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FC Edmonton, Impact games to be streamed live this weekend

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FC Edmonton and the Montreal Impact both start the NASL season on the road this Saturday — and their fans will be able to stream those games, for free.

NASL commissioner David Downs, a veteran broadcast executive who spent time with ABC and Univision, said the league wants to ensure its fans can follow all of its teams, home and away, this season. Using the Internet is the easiest approach. Talks may happen later in the year with a national broadcaster but, for now, the league has local TV deals in Tampa, Puerto Rico and Montreal.

“The opening weekend, the four matches will be available on the home team’s sites,” said Downs.

That means Montreal’s game Saturday at 7 p.m. ET will be found at fctampabay.com, and FC Edmonton’s debut against the Fort Lauderdale Strikers, Saturday at 7:30 p.m. ET/5:30 p.m. MT, can be seen at strikers.com. The league will also link to game through its official website. Downs said there are hopes to launch a player on the league’s website later this season so fans could simply go there and choose matches.

Downs spoke with media Thursday as part of a pre-opening weekend conference call. Downs, who previously headed up the U.S. bid for the 2022 World Cup, is in his first week on the job.

The talking points:

Spanish soccer apparel giant Joma will provide the official match ball for NASL games. The league will use Joma match balls starting with this weekend’s games, then, on July 4 (Independence Day in the U.S.), the teams will use a ball, pictured above, that pays homage to the NASL heyday of the ‘70s. A limited number of 2011 balls will be available for sale on the league website.

Aaron Davidson, the former CEO of the NASL and president of the Strikers, is now the Chair of the Board of Governors.

Downs understands that he must help the league impress the United States Soccer Federation, and that means stabilizing ownership. The league currently runs NSC Minnesota, and Traffic Sports, the Brazilian agency that owns the Strikers, also has significant stakes in the Carolina and Atlanta franchises.

The USSF granted the NASL official Division-2 status for just the 2011 season, and will review the league’s progress at the end of the year.

Downs said it is a priority to see Traffic “divest” its shares in the clubs to passionate local investors, and that he feels the league will prove the naysayers wrong.

“We feel we can show in a short period of time that we have a model that will work, and can attract investors.”

He said teams will be asked to network with each other when it comes to marketing and sales.

“We will share our best practices around the league and work collectively.”

Downs plans to work with MLS commissioner Don Garber in helping soccer grow throughout North America. His World Cup-bid office was located at MLS headquarters in New York.

“We will seek any cooperation possible with MLS.”

He also thinks it could be “possible” to one day see promotion and relegation between divisions 1 and 2, but not in the near future.

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