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NASL commissioner explains his blueprint for US football

âÂÂI was at a point in my life where I like to take on challenges. I like to grow and build things.âÂÂ

These are the words of Bill Peterson, and they explain why he decided to take up the role of Commissioner with the North American Soccer League - effectively the second tier of football in the USA, though there's no set system of relegation and promotion between the divisions. Now entering their third year following rebirth, thereâÂÂs a timid excitement around a league that has ambitious but achievable intentions.

âÂÂThinking more 2012 than 1812â - A sound-bite and a catchy slogan, itâÂÂs also more than that. ItâÂÂs what Peterson tells FourFourTwo is the mission statement of the NASL. Formerly of NFL Europe, he arrives back in the US with ten years experience selling a sport that by his own admission âÂÂdidnâÂÂt even exist in some countriesâÂÂ.

Theoretically that should make him the ideal candidate for a league wanting to establish itself in the zeitgeist of North American sport: âÂÂItâÂÂs a little bit different here because soccer in this country has made it,â he says. âÂÂIt has established itself on a grass roots level. There are existing fan bases in all our markets that know the game, participate in the game, and like to follow the game.âÂÂ

The aim is to get these lads watching the American equivalent of Barnsley

ItâÂÂs those same fan bases heâÂÂs targeting in 2013. How teams promote themselves is an important cornerstone of PetersonâÂÂs strategy moving into the new season - and takes up a large portion of our nigh forty minute dialogue. As he explains, itâÂÂs not enough to just tell people you have a game on Saturday night - you have to draw them in and offer something unique. HeâÂÂs uncomfortable using the term, but as he rightly states: âÂÂWeâÂÂre competing for entertainment dollars.âÂÂ

Delving further into his strategy, he outlines that if the explanation and promotion are executed correctly - then the rest should follow. Part of that comes by maximizing the esoteric access on offer - but the question is how? âÂÂI think you have to be true to the process,â Peterson says, âÂÂWhen youâÂÂre providing access to the players personal lives, their training regiments, or their line of thinking before and after a game, youâÂÂre not trying to attach sponsorship message to it or convince people to buy tickets because we gave you this access, it just becomes who you are. If youâÂÂre a fan of one of our teams, this is what you get to enjoy - thereâÂÂs no price tag attached to it.âÂÂ

While good advertising and recherché content are desirable, the Commissioner wants an enthralling product on the field to be the foundation of the league - with relevance on the pitch being an intrinsic component of the new NASL. âÂÂItâÂÂs about the competition on the field and are the games relevant,â He explains,  âÂÂDoes it means something to the home fans to win? Does it mean something when they lose?âÂÂ

The 2013 season will also see the addition of a new team - although referring to the New York Cosmos in such a way doesnâÂÂt sit quite right given how synonymous their name is with the NASL and US Soccer. ItâÂÂs a history heâÂÂs keen to embrace - believing the impact of the previous iteration of the NASL can only be a positive. âÂÂThe past had a lot of success and really put a spotlight on the game in this country,â He said, âÂÂEven today you can walk around and if you ask somebody with no knowledge of soccer, âÂÂHave you heard of the NASL?â and theyâÂÂll say, âÂÂYesâÂÂ.âÂÂ

The original Cosmos had a handy knack of picking up the odd 'name'

While those claims are somewhat difficult to believe - having a legacy and attachment can certainly be beneficial for a league still in its infancy wanting to expand. Further growth of teams is well considered though, with a multi-faceted view being taken that even includes the offer of help from local government - longevity of product is vital this time around.

âÂÂIf you start to get ahead of yourself and focus on things that are further down the line in the business continuum, then youâÂÂll lose sight of the fact itâÂÂs about fans and filling stadiums,â Peterson explains. âÂÂIts important philosophically that we build this with a strong foundation but also build quickly.âÂÂ

A soccer fan himself, he answers hesitantly when asked which team is close to his heart, claiming several different sides across Europe by virtue of his city-hopping during his days with NFL Europe. âÂÂYouâÂÂre not going to like this, but if IâÂÂm in Germany itâÂÂs Eintracht Frankfurt, Holland itâÂÂs Ajax, and England then Arsenal,â he explains.

While his time Europe provided him with the chance to see some quality soccer up close and personal, his time across the Atlantic also afforded ample opportunity to study the European way of operating - something heâÂÂs looking to now instill in the NASL. âÂÂI believe long term, an alignment with the world calender is a positive thing - and thatâÂÂs what weâÂÂre working towards. We think that model works for a lot of reasons - for fans, for players, for transfers, and rest periods.âÂÂ

So what next for the NASL? Continued growth is the hope, with PetersonâÂÂs one wish for the season to be a double in ticket sales. ItâÂÂs hard not to be impressed by what he has to say. "WeâÂÂre gonna establish this league and its going to be successful long after IâÂÂm gone and its going to benefit the overall game in this country - thatâÂÂs why IâÂÂm here."

The determination in his response suggests that the leagueâÂÂs future is in good hands.