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NASL Owners to Press Forward — Without Bill Peterson

by on 29 December 2016

Two months ago today, the NASL’s 2016 Fall Season wrapped up. Since then, it’s been nothing but turmoil and working on extensions to save the league. With a decision on the second division’s future imminent, FiftyFive.One has learned that no matter the outcome, NASL commissioner Bill Peterson doesn’t appear to be a part of it.

On December 6, the US Soccer Federation set out a plan to meet over the next “7-10 days” to figure out what the future of lower-division soccer would be. Over the course of these meetings, the NASL ownership regained a vision to press on. This renewed vigor was largely spearheaded by Peter Wilt, former president of Indy Eleven.

What once appeared dead in the water has suddenly been resurrected. There’s now a growing confidence that the NASL will live to play another season. It seems as if the PSG Academy group will indeed take over the Fort Lauderdale Strikers. Meanwhile, there are multiple groups circling around the New York Cosmos, possibly having them ready for the fall. Meanwhile, clubs (including Indy and Edmonton) are already negotiating NASL-specific contracts with new players. Groups within the USL don’t believe any more teams will defect from the NASL.

More on how exit fees may have stalled the clock on a USSF decision…

The ownership groups have also pulled off a coup of sorts, completely saving the league without the assistance of commissioner Bill Peterson. The remaining owners met during the week before Christmas without Peterson, not even letting him know about the meeting. Peterson faced intense scrutiny from owners and the press this year. Most notably, owners felt they were given a false image of security as Peterson made up interest from ownership groups to expand the league.

As Peterson told Sports Illustrated’s Brian Straus:

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As the league looks to turn a new leaf, dismissing Peterson for a new leader appears to be at the top of their agenda.

How is this possible?

There’s still a major hurdle to be cleared before the NASL is alive in earnest. There will be a USSF meeting before the end of 2016. This meeting will require the NASL to prove their viability again, no matter how the league plans to press forward. The USSF has always required an eight-team minimum in their leagues.

The idea of the NASL moving ahead will raise a lot of eyebrows in Florida. The Fort Lauderdale Strikers were a source of continued scandal during 2016. In July, FiftyFive.One first reported insufficient funds and bouncing checks for players and staff alike. Then in November, we broke that players had been playing without health insurance and again weren’t paid on time.

The Strikers ended up paying players and staff just over half of what was owed to them in 2016. Likewise, both players and staff ended up losing their personal health insurance sometime in September. NASL had no mechanism to protect these players with their free-market rules and ownership has been bailed out. It’s believed that the NASL is forcing a sale in Fort Lauderdale to keep an additional team in the league. There’s no word of remedying underpayment for the 2016 lot.

The Strikers aren’t alone on this front, however. The Cosmos had been cutting costs as the season went on, including personal health insurance. FiftyFive.One has learned that the Cosmos’ losses totaled over $30 million since joining the NASL in 2012. This total may include the losses of One World Sports, founded in August 2011.

Ultimately, it remains to be answered why owners are getting a clean break while players and staff lose on wages and insurance.

 Updates on the USL’s pressure in the NASL decision-making…

Another question may be why the USL wouldn’t jump to Division-2 status amidst the turmoil. It’s clear that the USSF thinks too many clubs within the USL don’t meet D2 status. This includes stadium size, ownership wealth, and team organization. You can find a full list of D-2 standards culled by Neil Morris (Sept. 2014) here.

An announcement appears to be imminent, as soon as tomorrow morning. For many, it may be relieving that most clubs will avoid going under. However, the NASL (or however they rebrand) will have a lot of work to do to ensure this doesn’t become an annual problem.

Wes Burdine, Dave Laidig, and Brian Quarstad contributed to this report.

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  • Lenny

    Good to hear the NASL club owners are moving ahead without Peterson, he must be replaced and changes made to the league moving forward are being made from what I’ve heard.

    The US pyramid needs an independent league like NASL to go along with the third division USL reserve and affiliate league and MLS. USL had time to meet D2 standards is further away than NASL so the status quo should remain.

  • Bill Peterson out of the picture He’s the main villain

  • Bob Lowe

    Can you make a case that soccer in the USA would not be better without the sad sack NASL?

    • Dave Ostroske

      As long as every team and every league in this country is trying to figure out how to conduct a sustainable business, we could use every bit of athletic and financial insight we can get. The new-new NASL, without Bill Peterson and definitely without Aaron Davidson and Traffic, will be in better shape, even if they may wind up dropping into D3.

  • Alex Schieferdecker

    Peterson should’ve been chucked overboard long ago. Clueless.

  • alexlgago

    USL clubs will never have $150,000.000 to buy into MLS.

    • Dave DuJour

      But that isn’t a D2 requirement, so it doesn’t matter. And several of them are already MLS reserve clubs, so they’re effectively part of MLS system.

      • alexlgago

        Really, who cares about if a club is is playing in D2 or D3 its getting into MLS as we can see from recent clubs owners such as Scorpions, Rowdies, Sacramento FC, Minnesota and others clubs changing strategy to get into MLS.

  • Pot

    Peterson, THAT GOOD NEWS, peterson away from the…….. balls, ugly incapable.
    He will be paid by garber to bring the NASL to disaster.

  • kkfla737

    While it’s easy to blame Peterson because he is after all the Commissioner and has mannerisms that grate on people, I feel like this “Peterson was to blame” mantra is being spun by people in and around NASL want themselves to be absolved from blame for the league’s fortunes over time. The league owners themselves drive this train and while Peterson was far from the most refined and convincing spokesperson, the direction of the league, challenging MLS, taking shortcuts to D1, engaging foreign media over domestic ones, etc all came from the owners and perhaps some suggestions from league staff. Peterson is a pragmatist and a survivor in the sports business. He’d have gone wherever the wind was and just followed the lead of owners who in many cases didn’t understand the soccer business in this country or the landscape that has been created over two decades of MLS hegemony. As P/R thing showed when Peterson got out there and the very next day the league sent out a statement at the behest of its owners walking his comments back, Peterson didn’t say anything the owners didn’t want him to say with that exception. They might have cringed at how delivered it, but he never said anything that was completely off script with that exception. Let’s not let owners who didn’t quite grasp the magnitude of this business off the hook for bad decisions, reckless spending and the other things so beautifully articulated in this article.

    • Brian Quarstad

      While I was never a fan of Peterson after spending considerable time around first commissioner David Downs who was a class act, I did always say that the reason Downs bowed out and Peterson was hired was because he more easily agreed to trumpet the ideas of Aaron Davidson. Again, I liked Davidson but I think he had a whole lot of things wrong besides the whole FIFA bribery stuff.

  • don Lamb

    PSG buys into the Miami market and becomes Beckham’s team when they move to MLS (hasn’t he been in talks with them about partnering already?). NASL exists for one more year while US Soccer sets up USL 1 and USL 2 for divisions 2 and 3, both around 18-20 teams. Teams likes Indy, Tampa, Carolina, San Fran, etc. get into USL 1 while smaller teams in USL not ready for division 2 go to USL 2. Edmonton goes to CSL. Cosmos either get in line or drop of the earth again. NASL disappears…

  • alexlgago

    Analysis shows 29 of the USL clubs 5 are MLS reserve squad in soft markets and will never enter MLS. Two USL clubs have signed agreements with MLS to be reserve squad such as Charleston Battery with new Atlanta MLS club. The rest of USL clubs draw less than 2000 attendance per game with no soccer specific US Soccer D2 requirement of stadium size of 15,0000 and couple have public said that they are questionable for 2017 season such as Hammer Heads. Therefore, both leagues are on not stable and likely to continue to demonstrate sings of uncertainty as financial concern way over the next decade.

  • Dave Laidig

    Regardless of who is in charge, I want to see the NASL focus on the organic growth and stability of its clubs. Talk of suing for D1 status, clubs-as-brands, or accepting foreign owners with little understanding of US challenges highlights the short-term thinking that shifts focus off putting butts in seats and eyeballs on screens. Division status does not determine success (Chivas? MLS’s near implosion in 2001), and underestimates the will of people to support “their” club. I’ve been on more road trips for NASL games than MLS games (it just depends on where “my” club happens to be).

    I think of my college alma mater. It does not have the highest level of football (or even a decent level of college football), or basketball; but it’s “my” team. I still wear the colors, and drive hours for road trips. It’s the connection that matters. And with focus and commitment to that goal, the NASL can certainly build that connection is every metro it is in. It just can’t waste any energy or resources on side issues. My hope is that new leadership for the league will adopt this goal and pursue it relentlessly.