Home NASL & USL FC Edmonton Why we in Edmonton should see Minnesota’s move to MLS as bittersweet

Why we in Edmonton should see Minnesota’s move to MLS as bittersweet

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Being in Edmonton on the day that the Twin Cities officially gets the nod as the next MLS franchise is well, kinda bittersweet.

Let’s face it; the Eddies used to have a decent rivalry with Atlanta a couple of years back because the teams didn’t necessarily like each other very much. But, really, it’s hard to pinpoint who is supposed to be FCE’s rivalry team. Ottawa? No. Except when we play each other, we all kinda cheer for Ottawa because the club is committed to giving Canadians minutes on the field.

But, with the Flyover Cup — a supporter-driven initiative which sees the winner of the FCE/Loons season series get the award — it should be Minnesota who is our closest rival. But, in a weird way, the Loons are kind of like the Eddies’ best frenemy. We’re the cold-weather cities in a league filled with tropical teams; we’re united in our sense of isolation from the rest of the NASL.

And our matches against each other, well, they’ve been excellent. The interaction between supporters has been great. It won’t be forgotten that the Dark Clouds, the main support group for the Loons, raised money when they found out about the fire that devastated the town of Slave Lake, north of Edmonton, back in 2011.

I have a lot of respect for the organization; whenever they’ve come into Edmonton the team has been great to deal with. Coach Manny Lagos has always been open with our broadcast team.

So, it’s kinda like seeing a best friend get married; you are happy for the guy, but you know your relationship will change.

Minnesota United will move to MLS in 2018; and while there will no doubt be those die-hard factions of NASL supporters who will see the team’s move as some kind of betrayal, the fact is this: The Loons’ acceptance into MLS is very, very good for NASL.

First, here’s the statement from NASL:
“The North American Soccer League was created to provide fans, players, and partners with a professional structure that best aligns with the international game and a model that integrates into the global soccer economy. While Major League Soccer will make an announcement on Wednesday concerning Minnesota United FC possibly becoming an MLS expansion franchise, the NASL will continue on its path to build a league that is in line with the rest of the world and offers North American soccer fans a highly competitive alternative.

“Our soccer landscape has been evolving at an unprecedented pace since the relaunch of the NASL in 2011. As the sport continues to grow, we anticipate making further announcements during the year concerning our own expansion and new partners. The developments in Minneapolis only serve to affirm once again, that the NASL is building high-caliber clubs, both on and off the field, and playing a leadership role in the evolution of professional soccer in North America. The announcement will not affect how we approach our plans for the future. We are as committed as ever to continuing the growth in our existing markets and expanding into new markets where we see great opportunities for our players and fans – the groups our league is built around.

“As we get closer to kicking off our fifth season on April 4, we look forward to another great year on and off the field.”

NASL wants to expand. And there’s no better carrot to dangle to any prospective owner than the hope of moving up. The fact is, MLS and NASL are businesses. No matter what the soccer-war types may say, right now MLS is Div. 1 in Canada and the U.S., and NASL is Div. 2. So, NASL can tell an investor that if he or she comes into the league, and have success, that yes, the chance is there to move on to a bigger arena. NASL loves to advertise the fact that it has no cap and has free agency; it can also brag that it gives its owners the freedom of mobility.

Look, when MLS struck its deal to make USL its official affiliate, the fear was that USL would pick off all the expansion markets, because investors would think that you would now have to go the Orlando City route to get to MLS. USL would be more attractive because NASL would be isolated.

But that hasn’t been the case. NASL teams are still very much in the mix for MLS expansion. Minnesota was selected. San Antonio was considered. So, it’s clear that MLS does what all good businesses do; the league’s brass put emotion aside and made deals that are best for it going forward.

While MLS has a long and rather complicated history of making promises to Canadians, we can put a little bit of faith into the fact that Commissioner Don Garber recently said that he feels there are more markets in the U.S. “and Canada” to which the league can expand. (Of course, the league would need to decide to go to more than 24 teams.) But, if the Canadian Soccer Association’s hopes to form our own “Division 1A” don’t materialize, the next best hope for Canadian soccer development is to become a stronger partner in MLS, with revamped roster rules that open up opportunities for Canadian players and more Canadian clubs. If that happens, those Canadian clubs would likely need to come from NASL.

So, to the soccer supporters in Minnesota, congratulations. We’re really sorta kinda maybe happy for you. We’ll raise a glass for you now, and then cry in our beer when you’re looking away.

 

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7 Comments

  1. jayme

    March 29, 2015 at 2:59 pm

    footy

    There is some question if Montreal will last in Major League Soccer and if that’s the case they likely would drop down to Nasl plus there many other markets that would fit I don’t think its a issue and I think the league will be fine.

    Now as for teams outside of the top 3 have trouble avg 5000 don’t be shocked if Ottawa avg around 8,000 this year and there are a few other clubs that could see a big increase in attendance.

    Reply

  2. Kent

    March 26, 2015 at 4:40 pm

    Steven, what kind of revenue sharing does NASL have? To my knowledge I don’t believe they have any kind of national TV deal, perhaps they have some minor league sponsors?

    What I’m really getting at is, are the ticket revenue’s shared in any way? Perhaps a percentage to the away team? I’m curious if the concern that people have about losing teams that draw bigger crowds actually is a concern for NASL and it’s remaining teams.

    Although Minnesota drew over 7000 fans per game in 2014, it’s worth noting that they were only drawing 4445 in 2013, which was actually below the league average.

    Reply

    • Steven Sandor

      March 26, 2015 at 5:09 pm

      The only thing close to a “national” deal was when FCE’s games were on Sportsnet 360 (now they are available on Rogers/Citytv). Cosmos is with OneWorld in USA. If that’s national or not depends on your perspective, I guess. When I think “national” deal I think of being available on channels regularly available to most satellite and cable subscribers.

      NASL promotes a culture of fierce independence.

      Minnesota’s change in ownership really boosted the club; it’s a big reason why you see the bump in attendance.

      Reply

  3. footy

    March 26, 2015 at 1:23 pm

    The NASL-statement is rather bizarre though. Hours before MLS make the official announcement they come out and claim that “we anticipate making further announcements during the year concerning our own expansion and new partners.”

    Pfff that sounds like a sore looser to me. If you don’t have any new info, why come out with a statement at all? I really don’t see the point in this.

    Moreover, I really do see it as a negative for NASL. Just as I regard it not great for USL when they loose some of the biggest and most successful teams to MLS (Orlando and prob. Sacramento).

    Cause if you take out the successful teams, what will remain? Without San Antonio, Min United and possibly Indy, there’s only teams left which have troubles getting 5000 people to come and watch the games. Not even talking about Atlanta.

    And in being a pathway to MLS, the D2 requirements sure don’t help NASL to favor it over USL. I wish it was otherwise, but things are’t looking too bright for NASL at the moment.

    Reply

  4. Kahkakew Yawassanay

    March 25, 2015 at 11:28 pm

    A lot of “what ifs” and speculation. Regardless of MLS expansion to 24 clubs that includes or excludes Minnesota and San Antonio, the fact remain there are 50+ cities with populations in excess of 300k where NASL could expand to. the onus is on NASL to continue to develop franchises with strong fan bases and healthy owner ships regardless of where MzlD/USL expands to. It is not a far fetched idea rhat MLS is attempting to eliminate all potential expansion cities thru the USL but again NASL has the opportunity to create their own second division on par with USL. There are enough locations to expand, how and when it the only priority NASL should be focused on!

    Reply

  5. Kent

    March 25, 2015 at 8:40 pm

    Very good points Steve. I never really why people thought the MLS/USL deal would spell doom for NASL, but I didn’t really connect the dots as to how the Minnesota expansion is actually a plus for NASL. It makes perfect sense though.

    Reply

    • Kent

      March 25, 2015 at 8:41 pm

      Oops. “never really *understood* why”.

      Reply

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