It has certainly been an intense week in the North American Soccer League. Thursday, the NASL announced another expansion franchise in Puerto Rico. Puerto Rico FC will be the second expansion franchise that will open play in 2016 after the announcement of Miami FC at the end of May. With the involvement in the FIFA Scandal and the involvement of Traffic Sports with the league, the sight of expansion is a good one.
At the end of May the NASL announced its first expansion team of 2016 in Miami. The team will be owned by Riccardo Silva, International entrepreneur and soccer superstar Paolo Maldini. It will be the city's only professional soccer club, assuming MLS doesn't announce a team of their own. According to NASL.com, Miami FC will play its home games in an existing Miami stadium. The biggest part of the expansion announcement is the ownership of Maldini, an international soccer superstar who played in four FIFA World Cups for Italy and won five European club championships with AC Milan. The NASL commissioner Bill Peterson was quoted saying:
Miami finally has an ownership group with a global vision and the experience to build a proper club that all of Miami will be proud to support. This group is very focused on fielding a competitive team and being a partner to the entire Miami community.
Miami FC will be the fifth professional soccer team in the state of Florida when it begins play in 2016.
Thursday afternoon, the league announced it's second expansion franchise for 2016. Puerto Rico FC, owned by NBA player Carmelo Anthony, will also begin play when Miami FC does. The Puerto Rico Islanders were part of a few leagues from 2003 until 2012 before folding before the 2013 NASL season. Anthony was interviewed by NASL.com about his team and said:
I am committed to bring soccer to the next level in Puerto Rico," Anthony said. "To the thousands of fans in Puerto Rico that have been waiting for soccer to come back, I can promise a world-class organization in a world-class league.
Anthony already has ties to Puerto Rico. He and his wife are both of Puerto Rican descent and he made it his personal mission to give back to the island's residents. The club will play it's home games in Bayamón, just ten miles from the capital city of San Juan.
Along with expansion in Miami and Puerto Rico, the league has been speculated to also expand to Hartford, Connecticut. Fox CT Sports Director Rich Coppola first reported the team would be named Hartford City FC. It's been said since the beginning of May that the announcement is only a matter of time, so it is the waiting game for NASL fans and Hartford soccer fans.
Expansion in the NASL is good news. It shows that the league has willing owners and there is interest by cities to bring professional soccer to their specific city. Recent expansion teams Virginia Cavalry and Oklahoma City FC, who is now being sued by the league for breaching their contract with the league, have failed, but others such as Indy Eleven and Jacksonville Armada have thrived. Fans of soccer and the NASL wont know how these teams will do until they begin play next season.