The NASL announced today that they would be expanding to the Oklahoma City metro area with their newest club, Rayo OKC, who will begin play in 2016. The club will play their games at Yukon Miller Stadium, a high school facility just 15 minutes from downtown Oklahoma City. The team is majority owned by Raúl Martín Presa, owner of Rayo Vallecano - a La Liga club in Spain. Minority owner is Sean Jones, a Oklahoma native, who owns a few health care companies in the area. Sold Out Strategies, co-owned by Brad Lund, the original Oklahoma City FC owner, and DeBray Ayala will be the managing partner of the club.
This is the first time that a Spanish club will have invested in an American club. This will also be the first real attempt at a direct NASL vs USL rivalry within the same city. The Tampa Bay Rowdies played with VSI Tampa Bay but for only one year when VSI folded. The Cosmos play in New York City where the New York Red Bulls II play - hardly a competition since the Cosmos play NYCFC & NYRB more in Open Cup play and consider them rivals, not the reserve side.
This expansion announcement takes the league to 14 teams heading into 2016, although San Antonio probably won't be continuing, so 13 still for 2016. The league is expected to make at least one more expansion announcement before 2016. They still have yet to satisfy the USSF D2 sanctioning requirement of having a west coast team. The league will surely satisfy that condition soon.
It will be a fun ride watching what happens in Oklahoma City where there will be two teams from different leagues competing, and how the Spanish club runs its American counterpart.
Soccer On -ASC
It's been a whirlwind of a week in the Alamo City. The Scorpions ceremoniously dismissed their head coach at the airport and the home of the NASL squad, Toyota Field, was purchased by the City of San Antonio & Bexar County. The Spurs Sports & Entertainment Group, which operates the Spurs (NBA), Stars (WNBA), Rampage (AHL), Austin Spurs (NBA Development League), is going to lease the stadium for 20 years and field a USL team to play at Toyota Field. SS&E are tasked with bringing a MLS team to San Antonio within the next 6 to 13 years, or they will have to pay the county and city $5 million split between the two.
MLS will be meeting in early December to iron out their expansion plans beyond 24 teams. With the backing of the Spurs and a stadium just waiting to be expanded, this transaction puts San Antonio back in the drivers seat for MLS. What has yet to be announced is how this deal affects the current tenants of Toyota Field, the San Antonio Scorpions.
The Scorpions' statement regarding the purchase of the stadium was very vague.
SS&E have said that they plan of fielding a USL team in time for 2016. They have had a franchise license for a USL team since 2010. There are a few options that are possible with respect to the Scorpions.
We continue to wait to see what will happen with the club. What we do know is that Gordon Hartman has accomplished what he set out to do 4 & 1/2 years ago. He has created Morgan's Wonderland - which now has funding moving forward due to the sale of the stadium - and has set San Antonio up for the possibility of getting a MLS team. He put San Antonio on the soccer map, and soccer fans here should thank him for his vision.
We will keep you updated as soon as news breaks.
Soccer On -ASC
finding more investors to add to Club 9 Sports, the driving force to the revival of the former NASL club. Wilt has experience in building clubs, especially in the Chicago area; he was the Fire's first ever president and general manager. Reports say that the Sting will look to play within the city limits, something that could really set them a part from the Fire, who play in Bridgeview - about 14 miles from downtown Chicago. The Sting would make Soldier Field their starter home while they look for other possible downtown stadium locations.
This will be the third market that the NASL will directly compete with Major League Soccer. Currently the NASL is in New York City with the Cosmos, another original NASL reincarnation, and will be in Miami starting in 2016. While MLS still has yet to officially grant David Beckham his Miami team, stadium talks seem to have come together with a viable option next to Marlins Park. The Sting will be competing with the Fire, an MLS franchise with 18 years of history. But the Fire have performed underwhelming both on the field and off for the better part of a decade, and fans are frustrated. Like Reddit Chicago-Gooner put it:
"I'm definitely going to be following them. If I can go to games via public transportation, supporting them is almost a no brainer. As it stands, it's nearly a two hour drive (no public transportation access) to see the Fire from the North suburbs (in the actual city the team is SUPPOSED to be in) coupled with endless traffic and parking fees. Depending on where the Sting can be, they can really market themselves well."
It'll will be fun to watch if this team truly comes into existence and how it can carve out its place in this huge market. If implemented properly, this could be huge for the NASL.
Soccer On -ASC
Success in the Alamo City
Soccer in San Antonio has been nothing short of a success since the Scorpions were formed in 2010 & started playing in the NASL in 2012. The team plays in a beautiful soccer-specific stadium, Toyota Field, has a league championship in its trophy case, and has solid attendance numbers for a Division 2 soccer team. Since 2012, the city of San Antonio has hosted multiple soccer matches, including a 2015 not-so-friendly friendly between the USMNT and Mexico attended by 65,000 fans. In addition, there was a 2014 international soccer friendly between Mexico & South Korea which brought 54,313 fans to the Alamodome and the USWNT took on Australia in front of 19,109 people in 2013. The city has shown its support for soccer, both for local and for international games.
Since the first home game was played in at Heroes Stadium on April 15, 2012, fans and community leaders alike have been pressing to bring top tier soccer to San Antonio. The city has only two top division teams, both in the sport of basketball - the San Antonio Spurs of the NBA & the San Antonio Stars of the WNBA. The city is ready for another top level team to support and the Scorpions present that opportunity.
Recently though, the future of the Scorpions as we know them has been speculated because of the possibility that Toyota Field, and potentially the Scorpions themselves, could/will be sold.
The owner of the Scorpions, Gordon Hartman, has stated that he wants to bring top level soccer to San Antonio, which in the US is Major League Soccer. He, by himself, cannot afford to expand Toyota Field to MLS standards, but more importantly, the hefty $100 million expansion fee associated with joining MLS. A sale of the team and/or stadium to an investor or investors with the funds to do so would bring the city closer to making #MLSinSA a reality.
Currently, the county of Bexar is looking at the possibility of purchasing Toyota Field from Hartman while the Spurs Sports & Entertainment group (SS&E) is interested in fielding their own soccer team in San Antonio. It's not clear whether or not the Spurs will eventually buy the Scorpions or simply create their own team. SS&E owns the rights to a USL franchise, which they've had since around 2010 and are trying to get Hartman to lower his price tag on the team or else the Spurs will form their USL team to compete against the NASL Scorpions. Some in the San Antonio journalist community believe that they are just "playing hardball" to get a better deal, but most would agree though that a two team solution in San Antonio is NOT what is best for the community or for the growth of soccer in the US.
Sources have said recently that if the Spurs do in fact purchase the Scorpions they would move them down to the USL, which is currently the Division 3 league in North America. They would have the team play in the USL for a few years with the intention of moving to MLS soon after. The USL will provide SS&E with seemingly lower travel and operating costs merely because of the size of the league and its place in the USSF hierarchy. The USL has stated though that it intends to seek Division 2 status, although the Scorpions are currently in Division 2.
Moving to MLS is not a guaranteed thing, even with the Spurs as an owner. MLS has said it will expand to 24 teams by 2020, but is expected to come out after MLS Cup 2015 with plans to expand past 24. The Scorpions seem to be an ideal team to include in their expansion list, assuming they get the financial backing necessary, but nothing is guaranteed.
I enjoy the NASL and I like their business model. I wish expansion in the league would pick up more steam, but as long as good owners are found, I'll have to trust in the league. The USL is not a bad league though. Unfortunately, it has become the MLS reserve league. More and more MLS teams are creating USL clubs, because of a league affiliation, that are defacto reserve squads and not independent clubs. If the Scorpions are moved to the USL, Alamo Soccer City will still support them.
There are so many unknowns surrounding soccer in San Antonio looking towards the future:
The only thing I know for sure is that I will be covering, and supporting, our Scorpions [or whatever USL incarnation they may become]. I urge San Antonio supporters to do the same and continue to support the Scorpions as they finish out their 2015 season.
Let me know what you think in the comments below!
Soccer On -ASC
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