March 24, 2015
MY TWO CENTS
Re-imagining the NASL
Will Smith is a long-time New York soccer fan from Brooklyn.
"The opinions reflected in the My Two Cents columns do not express the views of the editors or management of BigAppleSoccer. com"
By Will Smith
Special to BigAppleSoccer.com
The 2015 North American Soccer League season will be soon upon us.
The Cosmos kick off April 4 in Fort Lauderdale against the Strikers. Even before a ball has been kicked, fans find themselves surrounded by great drama. The worst kept secret in U.S. Soccer is that Minnesota United is leaving the second-tier NASL to join Major League Soccer.
The second worst kept secret is that MLS is looking lecherously at San Antonio as well. What is NASL commissioner Bill Petersen to do? It seems like everything that works in the NASL is soon stolen by MLS and claimed as their own. Petersen must be tossing and turning at night wondering what Don Garber is plotting next.
Fear not, commissioner Peterson. Will Smith has a five point plan for you to combat creeping Garber-ism:
1) Expansion to the North:
Oh, Canada! Be brave! Be bold! Be Cold! Expand to the North! Realistically, the NASL will never be able to threaten MLS' first division status in the U.S. In fact, the MLS-backed USL is pushing hard for second division status, thus relegating the NASL to the third tier should that come to fruition. The NASL can thwart these plans by looking to that giant land mass north of the U.S. and applying for first division status there. As Canada has no league of its own and its top teams compete in MLS for that very reason, this would seem to be an open netter. To do this, the NASL would need to add teams in metropolitan areas such as
Calgary: population 1,096,833
Winnipeg: population 663,617
Hamilton: population 519,949
(Note: All population figures as of 2011)
With five Canadian teams, first division status in Canada seems reasonable.
2) Expansion to the South:
The Cosmos are playing an exhibition in Havana. Why stop there? Let's get an expansion team down there. Think about the headlines a Cuban team playing in the same league as American teams would generate! Think of the great road trips. Let's add a team in San Juan, too!
3) Expansion to the West:
The NASL needs teams on the west coast by 2016 to maintain its current second division status at a minimum. If they have bigger dreams than that…well, you're just not first class without a west coast presence. Rumor has it that the LA deal is falling apart. That is a blessing in disguise for the NASL as it cannot compete with MLS there. Better to find themselves in San Diego and San Francisco. They’ll need at least two teams out there or it is just too cost-prohibitive to bother.
4) Challenge the MLS champion to a Winner Takes All Match:
This is a no-lose situation for the NASL. If MLS rejects the offer, the NASL can say, "Look at those chickens!" If the NASL champion defeats the MLS champion, they can say, "Ha! We're just as good! Better even!" If the NASL team loses, they can be gracious in defeat and challenge again the next season.
5) #No to MLS
While it is true that Garber has done a great job growing MLS since taking over for Doug Logan, it's also true he is, at heart, an uptight NFL guy who gets extremely riled up whenever anyone presents a vision for U.S. Soccer that differs from his (see Klinsmann, Jurgen). The NASL should poke fun at MLS' NFL-type corporate leanings and have some fun messing with Don's insecurities. They can start by launching #No to MLS and #No to Corporate Soccer. Then on a select night during the season, all the NASL teams can sponsor an event where, if you come to the game with MLS gear and throw it in a big trash receptacle, you get in for free. Now, THAT would send the Don over the edge.
5) Bill Peterson Should Wear Zoot Suits:
I know. It sounds crazy, but hear me out. Bill Peterson will never be able to beat Don Garber when it comes to being uptight and corporate so he needs to go the other way completely. Dress in 1930s era zoot suits! Talk like Cab Calloway! Smoke fat cigars! Get a cool nickname like "Big Daddy" or "Wild Bill" or "Sweet William" or "Big Bad Bill!" You get the idea.
Now, I can understand that some people may not want to go the 1930s hipster route, per se, but my point is that Petersen needs to position himself as the anti-Garber. If MLS is corporate soccer, then the NASL must necessarily be like seeing a mid-70s KISS concert or going to the circus. If MLS has begun to see itself as the "serious" soccer league (oh, and it has), the NASL must present itself as one big party.
Not only are these ideas that help grow the NASL, I guarantee you that Don Garber won't steal any of them. Now, wouldn't that be a refreshing change of pace?
If you want to respond to this story or have an opinion of your own, send it to email.