Tampa Bay Rowdies owner Bill Edwards is thought to be among the NASL owners who have pushed the second-division league into a rogue course within US Soccer, where the upstart league challenged Major League Soccer (MLS) at every turn imaginable. NASL has been backed in this quest by a group of fans who can be likened to ideological zealots preaching free-market values and often misrepresenting how the game is structured abroad to serve their purposes. In fairness to those fans, MLS has plenty wrong with it and more comes to surface monthly it seems that calls into question the way the top league in the United States and Canada is run.
But the Rowdies have chosen to jump on the MLS bandwagon in way. Perhaps seeing the success of neighboring club Orlando City SC and the amount of media attention NASL clubs like the Carolina RailHawks get for just uttering the words MLS, Tampa Bay has chosen to join the fray. The Rowdies will host a six-term invitational which is by the way a GREAT idea. The Philadelphia Union who have played preseason games in Jacksonville each of the last four seasons (and will face the Armada on February 6), New York City FC, D.C. United, Montreal Impact, New York Red Bulls and Toronto FC will join Tampa Bay in the Suncoast Invitational. The event will run from February 17 to 27th.
“We’re thrilled to welcome these MLS teams to St. Petersburg,” said Edwards. “This is a fantastic opportunity to bring some of the world’s best soccer talent home to our fans. I am grateful to the City of Clearwater, the St. Petersburg/Clearwater Sports Commission and all involved in making this invitational a reality. I look forward to it becoming an annual soccer tradition.”
Hopefully this tournament will be successful and become an annual tradition. Pro teams across the different divisions cooperating ultimately is a good thing for the sport and this event is a great thing for Florida-based fans.