On Tuesday afternoon, May 3, IFK Maryland announced that its game scheduled for Saturday, May 7, against New England FC had been cancelled due to “NE’s recent ASL suspension.”
This suspension would be just the latest in a long line of mismanaged teams in the American Soccer League, which is in its second full season.
The American Soccer League, brainchild of veteran lower division soccer builder Matt Driver, has aspirations to be a professional league but is currently sanctioned through the United States Adult Soccer Association. In the fall of 2014, the amateur league kicked off with eight teams but only seven of them made it to the end of the campaign the following summer.
The league’s initial roster of teams consisted of the following eight teams: Philadelphia Fury, AC Crusaders, Ironbound Soul SC, Icon FC, Evergreen Diplomats, Mass United FC, Rhode Island Oceaneers, and Western Mass Pro Soccer.
During the initial 2014-15 fall to spring inaugural season, Ironbound Soul SC were dismissed from the league due to breaching standards. Multiple sources who worked for teams in the ASL told me that Ironbound fielded ineligible players and failed to make prearranged payments on the yearly league dues.
Playoff finalists Western Mass Pro Soccer, which had experience running professional soccer in the old USL Second Division, walked away from the ASL after the first campaign. Evergreen Diplomats were unable to continue after the 2014-15 season and AC Crusaders, operated by league CEO Matt Driver, also folded its ASL team.
The league intended to kick off its second season in the fall of 2015 but could not secure enough teams. The ASL had announced a handful of teams, some of which failed to materialize, but ultimately postponed the season until late March. The league’s announcement calling for an exhibition circuit for the fall in place of the season came just a week before the campaign was scheduled to start.
In the meantime, Rhode Island Oceaneers left the ASL with General Manager David Borts citing financial pressures. Jim Antonakas, owner of Oceaneers, started New England FC to replace the Rhode Island team for the 2016 season. The ASL also added Connecticut United FC, New Hampshire Bobcats, Long Island Express, IFK Maryland, Lancaster Lions, and Delaware Copperheads (now Delaware Stars FC).
A source familiar with amateur soccer in New England explained to me last week the situation surrounding New England FC and the New Hampshire Bobcats, both owned by Mass United FC owner Jim Antonakas.
“New England FC and New Hampshire Bobcats, from what I understand, have officially forfeited their entire season due to the fact that they don’t have any players registered with the league; they missed the deadline. They will forfeit all their games. But because they are in the ASL and a lot of teams have already sold tickets to these games, they’ve agreed to play all of their games with the unregistered players as a forfeit.”
A recent game involving New England FC raised eyebrows when the team lost on the road to Connecticut United FC by a shocking score of 14-0. The visitors only brought nine players to the match and were out-shot 50 to 3 (39-1 on frame), while Connecticut managed 274 more passes in the game.
I reached out to the American Soccer League for comment but did not get a response.