Atlanta, Carolina, Miami, Minnesota, Montreal, St. Louis, Tampa Bay, and Vancouver to aggressively explore all options for the future
Following extensive negotiations with USISL, Inc., the parent company of the United Soccer Leagues (USL), to restructure the USL First Division (USL-1) into a league owned and controlled by its teams, the Team Owners Association (TOA) have announced that it has accelerated its pursuit of all league options for the 2010 season and beyond.
The TOA, led by Atlanta Silverbacks, Carolina RailHawks, Miami FC, Minnesota Thunder, Montreal Impact, St. Louis Soccer United, Tampa Bay Rowdies, and Vancouver Whitecaps FC, reached this decision following the announcement by Nike, Inc., the parent company of USISL, Inc., that it had concluded the sale of USL to a third-party (NuRock Soccer Holdings) which does not own a team in USL-1.
The TOA has been and remains committed to a restructuring of USL-1 into a truly professional soccer league, which complies with the international rules established by FIFA, the governing body of international soccer. These rules include the requirement that the league be owned and controlled by its teams. Despite this rule, USL has historically been owned by a single corporate entity responsible for, among other things, league governance. The TOA believes that this ownership structure has stunted the growth and recognition of both the league and its teams during USL’s nearly 25-year existence. Consequently, over the past several years, the TOA has engaged in discussions with the owners of USL to restructure USL and is therefore extremely disappointed with Nike’s decision to sell USL to a non-USL-1 team owner. Accordingly, the TOA now reconfirms its commitment to achieving a team-owner controlled league and will pursue all avenues to do so.
“The TOA and its teams thank the fans, media, coaches, and players for their unconditional support and patience, as we explore all options for the future,” stated Selby Wellman, majority owner of the Carolina RailHawks and spokesperson for the TOA. “The teams are confident that this process will lead to decisions and changes that are essential for the further growth of soccer in our respective markets and throughout North America.”
The TOA was formally established in January 2008. Carolina, Miami, Minnesota, Montreal, and Vancouver are all playing in USL-1 this season, but have not recommitted to USL-1 for 2010. Atlanta withdrew from USL-1 after the 2008 season due to the continuing uncertainties of the negotiation and restructuring of USL. Tampa Bay is scheduled to begin playing in 2010. St. Louis Soccer United, owner of St. Louis Athletica in Women's Professional Soccer, is committed to establishing a men’s professional team. Notwithstanding the fact that Vancouver will be joining Major League Soccer in 2011, the Vancouver ownership group is committed to playing in 2010 and to exploring opportunities to establish a team in another market for 2011 and beyond.