Every Tuesday fans in the United States and Canada have an opportunity for their article to be featured on the NASL.com website. Every month we will ask fans to vote on social media to determine which of that month’s features was the best and will send the winning writer a NASL Official Match Ball.
By Aaron McCollum
Chances are if you’re an American Soccer fan, you know about Major League Soccer. Entering its 18th season, MLS is now the longest running first-division American Soccer league. Its television contracts with ESPN and NBC are extending national coverage to hundreds of thousands of homes, and the league itself has seen impressive expansion from 10 clubs in 1996 to 19 in 2013.
And while the success of MLS is both remarkable and great for U.S. Soccer, there is a dark horse on the horizon which aims to become a major player in the next decade: the NASL.
The recently formed North American Soccer League has entered its third season on the U.S. soccer landscape and seems to be growing at the same pace as MLS. Currently, the NASL has eight clubs that have played in previous season and will compete in 2013 or the following year and by 2014 will boast 12 teams. That is four new clubs in one season, and two of the newcomers - Indianapolis and Ottawa - will be in markets untapped by MLS. The New York Cosmos will of course play in a market that encompasses the Red Bulls, while the Virginia Cavalry are on the edges of DC United territory.
Once these four clubs begin league play, 10 out of the 12 teams will be in cities, states or regions without an MLS club. This is a big deal. If you combine both MLS and the NASL, you’ll find that 29 cities have or will have a professional soccer club to call their own. What’s even better is the addition of clubs in regions that are starving for a soccer team.
Indianapolis citizens have posted on message boards for years about wanting a soccer club to call their own. When MLS passed over them for their expansion plans, the NASL extended their hand and created a frenzy of excitement.
The Indy Pro Soccer official website recently reported that season ticket sales are closing in on 3,000. Anyone who is familiar with professional sports organizations knows that season ticket numbers are the most important. And for a league where the opening weekend averaged more than 5,000 fans per match, having a solid 3,000 season ticket holders in Indianapolis will blow the league average out of the water.
To give the reader something to compare it to: the San Antonio Scorpions, who led the NASL in average attendance with 9,176 last season, sold approximately 3,000 season tickets according to a June 11, 2012 article by Brian Quarstad. If Indianapolis can replicate these numbers, the NASL could see two clubs closing in on an average of 9,000 fans; a notable achievement for a league of such stature in the United States. Both of these clubs are also in cities without an MLS club.
Moving forward to the future, the NASL is following in the footsteps of MLS by expanding and having clubs build their own facilities. The rise of San Antonio as the ‘Seattle of the NASL’ is the beginning of a Golden Age for the league. And continuing to tap markets untouched by MLS will not only increase awareness of the NASL and its brand but will increase awareness of Soccer in general for the United States.
Soccer is growing in the U.S. and the future of both MLS and the NASL look bright.
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