Sad news out of the league office tonight (Great timing, Commish) as the NASL has announced that they have suspended operations of the league-owned Atlanta Silverbacks, “For the 2016 season and possibly beyond.”
The announcement shouldn’t come as a shock to anybody who has followed the club for the last two seasons. The club struggled for several years, and the league was forced to buy the club in December of 2014. This, combined with MLS announcing Atlanta United in April of 2014 and the inability of the league to find new owners for the club, seemed to be the writing on the wall for the Silverbacks in Atlanta.
So… What now?
In the immediate future, the club is dead (long live the club!). The NASL will compete with 11 teams in the Spring Season, with Rayo OKC and Miami FC taking the place of the Scorpions and Silverbacks. Puerto Rico will join in the Fall Season, bringing the 2016 total to 12 clubs. It would follow that the Spring Season will follow the exact format of last year’s, with each club playing every other club once, and with the addition of PRFC, the Fall Season will add an extra two games from last season.
In the long-term future, well, the Silverbacks – as a professional club – are dead. Atlanta United officially kicks off in 2017, and there’s no hope for a successful re-launch of the Silverbacks. Whether or not supporters want to form together to field an NPSL team with the name is yet to be seen.
The main question becomes what happens to the franchise slot that the Silverbacks (and the Scorpions, for that matter) currently occupy. The league could fold the club altogether, but the more likely outcome is that the slot will be bought and relocated to a much more viable NASL city. Theoretically, this would eliminate expansion fees, but this is all just speculation. I truly have no idea if the league even works like this.
Some cities that have been connected to the league include Chicago, Hartford, San Francisco, Las Vegas, Detroit, and Los Angeles. So there are plenty of options and opportunities out there. We’ll see what happens in the coming months.
It’s a difficult time for supporters. Nobody deserves to lose their club (Even you, Atlanta Ultras. Even you.) and this is absolutely a sad day for the league. We wish only the best for Silverbacks supporters and hope that you find a club that wins your heart like the Silverbacks did.