Home Featured Cosmos stadium plan, Indy expansion franchise: NASL gets the good-news day it needed

Cosmos stadium plan, Indy expansion franchise: NASL gets the good-news day it needed

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The North American Soccer League badly needed a day like Wednesday.

After being beaten up by its own fan base because of delays in the New York Cosmos’ entry into the league — and the Puerto Rico Islanders missing the spring session of the 2013 season in order to reorganize the franchise — NASL needed a good news day.

And it got good news, big time. As the National Soccer Coaches Association of America Convention sets up shop in Indianapolis, NASL stole the thunder from MLS — which is holding its SuperDraft on Thursday — with two major announcements.

• The confirmation of Indianapolis as the newest NASL expansion city; construction magnate Ersal Ozdemir’s club will join the league in 2014, alongside expansion teams from Ottawa and the Virginia suburbs of D.C.

• And, the unveiling of the New York Cosmos’s stadium plans, a 25,000 seat venue (which very much like the proposed new Edmonton Oilers arena, with its L-shaped design) located in Queens’ Belmont Park. The $400 million stadium would be privately financed. Plans have been submitted to Empire State Development Corporation, which is run by the state to fund projects with tax-free bonds. (CLICK HERE FOR STADIUM IMAGES)

For the NASL, the PR value of having a Cosmos stadium plan is huge, especially after the team announced it would not begin play till the fall session of the 2013 season. The NASL decided to go to a split-season format for 2013, with each session run as a separate league. The winners of the two sessions meet in the Soccer Bowl.

Proposed New York Cosmos stadium
But, when MLS is still holding meetings and talking about where franchise No. 20 would be located in the city that never sleeps, NASL can now say it’s got the site and the plan. No, there are no shovels in the ground — but with the significance of the Cosmos brand already established, getting first to the stadium-plan finish line is another win for NASL.

As MLS continues to discuss a plan to sponsor reserve players in the third-division USL, NASL needs to use this time to carve out its identity as a strong yet independent second division. Yes, it will do business with MLS in the form of loans and, maybe one day, player sales, but it needs to make it clear that a second division should not be in the business of farm teams — which is an important message. Let’s face it — most NASL markets have major league teams in other sports. And once you have a team in the NHL or the NFL or the NBA, it’s hard to sell soccer fans in that same city on the idea that it’s only good enough for an affiliated farm club.

If Puerto Rico comes back healthy for the second half of 2013 — NASL will have 12 teams in 2014, and at least a stadium plan in place for a part of the Greater New York area that isn’t New Jersey. And, with New York and three new teams entering the league, the survival of the Islanders becomes a Puerto Rico issue, not an NASL issue. Basically, as harsh as it sounds, if PR does not survive, there might be a few owners who would cry crocodile tears: After all, you’ve just taken the league’s most expensive road trip off of the itinerary.

Back to Indianapolis: The announcement was expected. Former Chicago Fire president Peter Wilt has been working for months in Indianapolis, rallying support for the new expansion team. And, now, the owner has been revealed.

“The NASL is experiencing tremendous growth and the addition of Indianapolis will contribute greatly to that positive aspect of our business over the next few years,” said NASL commissioner Bill Peterson in a statement issued by the league. “We have all witnessed great sporting moments in Indianapolis over the years and in that same vein, the support for this team has been overwhelming. With the strong leadership of Ersal Ozdemir I expect this team to be an overwhelming success and a wonderful part of the sporting legacy in Indiana. ”

A day before the MLS SuperDraft, NASL has the thunder. When the players are selected on Thursday, MLS will no doubt get it back. But after some real setbacks in the last couple of months, NASL has its momentum back. And on a continent where the relationship between first and second division is uneasy at best, where NASL’s agency and investor, Traffic, has won CONCACAF rights away from MLS’s SUM arm, where there is a real push-and-pull between the Cosmos and MLS Team No. 20, momentum is important.

When Peterson was in Edmonton late in 2012, he said the time will come when he and MLS commissioner Don Garber will sit down and talk about how the leagues can work together. But he said that time isn’t now: They are both working on building their own leagues.
And, right now, you can’t help but notice just a touch of one-upsmanship that’s going on.

OTTAWA NAME: After media reports surfaced that Ottawa’s CFL name was entertaining the RedBlacks name, we contacted the Ottawa Sports and Entertainment Group for an update on the NASL team name.

OSEG owns both the CFL and NASL expansion teams and in December held an online contest, asking fans for team names.

But the Ottawa group has confirmed that, at least on the soccer side, no name has been selected yet.

RELATED:
Islanders won’t play in NASL spring session (CLICK)

New NASL Commissioner in Edmonton: On expansion, stadium, Traffic and working with MLS (CLICK)

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One Comment

  1. MLSinSTL

    January 19, 2013 at 4:43 pm

    Steve, isn’t it a bit inaccurate to state that “NASL can now say it’s got the site and the plan. No, there are no shovels in the ground — but with the significance of the Cosmos brand already established, getting first to the stadium-plan finish line is another win for NASL”. The Cosmos are replying to an RFP and the could win or lose that RFP. In fact, some other group could win the RFP. It is really not much farther along than the MLS plan and that’s the most important thing – they are just plans at this point for both MLS & Cosmos. A lot has to happen before either plan is a reality.

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