Soccer News: San Diego Flash Prepare for NPSL Playoffs and Possible NASL Future
As they prepare for their final two matches, the San Diego Flash Soccer Club are looking to the short- and long-term future. After a decisive 8-0 win over the Phoenix Monsoon on Saturday that clinched the National Premier Soccer League (NPSL) West-Southern Conference title, the Flash have their sights set on the NPSL championships to be hosting in San Diego at the end of July. Beyond that, the team has sent an expression of interest to the North American Soccer League (NASL) as a preliminary to possibly joining the league.
The latest version of the NASL began play in 2011 and is sanctioned as a Division II Professional League, below Major League Soccer (MLS) in the soccer pyramid. The original NASL ran from 1968 to 1984 and helped pave the way for the future of the beautiful game in America.
In a letter from CEO Clent Alexander to NASL Commissioner David Downs, the Flash requested information about the league. The move is seen as a first step in opening a “constructive, ongoing dialogue with U.S. Soccer’s second tier division” about possibly becoming the first West Coast team in the league. Currently the NASL teams are located primarily on the East Coast and Midwest in the U.S. as well as Canada and Puerto Rico.
Alexander sees this as a natural progression for the Flash, who joined the NPSL in 2011 and immediately won their first conference championship. The team has had a strong history of success over the two years, including the two conference titles, only two losses (one in the 2011 playoffs) and three members receiving trials with MLS (Ryan Guy, now with New England Revolution, in 2011 and Adrian DuBois and Sergio Valle-Ortiz in 2012).
“The club is growing at an exponential pace,” said Alexander. “To keep up with the demand and expectations of our investors and players, a new challenge and a broader national appeal might be the key to unlocking our potential and taking the San Diego Flash Soccer Club to that next level.”
The Flash are the first soccer club in the United States to adopt a public ownership model, which has so far been quite successful for the team.
“While this is only an expression of interest and no guarantee of the club making that transition, we hope that this serves as a notice to the U.S. Soccer community that San Diego is ready for pro soccer,” Alexander said. “Putting the city of San Diego on the professional soccer map is a high priority for our Partnership Group.”
A move to the NASL would depend on the best interests of the club because being the only West Coast team in a league poses challenges, as the LA Blues have seen in the USL-PRO. Flash Head Coach Warren Barton, also a FOX Soccer Analyst, pointed out that traveling every second week to the East Coast, Canada or Puerto Rico would be a significant financial consideration.
“There is no doubt our current squad would be extremely competitive in the NASL,” said Barton. “However, it needs to be a smart business decision.”
San Diego could be a prime market for expansion by the NASL, for several reasons. First, the region is the largest youth soccer market in North America, with thousands of boys and girls on the pitch every week. Second is the size of the overall market – San Diego is the second largest city in California and the seventh largest in the U.S. Additionally, the entire county has a population approximately three times that of Rhode Island and nearly as great as Puerto Rico, which boasts the NASL’s Islanders.
Two more important reasons for possible expansion are San Diego’s location near the border with Mexico, where soccer is already the number one sport, and the fact that the city is not currently represented by a MLS team. Many soccer fans from Mexico would drive to San Diego, where they might not go as far as Los Angeles.
The ball, as they say, is now in the NASL’s end of the pitch, and the Flash hope to hear back soon on a possible meeting. “We look forward to meeting with NASL representatives in the near future and working together to bring the very best North American soccer talent outside of the MLS to San Diego,” Alexander said.