Several years ago, when the announcement for the revived North American Soccer League was made, everyone looked to one club, one brand, to carry the failed league into the new era. The New York Cosmos have done just that, winning the league twice and luring lucrative acquisitions for marketing purposes – Raul and Marcos Senna. Now that the curtain has closed on the 2015 season and a lot of the “shiny new” aesthetic that the league possessed has faded with the retirement of its two flagship stars and the folding of several franchises, this must be the year for NASL to topple the MLS in terms of popularity. On paper, they already have.
Gathered below are some of the more exciting storylines to look forward to this season:
Miami FC – Owned by football legend Paolo Maldini and coached by his long-time defensive partner Alessandro Nesta, for the two Italians this is the opportunity of a lifetime. Pretty much incognito in Florida, this is the only place where their achievements will go unrecognized and the immortal can walk among the men. Their stellar signings so far also follow this trend, with the young, dynamic Serie A superstar Matuzalem and Tottenham Hotspur Hall of Fame member Wilson Palacios joining in midfield.
Ottawa Fury FC – The capital club re-signed Julian De Guzman to a new deal, and announced that he is to be captain following the departure of former Shamrock Rover Richie Ryan. They made some other splashes in the transfer market, including ditching MLS Male Model of the Year Andrew Wiedeman in exchange for upstart Canada’s Next Top Model Marcel de Jong.
Rayo OKC FC – Georgios Samaras, of all people, has signed for the new club from Oklahoma. It is quite the surprise as he remains relatively young, with years of playing experience in some of Europe’s highest levels of competition, though he is best known for his time with Celtic FC. The Greek international with a knack for beating defenders will dazzle supporters and torment opposing defences alike, and has also participated in an international tournament or two. He is the star of this franchise without any question and is a testament to the club’s resolve that he didn’t depart for MLS.**
New York Cosmos – With the departure of their legendary veterans, this won’t be their only departure as their kit deal with Nike has expired only to be replaced by Under Armour. As much as it can be argued that these two ongoings are unrelated, they very much are for the club’s global brand recognition. Yet it indicates a different approach to be employed this season – that to a more team-oriented, well-rounded club, much like the entirety of the Cosmos existence. It is a common fact that their best years were from 1970-1975, before the arrival of the glamorous superstar era.
Minnesota United FC – The last year for the Loons to steal all the spotlight in their hometown before they migrate to MLS, star Miguel Ibarra has departed for greener pastures elsewhere in Mexico to make the next step. Also, the year in which we discover how MLS will greatly improve upon the unoriginal entity that they are at present. The Loons – so unoriginal. Atlanta United FC and LAFC possess so much substance!
Fort Lauderdale Strikers – More famous for their owner than club, we never did get the opportunity to see the original Ronaldo set foot in Florida last year. He did go on a diet to suit up if his team qualified for the playoffs, but maybe this will be the year in which he finally breaks out of the shadow of his Portuguese younger brother. Sibling rivalries make for tremendous Hollywood films – will these two brothers make amends? Everyone knows Cristiano is jealous of his brother’s World Cup goal-scoring record, yet he has his brother beat in the Champions League. Their feud will continue onwards into the unforeseen future.
Indy Eleven – Signing MLS veteran keeper Jon Busch is a step in the right direction, as are the transfers acquiring fellow veterans Justin Braun and Siniša Ubiparipović. Justin Braun has had tremendous playoff success with the San Jose Sharks, racking up 22 penalty minutes and scoring once in 24 matches. Finishing directly in the middle of the pack in the overall table, they will look to improve upon this position – their squad has arguably only gotten stronger what with these key veteran acquisitions. Only time will tell whether these signings will pay off.
Puerto Rico FC – After the Puerto Rico Islanders franchise went defunct several years ago, Puerto Rico FC returns despite all odds stacked against them. With the whole of the island behind their sole professional football club, they will look to avenge the years lost since the Islanders franchise fell into disrepair. Aside from Carmelo Anthony being an owner, not much else is known about the club. In fact, it seems like they are still announcing new signings with each passing day with the season opener racing closer and closer. This raises suspicions that they are doing whatever it takes to sign just enough players in order to be able to play. Wikipedia states that they have eight players on their roster, and none of them have numbers yet which shall be quite confusing for commentary.
*Most of this article is a parody
**This section is not a parody. Samaras to NASL? Who honestly could’ve written this stuff up?
Main Photo: Courtesy of Steve Kingsman