NASL exploring expansion to San Diego, Orange County

The financially troubled North American Soccer League could be adding teams in San Diego and Orange County as early as this summer.

Peter Wilt — who led the Chicago Fire to an MLS Cup title as team president and general manager, then helped put an NASL team in Indianapolis — said Wednesday that he is working with two groups to study the feasibility of placing expansion teams in Southern California.

“We’re looking at a business plan,” Wilt said. “No decisions have been made.”

Wilt declined to name his clients but said discussions have been ongoing for months in the hopes of having both teams on the field for the fall season, which begins in July. Wilt said his group, Club 9, is looking at several sites in Orange County.

However, all this may be contingent on the league surviving into next summer. The NASL, on the second tier of the U.S. soccer pyramid behind only Major League Soccer, has already lost three teams this off-season, including the three-time champion New York Cosmos, who disbanded earlier this month. Others may follow, with clubs in Florida and Oklahoma struggling to stay afloat.

Amid that uncertainly, the 7-year-old league has already placed one new franchise in San Francisco. The San Francisco Deltas are scheduled to play in 2017 in Kezar Stadium in Golden Gate Park, the former home of the San Francisco 49ers. Former Galaxy defender Todd Dunivant is the team’s director of business development and soccer operations.

The league, which had planned to field at least 18 franchises by 2018, expects to play next year with eight to 10 teams, down from 12 in 2016. The league is also facing trouble off the field, where the third-tier USL, which continues to grow with the support of MLS, is pushing to supplant the NASL as North America’s second-tier league.

The U.S. Soccer Federation is expected to make a decision regarding league status shortly.

Staff writer Dylan Hernandez contributed to this report.

kevin.baxter@latimes.com

Twitter: kbaxter11

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