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NASL approves Jacksonville and Oklahoma City expansion bids

Jul 25, 2013, 9:56 PM EDT

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The North American Soccer League Board of Governors has OK’d expansion to both Jacksonville, FL and Oklahoma City, OK as the NASL continues to grow along with MLS.

The two cities beat out two other unnamed cities for the bids, and will join the NASL for the start of the 2015 season.

The Sunshine Soccer Group led the Jacksonville bid as the city becomes the third to house a team within the state of Florida. SSG is led by Mark Frisch and former FC Dallas goalkeeper Dario Sala.

Frish said after hearing of their successful bid, “I am very grateful for all the support from the city and the fans leading up to this day. I know the fans out there have been waiting for this moment for a long time. I cannot wait to go out and meet them all personally and talk the beautiful game of soccer in Jacksonville.”

“I have seen first hand the desire the Jacksonville community has for a professional soccer team to call its own and believe this is a great move for soccer in Florida” added NASL commissioner Bill Peterson.

The addition of an NASL team in Jacksonville is the second boost for the sport in the city in the last month. Two weeks ago Jaguars owner purchased Premier League side Fulham and announced they will play at least one friendly at EverBank Stadium within the next year.

OKC Pro Soccer LLC, led by businessman Tim McLaughlin, ran the Oklahoma City bid. McLaughlin announced the group will refurbish Taft Stadium to play in, where Northwest Classen High School and John Marshall High School both play.

Commissioner Peterson commended the patience the city showed in developing their bid. “The Board of Governors has recognized a carefully crafted bid from OKC Pro Soccer LLC, who waited patiently to build a strong platform that will ensure NASL soccer thrives in Oklahoma City.”

The NASL has gone all-in on expansion recently. The New York Cosmos will return for the second half of this season as the league returns to eight teams, while three more will be added for next year (Ottawa, Virginia, Indianapolis) before these two join in 2015.

  1. danielofthedale - Jul 25, 2013 at 11:24 PM

    Any work on on the PR Islanders? Will they be back next season or have they officially folded?

    • wesbadia - Jul 26, 2013 at 8:38 AM

      NASL has continued to deny the demise of PRI, but all signs are pointing to “yes”. The original excuse for PRI not competing in 2013 was they needed to “reorganize” themselves to have a better shot. Since then, there’s been zero talk of any reorganization from anyone involved, and I think it’s best to say that they were simply reassessing whether their business model would continue to work in a country that is more about baseball than soccer.

      Don’t count on PRI competing in any league. At least not in the immediate future.

  2. adiaz9201 - Jul 26, 2013 at 7:48 AM

    I think PR Islanders are folding wheir website doesnt even come up, i was a fan of this team, they had success in winning two titles the CCL and the old before it became NASL tittle. What a shame, but the NASL is growing pretty fast and its pretty exciting, my new team will be the New York Cosmos!!

  3. footballer4ever - Jul 26, 2013 at 8:38 AM

    From what I have searched, the PR islanders are not folding. They decided not to play the first half of the season and will come back in 2014.

    http://m.primerahora.com/islandersnojugaranprimeramitaddelatemporada-745205.html

    • wesbadia - Jul 27, 2013 at 9:41 AM

      I’m not putting faith in an article written not only 9 months ago, but was essentially the response to the PRI press release that announced they’d be foregoing the 2013 season to “reorganize”. There have been countless interactions with the Commissioner and PRI since then about the subject, and both have remained vague about the current status. They’ve also not denied that PRI could fold, but instead have remained “hopeful” that the team would be back “in the future”.

      To me, that’s doesn’t really instill hope.

  4. jetmetfan - Jul 26, 2013 at 8:48 AM

    By the way, it’s “Ottawa.”

  5. lukelove10 - Jul 26, 2013 at 10:45 AM

    So is this setting up an official battle between USL Pro and NASL for Oklahoma City? Kind of surprised this is a market worth fighting over. There are several other cities that would welcome professional soccer and have a larger population to support a team than OKC. I can’t see two teams surviving in there. One league is bound to look bad with one of the teams folding. Is OKC really a market that makes it worth the risk of bad publicity? Or is folded teams in the lower levels really not that much bad publicity because it happens rather often that the risk is worth the chance?

    • mvktr2 - Jul 26, 2013 at 4:12 PM

      It’s a fair point. At this point how many markets in the country are worth battling over with such under-saturation? I don’t think a folding team in any league is an okay thing from a PR standpoint. However it totally makes sense to the pocketbook from time to time, Miami Fusion et al.

      Another question, is there a silver lining? Might the presence of 2 teams raise the profile, offer cross-town rivalry, etc. which could benefit both teams? I think the answer is yes. US soccer teams, especially those regionally close and closer need to have the same approach as American Craft Beer breweries have; seeing one another as compatriots not competition in the battle to win the hearts and minds of the public. The competition is football, basketball, etc or Bud, Miller, etc in my analogy.

    • fostat63 - Jul 26, 2013 at 4:57 PM

      You make some interesting points, but I would disagree that OKC can’t support a professional soccer team. While the population of Oklahoma City itself is just under 592,000 the entire metro area itself is just over 1 million people. Some of the same points were made when the NBA team was brought to OKC. Afterall, what does little Okie city know about professional basketball and how to support the team. The OKC Thunder have thrived here. While the overall market size is small the people here love their sports and fans are drawn in from all over the state due to the fact that we don’t have a bunch of professional teams like for instance Texas or Florida. While there are no guarantees that a professional soccer team will survive here I suspect they will do fine.

      • wesbadia - Jul 27, 2013 at 9:37 AM

        It’s not a question whether a small market can support a single soccer team, it’s a matter of whether a small market can support TWO soccer teams… entering play within a year of each other… in the 2nd and 3rd divisions.

        It’s one thing for OKCFC to existing in a market of a million potential fans. PDL teams usually average less than 1000 attendance per game, and I believe OKCFC was averaging slightly more than 1000 this year for their games.

        NASL, on the other hand, are averaging around 4 – 5000 per game, and USL between 1 – 3000 per game. Depending on the market, of course.

        I think the argument here is even if OKCFC is above average in attendance, it could bode extremely well for one league or another to enter that market with a fully professional team. But both? That’s where the question arises.

        That being said, I think it’s silly for anyone to suggest a small market like OKC can’t support soccer at all. Lest we forget Tulsa having supported soccer back in the 70’s and 80’s under Old NASL. And the fact that when MLS expansion came to SLC in 2004, most people were up in arms that a market of 1.4 million would be gifted a franchise when other markets existed. The similarities between SLC and OKC are amazing. Only other major sport is NBA. They have a minor league hockey franchise, as well as minor league baseball. But that’s it. If it can succeed in conservative Utah, it can succeed in conservative Oklahoma.

        But it’s a legitimate concern if a town like that could support both teams. Imagine if SLC was given two teams at once. What would the repercussions have been?

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