Serious Analyzing for MLS. Single Table & Promotion / Relegation


All right everyone, let’s get serious right now. We all know what’s on your minds when we discuss what a real football league should be. Or those who think we should be following the model of European Football. Let’s start with something easy like Single Table. Yes it is time to get rid of the two conference standings and have a giant single table.

I believe Red Bull NY proved it last year as they got the final playoff spot, excuse me I should say backed into it and entered the Western Conference playoffs by taking care of both Houston Dynamo & Real Salt Lake. I also believe that it will help to see who makes the playoffs for the MLS Cup.

We all know that the top points winner at the end of the regular season will get the automatic spot for the group stage of the CONCACAF Champions League, but we shouldn’t worry anymore about playoff spots going to two west teams, one to each or two east teams. Single table for MLS should be implemented as soon as possible and it looks like with Philadelphia entering the league next season and if the Barcelona Miami side is coming as well then it should be interesting to see.

Now here comes the part where I have to tell you guys that are begging or drilling into our heads that Promotion / Relegation has to be implemented a.s.a.p.. Have any of you taken a serious look at the situation with both MLS & USL sides? Of course you haven’t. All you guys can do is scream & shout WE WANT IT! WE WANT IT NOW! WE WANT PRO/REL NOW! Well guess what kids, it’s not going to happen now. It’s not going to happen for a very long time.

Do you guys want to know why it’s not going to happen for a very long time? The answers are so easy & simple it’s starring right in front of your faces. It’s not so much that Major League Soccer clubs need their own stadiums, the United Soccer Leagues in their 1st & 2nd divisions need their own stadiums as well. We all know that Red Bull Arena is in the middle of construction in Harrison, NJ and the old Bannister Mall has been demolished in Kansas City, Missouri to create the new soccer complex, city & stadium for the Wizards. But no one wants to take a look below the MLS level and see what’s going on in the USL.

I have compiled a list and the clubs that are playing in certain stadiums or fields. I want you intelligent folks out there that come to this web site and see what I see.

Austin Aztex                        Nelson Field = High School American football
Carolina Railhawks            Wake Med Soccer Park = Not owned by Railhawks
Charleston Battery            Blackbaud Stadium = Owned by the Battery
Cleveland City Stars         TBD (Former Home Krenzler Stadium)
Miami FC Blues                  Tropical Park Stadium = Athletic Complex
Minnesota Thunder         National Sports Center = Athletic Complex
Portland Timbers             PGE Park = Timbers and minor baseball same owner
Rochester Rhinos             Rhinos Stadium = Owned by the Rhinos

Charlotte Eagles                       Restart Field at Charlotte Christian High School
Crystal Palace Baltimore      U of Maryland of Baltimore County
Harrisburg City Islanders    Skyline Sports Complex
Pittsburgh Riverhounds       Chartiers Valley High School
Real Maryland FC                    Richard Montgomery High School
Richmond Kickers                   U of Richmond Stadium
Western Mass Pioneers         Lusitano Stadium
Wilmington Hammerheads  Legion Sports Complex

Now outside of Charleston, Portland & Rochester that own their own stadiums and the owner of the Portland Timbers also owns the Minor League Baseball team Portland Beavers who are affiliated with the San Diego Padres, the rest of the clubs are paying rent to use the facilities to have a season down in USL. Would you look at the Cleveland City Stars. They started two seasons ago in the USL-2nd Division, won the title last year and with the departure of the Atlanta Silverbacks got promotion to USL-first. Their home was at Krenzler Stadium which was on the campus of Cleveland State University and now they are homeless.

If you go to the Cleveland City Stars website or their section on the USL website those three letters TBD (To Be Determined) have popped up. This has fallen to the number one reason why it happened. It’s called rent money. If everyone of you that’s screaming for Pro/Rel to begin a.s.a.p. to start, all levels of pro soccer could end or worse, MLS could end right away.

Every time I see the Fox Football throw up, I keep hearing these fools that call into the show and keep on saying we need to have Promotion / Relegation. Could you imagine if the Charlotte Eagles in 3rd Division of US Soccer wins the title, gets promoted next season to 2nd Division & win that title get promoted to MLS, how much money do you think that high school will charge them to see MLS clubs that are not involved with US Open Cup matches. What would happen if the Eagles get relegated? Their rent would never go down because the high school knows they could go back up through promotion. That’s why I believe USL sides should also concentrate on building their own stadiums. Why do you think in England these clubs below the Premiership & Championship have small grounds, because they own them.

Of course there are those who think that MLS can create their own second division just to quench their thirst for Pro/Rel to happen. This would never work either. MLS is too concerned about their own league to create a second league. That’s why the stadiums must be built in MLS to have financial stability. I also think that if Pro/Rel does happen here the USL sides must be involved. I hope USL President Francisco Marcos can find a way to persuade the rest of the pro sides to construct stadiums no matter how big or small they should be.

If you want my take on this it’s very simple. I honestly wouldn’t mind seeing Pro/Rel happen. But I’m not a fool or blind to the fact that MLS needs to survive for a good long time before any of this happens. That means I will support The Playoffs to help make this league grow. We need to have the playoffs right now to keep things dare I say, American at the moment.

32 thoughts on “Serious Analyzing for MLS. Single Table & Promotion / Relegation”

  1. Thank you! finally some one with some reason. I wrote FFF last tuesday on this very issue. It wasn’t quite as involved as yours was, but I said essentialy the same thing and you’re the first person to finaly say what needed to be said. I’d love to have pro/rel too but it’s just not feasable right now. –forgive any mis-spelled words, I’m in a hurry!! L8

  2. What I disagree is with the pessimistic way of seeing this. There are 7 to 8 teams willing to bid almost 40M to get themselves included into MLS-I. This owners can taste the water at a lower scale before buying into MLS. Why can’t they create a MLS-II with the some blueprint of MLS-I, it musn’t be a JOB for the MLS-I people. When MLS started the owners put 10M, and they built a league from scratch. Find 10 teams to create the second league, from this the Champion goes up, none comes down, until MLS gets to its magic number, 18 or 20 or 24 teams. It does not have to be a pro/rel setup right away, but it will create the anticipation of the system in place. Instead of Charging 30M more for a franchise cost, that money could be bound to finishing a Stadium. These do not need to be “State of the art” stadiums. In 4 years of only teams going up you create a couch of 4 teams which would be the normal teams that fight for relegation. Unless they invest good enough to keep themselves up. By then the system will be established in the head of the owners, and the sponsors, the fans and the MSM, and the general public. You may go down, but you may come back up, (it depends on the love of the fans, to make you work harder). Then you will have the full spectrum of teams, playing for top positions and going to international matches and lower positions fighting for permanence. Think of this format that won’t be in place until a good 4 years from the time MLS-II is created. What about USL-1? It is up to them, MLS-II should be their bridge without breaking their piggy-bank. I don’t believe in the words “Never will work”, I think it is just finding the middle point where everybody is involved and everybody agrees for the good of the game in this country. Otherwise the word “boring” is what will never going to leave the mind of the ones that right are fans and just don’t know it.

    1. I completly agree with your idea Angel.
      I have thought about it so many times.There are things that i would do diferent though ,but the general idea is right on the money.

      Of course this is all theorethically because i think with this USSF promotion and relegation is not happening.They are totally in bed with MLS.
      We have three independent run leagues.Dont you guys think that the USSF ,the entity suposed protect our game,should be working as hard as they could, to get the three organizations to work under some kind of common umbrella?! Instead of be the obvious MLS advocate the are.?

      The current structure of US club soccer is like a roof on top of the heads of our lower leagues clubs.Promotion and relegation will replace that roof and place a window instead.

  3. I agree with Angel that a process needs to be established. I would prefer that a deal be made with USL-1 to participate in the development of a long-term promotion/relegation system. In the first years, the regular season USL-1 winner would play a three match series against the USL-1 playoff victor (with home field advantage to the regular season winner). The winner would apply for admission to MLS, but would have to meet two criteria: an appropriate stadium situation and meeting an attendance target. If they fail to meet these criteria, they are not promoted. Think of the incentive to achieve on the field and to develop proper football (soccer) stadiums.

    After the target number of teams is met (say 20-24), promotion/relegation is established. The bottom two teams in the MLS regular season (unified table, no conferences) have a three game play-off against the USL-1 promotion candidates. The bottom team plays the USL-1 regular season winner. The next to bottom team plays the USL-1 playoff victor (if the regular season winner is also wins the USL-1 playoff, then the regular season runner-up competes for promotion).

    This two-stage system gives existing MLS teams plenty of opportunity to establish themselves in MLS before having to face relegation. It also gives the USL-1 teams great incentive to perform and develop their stadiums and attendance.

    1. Don :
      If the first div is single table with 24 teams and they play home and away games, that is a total of 46 journeys.Too much.

      I used to like the single table idea because thats very soccer culture like.However i’ve gotten to the conclussion that the size of america makes a good case for two conferences, reducing traveling distances and cost. I like 2 conferences of 16 clubs each, that would give us 30 journeys x seasson + playoffs , with is right on target.

      it is not to complicated to design a progressive step by step system in order to get there.

      We all ready have the ideal 3rd division.The PDL has 8 geographicall groups. It is perfect!

      The only thing in our way is ,ironically,the people in charge of US soccer. US is a sleeping soccer giant.

      We have to find a way to take our game back from the cartel!

      PD: FIFPRO nailed it!!

  4. USL and MLS will NEVER agree to pro/rel as long as they are two separate corporate entities. MLS sides have too much invested by guys who want not only wins, but turnstile results.

    And that’s ok.

    I am against pro/rel…for now. Why? Because MLS would run the risk of becoming like other pro/rel leagues around the world. 4 or 5 teams at the top, all the time. Now, the MLS has central control over teams, as opposed to English teams, who basically are autonomous. And that’s good…teams that have money are the winners there.

    Maybe it’s because I am American, but I like that a team that finished last the previous year can theoretically win the title the following year, and vice versa. Playoffs is a good thing, in my opinion, although I do NOT like two eastern teams getting into the final like last year. Structure it like American football playoffs.

    If it’s single table, cool…just make sure there is a fair play off.

    Someone brought up the idea that the bottom 2 or 3 teams could be “points relegated” on another site. Like, if you finished last, you start the season at negative 3 points. Sounds kinda cool to me.


  5. Well, the power was overwhelmingly in the East last year, Fire, Red Bull and of course, the Champs were extraordinarily good and the West aside from a great Real Salt Lake story and the Dynamo were much weaker.

  6. The Minnesota Thunder seem to play the majority of their games at Griffith Park, a nice highschool football stadium but an hs stadium all the same. The location is highly accessible though while the one listed above is way up in a northern suburb.

  7. If we aren’t going to have promotion/relegation, let us at least have a unified league table. The only fair way to determine who makes the playoffs is for every team to play every other team home and away. That way all teams face exactly the same task in making the playoffs. Under a conference system with an unbalanced schedule, a team can amass more points than another by playing more of their games in a weaker conference. The top eight teams make the playoffs on merit, not who they played and how often.

    Question. Why does MLS use the aggregate score over two games, instead of including the away goal rule to break ties? I understand the theory of the away goal rule is to encourage the away team to seek to score, rather than playing for a goalless draw. I have seen the negative of using the aggregate in the USL-1 with Portland vs Atlanta in 2008. Portland (with the better season record by far, went to Atlanta and they played to a 1-1 draw. Atlanta came to Portland and played for a draw which they got (0-0). Atlanta won and advanced to the finals on penalty kicks. Fair enough, they got there under the rules. However, if the rule had included the away goal rule, then Atlanta would have had to attack. They still might have won, but the game would have been far more entertaining.

  8. USL and MLS will NEVER agree to pro/rel as long as they are two separate corporate entities. MLS sides have too much invested by guys who want not only wins, but turnstile results.

    This is not much of an argument. The Premier League and the Football League are separate corporate entities as well.
    NEVER say NEVER. If the USL grows and teams build their own stadiums who knows what will happen in the future!

  9. Don. Why would there be a unified table? How would that work? That means all the clubs in the USL pro leagues jump to MLS and if you would have looked at my list, only Charleston, Portland & Rochester have stadiums.

    It’s like Robert Kraft who owns the Patriots in the NFL & the Revolution in MLS. He can have both teams their because he owns the stadium. Qwest Field that has the NFL Seahawks & soon the Sounders for this year in MLS because the owner of the Seahawks is a member of the ownership group of the Sounders to play in his Qwest FIeld. No rent to pay.

    If there is a unified table Don then within a year or two more than half of those clubs would lose money in the worst way. Then you would see all of the USL-2 sides and half of the USL-1 sides die because the rent money would go up sustantial high.

    If MLS did create their own second division it’s not coming right away. They would be in the same boat for an MLS-2 league as they were in the MLS-1 league when it got started in 1996. Do you honestly believe MLS-2 would continue to exist? MLS-1 is breathing right now. Half of the houses are built and the neighborhood has to evolve for a good while before they can create this supposed MLS-2 league.

    If you want my honest opinion guys, let’s concentrate our concerns on the rules of acquiring players and end the silly Discovery Player rule. Let’s be concerned about the C.B.A. ending this season in December of 09.

  10. MLS has enough issues right now to not have to tackle relegation/promotion.

    Keep in mind the USL and MLS used to have a cooperative agreement but sometime earlier this decade it was broken off.

  11. I love both the playoffs and a single table. Having both will surely give Don Garber what he wants.
    It’s MEDIA ATTENTION. At the end of the regular season you crown a league champion with all
    the on field pomp and ceremony it deserves. You then proceed as usual with the playoffs and
    crown a Cup Champion. MLS Cup remains the same but the Supporters Sheild gets replaced
    with a proper League Trophy. The regular season will become at long last meanigfull with the media
    finding tons more stories to write about. Who’s top of the table? Who’s bottom? Who’s making a
    move up and who’s slipping down.? And guess what folks? The playoffs have yet to start. Let’s have a double whammy League & Cup Champion and finally put MLS on the map.
    Are you listening Don Garber?

  12. Sorry if I misled some readers about my comment on a unified table. I did not mean to unify the two leagues, but to treat MLS as a single league without conferences, at least.

  13. Thanks for the fix Don. I have also said get rid of the Conference standings and let’s have it all in one league table.

  14. Fine!! No Promotion Relegation!! But atleast have single table!! forget the conferences, and the top 8 teams go to the play-offs for the MLS Cup final, and no bye weeks for anybody!! THats absurd, everybody plays every game of play-offs, and make them all two games play-offs!! that would make the MLS so much better!!

  15. Daniel – the stadium argument may be germane, but misses a larger point: The closed league American pro sports franchise model will always stifle the growth of a global sport like soccer. This system allows executives at MLS wide latitude to continue developmentally disabling the quality of play with corporate measures like ridiculously low salary caps, roster size and star player allocations.

    Indeed, I think promotion and relegation have been central to the unparalleled global popularity of the sport. In an open league structure Supporters have a huge stake in the team – their numbers can define the it’s success or failure – and they know it. I believe this is at the root of the passion that exemplifies the sport.

    So if you want a stunted stepbrother of the NFL with horrible branding, micromanaged from their NYC league office – this MLS is your league. I don’t think the current execs and owners will ever accept this argument, as they believe that their NYC star chamber makes better decisions than individual owners, players and fans – and I think it will be their demise. Hopefully I’m wrong.

    Regardless, it’s time to take the sport back from them.

    As far as your stadium argument goes – the solution is simple: The top division has stadium standards that must be met in order to be promoted. Set promotion in place two or three seasons out to give USL teams time to farm out investors for their run at glory, and anyway they’ll need it – because the newly empowered fans, aware that their support could raise the team to a new division, would begin to come out in much larger numbers.

  16. Everyone interested in promotion/relegation needs to forget about for a few years and focus on making the MLS better. Like others have said I too am for getting rid of the stupid conferences. The salary cap needs to be raised a lot, but not gotten rid of for now. MLS desperately needs so parity right now so all the teams gave gain financial strength. Because this is American soccer, I don’t think that playoffs will ever NOT be part of the MLS season. The designated player rule is also stupid. The salary cap takes care of having one team dominate, so who cares how many foreign players there are on a team.

    As for Ted’s case about becoming a stepbrother of the NFL, I really hope that doesn’t happen. The whole league, and future teams, need to take a page from the Seattle Sounders. They are very successful in their first season as a franchise. The fans also have a stake in the team. Sure, Seattle has a lot of European residents, but if a team is selling out every game to 30,000 fans and is successful, I assume that other teams can and should be doing better.

  17. I disagree with this statement ….”Of course there are those who think that MLS can create their own second division just to quench their thirst for Pro/Rel to happen. This would never work either. MLS is too concerned about their own league to create a second league.”

    The fact that the MLS is too concered with its own league is not a reason for Pro/Rel not to “work”, its just a reason that under current ownership it will be hard to make it happen. In fact it would work. There will be 18 teams after 2011, and there has been even more interest beyond that in purchasing into the MLS, and at some point in the future, there will be significant demand for to own new clubs. The options are pretty clear, expand to a 32 team league alla the NFL, or expand into a second divsion and set up PRO/REL. Are you telling me that ONLY a 32 team league will “work”? Bull shit, you know damn well that PRO/REL will work, its just if the ownership will have the balls to do it.

  18. In view of the TOA announcement to start up an intermediate league it looks to me like the pressure is growing for this solution.

    Although it will be a gradual development I can see it happening in 5 years time, based on the example in Japan.

    MLS has partnered with the J-League to share administrative experience of best practice and how to establish a solid structural base (the Pan-Pacific tournament is the only tangible product so far), so it wouldn’t surprise me if the TOA announcement is a legal tactic to move in the direction of international normalization and has been given tacit MLS backing.

    A comparison between the soccer pyramids in the two countries may illuminate, considering they are only a few years apart in development.

  19. The argument of stadiums is one that have been used all the time to say pro/rel wont work. This argument is very weak.
    All the countries that use pro/rel have standards for clubs to be promoted. One of those standards have to do with their home fields. If a club dont meet the required stadium standard, it wont be promoted. If a club is seeking promotion , it has the bigger incentive to make sure their stadium is promotion ready.

    Where none of you posting against pro/rel aware of that? uhmmm?!?!?!?!?

    1. from wikipedia:

      Teams in line for promotion may have to satisfy certain non-playing conditions in order to be accepted by the higher league, such as financial solvency, stadium capacity, and facilities. If these are not satisfied, a lower-ranked team may be promoted in their place, or a team in the league above may be saved from relegation.

      ….. The number of teams promoted between leagues or divisions varies, and promotion is usually contingent on meeting criteria set by the higher league, especially concerning appropriate facilities and finances.

      we should also take a look a Japan’s league,since it started in 1992,only 3 years before MLS

      it will give us a good idea of the MLS “growth” they are trying to sell us.

  20. Did you even read the article, Roger? I’m thinking NO YOU DIDN’T! Otherwise, you wouldn’t have spouted off on your nonsense. Go back to school, boy!

  21. this article is 100% correct. the mls will never go pro/rel anytime soon.

    which is why i barely watch the mls.

    untill theres something to truly fight for. ill be supporting clubs thats have the balls to risk it all.

  22. That’s quite alright, Typical Soccer Fan. MLS will continue to grow and prosper without the need of whinny crybaby Europoser snobs like you.

  23. here is where i think your argument falls short.

    if you had pro/rel teams in the second tier USl would instantly see their value increase. Why ? because these teams would now have a chance to get into the top league without paying the 40 mil(or whatever it is) franchise fee. You would have investors lining up to purchase these teams, invest in them , upgrade facilities, and possibly build new soccer specific parks.

    Take a club like AC St Louis. They currently play on a ground that holds 6,200. Certainly not a ground that would qualify for promotion. But St Louis is a great market and would be very attractive to investors. A modest ground that could hold 15k could be had for a pittance of what the MLS franchise fee would be and with the rest of the investment going towards players AC St Louis could find themselves in MLS .

    You could insert any number of USL teams into this scenerio.

  24. There are other reasons why promotion and relegation is not on the agenda of our “soccer lords”. All the “it wont work” speech is just smoke thrown in our faces.

    The statiums issue is very easy to solve. There has to be criteria set for 1st ,2nd and 3rd div stadiums. Club dont meet that criteria; club is not elegible for promotion. Problem solved.

    One of the frequent strategies used against promotion and relegation is “reversed logic” . To take arguments that could be very much in favor of promotion and relegation, and using it against it.

    The stadiums issue is a good example of that reversed logic. Could you think of a best incentive for our lower division clubs to find ways to invest on their stadiums than the posibility of promotion. Why would they want to invest on bigger and better stadiums now that they are in soccer limbo?

  25. SATIRE–Fellow hardcore U.S. soccer fans, I appreciate your love for soccer across the world, and I respect your choices; but I have to bring you unfortunate news: a single table will not work in MLS, because it’s MLS.

    We here at MLS like to have a parity-ridden league that emphasizes conferences above all else. The only way to properly develop artificial rivalries is to give each team its own trophy each year to gather media attention, first and foremost. Secondly, we must have this conference play so that these rivalries can develop with each “rival” playing each other 4-5 teams a season. We believe it’ll quench the fan’s thirst for rivalry, which comes before fixing our so-called “corrupt” structure. It’s conferences! Deal with it.

    This is AMURICA. We do things the AMURICAN way.

    Don’t even bother asking about promotion and relegation. It’ll NEVER happen.

  26. Well i think that Promotion/Relegation is needed and the USL sides could and should be the Division 2 for MLS. I honestly think that the USL really and i mean really need stadiums. I think soccer isn’t growing in America because of the not having of a pro/rel system because it is not creating competition around the teams. If you have it teams would be fight really hard to avoid the 3 spots that declares you are relegated. That’s what i think and also STADIUMS IS NEEDED FOR ALL TEAMS FOR THE MLS AND USL TEAMS!!! IT NEEDS TO BE BUILT AS SOON AS POSSIBLE!!!!

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