July Updates – NASL and Eleven

I’ve got some catching up to do, don’t I? Here’s a summer of your July developments for the NASL and the Indy Eleven.

Atlanta wins NASL Spring 2013 Championship

I’m grossly remiss in not blogging the results of the July 4 games, so let it be said: Congratulations to the Atlanta Silverbacks! The surprise win began with San Antonio’s 2-0 victory over the Carolina Railhawks. That opened the door for Atlanta, and they walked through courtesy of a 3-0 victory over Minnesota United FC. And in the Floriderby, Tampa Bay beat up on the manager-less Fort Lauderdale Strikers, 4-0. With all that, here’s your final league table:

Team GP W T L GF** GD* PTS
Atlanta Silverbacks 12 6 3 3 20 5 21
Carolina RailHawks 12 5 5 2 20 4 20
San Antonio Scorpions 12 6 2 4 19 4 20
Tampa Bay Rowdies 12 5 3 4 21 5 18
FC Edmonton 12 3 5 4 14 1 14
Minnesota United FC 12 4 2 6 18 -5 14
Fort Lauderdale Strikers 12 2 2 8 17 -14 8

*First tie-breaker
**Second tie-breaker

Congratulations again to the Silverbacks. It was an impressive comeback! The RailHawks can feel a bit hard done by, but they had it in their grasp, and let it go. So Atlanta gets to host the 2013 Soccer Bowl in the fall. Well done — now let’s see what the Fall season brings!

Build the Brickyard event in Irvington

Back on July 10, I attended the Build the Brickyard event that the Eleven put on at Black Acre Brewpub in Irvington. (If you haven’t been to Black Acre, you should; judging by the two beers I had, it’s some of the best beer being brewed in Indy.) The event was quite a bit of fun and was very similar to the event at Brugge Brasserie back in May except that we also got to hear from coach Sommer. He’s a measured and deliberate speaker, and doesn’t seem like a cheerleader. Instead, he seems like the kind of guy who takes building a team like the Eleven quite seriously, and who’s not just focused on putting a good team on the pitch, but is concerned with giving Indy a team that they will enjoy and that can endure. That’s not a bad feeling at all.

Indy Eleven coach Juergen Sommer speaks to supporters at Black Acre Brewpub.

Indy Eleven coach Juergen Sommer speaks to supporters at Black Acre Brewpub.

Most of the topics covered were similar to what was covered back in May. I asked whether there was any news on stadium plans, and got a very short (and funny) “No.” To me that could mean a couple things, but the interesting possibility is that there’s something afoot — possibly in negotiations — and it’s a bad time to be spreading rumors. Or, it could mean that everything’s stalled out. We shall see!

Plans for Carroll Stadium are similar to what was discussed before. The Brickyard Battallion will be sitting behind the west goal, and the track will have tables set up for Stadium Club members. In general, the customer service issues (restrooms, food, drinks) are one of the main worries and current focuses for the team. Carroll will always be limited, there’s no way around it. But the team seems to be on top of the issues and they’ll work hard to create a good experience for the fans. (My impression is that they’re worried about both the casual fans and the diehard fanatics, and that’s as it should be.

They also mentioned plans for community support involving a free afterschool program to bring soccer to inner city kids, maybe on the East and West sides. That sounds great to me and I’m really hoping they involve a particular IPS #107 (aka my home from kindergarden through 6th grade). Of course, that’s because it’s my school; it’s also in a neighborhood that’s seen a lot of growth from Latino immigrants, which might be a good fit for the team. Oh yeah — and it’s also the Lew Wallace grade school.  Not a bad fit for the team….

The only other piece I’ll mention is that the schedule for next year is starting to shape up a bit, though the final schedule will likely be out around December or so. The home opener will probably be in mid to late April, around the 3rd Saturday. (There will likely be away games before then in the warmer cities like Fort Lauderdale and San Antonio.) There will be 13 or 14 games, mostly on Saturday nights, and there might be an exhibition game (a friendly, I suppose) on the last Saturday of March. That will also likely be the big chance to shake down the stadium facilities. (I don’t know if this takes into account the calednar adjustments discussed below, we’ll see.)

So while there wasn’t any big news, it was a lot of fun to spend the evening with the team personnel. I know the team has had a few more of these events, and more are coming. Try to get to one if you can — it’s worth your time!

NASL Board Meeting and expansion

Last week, the NASL Board held its summer break meeting. There were a couple of big news items to come out of the meeting. The one I referenced above is that the league will schedule its summer break around the 2014 World Cup. The Spring season will run from April 5 through June 7, while the Fall season will extend from July 19 through November 15. From a marketing standpoint, it makes some sense. It might be hard to get fans into the stadiums when matches are going on in Brazil. If it was an Asian or European host, the times might work out OK, but the Western Hemisphere isn’t as forgiving. However, the dates will make for an unbalanced split, as there are only 10 weeks in the Spring calendar, and 18 in the Fall. 2014 will have 11 teams, so that makes for 20 games in a complete home-and-home schedule. There’s really no way for a 10/18 split to accomodate two full home-and-home schedules, so we’ll have to see how things split. And currently, the Spring champion wins the right to host the Soccer bowl; that seems a bit unfair if the Spring champ only plays half as many games. We’ll have to see how the whole thing plays out.

The bigger news however is the announcement of two new expansion teams for the NASL. Here’s a big welcome to Oklahoma City and Jacksonville! Both teams will begin play in the 2015 season. Neither have names yet. Neither team has particular relevance for Indy; they’re not very close, but not the farthest NASL teams for us either. That would bring the NASL to 13 teams for 2015, barring any surprises. How that schedule plays out is a big guess at this point. That’s 24 games for a home-and-home schedule. I don’t think the NASL can sustain a full balanced home-and-home for both Spring and Fall seasons — and indeed, they’re not going to do that even in 2013 — so we’ll see what they decide to do. The way pro soccer is developing at the moment, I fully expect the league to keep changing for the next few years. At that point, we might be as likely to see more MLS promotions as we would new NASL franchises; there’s also the question of how the USL Pro will develop and its impact on the NASL.

Much uncertainty, but obviously the league is a happening place right now. It’s fun to be involved! Now, if we could just get a team playing, we can watch some games!

Next up, a photo essay on the Indy Eleven tryouts. And I think there’s some big soccer game in Indy tomorrow too…

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