NASL to unveil new club next week - commissioner
A new North American Soccer League (NASL) team, one with the backing of a European club, will be unveiled next week, league commissioner Bill Peterson said on Wednesday.
Miami FC, owned by AC Milan legend Paolo Maldini and businessman Riccardo Silva, and Puerto Rico FC, backed by New York Knicks basketball star Carmelo Anthony, have already been announced as the league's 12th and 13th teams.
In an exclusive interview with ESPN, Peterson said the franchise joining next week is "very linked" to a European club, while another potential new addition before the end of the year is "linked to a foreign ownership group."
"We've announced Miami and Puerto Rico and we'll actually announce one next week," he said at the Web Summit in Dublin.
"We'll do that and probably maybe one more. So probably 15 or 16 by the end of this year and then we're closing in on 20, probably, by next year. So it's pretty good for five years."
Peterson believes that in a place as vast as North America, there is plenty of room for Major League Soccer and the NASL to co-exist.
He says it has become much easier to expand the NASL during his three years as commissioner because the type of owners getting involved has become much stronger.
"Now we've got high net worth Americans who understand the power of soccer and want to be involved in soccer," he said.
"And then we've got a little bit of a push now from clubs from around the world who realise that we're structured like they are and we could be part of a global system of clubs that they have.
"It fits in with some of their player desires and also some of their branding stuff.
"Then there's other high net worth people from around the world that love soccer and realise 'Oh, with NASL I own the team, I own my rosters... I want to get involved in that.'"
Peterson feels the league's long-term future depends on getting every building block in place, from youth systems and reserve teams to acquiring good American and foreign players.
But he says the involvement of world class ex-players such as former Italian internationals Maldini and Alessandro Nesta, who will be Miami FC's first coach, and ex-Brazil striker Ronaldo, who is part owner of Fort Lauderdale Strikers, will ultimately accelerate NASL's growth.
"The thing that's unique that we have going on now are these guys coming in as owners -- Ronaldo, Maldini, even Carmelo Anthony from the NBA.
"What they understand is what it takes to be a champion. So we're still a young league, with young organisations. And here comes Ronaldo walking in saying 'this is how you do things.'
"And you go, 'Woah, OK'. We didn't have to teach that ourselves -- we had a guy tell us.
"The same thing when you have Maldini or Nesta saying 'this is how we win championships.' That's just a huge benefit for everybody.
"It might be 'here's how we travel, here's what we eat, here's what we do.'
"So we're hopeful that some more of the teams will bring in expertise like that. It really helps us grow quickly."
He pointed to the example of former Real Madrid striker Raul of the New York Cosmos, who face Fort Lauderdale in this weekend's championship playoffs.
"We've told all of our teams, don't do anything as a marketing ploy, whether it's [bringing] a player or an owner in," he said.
"Do it to help you win because that's all your fans care about. They want you to win.
"They brought Raul in this year to help them win because he knew what it would take to mould that team.
"And he was very outspoken, drove practices. Kept everybody on point all the time -- in the locker room, on the field.
"And here they are -- they're in the mix. So it's been the right move."