The NASL Is About To Implode

After years trying to challenge the MLS and shake off their 2nd tier classification, the NASL looks to be heading toward a collapse. 

NASL edition 1 had a great run and is still highly regarded for some amazing soccer back in the 1960s through the 80s. It was stocked full of global stars – Pele, Johann Cruyff, George Best, Franz Beckenbauer, etc. It was the MLS of its day, but ultimately the wave couldn’t sustain and it was placed into soccer history.

NASL 2.0 came along in 2009 after a legal battle with the old USL. Although placed as the second tier in American soccer, NASL argued from the start that they were competing with MLS not a step below. Ever heard of rival soccer leagues in the same country? Can you imagine trying to start up another league in the UK? Needless to say the ending was always inevitable, even if it doesn’t come next year.

This NASL doesn’t have the stars the original edition did – they go to the MLS instead. Instead, it has a revolving door of clubs and pressure being applied by the MLS and USL. The league has already had 16 teams enter since 2009, but for many the NASL is not a final destination.

An Unwanted Promotion and Relegation System

The MLS has already taken three of the cities away from NASL. Montreal Impact and Minnesota United directly, and then with the creation of Atlanta United FC effectively killing off the Atlanta Silverbacks’ franchise.

Sports Illustrated is now reporting that next season the Ottawa Fury and Tampa Bay Rowdies will both likely head down to the USL division. Tampa Bay was a founding member of the NASL. That would leave NASL with only 10 teams, and one being a planned debut of the San Francisco Deltas. The Fort Lauderdale Strikers and Rayo OKC are both on the edge of financial collapse, and will soon be left with the choice of fold or drop to USL where the requirements and fees are substantially less than the NASL.

That scenario leaves the NASL with 8 teams and only 2 founding members. While the NASL would love to expand their issue is that the alternatives are more attractive to cities. Option A is get a bid accepted by the MLS and Option B is to join the low-entry barrier USL which has a partnership with MLS for development. They secured a TV deal finally with BEIN Sports and CBS Sports, but game day attendance continues to drop and the above average Minnesota is leaving.

The NASL has been fighting a losing battle for years, and if the league loses Ottawa, Tampa Bay, Fort Lauderdale and Rayo OKC within the next year or two, it will likely be the final blow. Remaining clubs should start looking into their options to move up (unlikely) or down to the USL.

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