Despite word last week that that the USSF had revoked the D2 provisional sanctioning of the North American Soccer League (NASL) granted in November, the league announced today the 2011 schedule for its eight teams.
The season is scheduled to open on Saturday, April 9 with four games that includes a match in Cary, North Carolina featuring last year’s USSF D2 finalists, the Carolina RailHawks and Puerto Rico Islanders. A link to the 2011 NASL schedule can be found here.
The eight NASL clubs will each play a 28-game regular season, obviously not including U.S. Open Cup, the Nutrilite Canadian competition or the Caribbean Football Union club contests or friendlies. Each team will face its league opponents four times, twice at home and twice on the road.
For the 2011 season, the NASL will consist of the Puerto Rico Islanders, the Carolina RailHawks, the Montreal Impact, FC Tampa Bay, the Strikers (formerly known as Miami FC), the NSC Minnesota Stars, the Atlanta Silverbacks and expansion team FC Edmonton.
Besides winning the USSF D2 playoff championship in 2010, the Islanders also won the 2010 Caribbean Football Union club championship and made a strong run in the CONCACAF Champions League, eliminating the LA Galaxy in the preliminary round and narrowly missing advancement from their tough group. Carolina’s revamped defense and energized offense took them to the playoff final. The Impact finished 2010 strong and will head to MLS as the top tier’s 19th franchise in 2012. NSC Minnesota and FC Tampa Bay were NASL expansion clubs in 2010, with FC Tampa Bay starting well before fading and NSC Minnesota rebounding near the end of the season to gain a playoff berth. The Strikers/Miami FC under-performed during much of 2010, but ended the season on a high with a five game unbeaten streak that included four wins and a draw.
FC Edmonton will begin their first competitive season in 2011 but signed over 20 players for a summer 2010 eight-game exhibition schedule that included opponents such as England’s Portsmouth, Colo-Colo of Chile, the Montreal Impact and Puerto Rico Islanders.
The Atlanta Silverbacks, founded in 1995, return from a two season hiatus from on-field action. The Silverbacks were winners of the Southern Derby in 2002, 2004 and 2006, and were co-champions in 2005.
The regular league season concludes on the weekend of September 24. The top six teams will make the playoffs, with the top two gaining a first round bye. The first round will be single-game elimination, whereas the semifinals and final playoff series will consist of two-leg competitions with aggregate goals being the determining factor to break ties. The NASL playoff championship series will conclude with the first leg being played on the weekend of October 22, and the playoff finale being played the following weekend.