By Michael Lewis
The term Black Friday has a new meaning for the North American Soccer League a day after Thanksgiving. And it is not a positive one.
Within several hours Friday, two clubs from the eight-team league — the San Francisco Deltas and FC Edmonton — announced they were ceasing operations. Both withdrawals had been expected since August, but it still is not good news for a league that is fighting for survival.
Those departures left the NASL with five returning teams. California United FC and San Diego are planning to play in the NASL as expansion teams next season.
“We have been working diligently to build a strong foundation for the 2018 season,” interim commissioner Rishi Sehgal said in a statement Friday afternoon. “We are looking at making a number of changes to our business structure, and we are encouraged by the amount of expansion candidates that are ready to join the NASL.
Sehgal was not specific on what changes will be made.
The league is appealing a court rule and a U.S. Soccer Federation decision to rescind Division Two status for 2018.
If the league is granted D-2 status, NASL chairman Rocco B. Commisso, who is also the Cosmos owner, said that six National Premier Soccer League teams have given their letter of intent to play in the league next season. Among the teams and cities mentioned have been Boston City FC, Detroit City FC, Hartford City FC, New Orleans Jesters, Boca Raton FC, FC Arizona and Virginia Beach City FC.
This is Sehgal’s full statement concerning the future of the league:
“As we anticipate what we hope will be a favorable outcome in the U.S. Court of Appeals, we have been working diligently to build a strong foundation for the 2018 season. We are looking at making a number of changes to our business structure, and we are encouraged by the amount of expansion candidates that are ready to join the NASL.
“During this time of change, two of our clubs, FC Edmonton and the San Francisco Deltas, will be departing the league.
“We are very appreciative of FC Edmonton’s contribution to the NASL as a founding member. As the club’s owner, Tom Fath was a tremendous ambassador for the league and his genuine passion for the community did so much for the fans and the people of Edmonton.
“In San Francisco, it’s unfortunate that the Deltas’ business plans did not materialize in the way they had hoped. We remain a big believer in the market, as evidenced by the atmosphere and crowd at The Championship Final earlier this month, and we still believe that the city deserves a professional soccer team. We are in active discussions with potential ownership groups and we aim to keep professional soccer in San Francisco in the future.
“We appreciate the support of the soccer community as we continue our plans for the 2018 season, and we remain confident ahead of our appeal hearing on December 15.”
The NASL has appealed a ruling by Judge Margo K. Brodie for the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York in which its quest for a preliminary injunction to change the USSF’s decision was rejected.
On Nov. 13 the league filed a brief that argued why the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit in New York should overturn the U.S. District Court’s ruling.
The USSF responded Tuesday, Nov. 21.
Oral arguments in the appeal are scheduled to be heard Dec. 15 at 10 a.m.