- Jason Davis

Now that the NASL has their provisional sanctioning for 2011, the drama infecting lower division soccer should die down just a bit - we hope. The odd decision to leave league's US teams out of this year's US Open Cup aside, the business of actually playing games is rapidly approaching, giving fans ample reason to put the messy off-field issue out their minds. Montreal gets their goodbye season in D2 while prepping for MLS, Miami gets to debut the new/old Strikers name, Atlanta gets their comeback, and everyone who complained loudly about USSF heavy-handedness gets their soccer. NASL has a chance prove they can handle things all by themselves and become a real big boy league in 2012.

In 2012, NASL has plans to expand. San Antonio has been tapped as the site of a new team, with Gordon Hartman, a Texas real estate mogul, as owner. There's a stadium plan of some kind, a connection to a program for people with special needs, and a name. San Antonio Scorpions FC. The name isn't terrible, though the potential logos leave a lot to be desired. Voting is open at the club's website, with three finalists:

If you can get past the logo, whichever one ends up winning (the one on the left, PLEASE), professional soccer going back to San Antonio would be worth celebrating. 

Of course, nothing in minor league soccer in America comes easy. Funding a professional soccer club below the top level is tantamount to flushing thick wads of tens and twenties down a toilet - one of those commercial high-flow numbers, not the water conservation low-flow things you probably have in your home - and there is  always some problem or issue with which to contend. 

For the Scorpions, problems include stadium financing hangups and the possibility that they might face competition for fans from another professional team in the city. SS&E, the ownership group of the San Antonio Spurs, holds an option to start a USL franchise in the market. Rather suddenly, they've decided to explore exercising it. 

Right, lower division soccer in America in an Alamo-shaped nutshell. From zero teams just ten months ago when MFUSA profiled the Crocketteers, San Antonio's grassroots supporters group, to the possibility of two teams competing for a limited fan base with neither group in the clear on where they'll play. It's not even certain if there's reason for the Crocketteers to get excited. It sure looks like they haven't picked which team they'll ultimately back, and are carefully playing both sides while the saga plays out.

Who can blame them? It was laughable, if unsurprising, that San Antonio didn't have a professional soccer club before considering the city's size and cultural makeup. It's ridiculous now that it still might end up without a team despite two separate groups attached to separate leagues flailing through the civic process while sniping at each other. At every turn, legislative and contractual roadblocks prevent a free path to success for both the NASL and USL sides, almost as if bad karma hangs ominously overhead. The warring leagues made a mess of the second division that is still not completely resolved, a battle that they've apparently decided to take local on the banks of the San Antonio River.

If anyone cared about second division soccer, this whole thing would make for a fascinating television project. Dramatization or documentary, it hardly matters. There are enough factors at play to provide fodder for either. 

A rich Texan with a heart of gold battles a big time sports ownership group for the hearts of the city's soccer fans. Will one win out, or will they cannibalize each other, leaving a soccer-hungry town without an outlet for their passion? Can lower division soccer in the United States ever get out of its own way? 

As usual, I point you in the direction of IMS for more on lower division drama in general and San Antonio shenanigans in particular. 

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