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Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Days of reckoning for second-division soccer in America? For those just joining us...

Posted by on Wed, Dec 9, 2009 at 9:48 AM

We have to pay tribute to the work of Miami-based Kartik Krishnaiyer and Minnesota's Brian Quarstad, who've done a phenomenal job staying on top of the complex developments concerning the future of lower-division soccer in America. For a fascinating, wide-ranging discussion of how we got here and where we might end up, listen to this podcast in which Quarstad and Krishnaiyer are joined by host Richard Farley and fellow guest Kristian Vazquez, a blogger who follows the Puerto Rico Islanders.

After three months of turmoil, the dispute between the United Soccer Leagues and the upstart North American Soccer League, of which the Carolina RailHawks are a part, is coming to a head. Today is the deadline set by the United States Soccer Federation (USSF) for the two rivals to submit unspecified additional information so that the federation can make a ruling on NASL's application for official sanction.

Yesterday, the USL filed a lawsuit in Hillsborough County, Florida, against three of its former teams who are now aligned with NASL: Baltimore Crystal Palace, Tampa and Rochester. (Kartik got this one and promises additional reporting today.)

Also yesterday, Jeff Cooper and the St. Louis ownership group announced the name of their proposed new NASL team: AC St. Louis. They also got attention with their two coaching announcements. The manager will be Claude Anelka, brother of Chelsea striker Nicolas, while the director of player development will be Francisco Filho, a 69-year-old Brazilian trainer who is said to have nurtured such superstars as Eric Cantona and Thierry Henry.

It was the former choice, however, that raised eyebrows: As was quickly discovered, Anelka's limited coaching experience includes an eight-game stint at second-division Scottish side Raith Rovers that led to The Guardian including him on its list of 10 worst soccer managers of all time. One would hope that Anelka nonetheless impressed Cooper with his coaching acumen and that this isn't merely an attention-getting novelty signing.

However, the more immediate question is if, when and how Anelka and the rest of the NASL will get to take the field and prove themselves. We'll see what reporting we're able to do; in the meantime, keep an eye on The Kartik Report and Inside Minnesota Soccer.

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