is all pure speculation on my part.

  84. Strikers Return permalink
    October 14, 2011

    @Bart – Umm, hello Bart? Ottawa has already been announced as an expansion team. When they join, and any other logistics aren’t going to be addressed yet as 2013 is the earliest they will join the league. That’s a long time away, and lots can happen before then, but the fact remains the announcement has been made by the ownership group and the league.

    Also, Miami FC didn’t move its location from last year, they were already playing at Lockhart.

    @Silly – What you say makes perfect business sense, and it’s what causes me to speculate that 2012 is going to be the deciding year for Traffic and the NASL. But I have to believe that the teams in the league would not be going about the business of roster moves (including re-signings) selling season tickets, and such in high gear already if they didn’t already have Traffic’s assurances that all three teams would be back for at least next year. If not, all these people would already be spending money with no guarantee if a Season 2 at all.

  85. Bart permalink
    October 14, 2011

    @SR – Ummm – SR, that does not answer the question. I find that NASL announces things all the time that are not, shall we say, 100% Kosher or correct. Canada has a moratorium on allowing Canadian teams to join a US league at the moment.

    So, how does that work? His Royal Highness, the Crowned Jewel Himself, His Greatness, King Saputo is focusing his future on MLS. Does he make a phone call and tell Canada to just drop the moratorium because Ottawa needs to join NASL?

    And I do believe you are a bit naive to think that the individual teams have assurances from Traffic that it will subsidize 2012 and for that reason, the teams are going around with roster moves and selling season tickets. The teams HAVE to do that to ensure fan continuity for next year. They simply can’t go through with the same process as last year.

    I wonder how many player contracts San Antonio has for next year. Ummmmm

  86. Grant Stephens permalink
    October 14, 2011

    Bart…How bad are you gonna feel when The NASL plays next year? You put in so much energy to hoping/dreaming/reassuring failure that if they even consider playing, it MUST keep you up at night. Its sad for you. Ive never seen anyone so hell bent on hating something so much that they otherwise claim they want.

    Do you work for USL? Did you have bad dealings with a NASL official or something? Will you somehow benefit if Traffic goes bust? I know I wont get a straight answer, but you really sound pathetic at this point. Get a life, man!

    I cant imagine how unfufilled you must be that you hang out on a soccer message board and curse the one entity that is spending THEIR money to give US what we want. But whatever, man, its quite fufulling to me to watch people trash you for it….so carry on! (eyes rolling)

  87. Bart permalink
    October 14, 2011

    @Grant Stephens

    What exactly did I post that would lead you to believe that I would feel bad if NASL/Traffic had a season next year?

    I certainly complimented their inaugural season performance and made the comment that as long as they had 8 teams and the individual $750,000 LOCs lined up, that I believed they would be sanctioned.

    The fact that I might not be looking through your rose colored glasses does not mean that I am operating on some whim that NASL goes away. I frankly don’t see it. However, you can’t go on frothing at the mouth if NASL announces an Ottawa addition, if Canada presently does not allow it.

    Your comments that one should be lauding Traffic for giving you something, no matter how poorly structured it is sounds much like the local neighborhood drug dealer providing free samples to those poor schmuks that get hooked and then do anything for more.

    I have plenty of bad things to say about USL as well, and have on this board. I am an equal opportunity abuser for those that advocate stupidity in all that is good for US soccer. Admittedly, this sometimes places me at odds with folks that have powder on their nose, but a task I am willing to take on.

  88. October 14, 2011

    Bart, Joey Saputo made sure that moratorium only included USL so it’s anything below D2. There should be no issues with Ottawa and yes, they’ve already been announced for 2013. Word on the street is they may already be involved by partially funding MN. But that is rumor from our Canadian friends at CSN and not confirmed.

  89. Bart permalink
    October 15, 2011


    That the moratorium is confined to USL is contrary to what I have been hearing, but it is interesting that Saputo, one of the lead NASL founders, had no agenda against USL once USL decided to remain in D3.

    It is that solid, “Live and Let Live” attitude that makes for great soccer comrades.

  90. Strikers Return permalink
    October 15, 2011

    @Bart – Why should Unlce Joey go out of his way to help an organization that is openly hellbent on the downfall of the league his team was playing in? Saputo was an owner in the NASL at the time. He worked with the CSA on an issue related to HIS team and the league HIS team plays in. Why would he say, “Oh yeah, by the way, make sure those punks at USL can go ahead and get around your moratorium as well.” What purpose would it serve him or the NASL?

    You can cast aspersions at him for not being a swell guy and working on behalf of a league he has nothing to do with out of the goodness of his heart, but tell me Bart, what has the USL done in the last two years to help out the NASL? When have they stuck out their neck for the good of D2?

    Ok, I’m done with Bart for today. It’s gameday! Strikers are heading for the finals (sorry yankiboy!)!!!

  91. Dave permalink
    October 17, 2011

    When you cut out all of the BS on both sides and numbers being thrown out, the one thing that sticks with me is that the league drew just 2,664 without Montreal. That is according to VC who does attendance numbers on BS.

    Here we are talking about the NASL having a good year and they drew slightly over half what they will likely need to survive. I just can’t see this working even if Traffic were willing to keep losing money, which they won’t Sorry. Not until MLS buys into D2 and makes it purely developmental will it work.

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