Indy Eleven owner Ersal Ozdemir remains bullish on the North American Soccer League despite the defection of two of its teams to the rival United Soccer League this week.
On the team’s Facebook page, Ozdemir said he’s not only looking forward to the team’s playoff run—which begins Nov. 5 at IUPUI’s track and soccer stadium—but already planning for the 2017 NASL season.
To that end, Eleven officials are putting next year's season tickets on sale Friday morning.
On Tuesday, owners of the NASL teams in Tampa Bay and Ottawa announced they are leaving the 12-team league for the USL, which is affiliated with Major League Soccer.
Those defections, coupled with the plans of the league’s Minnesota club to join the MLS next season and serious financial difficulties plaguing NASL teams in Fort Lauderdale and Oklahoma City, have many wondering about the stability of the league.
“As a league in North America, the NASL operates in an environment where owners are free to take their clubs wherever they choose. All we can do is acknowledge that reality and move forward with our business, which is exactly what we're doing right now,” NASL Commissioner Bill Peterson said in response to the two defections.
Peterson remains bullish on the NASL’s future.
“We have never had a stronger and more unified group of owners who are committed to the league's model, its structure, and its long-term vision,” he said in a statement. “With a half-dozen serious expansion discussions in progress, the league looks forward to adding new owners who share in the Board’s vision.
“We have ambitious plans for growth, and we're proud that the flexibility of the NASL model remains an extremely attractive proposition for investors seeking to become part of an authentic, competitive soccer league,” Peterson said. “While we don't want to take anything away from what is sure to be another exciting postseason, we're focused on ensuring that, in 2017, the NASL is one of the most competitive soccer leagues around.”
Peter Wilt, the former Indy Eleven general manager who is now trying to launch an NASL team in Chicago, said whatever void there is in the league will be filled.
“San Francisco is going to have a new franchise in 2017,” Wilt told IBJ, and Chicago looks like a go for 2018. Wilt said he’s also working with three other ownership groups that could start teams in fall 2017 or spring 2018.
“I think the league will have some announcements in November,” Wilt said. “I think you’re going to see some positive growth.”