NASL makes massive changes for 2013: Split season, only two teams advance to postseason By Steven Sandor Posted on September 5, 2012 2 0 402 Share on Facebook Share on Twitter The NASL announced Wednesday that it is making radical changes to its competition format, beginning with the 2013 season. For all intents and purposes, the league will move to an apertura/clausura system. The season will be split into two halves — and the winners of the halves will face off in the Soccer Bowl. If the same team wins each half, then the team with the combined second-best record over the first and second sessions will be the Soccer Bowl opponent. Other than the Soccer Bowl, there is no post-season. Just the two top teams, and that’s that. The Soccer Bowl will be a single match — 2012 will be the last of the NASL’s two-legged finals. The first half of the season will end July 4. The league will take a month off an reconvene at the end of the July for the second half, which will run until early November. The NASL announced that the Board of Governors unanimously approved the switch. “Our Scheduling Sub-Committee arrived at this recommendation after an exhaustive review of a number of alternatives,” said NASL Commissioner David Downs In a release issued by the league. “Aand the new format takes into consideration a variety of factors including fan and player comfort in our many warm-weather cities. “But the bottom line, is that we believe this new competitive format will bring more excitement and meaning to each of our regular-season matches for all of our teams throughout the year.” With July being what amounts to an open month, managers will have the chance to scour the market and adjust their squads in the transfer window. As well, it frees up the schedule so teams can try and book exhibition matches against European touring clubs. When MLS teams play the European squads in July, they congest their schedules and alienate hardcore fans at the expense of bringing in the so-called “Eurosnobs” who would normally not come to North American matches. So, the NASL move is a fascinating compromise. As well, the clausura/apertura system, with only two teams going to the Soccer Bowl, looks to be a compromise between the North American system (playoffs) and the global system (declaring a champion at the end of the league). But, for the NASL, remember that holding a six-team playoff, which it did last year and will this season, is an expensive proposition for teams still trying to edge out of the red. If a team makes the playoffs, especially if it goes on the road for the first round, it can expect to lose tens of thousands of dollars in expenses. By streamlining the playoffs to a single Soccer Bowl, Division-2 has removed an expensive part of the business. In each half of the season, every league member will play the other home and away. So, based on the New York Cosmos coming into the league, no further expansion and the Minnesota Stars coming back in 2013, FC Edmonton can look forward to playing 16 matches in each half of the season, 32 in all. That’s a significant increase from 28 this season. As well, the July hole allows NASL to have a natural break so that it won’t have to compete for fans’ attention during the biggest events of the sport’s calendar; the World Cup and Euro. Both of those tend to run from late June-July, so the schedule could be modified, so FC Edmonton and the incoming (2014) Ottawa team wouldn’t force fans to choose between a World Cup match and a home game. There is one thorn: The league confirmed that the spring champion will host the 2013 Soccer Bowl. The system would be improved if it went to the team with the best combined record over the two halves. It would keep teams motivated in the first half of the season even if someone has clinched top spot; and it would keep the spring champion motivated in the second half of the season.