With the news on Sunday confirming the demise of the Boston Breakers, one of the most iconic teams in women’s professional soccer, comes another need to reflect on the future of pro soccer in the United States.
Predictably, the wheel just keeps on turning, as on Monday morning came a new “announcement” that Miami will indeed enter MLS, someday, four years after they last announced it.
The nature of capitalism and emerging sports like soccer means the boom and bust of pro teams will continue, but to really put the issue of teams going out of business into perspective, let’s simply list the professional teams that have gone out of business in the past five years. Note, this list does not include teams that switched professional leagues, nor does it include Canadian or Caribbean teams, of which four have also officially folded from the American pro leagues in the past five years:
Team, league, year of folding, notes:
- Phoenix FC (USL, 2013, replaced by Arizona United SC)
- VSI Tampa Bay FC (USL, 2013)
- Charlotte Eagles (USL, 2014, moved to semipro USL PDL level)
- Chivas USA (MLS, 2014, replaced by LAFC in 2018)
- Dayton Dutch Lions (USL, 2014, moved to PDL)
- Atlanta Silverbacks (NASL, 2015, moved to semipro NPSL)
- Austin Aztex (USL, 2015, new Austin team may join in 2019)
- San Antonio Scorpions (NASL, 2015, new San Antonio USL team formed in 2016)
- Fort Lauderdale Strikers (NASL, 2016)
- Rayo OKC (NASL, 2016)
- Western New York Flash (NWSL, 2016, moved to North Carolina)
- Wilmington Hammerheads (USL, 2016, moved to PDL)
- Rochester Rhinos (USL, 2017, officially on hiatus)
- San Francisco Deltas (NASL, 2017, folded after winning league title)
- Boston Breakers (NWSL, 2018)
- FC Kansas City (NWSL, moved to Utah)
- Orlando City B (USL, 2018, officially on hiatus)
This list does not include three NASL teams that have played as of last year but do not appear to have a professional league to play in this year, in Miami FC, Jacksonville Armada and the New York Cosmos, which would bring the above list to 20 teams. 20 teams, in five years, impacting every single American professional league.
Again, times change and standards evolve. It’s clear in recent years that while MLS has finally found a place where it appears to be genuinely sustainable, the lower division NASL and USL have sought to improve professional standards overall, to mixed results, while the NWSL has sought to primarily survive and is only entering the phase of raising standards, to painful results.
But the implication is clear. While some of these folded pro teams have gone on to survive in a different guise in amateur levels, the impact on fans is that the contract between team ownership, the league and them is always capable of being broken, for good, and that all the support they can offer can at times be nowhere close to enough. Unfortunately, the mentality that fans are ultimately disposable continues, and it’s a deep-seated problem in this era of boom and bust in American pro soccer.
What do you think? Leave a comment below!