The future of the North American Soccer League, including the Jacksonville Armada, may be decided in Atlanta this week. League meetings began Tuesday and continue on Wednesday.
While the Armada is considered one of the stronger franchises in the league from a financial standpoint, the league itself is facing a multitude of issues: Three of the 12 teams that hit the field in 2016 will not be in the NASL in 2017. Minnesota United is moving to Major League Soccer while Tampa Bay and Ottawa have announced that they will be moving to the lower division United Soccer League (USL). A new team in San Francisco is scheduled to hit the field in 2017.
Other teams with financial problems include the Armada's Florida rival in Fort Lauderdale where league and Tampa Bay's owner had to make loans so the team could make payroll, and Rayo OKC whose Spanish financial backers team in Spain lost their division one status. Also, multiple reports came out this week that the 2016 champion New York Cosmos are having financial problems.
The league's other challenge is its status as the United States only Division Two pro league (similar to AAA-baseball). The previously mentioned USL has applied to be moved up from Division Three to Division Two. That decision rests in the hands of the United States Soccer Federation, the governing body of soccer in the United States. The loss of three or more teams could mean the NASL no longer meets the requirements for a "Division Two" league.
U.S. Soccer president, Sunil Gulati, tweeted Wednesday "Leaving Atlanta after another round of productive sessions with @naslofficial and @USL. Progress continues with more to come."
Armada owner, Mark Frisch, was named chairman of the NASL's Board of Governors in September 2015. He then expressed optimism about the league's future, but neither he nor the team has made any public comments about the league's financial issues recently.
First Coast News reached out to the Armada, who told us they would not be making any statements about their future until an announcement comes from the NASL. That announcement is expected in the next week.
Social media reports suggest that the Armada, along with three other teams, have expressed interest in moving to the USL.
Source also informed me that San Francisco, Puerto Rico, Raleigh and Jacksonville all have interest in joining USL subject to negotiations.— Brian Quarstad (@IMSoccerNews) November 30, 2016