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Oklahoma City FC to become NASL’s newest franchise?

Jul 2, 2013, 10:44 AM EDT

NASL ball

It appears a new team will be present for the start of the North American Soccer League’s 2015 season.

Current USL Premier Development League side, Oklahoma City FC, are set to become the NASL’s newest team in 2015. This news comes after the league invited a ownership group from Oklahoma City to their Board of Governors meeting on July 25 to tie everything up.

North American soccer’s second-tier Tweeted out a slightly cryptic message yesterday evening, but nonetheless it seems as if OKC is going to get a NASL franchise.

NASL said in the Tweet: “We’ve invited a group from Oklahoma City to make a final presentation at our July BoG meeting. Look forward to their admission to NASL.#2015″

With various responses coming from the NASL’s official feed following their announcement, it seems as though the franchise is all but sealed for Oklahoma. So what do we make of this?

(MORE: Which US cities are next for MLS expansion?)

First of all, it is awesome news for the Midwest and for soccer rivalries within NASL. Now fans in cities such as San Antonio and Indianapolis will be able to travel to Oklahoma and help fuel soccer and its burgeoning reputation in the Midwest region.

But does this further imply the NASL’s aim to become a strong and meaningful second-tier for North American soccer and reignite hopes for promotion and relegation?

Let’s not get ahead of ourselves. But there is hope for those who want to see movement between North America’s top two leagues.

So the NASL is building quite a nice little portfolio for itself as the league, reborn in 2011, reaches out to new markets amid rapid expansion in the next two to three years.

(MORE: MLS, USL announce Reserve League, USL Pro integration)

In 2014 three new teams will take to the field, with the Ottawa Fury, Virginia Cavalry and Indy Eleven all arriving on the NASL scene. While, of course, the New York Cosmos begin play this season when the second half of the NASL campaign which begins this fall. Then there is the Puerto Rico Islanders who are on hiatus but should return next season in a stronger NASL.

With the current sides, and Oklahoma City joining, that will bring the total number of NASL teams to 13, which is a number that will continue to grow. And amid recent reports that up to six more professional teams will be created in the Western half of the United States, lower-tier soccer is stronger than it has ever been in the US.

Like I said, promotion and relegation is a long way off. But if the NASL and USL Pro continue to develop at this rapid pace and feed of the success of Major League Soccer, then why can’t it happen between the second and third tiers of North American soccer?

(MORE: A little history to consider re MLS and the wonderful old NASL)

That is opening up a whole new can of worms given the struggle both leagues went through to become affiliate. Tensions do exist between the two. But the lower-tiers of North American soccer can prosper if all three professional leagues work together more. Which will only reap benefits in the future.

Discuss.

  1. Scott Ludwig - Jul 2, 2013 at 11:15 AM

    Reblogged this on Minnesota KICKS Soccer News.

  2. cjtalamantez - Jul 2, 2013 at 11:43 AM

    Only Promoted-club should fight off relegation as long as the club is playing in 12-14k soccer specific stadium near downtown, have 8k season tickets that is mostly people and not corporate group season tickets, have jersey and stadium sponsorship, and local tv contract of the entire season.

    Promoted-owner can test if their market is worth the revenue sharing, MLS expansion fees and crazy league rules on player movement.

  3. awad2251 - Jul 2, 2013 at 12:05 PM

    I really think we are seeing a good sustainable system being set up in the lower tier systems. I would much rather a promotion/relegation system in tier 2 and 3 to see if it work before involving MLS.

    • wesbadia - Jul 2, 2013 at 12:41 PM

      Only risk to the sustainability of the 2nd and 3rd tiers is their annual cat-fights based on old grudges. It’s getting a bit stale to hear how USL and NASL fail to get along. This OKC fight is going to exacerbate the whole clash of personalities if it’s not settled in a timely manner. But if it keeps burning like it is, I can see an inevitable battle like which occurred with the NHL/WHA and NBA/ABA competitions.

      Gulati and USSF need to get a heavier fist and start reigning in this nonsense. The federation is the only one in a position to do it, and yet it seems like such a non-issue to them. Ridiculous…

      • mvktr2 - Jul 2, 2013 at 10:16 PM

        yes because in the long run the NHL/WHA and NBA/ABA spats worked out so poorly for all involved

        Let the market sort it out. Those with superior planning, capital, and foresight will succeed, others will fail … good!

      • wesbadia - Jul 3, 2013 at 9:31 AM

        Don’t get me wrong, mvktr2. I don’t think there should be any other force BUT the market at work here. My dispute is that it seems like the NASL or USL (I don’t know which, maybe both) are picking their markets in the most ineffective way simply because of their grudge match with USL and now (seemingly) MLS. You don’t put teams in suburban DC or OKC when other leagues have them staked already. Not this early in the game. And not in cities that can questionably support a single team currently. Especially considering that there are huge swaths of the country that are under- or undeveloped in the world of soccer. The last front on the competitive battle between leagues should be waged in the areas that are already saturated with teams. Basic economics will teach you that if you’re intent on growth, focusing on the areas of the market with the least resistance and the most potential come first. Higher risk areas come much later.

        I want both the NASL and the USL to survive. I couldn’t care less which is 2nd and which is 3rd division. It makes little difference at this point in the game. But if one league goes under and takes most of its teams with it, imagine how much setback American soccer will take. At least a decade, maybe more. That’s bad news for the sport at large.

        I’d much rather see three viable and thriving leagues parceling up the country. The true competitive battle can come after that, which, inevitably, will need the USSF to step in any way to sort out the structure of our system. In the mean time, the leagues need to get over these personality differences based on past failings and start realizing that if they’re intent on growing the sport that the best option is to work together in the business, not against one another. THAT is true capitalism; NOT begrudging competition.

    • mdac1012 - Jul 2, 2013 at 1:36 PM

      Not going to see promotion and relegation with MLS. How do you tell an owner that just spent 100 million to buy into MLS, that his team, which is probably not going to be good because its an expansion team, is likely going to be relegated to the league below after one season?

      That’s the first point, the second is that since MLS technically owns all the teams, how do you relegate the team out of MLS?

  4. charliej11 - Jul 2, 2013 at 3:07 PM

    Oh my word, give it a rest. Pro/Rel is a dumb, stupid, moronic business plan and will never happen here……EVER.

    Which one of the leagues is going to say, yeah we would rather become the lower league ?

    GIVE IT A REST. Go OKC, I hope you enjoy your soccer as much as I have mine.

  5. talgrath - Jul 2, 2013 at 3:44 PM

    Relegation is never, ever going to happen in the US, please get over it. The country is too geographically spread out for it to be realistic to see promotion and relegation, at least between MLS and NASL (NASL and USL could be an option). Are you going to abandon an entire geographic area (and the revenue it provides) to promote yet another team in a big city like LA or New York? Hell no. Let’s also not get ahead of ourselves with NASL, they were only recently named 2nd tier in the US by the federation and that is still probationary. Many of the people involved in the new NASL were involved in the old NASL before it imploded, it is very possible that NASL is going to blow up shortly after launch, given all I have seen of them.

    Relegation and promotion is not why the European leagues are good, they are good because they have large piles of cash (when compared to MLS) to spend on top talent and extensive training academy systems. The European sides reside in a part of the world where soccer is the dominant sport too, almost every kid in Europe grows up dreaming of being a striker, midfielder, goalie or defender; in the US most kids dream of playing in the NFL, MLB or NBA. Promotion and relegation won’t make MLS better, more money will, but growth is not going to be instant; it will take decades for MLS to be even close to matching top European leagues like the EPL.

    • joeyt360 - Jul 2, 2013 at 6:17 PM

      “Are you going to abandon an entire geographic area (and the revenue it provides) to promote yet another team in a big city like LA or New York? Hell no.”

      What are you talking about? We’re abandoning a quarter of the country right now to put another team in NY. And then when the first lower-division club with a real budget came along, where did it go? Atlanta? Charlotte? No, New York! To be *third*!!

      “Many of the people involved in the new NASL were involved in the old NASL before it imploded”

      Who are these people? I’m pretty sure that’s not factually true.

      “Relegation and promotion is not why the European leagues are good”

      I agree with this point. . . but I don’t see that it was being disputed.

      • talgrath - Jul 2, 2013 at 6:47 PM

        There’s no third New York team, unless you are referring to the NASL Cosmos. Could MLS use more coverage in the midwest and the south? Yes, but I think that expansion will come shortly, tis’ not like there are no teams to root for if you are in the midwest, RSL, Columbus and the Texas teams are a decent distance away.

        I can’t find the article now, but a few years ago there was an article about many of the former NASL players and coaches being involved in the new NASL. My main point is the new NASL seems to have the same flavor as the old one, expanding too rapidly to sustain itself.

        Almost any time someone talks promotion and relegation, they uphold it as the way that MLS could be good, thus my commentary on that.

  6. dfstell - Jul 2, 2013 at 8:25 PM

    A couple of things….

    1). I really don’t get the passionate haters on promotion/relegation. I mean, those people are hard core in their dislike of the system. I never really hear why they don’t like it. I’ll tell you why I DO like it. Without pro/rel, you’ll never see top flight soccer anywhere in this country that doesn’t have a top tier TV market. So, MLS is basically telling everyone in this country who doesn’t live in a 1MM+ population city (with comparable metro area) to (a) go screw and (b) support their MLS team that is a 10 hour drive away instead of their local club. I live in NC, but it doesn’t seam like any of Charlotte, Raleigh/Durham, Greensboro/Winston-Salem or Wilmington will EVER be on the MLS expansion radar. Why should I care about MLS when MLS doesn’t care about me?

    2). I think people don’t understand what they are talking about when they act as if MLS is the top flight of US soccer forever and ever. We only have tiers of US soccer on paper. What we really have are competitive leagues. Right now MLS is in the drivers seat, but they’re doing it with VERY low salaries and ALMOST NON-EXISTANT TV MONEY. These MLS brands have almost no value. It would not be all that hard for well funded owners to join a non-salary cap NASL and blow MLS out of the water. All it takes is a $5MM payroll and your NASL club should be better than 80% of MLS teams. And, that will happen if MLS is asleep at the switch. They will have to proactively raise the salary cap to stay ahead of NASL and MLS will have to determine what that means for some of their weaker clubs.

    3). We kinda already do have pro/rel in the US. It’s just that it is based on economic success rather than on-the-field success. Seattle, Portland, Montreal, Vancouver, etc. were all basically “promoted” to MLS. And MLS can snap up the next 5-6 clubs that hit such a threshold too, but they can’t go to 40 teams. It’ll be interesting to see what happens if MLS gets “full” and some club like Cosmos is left out, but is spending more money and has a better club than anything in MLS.

    4). Again….I don’t get why people hate pro/rel. Who doesn’t love the story of a club like Swansea City who rises through multiple levels of English soccer to be a mid-table EPL club? Why shouldn’t we want that in the US? Why would we protect a disaster of a club like Chivas at the expense of a club with mojo?

    • wandmdave - Jul 3, 2013 at 3:50 PM

      I’m not sold on pro/rel in the US yet. You’d have to change a ton about the business model of MLS and probably the other two leagues as well. Right now MLS teams have a great deal of difficulty establishing themselves as dynasties with our salary cap rules and such. The risk of a big market team getting relegated in an off year is therefore much greater than in other countries which is an issue. You could remove the salary caps but at least while the league is still young I think the salary cap prevents arms races that could destabilize the league’s financial viability. The other issue is the franchise fee to join MLS. You’d have to fully work out pro/rel and then have people start at the bottom for next to nothing and then work their way up otherwise I don’t see people risking paying a hefty fee and hoping their green expansion team performs well enough to stay in MLS after the first season. But those franchise fees help the league continue to grow right now so its hard to give that revenue stream up.

      Finally I don’t see 20 teams giving us enough geographical coverage because the country is so bi, especially since allowing pro/rel and letting teams start anywhere and work their way up would allow bigger cities/metro areas to field a large proportion of the 20 teams in the top league. More than 25% of the teams in the EPL are from the London area. We have several cities that large. A large bulk of our top tier could feasibly be dominated by 3-5 urban areas many many miles apart from each other. That doesn’t seem like a good idea and it certainly doesn’t bode well for cities in NC (I sympathize, I live in Winston Salem and DC is a long ways off). I’d argue NC would have a greater chance to have a team in the top tier if there was no pro/rel and the league desires geographical coverage.

    • mancitymont - Jul 3, 2013 at 11:41 PM

      I can appreciate promotion and relegation for what it is over in Europe but, here is why I do not think it will ever work in the United States/Canada.

      1. This is the USA. We have our own sports culture. We have regional divisions in our sports leagues with playoffs for top performers in each division (Single TABLE per DIV). This is because our country is so large. We have 4 time zones, it’s a 6hr flight NY to LA., and the Bulk of MLS clubs are on the East and West Coasts. Air travel is not cheap especially for a young league that’s not rolling in the dough yet.
      a. It makes sense to have a single table in European countries because they are so small. You can get anywhere in two hours or less by train.
      2. We do not have over 100 years of NFL like support for Soccer down through divisions let alone a Promotion and Relegation tradition in the US and Canada. It is not part of our sporting culture.
      3. US Business men and investors are not going to fork over $100M to join MLS, have one bad season and watch that investment disappear just like that because of relegation.
      4. Relegate to USL Pro to play in front of 1500 fans (Maybe?). Not realistic. See #3.
      5. European model: Uncontrolled spending arms race, clubs in massive debt, players not being paid for months, duopolies prevalent in most leagues, and everyone else just playing to be mid table and not be relegated.

    • charliej11 - Jul 8, 2013 at 10:08 PM

      Probably to late for you to read this, bit pro/rel is just stupid, if they are viable then put the team in first division. Why does Pro/Rel artificially have teams unable to winthe championship and thus make a lot less money…makes zero sense.

  7. mvktr2 - Jul 2, 2013 at 10:26 PM

    Good for OKC and NASL. Any word on the financial resources of the backers? It’s a very important aspect of a successful franchise at any level.

    As for pro/rel, the US can work around Pro-Rel via setting up lower tier teams as affiliates ah la MLB. It could work really really well essentially putting the pressure on the individual players to better themselves as well as on the organizations themselves just as it does in MLB. While not like how the rest of the world does it nor like what some want I have little doubt setting up USLPro/NASL up as minor league affiliates could work very very well.

  8. funsunrunning - Aug 20, 2013 at 11:44 PM

    NASL is already becoming too big and in too many major cities to be involved in relegation.. Only usl pro and npsl could do relegation. 1.5million now for a franchise in NASL, just for starters, thats not including wages, club branding or stadiums, just NASLl fee. USL is 50k, and npsl takes about 10-15k, that is much more realisitic for teams to swap in and out of, and san diego flash (npsl) have recently sent players up to the la blues (usl).

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