Hollywood United FC's money move has strengthened the nascent National Premier Soccer League's status while leaving the better-heeled Premier Development League, the other national semipro/amateur men's soccer league in America, scrambling to reset its schedule.
HUFC, which has several competitive teams in addition to the celebrity side featuring Anthony LaPaglia in the nets, last month departed the PDL to hook up with the Galt, Calif.-based NPSL, a growing outfit that promises owners more freedom and power and far lower costs.
The Hitmen, a professional team coached by former Galaxy forward Jose Botello, debuted in the new league Saturday night, eclipsing the first-year Santa Ana Winds, 1-0. Arturo Albaran's early goal was the difference in the Western Division clash at Santa Ana Stadium.
The PDL season kicks off at the end of the month -- HUFC was supposed to open at Fresno Fuego on April 29 -- and the Tampa, Fla.-based United Soccer Leagues, which administers the PDL and several other national leagues, must alter its Western Conference schedule.
A league spokesman said the plan was to announce a new slate on Wednesday. There are four L.A.-area teams remaining in the PDL -- L.A. Legends (who will play at Huntington Park High School), Orange County Blue Star (Concordia University in Irvine), Southern California Seahorses (Biola University in La Mirada) and Ventura County Fusion (Ventura College) -- after HUFC and, previously, Lancaster-based Rattlers FC, bolted for the NPSL. Thousand Oaks-based FC Hasental also has joined the league, giving it four L.A. teams, too.
“It's an area we've been trying to get into quite a while,” said Dan Trainor, the NPSL commissioner. “We know about the teams there. It's a matter of … I'll call it coming of age.”
The NPSL, in its seventh season, has grown to 39 teams in four divisions stretching from San Diego to New Hampshire and is increasingly becoming a viable challenger to the PDL. The leagues have had an icy relationship that started to thaw after Atlanta-based NuRock Soccer Holdings in August 2009 purchased the USL from Nike, mostly a clash of business philosophy with a little history: the NPSL was a spinoff from the Sacramento-based Women's Premier Soccer League, which broke off from the USL's W-League in 1998.
The USL is not unlike most sports leagues in this country, with administered by a strong, centralized league office. The power in the NPSL, as in the WPSL, is with the club owners, who own stakes in the league and serve on the board of directors. Trainor is the top administrator, but he has a day job, too.
The most significant difference: To join the NPSL, it's a $5,000 fee. The PDL's, Trainor said, is more than 10 times that. Messages left Monday for PDL senior director Jeff McRaney were not returned.
“There were a number of reasons we made the move,” said Hollywood United general manager Jason Mathot. “Ultimately, it's a high level of competition -- NPSL teams were beating PDL teams in U.S. Open Cup play. We know the teams in the league, and it's a good standard of play. And financially, owners and teams have a stake in the league and a lot more voice in how things are done. …
“It was an easy decision. They definitely gave us a better option going forward.”
OTHER GAMES: FC Hasental lost in its debut match Sunday at San Diego Flash. Johnny Gonzalez scored for Hasental in the 3-1 defeat. … San Diego Boca FC and defending NPSL champion Sonoma County Sol also won Western Division openers.
NATIONAL PREMIER SOCCER LEAGUE
Last week's results (home teams listed first)
Bay Area Ambassadors FC 1 (Leslie pen. 30), Sonoma County Sol 3 (Daly 28, Langwith 43, Maylock 79)
Santa Ana Winds 0, Hollywood United FC 1 (Albaran 6)
San Diego Boca FC 2 (Lopez 31, Picou 89), Real San Jose 1 (Cuevas 84)
San Diego Flash 3 (Emeanua 48, pen. 54, Ortega 65), FC Hasental 1 (Gonzalez 45)
Southwest: San Diego Flash 3 points, San Diego Boca FC 3, Hollywood United FC 3, Rattlers FC 0, Santa Ana Winds 0, FC Hasental 0.
Northwest: Sonoma County Sol 3; Sacramento Gold 0, Real San Jose 0, Bay Area Ambassadors 0.
This week's games (all times Pacific)
Hollywood United vs. San Diego Flash at Hollywood HS, 7 p.m.
FC Hasental vs. San Diego Boca FC at Balboa Stadium (San Diego), 7 p.m.
Bay Area Ambassadors FC vs. Sacramento Gold at Chabot College (Hayward), 7 p.m.
LOCAL NPSL SCHEDULES
FC HASENTAL (Thousand Oaks)
Home games: Calabasas HS
April 9: at San Diego Boca (Balboa Stadium/San Diego), 7 p.m.
April 16: vs. Santa Ana Winds, 7 p.m.
April 23: at Rattlers FC (Palmdale HS), TBA
April 30: vs. Bay Area Ambassadors, 7 p.m.
May 7: at Sonoma County Sol (Sonoma State University/Rohnert Park), 7 p.m.
May 14: vs San Diego Flash, 7 p.m.
May 15: vs. San Diego Boca, 3 p.m.
May 22: at Sacramento Gold (River City HS/West Sacramento), 5 p.m.
May 28: vs. Rattlers FC, 7 p.m.
June 4: vs. Real San Jose, 7 p.m.
June 18: at Hollywood United FC (Hollywood HS), 7 p.m.
June 25: vs. San Diego Boca, 7 p.m.
July 2: at Santa Ana Winds (Santa Ana Stadium), 7 p.m.
HOLLYWOOD UNITED FC HITMEN (Los Angeles)
Home games: Hollywood HS (Hollywood)
April 9: vs. San Diego Flash, 7 p.m.
April 16: at Sonoma County Sol (Sonoma State University/Rohnert Park), 7 p.m.
April 17: at Sacramento Gold (River City HS/West Sacramento), 5 p.m.
April 23: vs. Real San Jose, 7 p.m.
May 1: vs. San Diego Boca, 3 p.m.
May 8: vs. Bay Area Ambassadors, 3 p.m.
May 14: vs. Sacramento Gold, 7 p.m.
May 21: at Bay Area Ambassadors (Chabot College/Hayward), 7 p.m.
May 28: at Real San Jose (Yerba Buena HS/San Jose), 7:30 p.m.
June 11: vs. Sonoma County Sol, 7 p.m.
June 18: vs. FC Hasental, 7 p.m.
July 1: at Rattlers FC (Palmdale HS), 5 p.m.
July 3: at San Diego Flash (Westview HS/San Diego), 3 p.m.
RATTLERS FC (Lancaster)
Home games: Palmdale HS
April 23: vs. FC Hasental, TBA
April 30: vs. San Diego Boca, 5 p.m.
May 7: at Santa Ana Winds (Santa Ana Stadium), 7 p.m.
May 14: at Real San Jose (Yerba Buena HS/San Jose), 7:30 p.m.
May 21: at San Diego Boca (Balboa Stadium/San Diego), 7 p.m.
May 22: at San Diego Flash (Westview HS/San Diego), 3 p.m.
May 28: at FC Hasental (Calabasas HS), 7 p.m.
June 4: at Sonoma County Sol (Sonoma State University/Rohnert Park), 7 p.m.
June 5: at Bay Area Ambassadors (Chabot College/Hayward), 3 p.m.
June 11: vs. Sacramento Gold, 5 p.m.
June 18: vs. Santa Ana Winds, 5 p.m.
June 25: vs. San Diego Boca, 5 p.m.
July 1: vs. Hollywood United, 5 p.m.
July 2: vs. San Diego Flash, 5 p.m.
SANTA ANA WINDS (Santa Ana)
Home games: Santa Ana Stadium
April 16: at FC Hasental (Calabasas HS), 7 p.m.
April 23: at San Diego Boca (Balboa Stadium/San Diego), 7 p.m.
May 7: vs. Rattlers FC, 7 p.m.
May 14: vs. San Diego Boca, 7 p.m.
May 21: vs. Real San Jose, 7 p.m.
May 28: at Bay Area Ambassadors (Chabot College/Hayward), 7 p.m.
June 4: vs. San Diego Flash, 7 p.m.
June 12: vs. Sacramento Gold, 3 p.m.
June 18: at Rattlers FC (Palmdale HS), 5 p.m.
June 19: at San Diego Flash (Westview HS/San Diego), 3 p.m.
June 25: at Sonoma County Sol (Sonoma State University/Rohnert Park), 7 p.m.
July 2: vs. FC Hasental, 7 p.m.
July 3: at San Diego Boca (Balboa HS/San Diego), 3 p.m.