By DAN KARELL
After a 30-day break in the schedule, the North American Soccer League returns to action on Saturday.
With the addition of the New York Cosmos, all eight teams in the league will be opening their fall season’s this weekend, as the quest for a place in the Soccer Bowl and an NASL championship begins.
The Cosmos will make their NASL season debut when they welcome the Ft. Lauderdale Strikers to Hempstead, NY. Pele and other former greats are set to be in attendance to watch the modern iteration of the Cosmos kick off their season.
While the Cosmos will draw most of the attention on opening weekend, Minnesota United host the Atlanta Silverbacks in a rematch of the final game of the Spring Season.
Here’s a closer look at this weekend’s NASL matchups:
NEW YORK COSMOS vs. FORT LAUDERDALE STRIKERS (Saturday, 7pm, SNY)
If there was ever a good matchup for the New York Cosmos to see on their return to professional soccer, it’s one against the team that finished dead last in the NASL standings.
The Fort Lauderdale Strikers had a forgettable Spring Season but made some midseason changes during the break. The organization brought FC Dallas goalkeeper Richard Sanchez into the fold as well as two players from the LA Galaxy: Bryan Gaul and Kenney Walker.
Marcos Senna and the Cosmos have plenty of veterans, and should be ready for their season and home opener.
CAROLINA RAILHAWKS vs. FC EDMONTON (Saturday, 7pm Watch Here)
All the Carolina RailHawks had to do was beat the San Antonio Scorpions in the final week of the Spring Season to earn a Soccer Bowl berth. Instead, a defeat sent them spiraling out of an automatic place in the championship game.
But the talented side with plenty of former MLS players, including Julius James and Austin Da Luz, should be taking the plucky FC Edmonton to task. The RailHawks extended the loan of Enzo Martinez from Real Salt Lake, which should help the home side.
MINNESOTA UNITED FC vs. ATLANTA SILVERBACKS (Saturday, 8pm Watch Here)
Two of the best sides in the NASL meet up on opening weekend, and they’ll renew rivalries from just 30 days back.
The last week of the spring season saw the Atlanta Silverbacks take not just the Spring Season title but also a 3-0 victory on the road to boot. Minnesota United should be out for revenge, and they’ve added two players, Callum Mallace and Sinisa Ubiparipovic, from the Montreal Impact for the Fall Season.
In addition to Ruben Luna, the Silverbacks lost Mark Bloom on loan to Toronto FC for the rest of the season.
SAN ANTONIO SCORPIONS vs. TAMPA BAY ROWDIES (Saturday, 8:30pm Watch Here)
Another key matchup to watch on Saturday features the San Antonio Scorpions hosting the Tampa Bay Rowdies.
The teams finished third (Scorpions) and fourth (Rowdies) respectively, and will certainly be trying to get an early lead over the other in the first week of the season. This month, the Scorpions added a couple of foreign forwards, Borja Rubiato of Spain and Tomasz Zahorski. The Rowdies on Thursday swapped forwards with Minnesota United, sending Mike Ambersley north for Etienne Barbara.
In addition, the Scorpions finished the spring on a high note, winning their last five games.
What do you think of the Week 1 matchups? Do you see the Cosmos starting off with a win? Do you believe that the RailHawks will overcome the spring’s disappointment? What game are you looking forward to watching?
Share your thoughts below.