By Scott Adamson
“Black Friday” had a different meaning for the North American Soccer league this year.
FC Edmonton folded earlier today, leaving the embattled league with just five franchises from its 2017 season and no assurances any of them will be playing in 2018.
Unless the NASL is allowed to retain second division status – that determination will be made by a court on Dec. 15 – it could go out of business altogether.
The folding of Edmonton comes just days after the San Francisco Deltas won the league’s 2017 championship and then closed up shop.
North Carolina FC announced its move from the NASL to the USL on Nov. 16.
“Although we believed in and have supported the NASL business model, our franchise has proven to be unsustainable in the Edmonton market. Our decision today is further reinforced by the continuous uncertainty being forced upon the NASL by the United States Soccer Federation,” FC Edmonton co-owner Tom Fath said in a statement. “We sincerely hope the road to long-term stability can be found for the NASL as the NASL pursues the lawsuit against the USSF in the US courts.”
Edmonton is one of the founding franchises of the NASL, which launched in 2009.
Rishi Sehgal, interim commissioner of the NASL, released a statement on Friday following the announcements made by FC Edmonton and the San Francisco:
“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 USSF has denied the NASL second division status for 2018 due to its small geographical footprint, and a court upheld that decision earlier this month after the league filed suit. The appeal will be heard by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit in New York.
This season the league fielded franchises in Brooklyn, Miami, San Francisco, Jacksonville, Indianapolis, Puerto Rico (Bayamón), North Carolina (Cary) and Edmonton.
San Diego and Fullerton are being eyed for NASL expansion should the circuit go forward.