North American Soccer League Commissioner Bill Peterson is in town for a news conference with the local Minnesota club on Tuesday. He was kind enough to answer a few questions in advance from the Star Tribune’s Michael Rand:
Q You’ve only been on the job for a few months. What are your impressions of the league so far?
A There is a lot of positive energy, and that starts with the ownership group. That’s one reason I was attracted to the position. They are very passionate about their teams, and they are operating from a similar vision and wanting to create something special.
Q What do you know about what’s going on in Minnesota so far and the new owner, Bill McGuire?
A It was one of my first visits after I was hired. From the first moment, I was impressed with how well they have thought through what they want to accomplish. When you talk about people doing this for the right reasons, that really describes Bill McGuire. ... I’m really excited to have those guys on board.
Q Before he bought the team, it was under league ownership. How tenable would that have been, even in the short term?
A It’s just not the way to operate a team. You have to have people committed. We’re glad the team was able to survive that period, but it’s not something that’s ideal. The fans and the people in the city can relax a little. There’s a long-term ownership group. They’ve been a contender on the field — Give [head coach] Manny Lagos credit for getting it done with smoke and mirrors — but now they have a full organization built around it. Bless those fans for hanging in there. They’re great fans. And it’s going to be very exciting.
Q For casual fans not as familiar with the U.S. pro soccer hierarchy, how would you describe NASL’s relationship to Major League Soccer and vice versa?
A There really isn’t [a relationship]. They’ve been around for a long time and established themselves in some cities, but we’re really focused on our own teams and our own cities. There no limitation to how good we can be. We’re about growing teams and being smart about that. It’s a competitive league right now.
Q You’re the only Division II league right now. MLS is the only Division I league. Are you trying to position the NASL to be competitive with MLS?
A We’re not trying to compete with them. We’re trying to grow as big and strong as we can be. If MLS, if something happens and it looks like that, then we’ll discuss it. But right now we have to focus on ourselves.
Q How much do you build on the NASL brand from the 1970s?
A I meet with a lot of people who were involved in the past to try and figure out what kind of magic they had to create what they did. ... We’re fortunate to have that legacy. There are still a lot of fans of that league out there. There’s nothing negative about that. But at the same time, we have to go out and prove ourselves. Pelé is not playing this year. We have to create relationships with our own fans, with some advantage of some awareness and affinity for the past.