NASL's Atlanta Silverbacks halt operations for at least 2016

The Atlanta Silverbacks will halt operations for at least the 2016 season, the North American Soccer League has announced.

The club had been run by the second-tier NASL last season while the league searched for new ownership.

But the task has become increasingly more challenging as top-flight Major League Soccer prepares to bring in Atlanta United FC, owned by the NFL's Atlanta Falcons owner Arthur Blank, for the 2017 season.

"The goal all along has been to secure committed local ownership in Atlanta, but despite significant conversations with a number of interested parties, we were unable to identify a group that could lead the Silverbacks in a direction consistent with the rest of our clubs," NASL commissioner Bill Peterson said.

"It's unfortunate, and particularly sad for the Silverbacks' passionate fan base, which has supported the club tremendously throughout the years."

NASL finished first in the league's 2013 spring season under technical director Eric Wynalda, but otherwise has always been in the lower half of the table.

"This is obviously a disappointing day for anyone that has been involved with the club over the years," Silverbacks president Andy Smith said in a statement.

"The organization created some great memories for the city of Atlanta and its soccer fans, but as we all know, you need ownership to continue on. We appreciate all of the time and effort the league and its owners have invested in their search for long-term Silverbacks ownership -- they truly turned over every rock in the process.

"On behalf of the organization, I want to thank all of our staff members, players, coaches, partners, and most importantly fans for their loyal support."

The Silverbacks are the second team to leave the NASL in the offseason, after the San Antonio Scorpions sold their stadium to a new team that will operate in the third-tier USL with an MLS partnership.

The NASL plan to add teams in Miami, Oklahoma City and Puerto Rico next season.