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Islanders won’t play in NASL spring session

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The Puerto Rico Islanders will not play in the NASL’s spring session — but have pledged to rejoin the league in the fall.

A confirmation on the news first reported by IndyWeek (CLICK HERE) was confirmed by NASL Friday afternoon.

“The NASL continues to grow and improve and as such our teams must also continue to grow and develop,” said NASL Commissioner Bill Peterson. “This reorganization will give the Islanders an opportunity to rejoin the NASL and contribute to its growth while proudly representing Puerto Rico around the world. It is our intention to have the Islanders back on the field as soon as they have completed the process and we will provide whatever assistance is necessary to help them.”

“We are very proud to be part of the NASL since its inception,” said Andres Guillemard-Noble, President of the Puerto Rico Islanders. “Our goal at this moment is to organize properly in order to continue in August being part of the extraordinary expansion that our league is having.”

That means the North American Soccer League will begin the year with just seven teams. But that number will swell to nine in August of 2013 after Puerto Rico rejoins and the New York Cosmos come in as an expansion team.

With the league moving to the split schedule, which will see the spring champion take on the fall champion in the Soccer Bowl, the NASL has given itself the flexibility to bring teams in after the July transfer window, as the first half of the season has no bearing on the second. But, critics will argue that this new system has already opened the door for clubs to abuse it — by not playing both halves of a campaign.

There were signs that the Islanders’ reorganization was going slower than planned. When FC Edmonton signed Canadian fullback and former Islander Edson Edward last month, he indicated that he hadn’t heard any news around the Puerto Rico franchise in terms of player signings.

The issue? The team’s ownership is based on a collection of owners and a subsidy from the Puerto Rican government. Before the 2012 election, the government subsidized a major renovation of the Islanders’ home stadium in Bayamon — which reopened with a Spain/Puerto Rico friendly. But that government was removed at the end of 2012, as Alejandro Garcia Padilla won the election. He doesn’t take office right away, so the Islanders, like any government department when there’s a regime change, are right now not sure of if the dollars are coming or not.

But the team is confident that, no matter the funding breakdown, it will have a team in place for the second half of the NASL season. The team has close ties to the Puerto Rican national team and is the prime developer of talent for the region.

For FC Edmonton, Puerto Rico represents the longest and most expensive road trip of the season, usually a full day of flying and at least two plane changes. It’s a 6,700-km trip.

The Islanders are one of the most decorated teams in NASL. In 2009, the club got to the semifinals of the CONCACAF Champions League, where it lost on penalties to Mexican powerhouse Cruz Azul. But, last season, as its home stadium in Bayamon was being renovated, the Islanders played the first half of the year in its practice facility in front of small crowds.

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One Comment

  1. BQ

    December 22, 2012 at 1:12 am

    I knew letting the Cosmos play only half a season would come back to haunt the NASL. Now they look even more like a joke.

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