Monday evening via Twitter, North American Soccer League (NASL) Commissioner Bill Peterson announced plans to add a franchise in Oklahoma City for the 2015 season following a final presentation to the league's Board of Governors later in July. With the addition of OKC club along with three other franchises next season, the league will be looking at a minimum of twelve teams in the same year Major League Soccer expands to twenty.
With loose salary cap requirements, a split season, and almost speculative-investment owners you have to wonder if the NASL is trying walk through the backdoor to MLS like the United States Football League (USFL) tried to do with the National Football League (NFL) in the 1980's.
The NASL has a presence in the three largest markets not currently occupied by MLS (Miami, Atlanta, and Minneapolis) as well as pushing into the well represented territories of New York City (Cosmos) and Texas (San Antonio). Likewise, the USFL launched franchises in several under-served areas (Arizona, Memphis, Baltimore) as well as larger markets (LA, Chicago, New Jersey). However, unlike the USFL, several of the teams in the NASL are franchises dating back several years so they aren't a new product to the supporters in their market.
Following the first season of the NASL in 2010, the league had clubs that ended up folding (St. Louis) or relocating/realigning (Rochester). Of course those growing pains are common for new leagues as MLS even experienced with expansion in 1998 (Chicago & Miami) followed by downsizing in 2001 (Miami & Tampa). In the case of the USFL the league began with 12 teams in 1983, ballooned to 18 teams, only to spend their last season with 8 franchises in 1986.
The USFL did not compete directly with the NFL, instead initially going with a spring/summer schedule. MLS is one of the few professional soccer leagues in the world to use a "summer schedule" playing from March to November where most play a "winter schedule" from August to May. While the NASL could not immediately offer a schedule in-line with the rest of the leagues around the world, they've experimented with a split schedule in 2013 playing in the spring and fall with a break during the summer. Eventually, the NASL could gain the favor of FIFA and other major leagues if they can move to a true "winter schedule" and thus avoid competing directly with MLS.
Ultimately the question is what does the NASL plan to do? Are they trying to establish a league that feeds franchises into MLS? Are they looking to compete directly with MLS? In actuality, the NASL is a melting pot of different ownership groups with different goals and different financial backing to achieve those goals. While the reborn Cosmos are looking to stake claim to a piece of the hotly contested New York City soccer market, other expansion clubs like San Antonio and Indianapolis are looking to bring professional soccer to untapped markets. With the structure of the United States Soccer Pyramid, there will always be room for multiple professional leagues such as MLS, NASL, and USLPRO. They each serve a purpose and, as a whole, they work together to help better the professional soccer product both on and off the field in America. However, if Donald Trump purchases an NASL club for 2015, all bets are off.