I suppose the North American Soccer League could have folded on Wednesday; plenty of minor leagues have vanished in mid-season. Nor did the league endure a players’ strike. Nor did news break of, I don’t know, a league-wide drug-trafficking ring?
Omitting those things, though, it was about the worst day the NASL could have imagined. By morning, not only was much of FIFA being arrested at a hotel in Switzerland, but the soccer sports-marketing business in America was being shaken. A U.S. District Court indictment detailed the allegations of how Traffic Sports, a Brazilian sports-marketing company with operations in the USA, had conspired to bribe various North and South American soccer officials, in order to get the marketing contracts for various CONCACAF and CONMEBOL events - including this summer’s Gold Cup.
Among the indicted was NASL chairman Aaron Davidson, who was central in persuading teams to break away from USL to set up the rival NASL in 2010. As president of Traffic Sports USA, he was integral in overseeing the NASL, which is owned by Traffic Sports. Traffic also owns the Carolina RailHawks, and has at times owned the Fort Lauderdale Strikers, the Atlanta Silverbacks and part of Minnesota’s franchise.
By the time evening rolled around, the NASL was announcing that Davidson had been suspended and the league had cut off all “business activities” with Traffic Sports, which makes you wonder how the league could cut off the group that owns and controls it.
And all of that ignores the fact that the nine United States-based NASL teams were in action on Wednesday, playing in the third round of the US Open Cup, all playing teams from lower leagues – seven against third-division USL sides.
Minnesota United FC put together a haphazard performance against St. Louis FC, and a late St. Louis penalty canceled out Minnesota’s early-second-half goal and sent the game to extra time. After a scoreless extra period, United could barely put the ball on goal in the penalty shootout, losing 3-1 and crashing out of the Cup against a lower-league side for the second time in three years.
Shockingly, that was the best performance for any NASL team against a USL team. All seven NASL teams lost; only Indy Eleven, apart from Minnesota, even got the game to extra time. Jacksonville went down 3-0 to Richmond, the worst loss of the seven. Only New York and Atlanta survived the third round, and both were playing fourth-division or amateur sides.
League owners indicted for racketeering; seven league teams turfed out of the Cup by those from a rival minor league. That’s about as bad a day as you’ll find for the NASL.
For more on NASL and the indictments, check out Northern Pitch.