Monday, February 3, 2014

Puerto Rico Islanders

Going into the 2013 NASL season, the Islanders were put on hiatus to figure out financial problems. With the folding of the Strikers after Miami was established in the MLS, the Ponce De Leon Cup was over. In 2018, when the NASL was trying to bring up established team, rumbling from the island territory was the owners would get the band back together in San Juan. The big backing behind the reincarnation was Puerto Rico’s push for statehood. The Islanders started play in 2020, a completely Puerto Rican roster was constructed for the inaugural season, with a new crest, uniforms, and minor renovations to Estadio Juan Ramon. The best players on the Island would be attracted to the team due to the rising stock of US Soccer. The Puerto Rican National Team coach was hired for the job, with the role of building up the small island nation’s team, and using the extra time with the Islanders as practice for FIFA games. This was short lived, because Puerto Rico was voted into the United States as the 51st state in 2021. They would begin play in the US Open Cup in 2022. They motioned to FIFA to have them continue playing as Puerto Rico, in the way Wales and Scotland are separate from the UK. The motion was accepted due to special circumstances, but players could choose to play for the US or Puerto Rico. They continued to play in the NASL. WIth the large number of upstart teams, the competition was fierce, but years behind the established NASL teams. In the early years, the biggest achievement was denying defending champ Indianapolis a playoff spot in 2021. The team represented the best chance to play big league soccer, so new young talent jumped to the Islander’s programs, supplying the team with talent immediately. As the team matured, their play improved. But due to the team not being able to get top players to come play on the island, they had to rely mostly from internal. They signed two 35 year old MLS players, who saw the new gig as a paid vacation. They became the biggest team in the Caribbean, attracting a striker from Jamaica, and a defender from Bermuda. They helped only a little bit. The NASL became very strong as the 2030 season approached. Some very talented players came through the system, and the Islanders would sell them often to flip the price and have a big return on them. The team is still growing the game in Puerto Rico, building a respectable national team. Due to the new US Soccer rules, the 15 domestic player minimum would limit the Islander’s ability to retain the US players, meaning most of the players are planning on doing double duty in playing or the national team and Islanders. They still can’t compete in League Two, and might fall into relegation, but their time will come. The logo is an old logo I recreated. It has the lookouts on Spanish forts overlooking the Caribbean. Orange is the main focus here to match their old duds. The clash is a combination of the colors in the crest.

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