There are two elephants in the room. Two obstacles that the recently resuscitated North American Soccer League has to maneuver around without ignoring, angering or otherwise irking them. The first is Major League Soccer, comfortably the most successful professional soccer league in the history of the United States and Canada. The other is the NASL itself. The previous incarnation of it, that is, which folded amid financial ruin in 1984, only to be re-launched in 2011.
Three years in, things are going pretty well for the upstart league. It claims attendance was up some 30 percent this year, to somewhere between 5,000 and 6,000 per game. The New York Cosmos made their long-anticipated return in the fall season, which they won comfortably before lifting the Soccer Bowl, adding gravitas and attention.
And so the NASL has expansion on its mind, after two seasons in which it lost and gained a team. Next year, it will grow from eight to 11, one of whom, Indy Eleven, has already sold out the 7,000 season tickets on offer. But here’s where the ghost of the old NASL haunts the new. Some three decades ago, it had expanded far too quickly, bringing in shaky ownerships and uninterested markets. When attendance fell off, the bubble burst.