Professional soccer in USA received another boost today (July 25, 2013) as the Board of Governors for the North American Soccer League (NASL) approved both Jacksonville, FL, and Oklahoma City, OK, as expansion teams for the 2015 Spring Season.
During meetings held over a two day meeting in Dallas, Texas, four groups representing four cities presented their case to the NASL Board all in the hope of gaining acceptance to division two of the US Soccer pyramid.
NASL Commissioner Bill Peterson:
“We are delighted to be expanding to two cities that clearly have a passion for soccer, where we believe local fans will be excited to welcome our newest teams.”
“We have considered expansion to cities that meet specific criteria and most importantly have strong ownership groups that will provide a long and stable future for the NASL in those markets, which we clearly have in both Jacksonville and Oklahoma City.”
The group which was led by Mark Frisch and former professional soccer player Dario Sala of the Sunshine Soccer Group have proved their experience in bringing big game soccer to their preferred stadium, Everbank Field, when they staged a Mexico Primera League exhibition game earlier this month.
“I am thrilled to have helped lead an effort to bring pro soccer back to Jacksonville.”
“I am very grateful for all the support from the city and the fans leading up to this day. I know the fans out there have been waiting for this moment for a long time. I cannot wait to go out and meet them all personally and talk the beautiful game of soccer in Jacksonville.”
“I have seen first hand the desire the Jacksonville community has for a professional soccer team to call its own and believe this is a great move for soccer in Florida. The Sunshine Soccer Group is creating another in-state rivalry for our teams the Tampa Bay Rowdies and Fort Lauderdale Strikers, appealing to the global soccer passion for local derbies that are always special occasions.”
Adding to the excitement of what would be a great day for Region III clubs, Oklahoma City were granted an expansion spot in 2015 alongside the Jacksonville one.
The OKC Pro Soccer LLC group presentation was put forward by Tim McLaughlin.
“Bringing a high-level professional soccer club to Oklahoma City is going to add an exciting new sports dimension to our city and state.”
“We look forward to working with the NASL to give our community a soccer team and game experience people will be talking about for many years to come.”
“We’re especially excited to know that bringing this level of professional soccer to our market will also help the local schools whose historic Taft Stadium we will play in when it is remodeled and refurbished to its former glory. We will create a revenue source for the local community because every ticket we sell will benefit inner city schools. To say we are excited and overwhelmed is an understatement.”
“The Board of Governors has recognized a carefully crafted bid from OKC Pro Soccer LLC, who waited patiently to build a strong platform that will ensure NASL soccer thrives in Oklahoma City. Like their Jacksonville counterparts, they have almost two full years to prepare an unrivaled coaching staff, player roster and venue to create a team that local fans will be proud to support.”
The NASL has seen expansion at the forefront of it’s masterplan to create a strong and competitive second division, one that can show it can compete with the MLS in all aspects within the sport of soccer and perhaps push the calls for promotion/relegation within the professional ranks of US Soccer.
With iconic brand New York Cosmos just weeks away from returning to the NASL when it rejoins after a break from playing at this level for 28 years, they will become the eighth side to play in this season’s fall season but will also be joined by a further three (Ottawa Fury FC, Virginia Cavalry FC, Indy Eleven) in season 2014 to make a total 14 sides competing next year. With the addition of both today’s announced expansion sides, the 16-team league now looks like fielding a strong challenge as the sport continues to grow across the country.