SBJ/March 28-April 3, 2011/Leagues and Governing Bodies

NASL hires World Cup bid exec Downs as commish

The North American Soccer League has hired David Downs, former executive director of the United States’ 2022 FIFA World Cup Bid Committee, as commissioner heading into its inaugural season as North America’s Division II soccer league.

NASL
David Downs
Downs, 55, will start at the NASL offices in Miami on April 4. The eight-team NASL will occupy a level of competition that is recognized as a step below MLS, the country’s Division I league, by the U.S. Soccer Federation.

“Every major soccer nation has a second division of some quality, and I believe there is room for one in the United States,” Downs said. “We are not in MLS markets, and we think there are plenty of large and passionate soccer markets which can create a fan base for the league.”

Before working with the bid committee, Downs was an executive at Univision from 1999 to 2009 and held roles with ABC. He was one of five candidates who interviewed for the position and was chosen by the NASL Executive Committee, composed of Montreal Impact owner Joey Sapudo, FC Tampa Bay owner Andrew Nestor and league CEO Aaron Davidson.

Davidson is also the vice president of Traffic Sports USA, the American arm of the Portuguese sports marketing and event management firm that owns three NASL teams and operates the league’s sales and marketing.

“David’s primary responsibility is to chart the league’s strategy, both commercial and on a sporting side, as well as expansion,” said Davidson, who said Downs will report to the executive committee and the league’s board of governors.

The NASL was founded in 2009 when eight teams broke away from Division II of United Soccer Leagues, citing a disagreement in ownership models. Davidson — who was then president of the Fort Lauderdale Strikers — spearheaded the schism, and registered the NASL trademark, which previously had been owned by the league that operated from 1968 until 1984.

USSF President Sunil Gulati said he hopes the league will find investors to lessen the ownership influence of Traffic Sports. “I think in an ideal world we’d like to see the type of situation where there are individual investor-operator groups for each of the eight teams or any number of teams the league has,” Gulati said.

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