If I were to tell you that one of the soccer leagues in the United States was going to expand with the new club being backed by a La Liga team, what would your reaction be? Would you be thrilled that Real Madrid or Barcelona were bringing their "knowledge" to the USA? What if it wasn't one of those clubs? What if it wasn't Atletico Madrid, Athletic Bilbao, Valencia or Sevilla either?
Yes, the North American Soccer League (NASL) stormed the dusty streets of suburban Oklahoma City to announce the league's third expansion side that will start play in the 2016 season. The NASL, in cooperation with mid-table-at-best La Liga club Rayo Vallecano, are bringing a team to the great city of Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. In the complete spirit of originality, the new team will be called Rayo OKC.
What's in a name?
Before we go any further today, the name of this new club must be discussed. If you were to poll the estimated 1.45 million people that live in the Oklahoma City metro area, how many of them do you think have ever heard of Rayo Vallecano?
Naming a team in Oklahoma City after an obscure European soccer club seems like a not-so-good idea. We know that MLS's Chivas USA didn't work in Los Angeles. Why on earth should we believe that the NASL's Rayo OKC is going to work in the suburbs of Oklahoma City.
I probably would have laughed at the Oklahoma City Cowboys, but at least the people in the market could relate.
This isn't the old NASL OKC expansion club.
The NASL originally had plans to expand to Oklahoma City back in the year 2013. The new club, Oklahoma City FC, was announced alongside the Jacksonville Armada. They were supposed to begin play in the 2015 season alongside the fabled Virginia Cavalry.
Neither side materialized.
Neither side exists today.
They'll be fighting an uphill battle.
In the meantime, the United Soccer League (USL) plopped an expansion side down in OKC. That club, the Oklahoma City Energy, have done well to establish themselves as Oklahoma City's team in the two years that they've been on the field. The Energy averaged over 4,600 fans during the 2015 season and ranked seventh in the USL in attendance.
While both teams will play at high school football stadiums, at least the Energy will actually be playing their matches inside the confines of Oklahoma City. When it comes to non-MLS soccer in the United States, do not think anything other than accessibility is the key to their success. Why would a current OKC Energy fan abandon the team they've been supporting for a few seasons now to go cheer on the team out in the 'burbs with the weird name? They wouldn't.
What is the NASL thinking?
With the NASL losing their teams in Minnesota (They're joining MLS.), San Antonio (The owner has sold the stadium to the San Antonio Spurs and will not put a team in the NASL next year. The Spurs are putting their new team in the USL.), and Atlanta (The MLS team is coming, so there's no reason for a poorly attended team without real owners to hang around.), they knew that they needed to do something to keep at least ten teams in their league. The NASL has announced three new teams in 2015, and all three will begin play next year!
Who needs planning when it comes to launching three brand new soccer teams in questionable locales? Surely, Rayo OKC are going to be a hit when competing with the established Oklahoma City Energy. Surely, Miami FC will be able to do something. Surely,
the Puerto Rico Islanders Puerto Rico FC will be a smash hit.
Bill Peterson is the best bad used car salesman ever.
This is just a spectacular quote to come out of someone's actual mouth.
How long will they last?
Before the NASL sprung the news on everyone that Rayo OKC would be playing games in the spring of 2016 (Seriously! They're going to start playing games in April!), I was willing to go on the record that the NASL Oklahoma City club would never kick the ball in a real, competitive match especially when rumors that Rayo Vallecano was involved.
However, now that the league has snuck a fastball by everyone and is starting things off in 2016, they now have a legitimate chance to play at least one full season. I'm going to pronounce the over/under for Rayo OKC at 2.5 seasons (Since the NASL does a split season, this would include a spring and a fall championship.), and I am 100% taking the under.
Good luck, Rayo OKC.