The NASL has been fairly quiet about Minnesota United's announcement that they'd be joining MLS to start the 2018 season, but on Monday, commissioner Bill Peterson had some comments on the matter for SBI. Though whole interview is definitely worth a read, but there were a few bits that really caught my eye:
"I think this proves that our teams and our owners are at the highest level and the stuff of Division 1, Division 2 with no competition to determine that really doesn’t make sense. Last Wednesday at 10 in the morning that club was in NASL, and at 2 o’clock in the afternoon it was in a different league. The only thing that changed was some cash exchanged hands. Nothing else changed."
"I think it’s hard for anyone to argue that we’re some lower division when our clubs can move like that, at a drop of a check. It’s the state of soccer in the United States right now, where it’s not about competition yet. It’s about money. They’ve made their decision, we wish them well and we’ll keep moving forward."
"At the end of the day, it’s about writing a check and that’s really it. That’s what separates the different leagues right now in this country. I guess we’ll see where it all shakes out at the end, but I think they’re just going where they find people who are willing to give them the money, right?"
In some cases, I think Peterson has a strong point. Clubs like Minnesota, the Cosmos, Indy, or Jacksonville appear to be every bit as well run as the best that MLS has to offer. On the other hand, the level of competition in the NASL is obviously lower across the board, and while there are several clubs that could almost certainly hold their own in MLS right now, the majority of the North American Soccer League would struggle to get off of the bottom of the MLS table.
It's hard to fault Minnesota's ownership for writing a check to get them into MLS, as frankly, that seemed to be the only sensible option. Had they resisted, it seems likely that Don Garber would have just accepted the bid from the NFL's Minnesota Vikings, which would have put United into a situation similar to that of the Atlanta Silverbacks.
Peterson clearly isn't thrilled that one of the league's biggest success stories has decided to move on, but at the end of the day, I'm sure he'll be more than happy to use the situation to sell the NASL to prospective owners. With any luck, we'll hear more talk of western expansion in short order.