By Michael Lewis
With the future of the North American Soccer League in jeopardy, especially with the circuit taking this year off, there has been talk about the National Premier Soccer League starting a professional division.
At the present time, the NPSL is exploring that possibility, said Cindy Spera, the league’s new managing director. Whether it becomes reality, is a different matter.
“Right now, we have a great product as the NPSL season as it exists today — any time we have members asking for or looking for another product, it’s something that we explore,” she said in a recent interview. “So, we are having those conversations to satisfy that demand. Beyond that, I can’t say that much more. But we’re constantly definitely looking for opportunities.”
The NASL has three teams with squads competing in the NPSL this season — Cosmos B, Miami FC 2 and Jacksonville Armada FC — that would like to continue as professional teams in 2019. There are teams in the NPSL — Detroit and New Orleans have been mentioned — who have expressed interest in pursuing professional status.
“Even before I was involved in this role, we talked about so many different opportunities that we get into every week,” Spera said. “We run the gamut. So, we definitely consider everything. We’d be foolish if we didn’t talk about what our next level is going to be and how we were going to expand, whether it’s going to be up or down or across.
“Any good idea we’ll always consider. It’s not necessarily we’re going to do it. We’re always going to talk about it. We’re going to consider it.”
The NASL isn’t competing in 2018 after the U.S. Soccer Federation rescinded its Division Two status.
The NPSL’s priority is amateur soccer. It is a grassroots league as it has many similarities to minor league baseball as a community team in many areas of the country.
“We’re in a lot of bigger cities and also in a lot of smaller cases, little communities that have their following,” Spera said. “At this level, people can really relate to the hometown players. Even some of our teams do get players from other areas, they always do try and concentrate on getting a couple of players from the local area because they recognize how valuable it is and the connection they need to make with the community.
“I am not familiar with minor league baseball, but it does sounds very similar. It’s very grassroots. That’s what the NPSL is all about. that’s our little niche. We’ve really been able to have in some markets an impact on these communities. We have teams that operate in depressed towns, inner cities, and bring soccer to kids and to young adults that maybe wouldn’t have the opportunity.”