Reports are surfacing out of Miami that possibly eight United Soccer League owners, upset with the sale of the system from Nike to Atlanta-based NuRock Soccer Holdings Inc. last month, are indeed organizing a breakaway circuit.
We’re checking on this, but apparently the Atlanta Silverbacks are among these teams. This is not a surprise, of course, given the Silverbacks’ departure from the USL First Division last season over league-wide managerial disputes that have now resulted into full-blown mutiny.
One USL mainstay who is resolute in staying put is Rob Clark of the Rochester Rhinos, perhaps the most stable franchise in the league, one without Major League Soccer aspirations and which has become a pillar of its local sports community.
Clark is very hot and bothered by the breakaway threats issued after the NuRock sale. But TOA representatives are just as adamant that the USL system is removed from third-party control. Any notions of a compromise appear to be far-fetched for the moment.
A few snippets from Clark’s rejoinder that illustrate sharp philosophical and operational differences that may be irreconcilable:
“I disagree that spending in millions in marketing, a national branding of our league, is the way to go. More marketing and promotion needs to be done on a local level by each club.”
“The problem is we have core differences within a TOA (Team Owners Association). There was a loose TOA all of last year and I was with it, sharing thoughts and ideas, but then they basically kept getting more and more extreme and I said I’m not interested in leaving this league, I’m interested in reforms.”
“I met with the new ownership group (Alec Papadakis and Rob Hoskins) about two months ago to hear some of their preliminary viewpoints. I’m excited to have a new ownership group because Nike, quite frankly, didn’t even know they owned this league until a year after they bought it. These gentlemen are soccer savvy and are working full-time on the USL.”
“I’m also not convinced that anyone in the USL offices knew that NuRock had bought the USL prior to an hour of the offiicial announcement. This was NIKE selling the USL, so the USL front office had only whatever information Nike made available.”
“I feel the TOA is a negative distraction and hindrance to growing our respective franchise basis. Myself and the other teams I have listed are focused on growing and improving our current league and we want to meet and hear the ideas of NuRock, our new owner, before we make any rash decisions.”
“We control the league as individual owners. There are some owners that are obsessed with controlling the whole league. I don’t think we need that in order to thrive.”