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Crisis? What crisis? NASL releases 2011 schedule

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Damn the torpedoes, full steam ahead.

The North American Soccer League did its best impression of an organization NOT in crisis Tuesday, as it released its full 2011 schedule, and announced that six of the circuit’s eight teams will make the playoffs. The top two teams get byes in the first round, while seed No. 3 will play No. 6 and No. 4 will play No. 5.

There was no mention of the fact that the league is scrambling to try and assure the United States Soccer Federation that it is worthy of official division-two status ahead of the USSF’s Feb. 10-11 vote. Last week, the USSF stripped the league of provisional divison-two status.

So, either league president Aaron Davidson is exceptionally confident that this whole USSF skirmish is just a small bump in the road, or he’s showing off his poker skills.

In today’s release, there was no mention of the USSF situation.

“We believe we have created a balanced schedule that is in accordance with international standards for the sport and will improve the game day ambiance for fans, media, players and coaches,” Davidson was quoted.

FC Edmonton, scheduled to play it’s inaugural NASL season in 2011, has stated that it won’t comment on the USSF situation. The team is deferring all comment to the league office. But, like the NASL office, general manager Mel Kowalchuk and co. were full of bluster on Tuesday.

“Having the schedule in place means our club can really start preparing for the season, both on the pitch and in the front office,” said Kowalchuk. “The players are looking forward to finally playing a league game and our account executives are ready to put people in the seats at Foote Field for May 1 and beyond.”

As the team expected, FC Edmonton will play all three of its April games on the road before opening at home against the Montreal Impact on May 1. Then, FCE will head on the road for two more games.

So, FC Edmonton’s first two home dates will both be against Canadian opposition — assuming that the NASL-USSF situation will be resolved. May 1 is the first all-Canadian match-up of the new NASL season, while the team will face Toronto FC at Commonwealth Stadium for its Nutrilite Canadian Championship matchup. The NCC game has to be at Commonwealth because Foote Field’s Canadian football lines aren’t up to the Canadian Soccer Association’s standards for the tourney.

FCE needs those two Canadian rivalries to offer a grand kickoff for a club that is getting very little coverage in the mainstream media — as is its indoor-soccer CMISL cousin, the Drillers.

The NASL schedule is out a week late. It was originally expected to be out last Monday.

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