ST. PETERSBURG — There was no comment from the Tampa Bay Rowdies Monday night amid reports the team will be moving out of the North American Soccer League.
Rumors began circulating a month ago, with current NASL teams Fort Lauderdale and playoff hopeful Rayo OKC reported to be in financial difficulty. With Minnesota moving up to the MLS, the third-division United Soccer League has become more of an attractive option, and Tampa Bay is reportedly ready to switch to that league.
The USL just completed its season and has 29 teams, spanning the country and into Canada. It is a mixture of developmental sides for MLS franchises — like the New York Red Bulls II who were just crowned champions — and original squads in cities both big (San Antonio, Texas; Louisville, Ky.; Pittsburgh) and small (Edinburg, Texas; Bethlehem, Pa.) with two expansion teams (Nashville, Reno, Nev.) set to make it 31.
Tampa Bay and, reportedly, Ottawa would add to the list, and USL is said to be petitioning for a move up to second-tier status in the U.S. Soccer Federation. Sports Illustrated had the news of Tampa Bay and Ottawa possibly departing in a Sept. 22 story.
Website empireofsoccer.com has reported the story and posted a photo of Rowdies owner Bill Edwards, sitting at Saturday's game against Ottawa at St. Petersburg's Al Lang Stadium. The site said USL CEO Alec Papadakis and COO Justin Papadakis sat beside Edwards.
An announcement could come Tuesday, with the Rowdies having just been eliminated from playoff contention in the NASL, which is in its sixth season since a reboot. Before they were rebranded the Rowdies in 2012, then-FC Tampa Bay competed in the USL.