SAN ANTONIO – The announcement that the North American Soccer League (NASL) has been provisionally approved as the Division II men’s outdoor professional soccer league by the U. S. Soccer Federation (USSF) is “very good news for our new NASL franchise,” according to philanthropist Gordon Hartman, who’s heading the effort that’s bringing pro soccer to San Antonio to benefit Morgan’s Wonderland.

“Division II is just one step below MLS (Major League Soccer),” Hartman said. “This means our team will attract top-notch players and coaches and play an exciting, high-quality brand of soccer. It also means that we’ll be able to generate a steady stream of income to support Morgan’s Wonderland, the world’s first ultra-accessible family fun park with special-needs individuals of all ages in mind.”

The provisional nature of the NASL sanctioning is consistent with the USSF’s by-laws that require approval by the National Council of the USFF, NASL officials said. This approval is expected to be forthcoming at the USSF Annual General Meeting in February 2011 in Las Vegas.

“This is an historic day for soccer in North America as we officially launch a new Division II league that will seek to uphold its namesake,” said Aaron Davidson, NASL’s chief executive officer. “We look forward to working with MLS at the first-division level and the Unites Soccer League at the third-division level to continue to build on the foundation they have established to grow the beautiful game in North America.”

Hartman said NASL’s sanctioning will give further impetus to involving the community in preparing San Antonio’s team for competition in spring 2012. “We’re already receiving a strong response to our ‘Name Our Team’ contest,” he said, “and we anticipate similarly high interest in other phases of bringing our team together. ‘Soccer for a Cause’ is the theme and driving force of what we’re doing to bring pro soccer to San Antonio and ultimately benefit Morgan’s Wonderland.”

Hartman said he believes this is the first time a pro sports franchise has been established to help a non-profit organization, namely Morgan’s Wonderland.

Fans who don’t want to miss any of the NASL action can now reserve season seats for the 2012 inaugural season. A $25 deposit will place the fan on a priority list and give him or her the right to select a specific seat location at a “Select Your Seat” event.

To reserve their season seat plan, fans can visit www.soccerforacause.com, call toll-free (855) 333-2012 or stop by the STAR (South Texas Area Regional) Soccer Complex next to Morgan’s Wonderland in Northeast San Antonio between the hours of 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. weekdays.

The deadline for “Name Our Team” suggestions is 5 p.m. CST Friday, Dec. 17. Fans can submit names online at www.soccerforacause.com, or they can fill out suggestion forms at STAR Soccer near the Wurzbach Parkway-Thousand Oaks Drive intersection, not far from the IH 35-Loop 410 interchange.

A panel of judges from STAR Soccer, NASL San Antonio, Morgan’s Wonderland and The Gordon Hartman Family Foundation will select the winning team name, which will be announced along with the fan who submitted it in early January. In case of more than one submission of the winning name, a drawing will be held to determine the winner of the prize package that will include accompanying the team on a road trip, dinner with the team’s head coach, a private soccer clinic with pro players, four season seats for the team’s inaugural season and a package of team equipment to include a team jersey autographed by the players.

Once the team name has been determined, the team logo design and uniform design phases will follow, Hartman said. In each instance, fans will be asked to help make the final determinations. Details will be announced as each phase of building the team progresses.

For more information, visit www.soccerforacause.com; call toll-free (855) 333-2012; or follow the building of San Antonio’s team at http://www.facebook.com/NASLSanAntonio or http://www.twitter.com/NASL_SA.

The NASL will play the 2011 season with eight teams in major markets across the U. S., Canada and Puerto Rico. In addition to San Antonio’s entry in 2012, another team to be announced will join the league for the 2013 season. “We are considering the addition of several expansion teams in the coming months,” Davidson said. “Despite the excitement surrounding the sanctioning announcement, we intend to carefully consider how, when and where to expand to ensure the stability of the NASL and to put the best possible product on the field for our fans.”

The inaugural NASL season will open April, 9, 2011, and will highlight a rematch of the 2010 finalists between the Puerto Rico Islanders and the Carolina Railhawks in Cary, N. C. Other matches will include FC Edmonton at Miami FC, NSC Minnesota Stars at Atlanta Silverbacks and Montreal Impact at FC Tampa Bay. The NASL’s teams will play a 28-game schedule, consisting of 14 home and 14 away games against each opponent.

The NASL’s playoff format will consist of the top six teams, with the first two teams receiving a bye until the semi-final round and the remaining four teams playing in a single-game playoff to advance to the semi-finals. The semi-finals and the finals each will consist of a two-game home and home aggregate goal system.

About NASL
NASL is the provisionally sanctioned Division II men’s outdoor professional soccer league in the U. S., Canada and Puerto Rico. The NASL member teams are: Atlanta Silverbacks (2022 FIFA World Cup Bid City), Carolina RailHawks, FC Baltimore (2022 FIFA World Cup Bid City), FC Edmonton, Miami FC (2022 FIFA World Cup Bid City) NSC Minnesota Stars, Montreal Impact (joining MLS in 2012), Puerto Rico Islanders, San Antonio (beginning play in 2012), AC St. Louis, FC Tampa Bay (2022 FIFA World Cup Bid City) and Vancouver Whitecaps FC (joining MLS in 2011).

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Michael Macias