There has been a lot of discussion among fans of the beautiful game in the U.S. about promotion and relegation. On this site, Daniel Feuerstein supported the idea down the road. One of his main points was that, once MLS and USL clubs have their own stadiums … a lot of the obstacles to this format, would then work themselves out.
I agree that if North American soccer were to make this switch, it would take some time and that teams having their own facilities would be a giant step in the right direction. However, another possibility has begun to formulate.
Perhaps, promotion / relegation might find a beginning in this part of the world, a different way. Maybe, in light of the essential “promotion” of Seattle and Portland to MLS franchises (and the flirtation with FC Barcelona Miami), the U.S. based leagues will start with their own model. USL could be a breeding ground for new MLS sides.
For starters, this issue, is an extremely divisive one. It seems that there are just as many advocates of pro / rel, as there are those who like the conference style / playoff setup. I also want to point out that, playoffs and pro / rel could also work together. Personally, I think that pro / rel wouldn’t be a bad idea, but definitely well down the road. However, I don’t want to see the playoff system thrown out the window, as it is culturally relevant to American sports. Not to mention, it’s nice to see different leagues around the world take on their own identity and style in soccer, while still keeping unity with the beautiful game, around the globe.
For pro / rel to ever work … MLS and USL would have to develop a better relationship, of course. And this cooperation could start with a franchise building partnership. Cross – marketing, would benefit both leagues. New teams to the North American system, could start off in USL. There, these clubs could get their bearings straight, learn the ins and outs of the American game. Then, once they have set up shop and proven their ability to thrive as a franchise, make the jump to the top tier.
Granted, MLS would definitely have to compensate the USL financially, as the best teams would be leaving after establishing themselves in the second tier. But, it would be a good way to test markets and organizations, before adding them to the top level. Though the USL – 1 product doesn’t appear to be so different in quality than MLS, solid teams are already jumping ship.
It would be a start anyways, as we are very far away from having soccer – specific, club – owned facilities for all teams. And it would be a good opportunity for foreign investors, such as the Stoke City based ownership group, of the Austin Aztex. This type of arrangement, would allow them to try their hand in the American game, before completely committing their finances.
In the end, I think soccer has the best chance in succeeding in this country, through solidarity. So here’s hoping, one way or the other, to some kind of kinship among all domestic brands, to build the strong foundation we need.