The NPSL held its Annual General Meeting (AGM) this past weekend in San Diego, California. The AGM is a three day event where all clubs in the league come together to discuss the league and plans for the future. The AGMs generally cover a variety of topics intended to grow and stabilize the league. Of particular interest to followers of the league are issues related to expansion and contraction of teams – historically the lower divisions of soccer have been notoriously volatile with teams coming and going annually. Even fans of stable teams want to know if their division competitors will remain, or alternatively if they have new rivals coming. Expansion news is a major part of the offseason excitement soccer fans enjoy.
This year’s AGM has been particularly exciting for fans as the league is growing to new heights – the league currently has 68 teams listed on its website. In addition, the league has already announced a fourteen (14) expansion teams scheduled to begin play next year, with reports that more are on the way. As a matter of fact, a team was just announced today – the Fort Lauderdale Strikers U-23. With all this growth, it is no wonder that soccer fans are following developments around the league closely.
To help satiate some of this thirst for news on the NPSL, I have scoured the internet for tidbits about the AGM. Here are some of the highlights: the league has changed its logo, NPSL is launching an app, the website is being updated, and there has been talk of a strengthening of the relationship with NASL.
The new logo/badge is not a tremendous departure from the existing branding. The color scheme is the same; the biggest change is in the placement of components on the badge which have shifted. All in all it appears like a sharper, cleaner version of the current badge. The new badge looks like an updated version that NPSL fans would easily recognize.
There are also reports the league will be updating its website. Changing the website is a double edged sword. In some instances it is a genuine improvement that leads to easier navigation and the inclusion of needed additions. But too often, it is just a reshuffling of existing features without improving the experience for users. If reports of the website update are correct and a new app has been developed as well, then it is absolutely going to turn heads amongst NPSL followers. News on the app’s features have not been forthcoming, but conceivably it would make it easier to get updated scores on the run, at a minimum.
The most interesting rumors coming out of the AGM may involve the NASL. Numerous people at the AGM commented, generally via twitter, about the presentations of NASL and the Cosmos. Speculation has varied from the seemingly plausible development of a reserve league relationship between the two, to the fantastical notion of promotion and relegation between the two independent leagues. Let me address this rumor of promotion first – attendees of the AGM have already stated publicly that no questions about the issue of promotion and relegation were taken during the NASL presentation. If you are to take these statements at face value it would seem the leagues are not ready to broach this topic in any concrete terms.
Nonetheless, rumors persist. Another one that has made the rounds is that the NPSL is in the process of creating a professional league similar to USL. The reasoning goes that if there is to be promotion between it and NASL there needs to be a level in between the existing leagues that is comprised of clubs financially strong enough to support a professional team. There has been nothing reported to give this any credence either.
The most plausible scenario is that something akin to a reserve league relationship is developing between the two. In addition to the NASL reserve teams already in NPSL, and the announcement today of the Fort Lauderdale Strikers U-23 joining, there was a captured screen shot of the 2016 Sunshine Conference Team Standings page placing the Tampa Bay Rowdies on the list. Although not officially announced, it seems reasonable to think the Rowdies will have a team in the NPSL as well.
The idea of NASL teams joining NPSL hardly seems newsworthy because it has been a trend for the last couple of seasons. I believe this might be the reason rumors have cropped up about the two leagues, people see the existing relationship and wonder why the status quo needs to be announced at all, surely there must be something going on behind the scenes.
Whether there is any truth to some of these rumors only time will tell, but the things we do know bode well for the league. Expansion continues, existing teams are increasingly stable, and with an app, fans will be able to follow your favorite team wherever they go. One thing is certain, the league is on strong footing and where fans once wondered if it would disappear from year to year, now they are asking what heights the league will reach.