Discussing Expansion and the Rumor Mill with NPSL Chairman

The National Premier Soccer League has avoided the tumult that has infused the lower divisions of American professional soccer this off-season, but that does not necessarily mean it will be status quo for one of the top amateur leagues in the United States. The NPSL has added 15 expansion teams since AFC Cleveland hoisted the championship trophy in August, and reports of other changes have been rampant. Joe Barone, the chairman of the NPSL, spoke with StP about the potential changes.

Perhaps the biggest expansion side added to the NPSL this off-season has been Kistsap Soccer Club. Kitsap was known as the Kitsap Pumas during the club’s previous 8 years, which were spent in the USL Premier Development League. During that time Kitsap claimed a PDL championship, finished as runner-up on another occasion, and assembled an impressive portfolio from the U.S. Open Cup.

“That’s a huge addition to the NPSL. I think that the ownership groups of the league are very, very proud and honored to have an organization like Kitsap join the NPSL,” said Barone. “They approached us regarding joining the league, and I think it’s a great addition to the NPSL and to further growing the Pacific Northwest.”

Kitsap joins two other clubs in the Northwest Conference of the NPSL’s Western Region.To compensate for the small size of the conference, there is cross-play with the Golden Gate Conference. The Northwest Conference teams will have an opportunity to compete for a regional playoff spot.

“I’m confident that with the addition of Kitsap in that soccer community that they will continue to raise more attention based on the business model that we operate in. We can grow that region along with Portland, Seattle, and Kitsap,” Barone said.

Barone pointed out that this is not the first time established teams have joined the ranks of the NPSL. He mentioned the additions of the New Orleans Jesters and Texas Dutch Lions FC as examples.

When asked to confirm rumors that other PDL teams would be following Kitsap to the PDL, Barone stated, “Other leagues striving is healthy for the game in the country. Whether it be a local state league or a local Sunday league, we’re a proponent of it because it helps grow and foster the game in the United States. We actually welcome those leagues and support a lot of those leagues. I don’t know of any of those conversations [with PDL ownership groups]. We’re not at war with anybody. We’re just trying to follow our business model and make our owners operate as a best as possible within the league.”

If the NPSL is not at war with anyone, is it pursuing opportunities to explicitly cooperate with another league? Barone addressed a rumored meeting between leadership of NPSL and USL to establish a partnership of some sort.

“I would say there’s no truth to that. The beauty about the way the system works in the United States, or anywhere around the world, is that if you have access to the internet you can write whatever you want, but there’s no truth to that happening,” Barone said. “I want to make sure that our owners in the National Premier Soccer League (we’re an amateur national league) can rest assured that the leadership of the NPSL does not have any meetings scheduled with any other leagues around the country.”

One internet rumor that turns out to be true, at least in part, is the NPSL is looking to extend to a 10-month season. Actually, the NPSL is working on the implementation of a regional season that would begin after the conclusion of its normal regular season and national championship.

Barone said, “There’s room for growth by having a national championship, which is what we currently have, and then regional championships around the country. That will only work in certain areas of the country.  I don’t want to give out to the ownership groups the perception that the whole league is playing a 10-month season because that is inaccurate.”

The extended regional league would only be a good fit for certain teams and certain areas of the country. Many teams rely on college players to fill their rosters. For them an extended NPSL season would be precluded by the commencement of the college season. Weather conditions in some areas could make an extended schedule unbearable, even if players were available.

The addition of a regional season would be ambitious for the NPSL. Depending on how the chaos in D2 and D3 gets resolved, there could be an opportunity for more ambitious undertakings. Would the NPSL be interested in pursuing D3 sanctioning if that tier in the US soccer heirarchy is vacated? The answer is no.

“The reality is we’re an amateur league governed by USASA. We have clubs who are thriving in their communities. We’re a member-based national platform. The reality is we expressed the desire to grow and support the game in the United States,” Barone said.

He continued, “Where we operate in our communities, there are a lot of success stories of organizations. If people would have thought about it 10 or 15 years ago, who would have thought you would have had all of those people watching in their communities? In short, the answer regarding division 3 is no for now.”

It is uncertain when the additional regional competition might come to fruition, so the biggest changes for the NPSL in 2017 will likely be the number of communities to which it brings the beautiful game. While some teams will not be returning to the league (Tobacco Road FC, Myrtle Beach Mutiny, North County Batallion, ASA Charge, Richmond Strikers, FC Hasental, and Dallas City FC), consider the inventory of teams that will be joining Kitsap as expansion teams in the NPSL.

From PDL

Midland-Odessa FC

South Region/South Central Conference

Grande Communications Stadium

The team (nee Sockers) played in PDL from 2009-2016, finishing in top 10 in attendance every season. Midland captured the 2016 Southwestern Conference championship and advanced to the PDL semi-finals.

From NPSL

Milwaukee Torrent

Midwest Region

Hart Park

Strictly speaking, Milwaukee is not an expansion team, the Torrent have earned full NPSL membership after playing in provisional conference this season.

From PLA

Minneapolis City SC

Midwest Region/North Conference

Les Barnard Field

Supporter-owned MPLS City finished third in the PLA West Division in this season.

From APSL

Boca Raton Football Club

South Region/Sunshine Conference

Boca Raton, FL

Boca Raton joins the NPSL on the heels of consecutive APSL league championships.

From APL

Duluth FC

Midwest Region/North Conference

The Public Schools Stadium

Duluth was founded by a local priest as a joke, but appears to take its soccer and service to community seriously.

From West Coast Soccer Association

Orange County FC

West Region/Southwest Conference

South Orange County, CA

The reigning SoCal U23 Premier League Champions have opted to test their mettle against stiffer competition.

From Scratch

Hartford City FC

North Region/Atlantic Conference

Hartford, CT

Hartford’s owner, Aaron Sarwar, has tried for a couple of years to get a professional team off the ground.

Dakota Fusion Futbol Club

Midwest Region/North Conference

Moorehead High School and Shanley High School

Based out of Fargo, the club participated in 7 friendlies in 2016.

Tyler Football Club

South Region/Central Conference

Tyler,TX

Oxnard Guerreros FC

West Region/Southwest Conference

Oxnard, CA

TSF FC

Northeast Region

DePaul High School

TSF has operated a successful soccer academy for several years

Inter Nashville FC

South Region/Southeast Conference

International Indoor Soccer Complex

Soccer fans in Nashville will still have an NPSL team to support.

FC Arizona

West Region/Southwest Conference

John Riggs Stadium

Asheville City Soccer Club

South Region

Memorial Stadium

 

 

One thought on “Discussing Expansion and the Rumor Mill with NPSL Chairman

  1. Pingback: Kitsap Soccer Club greeted warmly at NPSL Meetings – goalWA.net

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