The North American Soccer League's Board of Governors on Thursday unanimously approved expansion franchises in Oklahoma City and Jacksonville, Fla. Both franchises will begin play in the 2015 spring season.
The NASL board received presentations from groups representing four prospective expansion cities as part of two days of meetings being held in Dallas.
“We are delighted to be expanding to two cities that clearly have a passion for soccer, where we believe local fans will be excited to welcome our newest teams,” said NASL commissioner Bill Peterson. “We have considered expansion to cities that meet specific criteria and most importantly have strong ownership groups that will provide a long and stable future for the NASL in those markets, which we clearly have in both Jacksonville and Oklahoma City.”
Tim McLaughlin, an Oklahoma City native, presented to the NASL Board of Governors on behalf of OKC Pro Soccer LLC, which has already secured the rights to plays its games at Taft Stadium.
“Bringing a high-level professional soccer club to Oklahoma City is going to add an exciting new sports dimension to our city and state,” said McLaughlin. “We look forward to working with the NASL to give our community a soccer team and game experience people will be talking about for many years to come.
“We are especially excited to know that bringing this level of professional soccer to our market will also help the local schools, whose historic Taft Stadium we will play in when it is remodeled and refurbished to its former glory. We will create a revenue source for the local community, because every ticket we sell will benefit inner city schools. To say we are excited and overwhelmed is an understatement.”
Peterson added: “The Board of Governors has recognized a carefully crafted bid from OKC Pro Soccer LLC, who waited patiently to build a strong platform that will ensure NASL soccer thrives in Oklahoma City. Like their Jacksonville counterparts, they have almost two full years to prepare an unrivaled coaching staff, player roster and venue to create a team that local fans will be proud to support.”
Mark Frisch and former pro soccer player Dario Sala of the Sunshine Soccer Group, which staged a Mexico Primera League exhibition game at EverBank Field earlier this month, presented Jacksonville's bid.
The second half of the 2013 NASL season kicks off on Saturday, Aug. 3, when eight clubs contest the fall season, with the winner joining the spring season champion Atlanta Silverbacks in NASL Soccer Bowl on Nov. 9.
The North American Soccer League is a professional circuit established in the U.S., Canada and Puerto Rico.
Current NASL member teams are: Atlanta, Carolina RailHawks, FC Edmonton, Fort Lauderdale Strikers, Minnesota United FC, New York Cosmos, Puerto Rico Islanders, San Antonio Scorpions FC and Tampa Bay Rowdies. Indy Eleven, Ottawa Fury FC and Virginia Cavalry FC will begin play in 2014.
In the coming months, OKC Pro Soccer, LLC will host a formal press event to announce details of its ownership group, discuss plans in more detail and unveil the professional soccer enhancements being added to the Taft Stadium renovation plans.
“It is our intent to give soccer fans, supporters, community partners and sponsors a high performing team and game experience they'll be proud of,” McLaughlin said. “With the official NASL vote now behind us, we can move forward to build out our organization and begin the process of building a team to compete on this national playing field.”