The NASL General Meetings have been concluded and the application for sanctioning of the league by the USSF as the Division 2 league in the United States has been sent. Eight franchises are included in the applications — Miami FC, FC Tampa Bay, the Carolina RailHawks, 2010 USSF D2 champion Puerto Rico, the Montreal Impact , FC Edmonton, NSC Minnesota and the Atlanta Silverbacks. The AC St. Louis franchise that played in 2010 was not included in that group.
Will there be an active NASL franchise in St. Louis for the 2011 season? From what I can put together, AC St. Louis will be part of NASL in 2011 IF there is a different owner or ownership group in place. St. Louis is considered a prime market for Division 2 professional men’s soccer. However, to put it mildly, it’s not a well-kept secret that NASL owners are less than enamored of current AC St. Louis owner Jeff Cooper and the way the franchise was run in 2010. As has been reported by Brian Quarstad in several articles on his Inside Minnesota Soccer blog, Cooper has been in negotiations with St. Louisan Ryan Woods to sell the team. So far, there has been no announcement of the finalization of that sale. As Brian has pointed out, there is no reason why more teams could not be added from the original eight that are part of the sanctioning bid by NASL.
AC St. Louis and Crystal Palace Baltimore were two star-crossed expansion franchises competing in the NASL in 2010. Both suffered publicized financial problems, and although both teams finished out of the playoff picture, they both had some success on the field, as both clubs defeated some of the elite USSF D2 clubs last year after slow starts to the season. At this point, it looks like AC St. Louis could be an active member of the NASL in 2011, but only under completely new ownership. For Baltimore, a source indicates that there is some hope for optimism in 2012 but at this moment it looks like they will not field a NASL club for the 2011 season.
Of course all of this depends on USSF’s willingness to sanction the NASL for D2 in 2011. I am cautiously optimistic of that happening. USSF has every motivation to present the strongest possible case for consideration by FIFA of their World Cup bid. And having a viable Division 2 structure below MLS is part of the scenario that USSF could tout as part of the healthy picture of US soccer to entice FIFA to grant the World Cup bid to the United States.
In other developments, the FC Tampa Bay franchise announced that seven players from the 2010 club will be returning in 2011. Those players include 2010 World Cup participant Jeremy Christie, Haitian international Pascal Millien, Scott Buete, Chad Burt, Yendry Diaz and goalkeepers Daryl Sattler and Phillip Lamarre.