Soccer fans in Jacksonville, FL, and Oklahoma City, OK, will have a North American Soccer League team to cheer for when the 2015 Spring Season kicks off after the NASL Board of Governors unanimously approved expansion franchise bids for both cities.
The NASL Board received presentations from groups representing four prospective expansion cities as part of two days of meetings being held in Dallas, Texas.
“We are delighted to be expanding to two cities that clearly have a passion for soccer, where we believe local fans will be excited to welcome our newest teams,” said NASL Commissioner Bill Peterson. “We have considered expansion to cities that meet specific criteria and most importantly have strong ownership groups that will provide a long and stable future for the NASL in those markets, which we clearly have in both Jacksonville and Oklahoma City.”
Mark Frisch and former professional soccer player Dario Sala of the Sunshine Soccer Group, which staged a Mexico Primera League exhibition game at EverBank Field in the city earlier this month, led the successful Jacksonville bid.
“I am thrilled to have helped lead an effort to bring pro soccer back to Jacksonville,” said Frisch. “I am very grateful for all the support from the city and the fans leading up to this day. I know the fans out there have been waiting for this moment for a long time. I cannot wait to go out and meet them all personally and talk the beautiful game of soccer in Jacksonville.”
Commissioner Peterson added: “I have seen first hand the desire the Jacksonville community has for a professional soccer team to call its own and believe this is a great move for soccer in Florida. The Sunshine Soccer Group is creating another in-state rivalry for our teams the Tampa Bay Rowdies and Fort Lauderdale Strikers, appealing to the global soccer passion for local derbies that are always special occasions.”
Oklahoma City businessman Tim McLaughlin presented to the NASL Board of Governors on behalf of OKC Pro Soccer LLC, which has already secured the rights to plays its games at Taft Stadium in Oklahoma City.
“Bringing a high-level professional soccer club to Oklahoma City is going to add an exciting new sports dimension to our city and state,” said McLaughlin. “We look forward to working with the NASL to give our community a soccer team and game experience people will be talking about for many years to come.
“We're especially excited to know that bringing this level of professional soccer to our market will also help the local schools whose historic Taft Stadium we will play in when it is remodeled and refurbished to its former glory. We will create a revenue source for the local community because every ticket we sell will benefit inner city schools. To say we are excited and overwhelmed is an understatement.”
Commissioner Peterson added: “The Board of Governors has recognized a carefully crafted bid from OKC Pro Soccer LLC, who waited patiently to build a strong platform that will ensure NASL soccer thrives in Oklahoma City. Like their Jacksonville counterparts, they have almost two full years to prepare an unrivaled coaching staff, player roster and venue to create a team that local fans will be proud to support.”
The second half of the 2013 NASL season kicks off next weekend on Saturday, August 3, when eight clubs contest the Fall Season, with the winner joining the Spring Season champions Atlanta Silverbacks in NASL Soccer Bowl on November 9.
The New York Cosmos make a much-heralded return to action, rekindling a fierce rivalry with the Fort Lauderdale Strikers at Hofstra University. The Carolina RailHawks, who finished second in the spring standings host FC Edmonton, spring champions Atlanta travel to Minnesota United FC and the San Antonio Scorpions welcome the 2012 champion Tampa Bay Rowdies. All games will be streamed live at www.NASL.com.
About the NASL
The North American Soccer League is a professional soccer league established in the United States, Canada and Puerto Rico. The NASL member teams are: Atlanta Silverbacks, Carolina RailHawks, FC Edmonton, Fort Lauderdale Strikers, Minnesota United FC, New York Cosmos, Puerto Rico Islanders, San Antonio Scorpions FC and Tampa Bay Rowdies. Indy Eleven, Ottawa Fury FC and Virginia Cavalry FC will begin play in 2014 and clubs in Jacksonville and Oklahoma City will commence play in 2015. For more information about the NASL, visit www.NASL.com. Follow the NASL on Twitter @NASLOfficial and Facebook at http://www.Facebook.com/NASL.fans.