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NASL owner says expansion teams won’t join until 2018

North Carolina FC owner says no new teams for this year.

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Ok, so maybe NASL expansion teams aren’t going to start playing in Southern California this year. After an ESPN report on Friday in the wake of the U.S. Soccer Federation decision to provisionally sanction both the NASL and USL as Division II that said NASL expansion was coming to San Diego and Orange County to begin play by the fall of 2017, one NASL owner put cold water on that.

Steve Malik, the owner of the newly rebranded North Carolina FC (previously known as the Carolina RailHawks, the team that always seemed to play the LA MLS teams in the U.S. Open Cup) gave a wide-ranging interview to Neil Morris on Saturday discussing Friday’s announcement, as well as the next steps for the battered but still alive NASL, which has lost three teams to other leagues this offseason and sees another four teams, including the New York Cosmos, in major financial dire straits and in various stages of jeopardy for the future.

Of note regarding Jeff Carlisle’s report on Friday that three NASL expansion teams, including San Diego and Orange County teams, would play in the league beginning in this year’s fall season (NASL has run a split-season format), Malik appeared to give every indication that was not true.

Asked directly if new teams would begin play in the 2017 Fall season, Malik responded, “There is no current plan for that.”

Pressed further, Malik said he expected the eight existent teams expected to return to the league for 2017 will play both seasons this year, and be the only teams playing in the league.

He did mention that expansion was on the docket, albeit with an apparent 2018 timeline, presumably meant to help comply with USSF division sanction requirements when the league’s are next evaluation for sanctioning.

“We’ll be making announcements throughout the year about teams that we expect to come on in 2018,” Malik said in the interview.

Frankly, launching expansion teams in a year sounds far more feasible than getting teams fully off the ground by the summer, and one would think Malik is likely in a position to know about the process for expansion.

But for anyone who has followed the NASL for even a matter of weeks knows the reports fly thick and fast. Could the expansion timeline really take off this year? Does it make sense to build successful and sustainable teams? Are there more twists in the saga of the NASL in the meantime? These are all key, if currently unanswerable, questions. We’ll keep you posted on updates as they drop.

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