If you’ve followed local soccer the past four years or so, you’ve surely heard that NASL is on the brink of adding a team somewhere in Southern California. It has been rumored to have been on the cusp of being announced more than once, and there have been at least four different rounds of rumors about the league expanding to the region in that span.
Let’s add another one to the pile, albeit possibly the most credible one yet. Kevin Baxter of the Los Angeles Times reported on Wednesday that Peter Wilt, the man who helped launch the Chicago Fire to great success and followed that up with a successful launch more recently of Indy Eleven in the NASL, is “working with two groups to study the feasibility of placing expansion teams in Southern California.”
The locations being mooted are in Orange County and San Diego, with Baxter reporting that the teams could take the field as soon as the summer of 2017.
“We’re looking at a business plan,” Wilt said in the story. “No decisions have been made.”
So this is not a done deal, a story sourced anonymously that claims a major announcement is next week. And in fact, that’s a major distinction compared to past rumors of NASL expansion in the area. Not only is Wilt quite possibly the most credible man to launch pro soccer teams in the country right now, but the report makes it clear it’s being explored, not that it’s imminent.
Of course, there are two massive caveats to this whole report. One is whether NASL will survive in the short-term future. At the very least, the league is in disarray, with one team moving to MLS (Minnesota United), two to USL (Tampa Bay Rowdies and Ottawa Fury) and three rumored to have effectively folded this offseason with no official word (Rayo OKC, Ft. Lauderdale Strikers, New York Cosmos). After reports earlier this month that the NASL was definitely folding, there have been no announcements to corroborate that from the league, although they have also remained silent regarding the many reports.
The other caveat, if NASL plays in 2017, is how realistic a team can launch by July. The example of Los Angeles Football Club in taking three and a half years to launch is an extreme, no doubt, but doing all of the infrastructure, marketing and on-field launching in seven months seems unrealistic. Even if some of that work has been done, it’s still a remarkably short time to get the enterprise off the ground.
So as always, we’ll see. Given Wilt’s public comments, this is definitely something to track. But there are many hurdles to get over before anyone starts to gear up for a new pro team in San Diego and/or Orange County in the near future.
What do you think? Leave a comment below!