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USL’s Legacy Will Continue into the Future

usl soccer field1 300x197 USLs Legacy Will Continue into the Future

With yesterday’s announcement that the Rochester Rhinos will be joining the yet to be officially sanctioned (new) North American Soccer League (NASL), further gloom undoubtedly spread over Tampa about the future of the United Soccer Leagues (USL).

The Rhinos are a classic franchise and should they and the other NASL sides not participate in USL for the 2010 season, the once vibrant professional division of the league will be reduced to a moderate number of small market clubs with limited followings. (The expansion FC New York is by all accounts a disaster and I am not sure they will kick a ball in 2010)

The NASL has many of the right ideas about moving professional soccer forward in this country: ideas that were either not considered or not implemented by USL (or by MLS for that matter).  While I would argue the business plan for the NASL is sound, and the leadership of the new league is excellent it is hard not to feel some sentiment for USL in these transitional times.

The league, after all kept the flame of the sport alive for so many communities before MLS was formed and kept a presence in many critical markets after 1996. The league also has done more to bring the sport to smaller communities throughout the country than anyone, including the USSF, whose outreach programs have been less extensive and dare I say less successful than those of USL.

I would also like to pay tribute to Francisco Marcos. Clearly, the structure of USL does not fit a professional football outfit in 2010. However, that structure which was built by Marcos was exactly what this country needed in the late 1980s and throughout the 1990s. Without Marcos’ work, I have no hesitation in saying the US would not have qualified for six consecutive World Cups.

Perhaps, the burden of running a professional division in the face of an indifferent soccer press whose understanding of the sport beyond MLS is limited was a hindrance. Perhaps, it was USL’s own odd business model which allows the league to be managed by an outside entity. Perhaps it was USL’s failure to integrate its club leadership in the decision making process. Or perhaps, the league and its entities were just too big, and dispersed throughout the continent.

Whatever the case, USL has failed in satisfying the owners of the clubs in its biggest markets. Nothing is going to change that fact now, so my thinking is that the league needs to get back to what it has done best for so many years: player development at both the youth and semi professional levels.

USL can continue to do what MLS does not do: Developing youngsters, sponsoring high level national youth soccer tournaments, and giving college kids a place to play during the closed season. European leagues are littered with players who participated in one USL program or another in their formative years. This is USL’s legacy and it will continue into the future, no doubt.

The loss of several major professional clubs may hurt USL’s image but may actually free the league up to concentrate on what’s best for its future and the future of American Soccer.

About Kartik Krishnaiyer

A lifelong lover of soccer, the beautiful game, he served from January 2010 until May 2013 as the Director of Communications and Public Relations for the North American Soccer League (NASL). Raised on the Fort Lauderdale Strikers of the old NASL, Krishnaiyer previously hosted the American Soccer Show on the Champions Soccer Radio Network, the Major League Soccer Talk podcast and the EPL Talk Podcast. His soccer writing has been featured by several media outlets including The Guardian and The Telegraph. He is the author of the book Blue With Envy about Manchester City FC. View all posts by Kartik Krishnaiyer →
This entry was posted in Leagues: Major League Soccer, USL. Bookmark the permalink.

29 Responses to USL’s Legacy Will Continue into the Future

  1. Mike says:

    Good call Kartik, I agree the USL should focus on player development as it’s main aim now.

  2. This One Guy In Detroit says:

    For the good of the sport in this country, they really, really, REALLY need to drop the “NASL” name. It will only sow confusion among the general public, confusion that is subtly detrimental to the growth of the game.

    It just breeds historical inefficiency too. The big-picture story of U.S. soccer will instantly get unnecessarily complicated. Now everyone will have to make an effort to distinguish “NASL” from “NASL” — in writing, in speech, in visuals, all of it. Imagine a Google search for information about America’s soccer league of the ’70s and ’80s. It’s just going to be a big mess.

    Deploying the NASL name is just lame on a number of levels.

    • Jack says:

      Agreed. IMHO, I believe the sport in America and the league would benefit from a name that ties them to MLS to establishthe relationship. Perhaps ‘MLS Division 2.’

      Any other ideas from posters to this site? Maybe we could start a grass-roots effort to allow the fans to name the league much like with the teams in MLS.

  3. dave says:

    Oh, my, yes, we must never never never revive the NASL name, it would confuse the retards and lead to the complete destruction of soccer as we know it! :rolleyes:

  4. This One Guy In Detroit says:

    “Oh, my, yes, we must never never never revive the NASL name, it would confuse the retards and lead to the complete destruction of soccer as we know it!”

    This is why I’m starting to hate the Internet, and I’m not being facetious. It’s nearly impossible to make a reasoned, measured point without someone blustering in to misrepresent what you’ve written and venomously attacking the strawman they’ve just created. It just turns the whole thing into a waste of time. I mean, why should I have bothered carefully making my point?

    So do you have anything to say about what I actually wrote, dave, or are you just happier pleasing yourself by squirting sarcasm onto the thread?

  5. Honestly I see the USL First Division as a millstone to the PDL, and even the Second Division.

    Ideally I’d like to see a series of regionialized leagues at the PDL level, more teams to create more opportunities for players.

    I hope the NASL clubs don’t abandon youth either, hopefully they can patch it up with the USL, or if that mountain is indeed impassable, put clubs in the NPSL.

  6. hendrix says:

    how is the NASL confusing to the general public? There was an NASL people, even the average person, probably remembers. Now there’s the NASL resurrected from the dead. How is that hard to understand?

    Second, searching for NASL stuff from the 70s and 80s will be hard now? Huh? Google makes that easy. Just add more search terms, buddy. If someone is searching for the NASL on Google, they are probably smart enough to find what they are looking for — whether it’s the current or old NASL.

    Your argument is like saying the Sounders shouldn’t have been called the Sounders because Seattlites might be confused… “WHOA… Sounders? Isn’t that a USL team? What… isn’t that an NASL team? I’m so confused!!!”

    • This One Guy In Detroit says:

      “how is the NASL confusing to the general public?”

      How is NOT confusing? The word “NASL” has an existing, established meaning: the defunct first-division soccer league in the United States that drew players such as Pele before folding in 1984. It has a distinct definition. Now the word is being summoned to describe something entirely different. That is inherently ripe for confusion.

      “Just add more search terms, buddy.”

      Sigh. That’s the entire point: Reusing the NASL name causes inefficiency. The Google example is merely an illustration — web search results aren’t the primary concern here. It’s simply an example to show how this creates an unnecessary historical wrinkle, how it injects imprecision and blurriness.

      The word “NASL” describes a distinct thing, with its own distinct meaning and legacy. Applying the word to something new — a thing that has nothing to do with the old thing — is just filled with clunkiness.

    • This One Guy In Detroit says:

      Sorry to double post, but I just realized this gets to the heart of the matter:

      “There was an NASL people, even the average person, probably remembers. Now there’s the NASL resurrected from the dead. “

      If this actually were the case,then it would be different. But it’s not the case. The NASL isn’t being resurrected from the dead. The word “NASL” is being resurrected and applied to something entirely different.

      We have a first-division soccer league in this country. It’s called MLS. We don’t need “NASL” floating around in the public consciousness, breeding confusion, because broadly speaking, that word used to mean what MLS currently means. The word “NASL” needs to exist in the past. It is its own unique chapter, and reactivating it only risks blurring the public’s understanding of what’s what. Which can only hurt MLS and thus, ultimately, soccer overall.

  7. Lucky Luciano says:

    Old NASL “entirely different” to new NASL?

    This is why I am starting to hate the internet….a soccer league in North America is not at all *entirely different* to a soccer league in North America is it?

    Come on man.

    • This One Guy In Detroit says:

      “a soccer league in North America is not at all *entirely different* to a soccer league in North America is it?”

      Within the context of soccer — which is the relevant context here — yes, it’s entirely different. And that matters when it potentially blurs the perceived lines between first and second divisions, which could do damage to the existing first division league.

      I realize that not everyone is a marketing expert, or linguist, or journalist, or PR professional, or whatever (and thank God for that). But I am kind of surprised at people’s dismissal of the importance of perceptions, the way imaging and branding work, and the subtleties of it all. Stuff in that arena isn’t so black and white, the way some here apparently think it is.

  8. Scott says:

    “While I would argue the business plan for the NASL is sound…”

    What, exactly, IS the NASL’s “business plan,” aside from just not being in the USL? All I’ve seen from them so far is an approximation of, “Hey kids! Let’s put on a soccer league!”

  9. NCBear says:

    Kartik,

    I wouldn’t count the New York team out just yet. Rumor has it that they’ll be relaunching their website next week. However, if a team does take the field next season, I have a feeling that they’ll be oddly reminiscent of the California Victory.

  10. Ethan says:

    I got mixed feelings on the new NASL. For one, I think it’s selfish for these team owners to break off, and possibly detrememtal to American soccer, if their intention is to compete with MLS. We got a major league, and we don’t need another. If we’re talking about the major market teams in the minor league breaking off, because they don’t feel like they’re gettin a fair shake, to start a new minor league, then I think that’s more reasonable.

    I got mixed feelings about their name as well. It’s like your dad divorcing your mother, Alice, and a few years later marrying you new stepmother, Alice. It might all work out in the end, but it still leaves a foul taste in your mouth…

    • This One Guy In Detroit says:

      It’s more like your dad divorcing your mother, Alice, then having a sex change and marrying Bill, and insisting you call him Alice.

  11. ERic says:

    “USL can continue to do what MLS does not do: Developing youngsters, sponsoring high level national youth soccer tournaments, and giving college kids a place to play during the closed season.”

    The thing is, the USL is being squeezed from both ends. The USS Development Academy is going after the Y-League, and is probably doing it better, in part because it includes more MLS sponsored teams.

    The NPSL is working hard at taking the legs out from under the PDL, beating them by being more locally managed and being cheaper. Not that I know how many college kids end up there over the PDL, but it’s really starting to look like the USL is a dinosaur, and everyone else is starting to feed on the carcass. It just doesn’t realize its dead yet.

    • Bobby Brandon says:

      I don’t think the PDL is in trouble, it’ll exist along side the NPSL. There’s plenty of room at the base of the pyramid.

      For the most part, PDL teams are better put together than NPSL teams. Don’t get me wrong, the NPSL has some gems like Chattanooga. But it still has some ways to go. Maybe they should try to link up with the NASL.

  12. Robert says:

    While we may have seen the end of the top tier league in the USL, let’s hope the rest of the organization can continue the fine work in player development. In a country as large as the USA, the more options available for aspiring players (and coaches, and referees for that matter) to develop and promote their skills, the better.

    The “promotion” of Seattle to MLS certainly signaled trouble for the rest of USL-1, and the eventual moves of Vancouver and Portland secured it. The quality of play in USL-1 is not bad, but can “minor league” teams really make an impact in the American sports landscape? Despite how little attention MLS gets in the mainstream media, it is still considered the top level of professional soccer in the US by the general public. At least with the name NASL, the new league will get some press — where they go from there I look forward to watching unfold.

  13. Charles says:

    This One Guy In Detroit , sorry man, you are on an island.
    The NASL name is a brand that many loved and would love to see come back.
    I would have rather they had named MLS, NASL.

    When the Sounders were going to chose another name, Seattle went bonkers.
    Probably close to 100% of the people wanted that name.
    The soccer team in Seattle should be called the Sounders. No confusion, just great soccer in Seattle.

    Naming the NY team the Red Bulls was the stupidest thing to do. I hope they got paid a LOT of money for that name, because it is costing them more not being the Cosmos.

    • This One Guy In Detroit says:

      I may be right, I may be wrong, but I’m definitely not on an island. Hell, there are people right now who refuse to even spell out the new league’s name — they’re typing it *AS* on message boards and the like. It’s not like my position on this is radical or unique.

      The Sounders example isn’t analogous. “Sounders” is the long-running name of Seattle’s soccer team. Fans were justified in going bonkers when a new name was considered. This isn’t remotely the same thing. This is a new league, unconnected to the previous NASL, co-opting a name that already means something else. And not just something else in some small, incidental way. It means something else in a really big, substantial, historical way.

    • dan says:

      I actually like the name RED BULLS its alot better then Metro Stars.

  14. I may be right, I may be wrong, but I’m definitely not on an island. Hell, there are people right now who refuse to even spell out the new league’s name — they’re typing it *AS* on message boards and the like. It’s not like my position on this is radical or unique.

    The Sounders example isn’t analogous. “Sounders” is the long-running name of Seattle’s soccer team. Fans were justified in going bonkers when a new name was considered. This isn’t remotely the same thing. This is a new league, unconnected to the previous NASL, co-opting a name that already means something else. And not just something else in some small, incidental way. It means something else in a really big, substantial, historical way.

  15. CoconutMonkey says:

    @ This One Guy in Detroit

    You’re not on an island buddy. There’s a fair amount of people around (well, on the internets at least) who are pretty unhappy about the TOA adopting the *AS* name.

    But, despite the history behind the name NASL. I don’t think it’s completely unreasonable to call a soccer league in North America the North American Soccer League. I sure can’t think of anything better.

    The A League – Aussies are using it.
    Minor League Soccer – MLS?
    NorthAmericanProSoccer – NAPS? Abbreviation sounds too funny.
    American Premier League – Not for a 2nd Division league.
    The American Football League – A bit of a misnomer depending on how you read it. Plus, the NFL probably still holds the rights. And what about Canada!?
    The Soccer League of the U.S. and Canada – too much
    MLS2? ;)

  16. Michael Farrow says:

    I understand what you’re saying but I think it’s like saying thank God the Communists were around in East Germany because at least they had a government, ignoring what they did during that time and concentrating on the fact the Communists weren’t Nazis. Francisco was very effective at developing SISL along the same lines as the NPSL have now but this slow death has been coming since they tried to build a lower division empire with the creation of their pro league and the merger with the APSL. As another commenter put it, other people are coming along and doing what they do but better. Had Marcos not been an empire-building megalomaniac, something better may have come along, we don’t know. He had nothing to do with the APSL until it was merged into his organisation when it had become staunchly second division. The USL has been pretty much useless since it was conceived.

  17. Irv says:

    All the success of the Sounders, now Vancouver and soon Portland are all from the womb of the USL and its Y-league = Super 20 = PDL = USL-2 = USL-1 and now Mr. Gulati as the person in charge of safe-guarding the sport in America..I ask you are you going to let a few ego manics ruin the sport. Like slick Hollywood producers these guys are looking for a re-make…bring on old film (in this case the NASL) dust it off update some technology and everyone start clapping!?!? Mr. Gulati, alot of people drank the Kool-aid in Guyana..it did not make the right!

  18. chuck says:

    I preferred American Premier League (aim high!), but NASL will work just fine. If the league survives for more than a couple years (and I am optimistic it will), no one will even discuss the name any more.

    Kartik makes a good point about USL focusing on player development.

    The truth is, nobody knows about NASL’s business plan. What we do know is who broke away and why. Who broke away: mostly well-funded, well-managed and well-supported clubs (…Miami?) in good sized markets. Why: to escape corporate governance, have more self determination, and, with that power, build a strong professional league. The reason is not to compete with MLS, that is natural result of wanting to build a strong professional league. I for one welcome a league willing to embrace professionalism and put teams in markets MLS shuns (and will always shun unless it em brasses a promotion/relegation scheme, which I don’t see ever happening unless survival is at stake).

  19. Former Lancer says:

    They should rename the teams — The Rhinos should be reborn as the Rochester Lancers

  20. Roger says:

    I would like to know why is MLS “santioned” as US 1st division??
    If there is no promotion and relegation , then the new NASL should not be considered a 2nd division league. It is just another soccer league!!

    I dont understand why , if the “owners” os soccer in this country care about the game.They would rather have a team made out of thin air inserted on MLS ,like Philly; anstead of the Impact that made it almost to the finals of the most prestigious club championship in the continent.

    I dont understand why 40 millions weighted more than a chance of having an institution like Barcelona FC afiliated to our league.

    If the new NASL give owners the freedom to manage their clubs , and dont use a salary cap.NASL is going to resemble a lot more than MLS what a soccer league is in the world. And if they use pro/rel….bye bye MLS.

  21. Former Lancer says:

    Roger:

    It’s money — The US Soccer Federation (USSF) charges these teams to belong and the fee to play 1st division is much steeper than 2nd division — Also, remember that the MLS is the baby of that pin head Gulati at USSF and they would never allow anyone to step on their toes — Gulati and his cronies will do everything they legally can to make it difficult for the new NASL owners and certainly won’t let them have that 1st division status until the league possibly overtakes the MLS which is possible in the future, but they have alot of work to do — I’m hopeful but skeptical about all of this — It will be interesting to see who the NASL’s Commissioner will be

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