The lower divisions of US soccer have always been tumultuous, but this offseason has pushed boundaries. Second-division NASL is losing three clubs at the conclusion of the 2015 season with the potential of losing more. Third-division USL continues their explosive growth by adding defecting NASL clubs while leaving smaller market clubs like the Wilmington Hammerheads by the wayside. In the fourth division, the PDL and NPSL are going head-to-head and reportedly looking to poach clubs from one another.
Recently Tobacco Road FC, a conference rival for the Atlanta Silverbacks and Georgia Revolution, announced that they would be leaving NPSL and joining PDL. This announcement came at the heels of an interview where NPSL chairman Joe Barone mentioned that a number of clubs were “contacted” by competing leagues.
Considering the current climate of lower-division soccer in the United States, it's natural to question the future of any club. Alvin Glay, head of marketing for the Atlanta Silverbacks, wants to calm your nerves: the Backs will play in NPSL next season.
“For us, our goals and mission remain the same: we’re a grassroots and community club,” Glay told Dirty South Soccer. “We are committed to NPSL.”
Glay cited the success of Chattanooga FC, local rivalries with the Carolina Railhawks, the addition of new clubs like Asheville City SC (North Carolina), and the high quality of play as evidence for NPSL’s strength.
“Chattanooga has done a great job of attracting fans and making themselves a feature in their community,” Glay said. “They had 10,000 fans at some of their games. Some USL teams don’t have that many in attendance.”
While success stories shine in NPSL, the league still struggles with club failures and fan engagement. Despite these shortcomings, Glay sees the league as the best option for the Silverbacks moving forward. “The NPSL is the real cornerstone of our team,” Glay said. “The cost of operation is not as high so we can keep our costs low and the tickets affordable. More fans can enjoy the game.”
While the future of lower-division soccer in the United States remains unclear, Silverbacks fans can be confident that their team will take the field next season. “We are absolutely in for next season and for the foreseeable future,” Glay affirmed. “That is our intention and we're looking forward to seeing fans come out and support the Silverbacks in 2017.”