Future of FC Edmonton in doubt as North American Soccer League threatens to go under

The future of FC Edmonton is up in the air while the soccer league it plays in fights for its existence.

‘What the fans know is that there's no tickets on sale for next year, and things are very quiet right now’

FC Edmonton takes on Ottawa Fury FC at TD Place Stadium in Ottawa on May 18, 2016. (Steve Kingsman/Freestyle Photography)

The future of FC Edmonton is uncertain as the the North American Soccer League (NASL) is in a court battle that could lead to its demise.

On Saturday, a federal judge in New York denied the NASL's request for a mandatory injunction against the U.S. Soccer Federation (USSF) to regain the league's Division 2 designation.

The NASL's application for renewal of its Division 2 designation was rejected in September by the USSF for not meeting its standards, which led to the request for an injunction.

Without Division 2 status, the league may not operate in the 2018 season. That would leave FC Edmonton without a league to play in.

The NASL's interim commissioner Rishi Sehgal issued a statement on the ruling Sunday.

"Following the disappointing ruling issued by the U.S. District Court yesterday, the NASL filed an appeal with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit," Sehgal said.

"We're hopeful that the Second Circuit will deliver a ruling that allows the NASL to play at the Division 2 level in 2018 and enables us to continue growing and developing the sport. We have asked for our appeal to be expedited to eliminate the uncertainty facing all of our clubs, players, coaches, fans, and other stakeholders."

FC Edmonton has been in the NASL since its first season in 2009.
Tom Fath, owner of FC Edmonton, is waiting to see what happens to the North American Soccer League prior to the 2018 season. (Travis McEwan/CBC)

"We've been a strong supporter since its beginning and we remain a strong supporter," said FC Edmonton owner Tom Fath. "We want it to continue. This injunction is very important for the NASL."

Despite the uncertainty, Fath wouldn't say much about what the team's options are. 

"We'll just sit and wait. We'll find out," Fath said.

Three possible options

Steven Sandor, a commentator and soccer writer, said fans have reason to worry.

"What the fans know is that there's no tickets on sale for next year, and things are very quiet right now and non-committal from the club in terms of the direction it will take," Sandor said.

He said three options exist for FC Edmonton next year.

The league could continue and the team will play as usual. Or the league comes to an end and the team is left without a league to play in. The final option is the team joins the new Canadian Premier League, which may not be ready in time.

He said the worst option for the team would be to not play at all next season, which could delay the momentum it's gained with Edmonton soccer fans.

"Any sort of pause hurts in what is a very crowded marketplace," he said.




Travis McEwan

Video journalist

Travis McEwan is a video journalist who covers stories ranging from human interest and sports to municipal and provincial issues. Originally from Churchill, Man., Travis has spent the last decade working at CBC Edmonton reporting for web, radio and television. Email story ideas to travis.mcewan@cbc.ca.