MLS Supporters’ Shield Is Not Dead, It’s Growing Up: A Look At League History and an Idea for the Future

I am just a supporter, one of many. However, as a supporter I feel it is my duty not only to promote the sport whenever possible but also to raise awareness of issues facing the game we love. So, I write this in order to speak out about one of the more pressing debates among Major League Soccer’s devout fans: the current state and ultimate fate of the Supporters’ Shield.

A quick review: the Shield, an award currently given to the team with the most points at the end of the MLS season, has a novel history of its own. When MLS first took the pitch in 1996, there was no such trophy. The concept of honoring the ‘regular season champion’ was not something the league embraced during its effort to endear soccer to the ‘average American sports fan.’ Instead, fundraising for such a trophy was undertaken by the fervent supporters of MLS clubs, and they are in fact the ones who award it. It was not until later that the league began recognizing it as a major trophy with cash and CONCACAF incentives.

Now, after we fans got a taste of the balanced schedule the past two years, and clubs got a lot more than just a taste of airplane food, Major League Soccer decreed that teams would play conference opponents three times and non-conference opponents once in the 2012 and 2013 seasons (with slight variations depending on which conference you’re in). This was done in order to alleviate the burden of travel in a league that spans a whole continent, and to promote regional rivalries, but this has also led to two problems. One is that head-to-head record is still the chief tiebreaker in a league where most teams will have played an odd number of times, giving some teams home-field advantage in a season series that could end up determining who goes to the playoffs and who doesn’t, among other things.

The other is that the value of one of the four major honors in North American soccer – the best regular season record – has been called into question. Because of the “3ish-and-1” format, the Shield winner and Shield runner-up will have played dramatically different schedules, resulting in charges of unfairness. Discussions between fans as to whether or not it’s time to retire the trophy have popped up in MLS-related social media discussions, article comment sections, and message board postings across the Internet. writer Simon Borg famously declared, “The Shield is dead,” in a podcast with Real Salt Lake head coach Jason Kreis, who himself said the Shield now “doesn’t make any sense,” and that “it’s something the league needs to review and probably get rid of.”

As already mentioned, the trophy is not the league’s to get rid of because it is bestowed by the supporters. However, the assessment that the sense behind it has been compromised is a somewhat valid one that needs to be addressed.

I read that piece by Gerald Barnhart above soon after it was first published. I considered it the best way to frame the modern trophy system in American and Canadian soccer, but I noticed that his list of ‘all-time’ majors only included MLS when in fact nationwide Division 1 soccer began in 1968 with the North American Soccer League. Considering that, the fact that the Shield had already been retroactively awarded in the past, and that Canada had its own domestic cup, I wondered what the table of all-time major honors looked like. So, I did what any nerd would do – I took to Wikipedia. At the time the encyclopedia article wasn’t very comprehensive, so, using Dave Litterer’s fantastic American Soccer History Archives as a main source, I compiled lists of the winners of the four majors. This was a tally of each league championship, best regular season record (or “league premiership,” taking a cue from our friends in the Australian A-League), national championship (US Open Cup or Canadian Voyageurs Cup), and CONCACAF championship. The results are in the article but aren’t necessarily relevant to this discussion; what is relevant is that this is our history despite the fact that only three times in 34 Division 1 seasons in North America has the schedule been balanced (1969, 2010, and 2011). Here you can even see a chart that details how unbalanced each previous MLS season has been along with the margin by which the Supporters’ Shield was decided that year. In an astonishing 8 times out of 14 unbalanced MLS seasons the trophy been decided by three points or less, with a reasonable argument to be made that the schedule differences between the two teams at the top could render a Shield victory ‘impure.’ The ‘purity’ of the accomplishment becomes even more questionable when retroactively assigning it to the top point totals from the NASL seasons, and when you remember the quirky points systems and tie-preventing measures used in American soccer’s past.

The point is that if the schedule being unbalanced once again means the Shield is now suddenly ‘dead,’ then it was never ‘alive’ to begin with. So whoever finishes with the top point total this season will not deserve the ire or sneers their claim as premier is sure to draw, because while it won’t be a perfectly sound accomplishment like the last two years, it certainly won’t be anything we haven’t seen before.

That isn’t to say that this season’s format isn’t particularly unbalanced, or that this isn’t an issue that needs to be addressed going forward. With more odd-numbered season series and weighting towards geography than ever before, it would be easy to say that MLS made an egregious mistake in sacrificing competition integrity for convenience. But that’s not the case; the travel problem facing MLS is not a mere inconvenience. It is instead a colossal obstacle in the way of raising the level of play in our league.

It’s also easy for fans to point to the competitive format systems in countries whose football we love watching as much as our own and say, ‘We should be like that.’ But it’s not that simple, the size of the United States and Canada won’t allow it. England is slightly smaller than Alabama. France and Ukraine, the two biggest countries entirely within continental Europe, are each smaller than Texas. Even the Russian Premier League doesn’t have the issues we do, with all but two of its teams in the same time zone compared to whole sections of our league being thousands of miles apart.

This is no ruse used to justify more money-making ‘rivalry’ games to the hardcore supporters MLS depends on. It is a legitimate problem that, when alleviated, will improve the product on the field we present to American soccer fans and the rest of the world. As Matt Doyle, analyst for, wrote in a Reddit AMA a couple of weeks ago:

All throughout the last two years, the competition committee has kept close tabs on what EVERYONE involved in the game thinks is the main problem, and the people who matter most – the people who actually play the game – said the travel was murder, and the only way around it was going to a conference schedule, and that doing so would drastically increase the quality of play.

The thing is, none of this changes the fact that there is significant demand amongst supporters for a regular season that matters as well as official recognition of and respect for teams that work hard enough over the course of the year to earn the moniker ‘best team in the league.’ This is not borne out of a desire to emulate an idealized foreign league. It is about providing fairness and rewarding greatness. It is about making sure the Supporters’ Shield remains a cherished and respected major prize like the A-League’s Premiers’ Plate rather than a minor afterthought like the NHL’s Presidents’ Trophy. Fans feel so strongly about this that one Vancouver Southsider even went to trouble of developing a mathematical model for a decreased-travel league-wide balanced schedule for 19 teams. So how do we reconcile the necessity of reducing travel with the desire to preserve or even enhance the prestige of one of North American soccer’s majors? The answer is both creative and simple.

Last month, LA Galaxy head coach Bruce Arena mused that it may be time to award two Supporters’ Shields, one for the Eastern Conference and one for the Western Conference. He has the right idea, but needs to go one step further. Awarding two Shields under the 2012 scheduling format would still not erase the fact that even teams in the same conference have considerably different schedules. However, in the new schedule that players, coaches, and executives are all satisfied with, teams do play all their conference opponents at least twice (once home, once away), just with a third game added onto the single game per non-conference opponent to help complete the 34-game slate. My proposal is that we keep the current schedule that keeps travel burdens down, but rearrange it so as to provide fans with the double round-robin they favor. A lesser problem, but an issue nonetheless, is that we would essentially be saying that conference regular season first-place finishes are now the same as being the league’s regular season champion, something that would wreak havoc on chronicling and interpreting of the history of the accomplishment in MLS, the old NASL, and even in the minor leagues with trophies like the USL’s Commissioner’s Cup. The solution?

Split the regular season into two phases, a step not at all unprecedented in global football, and rename each conference their own league (Eastern League, Western League) under the umbrella of Major League Soccer (much like the American League and National League under the umbrella of Major League Baseball). In the first phase, or “League Phase,” teams would just play opponents from their own league. In a ten-team league (which we can assume both conferences would be after we reach 20 teams) with a balanced schedule, that’s the first 18 weeks of the season. The final matchday (around early July based on this year’s start date) of the phase would see all games kickoff at the same time, and the team at the top of the table be awarded their league’s Supporters’ Shield with all the pomp and circumstance of a major trophy. Both league champions (or “premiers” if you prefer) would be awarded CONCACAF Champions League spots. After that, the “Cup Phase” of the regular season begins. Regular season records carry over from the first phase, and teams jockey for playoff spots, whatever the format of the playoffs may be. MLS could schedule the remaining portion of the schedule however they like with both interleague matchups and additional intraleague matchups, and we fans would have no room to complain because we already got our double round-robin. It would make sense and provide some semblance of fairness if the Cup Phase opponents were determined by previous season’s record a la the NFL scheduling formula, but the schedule makers’ job is hard enough as it is so we can live with whatever they come up with.

The playoffs would occur as normal, and MLS Cup would continue to be our chief showcase competition, with the winner being crowned champion of all Major League Soccer. They would earn a CCL berth along with the US Open Cup and Canadian Championship winners.

This would keep the current schedule that the league finds favorable, but structure it in a way that sufficiently addresses the Supporters’ Shield problem. In effect, no travel increases. It also creates a competition format that can stay in place as the league grows, providing a stable consistency in which MLS wouldn’t have to explain its changes each year. Each new expansion team would increase the League Phase by two games, decreasing the size of the Cup Phase, until eventually (in the distant future) both leagues would be large enough to fill up the entire schedule on their own, with East/West matchups limited to the playoffs and national cups. But that’s a long time off, and under this proposal fans could still see their club face each team from the other conference once even after the next few expansions, should MLS decide that that’s important.

It’s a compromise that I feel solves the most problems while creating the least new ones. Given Major League Soccer’s status as the most fan-friendly sports league in the world and their past history of listening to supporters, I wouldn’t put it past both them and the Independent Supporters Council to get together and get something like this done, or to at least formally consider it. I am just one supporter, after all, and these are just my opinions, but I believe in the vision of this league and I know we all want it to succeed on every level.

154 thoughts on “MLS Supporters’ Shield Is Not Dead, It’s Growing Up: A Look At League History and an Idea for the Future”

  1. “The point is that if the schedule being unbalanced once again
    means the Shield is now suddenly ‘dead,’ then it was never ‘alive’
    to begin with.” ……………………….Amen, it was never
    alive to begin with for me. In the year where the Sounders finished
    two points behind the Crew ( LA and Houston finished one point
    behind), Columbus had an easier schedule. MLS doesn’t want five
    winners every year. They want one epic winner, with a lot of teams
    eligible to win it. You can agree or disagree with what MLS wants,
    but it is NOT home and away against every team and barely ever has
    it been that way……………….Keep up the good fight if that
    is what you believe in……I am fighting for epic playoffs.
    Unfortunately for you, my side is going to win out.

    1. If you’re side wins out then why is this such a issue in the first
      place? For a majority of fans playoffs make no sense atleast mls
      playoffs. It never has. I’ll admit sadly I don’t think supporters
      shield will be the legitimate epic winner because Americans or
      atleast the Americans mls are gunning for have such small.attention
      spans. I believe that playoffs to decide a league winner will never
      be sensible because it doesn’t necessarily reward the best team .
      That’s why the SS was created in the first place. You may be
      married to epic playoffs and a saturation of parity but SS though
      dead now is just as important if not more than mls cup. Especially
      now that monetary value and ccl is pegged to it. I think you’re
      “side” are too busy tuning into the baseball games to win out

    2. Charles, two points: One, the play-off structure is not fair
      either; the rapids could not have had an easier road to the cup in
      2010. Same for eastern conference teams lat year. Two, every team
      is eligible to win the SS, unlike the play-offs, so I don’t see
      your point there.

  2. Great article btw, you will get a lot of responses, and unlike a
    biased Gaffer TV ratings article, you will deserve them.

  3. Having all in-conference games first and then cross-conference
    games at the end of the season will only serve to bring the travel
    issue into one small window of time. It’s better to just modify the
    current system by scrapping the third in-conference games to make
    it round robin and continue to play the other conference teams once
    throughout the season. It does the same of what you want and it’ll
    be easier to work around FIFA dates and add more possible days for

  4. Excellent article Michael, really well researched and written. Do
    we have to turn the conferences into “leagues” though? I suppose
    that’s just semantics though.

  5. MLS Playoffs are the least exciting, least watched playoffs of any
    major league in American history. The are the fourth of fifth most
    watched soccer playoff in the US (behind UCL, Copa Libertadores,
    and the MPD playoffs). There is a problem. To not admit that there
    is a problem is madness. The MLS Cup Final is drawing fractions of
    a point in TV viewers. Mexico plays a full round robin schedule
    with a two-legged 8-team playoff and they do very well with it. We
    could do the same minus the apertura and clausura bits. Heck, We
    could just follow the Mexican schedule exactly (replace the first
    playoff phase with the extra four regular season games resulting
    from a 20-team schedule). 8-team playoff. 2-legs each round. Simple
    and easy to understand for the average American and the average
    soccer fan. Simpler is better.

    1. I think you are looking at where MLS was/is versus where MLS is/is
      going……by that I mean this : LA versus LA at HDC for the first
      round, maybe that drew no one, maybe the fans that DC or some old
      school MLS team catered to don’t like playoffs, but there is no
      doubt that if Seattle makes the semi finals, they sell out a 67k
      stadum, is there ? This the new MLS. I would say the same for
      Portland/Vancouver, outside of the NWest, Montreal, Toronto, Salt
      Lake, etc…..maybe they don’t have as great of a stadium, but they
      could do very well………………….as far as TV ratings, they
      always stink, ask Gaffer. I don’t really care if they do stink. IF
      people are not smart enough to enjoy them, it is their loss. MLS is
      signing very good TV contracts, enough to keep them viable at this
      level and probably a higher level……………..I think from here
      MLS makes the playoffs LEGENDARY. IF Seattle has 2 semi and 2
      finals games, they draw more than about a 1/4 of the teams regular
      season total fans.

      1. Now that NBC has no shot at getting the FIFA WC Contract, I think
        there is zero chance they will renew MLS as anything other than
        filler for when they are not showing NHL. I don’t really understand
        your point about Seattle. They’d be better served by a 8-team
        playoff with 2 legs each round (i.e. at least one home match
        guaranteed each round) than the current system. I like playoffs. I
        don’t want to eliminate them. I want the playoffs to make sense
        though and the current playoff format does not make sense nor does
        it make sense to play the playoffs head to head with the NFL. Just
        my two sents.

          1. CT Blues, you could do it either way. The advantage of maintaining
            Conferences would be that you would ensure regional representation
            of both halves of the country in the playoffs. The disadvantage is
            that, if one conference were much weaker than another, teams could
            really loaf it at the end of the season knowing that they were set
            as the top seed. Considering we have an uneven number of teams, I’d
            prefer to have a balanced schedule with a seeded two-legged 8-team
            playoff. Three weeks of playoffs. Two legs each week
            (tues-wed/Sat). Would be easy to follow and would be, in my
            opinion, pretty compelling stuff.

        1. @BamaMan who said : “..Now that NBC has no shot at getting the FIFA
          WC Contract, I think there is zero chance they will renew MLS as
          anything other than filler for when they are not showing NHL…”
          The NBC Sports TV deal was signed AFTER the World Cup rights were
          awarded. If NBC didn’t want MLS they didn’t have to sign it
          especially at the amount they paid.

          1. Gazza, That’s simply false. The NBC deal was announced in August
            alongside an approximate dollar figure. The Fox FIFA deal was
            announced in October. Even if the MLS NBC deal wasn’t signed until
            after October, the deal had already been substantially negotiated
            and agreed to in principle or there would not have been an
            announcement. NBC could not get out of the MLS deal without paying
            out a ton in damages by the time they discovered they did not get
            the FIFA WC deal.

        2. Zero chance NBC Sports Network will renew their TV deal with MLS.
          Care to make a small wager on that?

          1. MLS on NBC has been a complete failure in my opinion. MLS should of
            stayed on Fox Soccer. I haven’t caught a single match on NBC
            because I have no idea when they are on and its usually on times
            when I’m out doing shit.

          2. Seriously Shawn…….Robert has not been right on one prediction
            ever and you are going to bet him on this one ? Is that morally
            right ? Would you feel good about yourself ?

          3. Zero chance NBCSN renews it “as anything other than filler,” which
            is what it is now. They’ll retain the rights, if they can do what
            they do now, which is show the MLS games when they don’t have a
            more valuable property to fill the space. MLS is filler for them.
            My point is that they are NOT going to embrace a regularly
            scheduled timeslot for MLS and they’re not going to spend the time
            promoting it that they would have if they had a shot at the world

    2. more and more Americans are following the EPL, Bundesliga, La Liga
      etc and are starting to see soccer through a that traditional
      narrative: single table, no playoffs, year long cups,
      promotion/relegation. That’s why MLS playoffs get very poor

  6. Very well written. Interesting concept too. More teams would
    probably help, at least as far as getting a good number of games
    played between teams that are near each other. Making road trips
    more gradual could help alleviate some of the stress, as opposed to
    jumping 3 time zones and coming straight back. Though there are a
    few issues with adding teams too quickly, part of which would be a
    diluted talent pool. As far as the playoff being the least watched,
    it couldn’t be at a worse time as far as American sports are
    concerned. The World Series is just wrapping up, Football is in
    full swing, and hockey and basketball are starting as well. I enjoy
    watching a good soccer match as much as the next person, but the
    MLS isn’t going to win going up against the MLB, NFL, NHL, and NBA
    all at the same time.

  7. That is why it makes no sense to end MLS in November/December. If
    MLS followed the Mexican model and played July-November, then
    March-May with the playoffs in May, they’d be much better off. Sure
    the winter break would be long but it would be much, much easier to
    get fans to watch the MLS on television in May than in November.
    The idiocy of the MLS front office when it comes to scheduling is
    that the MLS Cup Final was last year scheduled against NFL Sunday
    Night Football.

    1. MLS Cup has been during SNF for the last 3 years. What you
      described is just removing the month of June from the calender and
      that a final in May would compete against NBA and NHL play-offs.
      This would hurt attendances at San Jose, Chicago, Vancouver,
      Philly, and the New York area, all of which have passionate fan
      bases and in several cases have many cross-over fans. I would say
      Toronto and Portland, but yeah….

      1. Compared to the NFL, the NHL and the NBA are niche leagues. The NFL
        is the behemoth in North American sports. TV ratings dwarf those of
        the NBA and the NHL. There is not a time in the calender that is
        devoid of professional sports. In my opinion, the NBA and the NHL
        are much weaker competition for MLS than the NFL. On a local level,
        I think MLS will compete better with indoor sports for fans than
        with the most popular (per game) outdoor sport in the world. The
        flipside to your argument is that attendance in the playoffs might
        well be boosted by playing during wonderful May weather – the best
        soccer weather of the year in the US. Plus, you can build off the
        promotion for the European league finishes, Cups, and the CL final,
        all of which draw more viewers than MLS. Good weather + weaker
        competition on the tube = win/win in my book.

        1. MLS needs to get on the same time schedule as the rest of Concacaf,
          Otherwise you have a champions league final from the year before
          the same week as the start of the MLS season. It’s nuts.

  8. Interesting article, but the fix you propose is too complicated.
    Just award the SS to the teams with the most points and don’t worry
    too much about it. Even with a balanced schedule luck is a factor-
    suspensions, injuries, weather, and travel don’t always even out.
    ________________ Divisions are fine, I just wish we could have the
    playoffs in one bracket- guarantee the division winners a spot in
    the play-offs and give them a CONCACAF champions League birth,
    nothing more. Oh- and declare them Western or Eastern division
    champions- it is weird to give them that trophy after winning a
    play-off semi final- I’d rather have them get that during a regular
    season game.

  9. It isn’t really all that weird to give them a trophy after a
    semi-final. The MLB has the AL(William Harridge)/NL(Warren C.
    Giles) Pennant/Trophies, the NFL has the AFC(Lamar Hunt)/NFC(George
    Halas) championship trophies, and NHL has the East( Prince of
    Wales)/West (Clarence S. Campbell) trophies/bowls. These are all
    awarded after the Semi-finals. The NBA might too, but admittedly I
    don’t really follow them.

  10. If the Vancouver fan’s plan would make the travel schedule easier
    AND keep a balanced schedule, why aren’t we lobbying for it?
    Garber’s been great in a lot of ways, but the NFL background still
    colors his thinking. Can’t wait til we get a longtime soccer fan in
    there. May things will change.

    1. The issue is that there is no long time soccer fan/highly trained
      sports executive out there. I will always say if a league is making
      money then put a fan or a former player in there who is
      intelligent. They will make the league better for the fan and the
      players, hopefully leading to further prosperity. But if you are
      often in the red, you need a commissioner who is going to make his
      decisions objectively.

      1. We have a German as the USMNT coach, so why couldn’t we get a
        German, Argentine, or Frenchman with League mgmt exp to run MLS?
        Foreign teams have hired ex-MLS people to be business managers
        (Gazidis @ Arsenal was the 1st, Grant Wahl tweeted about 2 others
        recently). @theakinet

  11. Intriguing idea. I would probably say that the “cup phase” would be
    that a team faces each additional team one time, and the following
    year they rotate who is home and who is away. Keep the spring to
    fall schedule of course, with playoffs based on 1-8, 2-7, etc.
    Maybe determine the league champions just before the
    friendlies/All-star game/CCL starts. Personally, I don’t see any
    harm in keeping the Supporter’s Shield. It shouldn’t earn you a
    berth to CCL, but it is harmless even if it is pointless.

    1. Why not have the most consistent team in the CCL? Funny, I say the
      same thing about divisions, they are fine if they are kept
      meaningless. I understand the need for regional scheduling, though.

      1. Because with an unbalanced schedule, how do you compare consistency
        when one team might have a tougher schedule? That’s where playoffs
        come in.

  12. The problem with many of the ideas of how to keep alive a dream
    that the US will someday look like another league they follow it
    the US isn’t even close to being done
    So does it work with 24 teams ? and an even more unbalanced
    schedule ? how about 30 where you are not playing every team every
    year ?……maybe the plans out there are just a temporary one year
    fix. Garber’s definitely if forward thinking, whether you agree
    with the vision or hate it.

    1. MLS is probably the hardest league to explain to a non-soccer fan.
      MLS changes the rules every single year and quite frankly MLS has
      worn out its welcome with me. I haven’t watched a single match this
      season because I can’t find any games on and the 10 team playoff
      format has rendered the regular season obsolete.

      1. Yeah, EPL was very easy to explain to my co-workers, Man U wins
        every year. “people watch that ?” “yeah” “just another reason I
        don’t watch soccer” Speaking of which, Robert what is your take of
        the Mexican teams breaking away from FMF. My take is it is for
        money ( obviously ), it will go to the top ( obviously ) and
        therefore will screw over your type of dreams of having everyone
        have a chance, much like the EPL did. But somehow I think you are
        going to be for it ?

        1. If they are going to do this to have an EPL-style distribution of
          TV revenue, it will be a great thing for parity in the league.
          Currently, the Mexican teams are left to negotiate their TV
          contracts independents which severely hampers the teams lower on
          the totem pole. EPL distributes half of TV revenues equally and the
          other half based on TV appearances. My guess? This has something to
          do with the soon-to-launch Mundo Fox TV network. Tweaking the
          points system is more than a little stupid in my book, though.

        2. Charles, I like it but have issues with the point tinkering. I
          don’t think FIFA will allow it. However, Mexico’s second division
          is in shambles and hopefully they fix there promotion/relegation
          and take the top three and send down the bottom three. I read
          somewhere about a domestic cup springing up as well. We will see
          once final details are ironed out.

        3. MANU doesn’t win every year. And people watch because of the high
          quality players. There have been academic studies about why fans
          tune in to sports competitions. Quantity/quality of talent
          talent distribution. In other words people would rather watch
          FCB/RM kill Osasuna, than have FCB/RM talent reduced so Getafe
          could qualify for UCL. @theakinet

          1. You are right. They win every other year and are the second placed
            team every other year. Still a crappy system when only select
            team(s) are allowed to win because of money. And if FCB/RM talent
            was reduced, you’d see more quality on the other side, not just a
            reduction in quality in the top 2 sides. Anybody that thinks that
            having 3 teams have a shot at the title and one win two-thirds of
            the time (yes, this is fact 12 out of 18 I believe since EPL
            started in 1993) is crazy.

  13. Just one year, I’d like to see MLS play a balanced schedule
    July-November and March-May with no playoffs but the US Open Cup
    Final on the last week of the season. I.e. a true European-style
    calender. It’s not what I want (i want something between that and
    what we have) but as an experiment I wonder if it would bring in
    the soccer fans in the US who currently do not follow the MLS (and
    there are many more soccer fans in the US who don’t follow the MLS
    than those who do).

      1. I hope you’re kidding. MLS is not profitable for the most part
        (although they are closer than they were a few years back). The
        only reason they can keep going is the hope of future growth. If
        MLS’s fanbase does not grow, it will die.

      2. @Charles “Please do NOT bring in soccer fans that don’t currenly
        watch MLS. Please, that would be terrible. Please.” Why not? Moving
        overseas and watching the EPL every weekend is what got me into

    1. i’ll be honest. I’m a big soccer fan (its my fav sport) but I don’t
      follow MLS. My friends who are soccer fans also do not follow MLS.
      Without an MLS team where we live or a team that has a chance to
      get promoted to MLS there’s really no incentive to follow the
      league. There’s also very little coverage of MLS in local media.
      But also…it’s a very hard league to follow. You can’t just look
      at the standings and ask “who’s on top of the league?” like you can
      with the English Premier League. Also, it’s not really important
      who is on top of the league anyway because they have more than half
      the league making the end of season playoffs to decide the league
      winner. So sadly I must admit I have not watched 1 MLS game this
      year. I did watch the playoffs 2 years ago when colorado won it and
      i must say i was not impressed by the playoffs. We need a lot of
      things in domestic soccer: more teams, promotion/relegation, no
      playoffs. We need real soccer leagues.

    2. Why would having a 3 month mid-season break and a one month
      offseason be a good idea? How would that bring in more fans?

      1. It would bring more attention the the playoffs and would allow the
        most important games to be played in the best weather conditions.
        It would allow the most important games to be scheduled against
        less watched sports like NBA and NHL vs. the behemoth that is the
        NFL. Depending on when you start, it would allow events like the
        World Football Challenege to be a true preseason event instead of
        making regular season MLS a worse product because of fatigue and
        fixture congestion. It would allow the league to kick the season
        off with the momentum left over from the World Cup/Euros/Gold Cup
        instead of having support for soccer cannibalized away from MLS
        during those tournaments. It would synchronize more with worldwide
        transfer windows, which means that US players going abroad and
        foreign players coming to the US would be much more hyped coming
        into the pre-season instead of disappearing into anonymity in the
        mainstream sports media. It would synch up more with the CONCACAF
        CL and Mexico, making the competition more meaningful and easier to
        follow for the average American sports/soccer fan. It would put our
        players on equal par with the best squads in the rest of the world
        in terms of scheduling and preparation for international
        tournaments. Denmark has operated that way for years and that’s why
        the Superliga is bar none Scandinavia’s best league and the Danes
        have consistently been the strongest Scandinavian side. The winter
        break doesn’t have to be 3 months. I think we could get by with a
        German-style 6 week winter break if we had some creative scheduling
        in December and February (i.e. home games in warmer weather
        climes). I don’t think we need to adopt the Apertura and Clausura
        titles or have two separate trophies, but there is no question that
        in Mexico, Argentina, and elsewhere, having a long break allows for
        2 separate rounds of media hype leading into the preseason and the
        winter break. Just my two cents.

  14. Bartleby, It’s sad to hear that you don’t watch (support) MLS, but
    I would be a hipocrit (spelled right?) if I ragged on you about
    that; because I haven’t watched more than 2 regular season football
    games in a year since pro football left L.A. I too wish we could
    have a regulation system. I understand that we have to do things a
    little different here, because the game is not as big here as it is
    in the rest of the world. However, part of me believes that we tend
    to still act as if we could do whatever we want, because we are
    America. But this is the world’s game (GET ON BOARD!). In my
    dreams, I wish we could scrap the playoffs and add another domestic
    trophy or perhaps have an America’s Tournament, where all teams can
    participate (single elimination). Games could spread into the off
    season, (top teams could have byes, to make up for odd number of
    teams). Of course, this would be a major scheduling nightmare and
    of course a lot of $ would have to be poured in and of course the
    worst being INTEREST, which would be a hard sale to other
    countries, let alone in our own country. Remember, I was dreaming.
    Overall, I too prefer single table (make supporter’s shield
    relevant), scrap the playoffs (I get my playoff fill with the NBA,
    MLB, NFL), create another tourney (I know, hard sale considering
    low low popularity of US Open Cup.

  15. dsnow, yeah. I’m not really anti-MLS. I support all my home teams
    even if they are minor leagues. If i lived in LA i would definitely
    pick either Chivas or LA Galaxy and then support them. But I think
    this is a problem for domestic soccer in the US. I haven’t seen the
    data on it but i’m sure there is a good % of soccer fans in the US
    that do not watch or follow MLS. I probably have like 15
    aquantinces who are soccer fans. They follow USNT, watch the EPL
    and some of them go to Orlando City games. None of them follow MLS.
    What is the incentive to? Now, if Orlando City had the possibility
    of promotion they would have an incentive to watch MLS. They would
    feel a part of the soccer narrative. I just look at MLS and i see a
    league that is doing its best to imitate other American sports:
    playoffs, MLS draft, franchise model, and just shake my head at how
    wrongheaded this approach is and how they are missing an
    opportunity at capturing a national fan base. We should set the
    goal of a 150 pro teams in the U.S. Soccer is popular in the U.S.
    If you looked at twitter during the champions league semi-final at
    one point all the trending topics had to do with the chelsea-barca

    1. The problem with your approach, Bartleby Scrivener, is that it
      would require certain segments of soccer in the US to relinquish
      their power. The MLS owners for whom the sport is an off-season
      hobby compared to their NFL interests, for one; the NSCAA, who seem
      to harbor an inordinate amount of influence in the USSF and who
      seem to fight changes that would get all of US soccer on the same
      page rule-wise; the USSF (not including Klinsmann), who seems to
      want soccer in the US to stay an expensive sport for kids with
      money. These groups would rather soccer be only sort of popular in
      the US with them having total control than soccer being very
      popular in the US with control being much less centralized. Where
      MLS is right (salary caps, having a draft, adopting international
      rules, affordable tickets, Soccer-specific stadia), I support them.
      Where MLS is wrong (closed pyramid, scheduling, not observing
      international calender, ridiculous playoff format, ignoring the
      Southeast), I oppose them. I wish MLS would realize there are tons
      of fans out there like you and me. I want to be an MLS fan. I watch
      games on occasion when I can (no cable) but I’m much more likely to
      follow a club like Fulham on a week-to-week basis not because
      Fulham is so much better as a club but because they’re not that
      much further away from me than the nearest MLS team.

      1. I think the fear of American soccer fans is that if you initiate
        pro/rel (which I am not against) then you have to lift the salary
        cap and then 3 teams buy the championship by outspending. I know
        that it doesn’t have to be this way, but most of the pro/rel crowd
        makes it seem like it has to be this way. And MLS is 100 percent
        right in not following the international calendar. Playing soccer
        in snow is just dumb.

        1. “Playing soccer in snow is just dumb.” As opposed to 90+ degrees w/
          85+% humidity and thunderstorms. Good luck with MLS in Vegas and
          PHX! “I think the fear of American soccer fans is that if you
          initiate pro/rel (which I am not against) then you have to lift the
          salary cap and then 3 teams buy the championship by outspending.” I
          agree. Lets not encourage investments in American soccer. We’ll win
          the World Cup. It’s not like Super Clubs develop Super

      2. So you are assuming in a 20 team league ( I assume you want that ),
        the closest top div team will be CLOSER to you under Pro/Rel ? That
        is a huge assumption and could be completely wrong.

  16. Bama, Yes that is the fear. I also fear that we are missing our
    opportunity to build a national soccer pyramid. Our national team
    ultimately suffers from having such a limited domestic league. Look
    at China. They now have a soccer pyramid with pro/rel. I bet it
    wont be long before China’s national team begins to make great
    strides. Also…why on earth would you support a draft? Shouldn’t
    teams be given all the incentives to develop local talent and keep
    that talent without losing it in a draft?

    1. The irony is that in order for there to be a chance to convince MLS
      to start pro/rel, people need to start supporting MLS and their
      local side. If TV ratings stay low and no one is willing to go to a
      Division 4 game (even without pro/rel) then MLS will be too scared
      to do it. Get out there, support US Soccer, and protest the things
      that you don’t like from within. Otherwise, nobody in MLS will
      listen. They know that even if you implement pro/rel that the
      casual fans will find an excuse not to watch it (salary caps, play
      offs, no soccer in winter, etc).

      1. “The irony is that in order for there to be a chance to convince
        MLS to start pro/rel, people need to start supporting MLS and their
        local side. If TV ratings stay low and no one is willing to go to a
        Division 4 game (even without pro/rel) then MLS will be too scared
        to do it.” Why would MLS/SUM/USSF dump single-entity, no pro/rel,
        and franchising if it turns a profit? This is wishful thinking. If
        MLS can’t make money they say the system can’t change because it’s
        “too risky.” If MLS makes money they say the system *shouldn’t*
        change because it’s working. Do the following google search: “Mark
        Abbott promotion relegation”

  17. I think a draft is a good way to promote parity without enforcing
    mediocrity. It also promotes the creation of domestic stars. My big
    difference is that I think it should be an MLB-style draft
    (everyone in the US or Canada who turns 18 in a given year is
    eligible) and, to promote local development, you could give each
    club one “protected” developed player in their development system
    who cannot be drafted AND if a player is drafted from another club,
    you could require compensation be provided to the club who
    developed the player. Salary for draft picks and compensation to
    clubs could be modeled on something like the NFL Rookie Wage scale
    to keep costs in line. A draft is not fundamental to me, I just
    think it’s a darn good way to promote domestic stars and domestic
    player development without resorting to National Origin
    Requirements for the squad as a whole.

    1. Bama, how is it a good way to create domestic stars? If anything it
      stunts their development. Players wait around for the draft instead
      of already being in the pipeline learning how to play.You want
      teams to be able to keep only 1 player? Why would they even put
      money into their academies if they could only keep 1 player?
      Seriously…a draft for a soccer league is archaic and needs to go.

      1. I’ll agree that the MLS Superdraft needs to go. But a draft
        organized more like the MLB or the NBA would be a good thing. The
        MLS Draft as it currently stands is meaningless enough that I
        suppose some guys may sit around and wait to get drafted. But if it
        was an 18-and-up draft and really mattered, I think most kids would
        be doing whatever development they could to improve their draft
        stock. Kids would flock to the Academies that produced quality
        draft picks. If there was a person that the media could point to as
        the next great superstar in MLS because they were a true #1 draft
        pick, it would matter. BUT, for that to matter, MLS has to blow up
        single entity. Keep the salary cap. There’s no way the league can
        be profitable without it; financial sanity is one thing MLS has
        over Europe. But let teams buy and sell players within that cap to
        their heart’s content. If you had a draft and teams could sell
        players to Europe, South America, and Asia, it would be a huge
        incentive to get young American talent on the field so you can
        increase their value. Soccer players in Europe toil in anonymity
        until they become superstars. It distorts the market because the
        information about behind the scenes quality players is closely
        guarded to deflate/inflate their transfer value. A draft would be a
        good way to prevent that from the outset.

  18. the supporters shield is not the league championship, nor it ever
    will be, soccer only fans need to realize that. the only legitmite
    respect youlll get is win you win MLS cup, I think the european
    mentality trying to be presented to american soccer is a watse of
    time. American has a long sporting establishment and for MLS to
    succeed itll be based on traditional american sports values not

  19. the Eurpean structure doesnt even make sense, yeah they are old and
    traditional thats about it on the worth of them but there isnt a
    incentive like structure for the individual team. like it is in
    North American sports.

      1. They look for the best league (or at least what they think is the
        best league) and follow it. Why don’t they follow Brazilian
        leagues, French leagues, etc. They have quality soccer too. It has
        nothing to do with the play offs. You could ditch the play offs,
        add pro/rel, and people still won’t watch because it is not the top
        league in the world and we are not the best. EPL has its following,
        but most will never watch MLS. I watch a variety of soccer myself
        but most don’t.

        1. Alan. There may be some truth to this. People want to watch the
          best league. Your Brazilian league example isn’t a very good one
          considering those games aren’t on TV (or if they are not in
          English) and aren’t marketed towards the American audience.
          Marketing is everything. In the marketing business when a company
          has a product but can’t sell it to their target audience its called
          having a marketing problem. So, the target audience for MLS is the
          American soccer fan yet by all measures this target audience is not
          interested in the product. Just look at the ratings and compare
          this to self-report surveys that show that soccer is becoming more
          and more popular in the US. So the question is why is a segment of
          American soccer fans rejecting MLS? This i think may be complex and
          I don’t want to get crazy here but i think neuroscience would give
          us the answer. There are certain fans of soccer that see the game
          through a traditional euro-centric narrative and their subconscious
          files away the game in their brain this way. So something like MLS
          with it’s franchises, playoffs, MLS draft, salary caps etc, goes so
          against the narrative that it is not accepted by the traditional
          fan. Also, there is the fact that in such a large country there are
          only 18 cities with MLS teams and no other cities that have an
          incentive to watch MLS because there is no promotion/relegation.
          Compare this to other leagues where there is pro/rel. Their whole
          country is full of professional teams that have the chance for
          promotion. More people in more cities become interested.

  20. Look promotion and relegation first won’t happen for many reasons
    and it won’t help for just as many reasons. P/R fans seem to think
    there are millions of people fans just waiting for it so they can
    go run buy tickets. No just because you give everyone a chance like
    in Europe doesn’t equal to people caring not in America. In college
    basketball the smallest school can try to win the national
    championship but that doesn’t mean people flock to watch them in
    there own city. What Americans care about is quality high level
    quality. That’s why the EPL is so popular. Americans look on MLS as
    a minor league and until MLS can pull stars like over seas MLS will
    lag behind in popularity. When Americans are used to watching the
    best they won’t settle for anything less even if its our own
    league. MLS should continue to expand and bring in better talent as
    the talent improves so will the viewers.

    1. Jay. What exactly is your thesis here? Pro/rel won’t work because
      it just wont? Very poor. No one said that once you put a team in
      City X that fans will flock to it and it will sell out 15k
      stadiums. Pro/rel is about meritocracy. The best teams rise to the
      top league and it all evens out. It’s not a panacea. But how many
      more Portlands are there out there? With the franchise model you’ll
      never find out. If a soccer club that is not in MLS can draw 6k
      with no chance of promotion how much will that team be able to draw
      if they do have a chance at promotion? Hell, I could list about 50
      cities where you could put soccer clubs in, give it 5 years to see
      which ones get the best following then start to fill lower leagues
      based on attendance. If USSF really put an effort into this in 10
      years we could have a 4 tier pro/rel system with 80 pro clubs
      across the country. That would create a soccer culture. Btw, I
      don’t agree that Americans consider MLS a minor league. They
      consider it a league that is not a traditional soccer league. And I
      also disagree that Americans will only watch the best league for a
      particular sport. College football and college basketball are both
      inferior and both very popular.

      1. First off college basketball and football have deep history and
        were around before the pro league so yeah they have a passionate
        following. The problem with your idea is that you hav right now
        zero teams averaging 6k a game. So there little to zero support for
        the minor teams we have now. Second you have to spend money to
        first get premoted then second to stay up. Then you have stadium
        issues who is going to pay to upgrade them? Does the ownership have
        pockets to pay for good enough players to stay up? Because if not
        then they will spend money they don’t have and stay up only to get
        crushed later by debt or not spend and get sent right back down.
        The EPL doesn’t give those payouts to relegated teams for nothing
        most would be near broke if not for those funds. MLS has nowhere
        near the money for the for see able future to install a system to
        help cushion a relegated team. Would I like to see it sure it be
        different and cool but until we can get more then 1500 or 2k people
        at games it won’t fly. I know people love to use Portland and
        Seattle both those are the exception not the norm. You give me 80
        Portland’s or Seattle’s then OK maybe you have a shot until then
        this the best we can do.

        1. Not just Portland and Seattle, but Montreal and Vancouver. The
          problem in the English Championship is simple: teams overpay in
          salary. League Two has implemented a salary cap and it has largely
          solved their problems. If you keep salary costs down and go almost
          immediately to a regional level to minimize travel, problem solved.
          I’d agree that if MLS were to implement pro/rel tomorrow, it would
          destroy the league. What I’d like to see first is pro/rel from the
          2nd division on down. That could be much more doable. A 2nd
          division national league, followed by 4 regional leagues, followed
          by however many sub-regional leagues and below that state leagues.
          That would be achievable. That would make sense and could be
          implemented in a relatively brief period of time if and when lower
          division leagues would get their act together. Start there, see
          what that does for attendance, etc, and then, once a second
          division is stable, perhaps consider integrating with MLS.

          1. Bama. Yes I agree going pro/rel tomorrow wouldn’t work. You would
            need to announce that the pyramid was going pro/rel in 8 years.
            This would allow the lower division to build up. You would then set
            up stipulations for pro/rel. For instance pro/rel would not be
            instituted until 3/4 of D2 were playing in Soccer Specific
            Stadiums. If, as some people say, pro/rel would never work, then
            they have nothing to worry about because according to them D2 wont
            build up. I think people who are really pro/rel just say it wont
            work because they don’t want it. They know it will work.

        2. Jay. Well I’m giving you thumbs up for at least being open to such
          a system. According to Garber there are 5 cities right now that are
          willing to pay the MLS franchise fee to join the league. Thats a
          lot of dough. If there are 5 teams willing to pay that how many are
          there that are willing to pay no franchise fee and join tier 2 or 3
          in a pro/rel system. Right now you could take those 5 investment
          groups, combine them with the most supported lower division teams
          and start building up a pretty solid D2. The big thing holding D2
          and D3 from becoming strong and stable is the fact there is no
          pro/rel. Once there is pro/rel you increase the value of lower
          division teams.

    2. If everyone has a local club, everyone has a stake in the system.
      As it is, in Birmingham, why should I care whether Seattle wins or
      Portland wins? The quality of the soccer is only so-so; I can watch
      better soccer somewhere else and the win doesn’t affect any team to
      which I have any tie in any way. In a pyramid system, results
      matter. If you root for a 2nd tier club in Denmark, you are
      following the Superliga closely because you want to see what the
      teams have that you will face the next year if you get promoted. If
      you’re in Germany, you have a stake because your 2nd tier club
      might face one of those clubs at the bottom in a relegation battle.
      Pro/rel would be something totally unique in the American sports
      marketplace and I think Americans who aren’t even soccer fans would
      buy into it because its goals are fundamentally American: even the
      little guy can fight his way up to a title shot.

      1. Bama in theory your right but again your forgetting all the money
        that goes into it. Yes people love the little dog going up against
        the giants but most people are fans of the giants. There are tons
        of man U fans not so much of wolves or bolton. I think you have to
        have people with the passion you guys do to pull it off and you
        just can’t manufacture that. And promotion and relegation won’t
        breed that passion if anything it could hurt it by dividing the
        teams into haves and have not. In Europe their fans are ok with
        being bait for the big boys it won’t fly here. I like this
        conversation but I think just because Europe does it doesn’t mean
        we have to because nobody in America watches the EPL or La Liga
        because of the system they watch because they have the best players
        in the world. Bartleby I love your passion but unless you clone
        yourself a couple million times over then your going to have to
        wait on p/r for awhile lol.

        1. How can you have a bigger system of haves or have nots than when
          you have to spend $100M expansion fee to move up a division? MLS is
          a totally closed system. Open systems do better worldwide because
          everyone has a stake. Bolton averaged about the same attendance as
          LAG last season, despite being in a market a tiny fraction of LA’s
          size. Wolves averaged 4K more than LAG. It’s promotion and
          relegation battles that keep fans of teams like Wolves and Bolton
          engaged even when it’s a crappy season. Bolton and Wolves don’t
          have the best players in the world, yet they outdraw MLS. If the
          club you are following is facing an existential threat, that will
          generate passion. Passion cannot be mandated down from the MLS
          front office. The clubs who have gotten “promoted” to MLS are by
          far the most passionate in the league; I don’t think that’s a
          coincidence. Their fans had a stake in the clubs long before MLS
          came calling. MLS just made them mainstream. I think that’s the
          model, but I don’t think a club ought to have to cough up $100M to
          do that.

  21. You can’t compare decades of loyalty to team like Wolves to a MLS
    team. If anything I say its impessive that a MLS team had close to
    the same attendance as Wolves. As for your statement that the new
    promoted teams are thriving well my question is would you get close
    to 40k if Seattle got relegated to the NASL? Or 20k at Portland?

    1. The real question is whether you might get people to pay attention
      to Chivas USA or New England if they faced the threat of
      relegation? Whether the Carolina Rail Hawks or the Fort Lauderdale
      Strikers would be selling out if they were chasing promotion? I
      think – as is almost always the case – fans would be much more
      likely to get excited about their team fighting its way back up to
      the top division and actually winning, even against second tier
      competition (think Newcastle) than to be stuck at the bottom of a
      league for decades and decades with no release either way (think
      the Detroit Lions and/or the Pittsburgh Pirates). A top club
      staying down is another thing altogether but there’s a reason it
      rarely happens: cream usually rises. Even with a salary cap, the
      most popular clubs are going to have more revenue streams. If a
      club like Seattle got relegated, they wouldn’t be down for long.

    1. You mean you don’t like confusing qualification process, 10 teams
      battling it out & confusing 1 leg, 2 leg, 1 leg set up?! EURO
      SNOB! sarc/

  22. The issue I have with MLS and USSF is that it seems so contrived.
    It’s not doing things the “American way”, what it is doing is
    producing a lame parody of the results of organic growth in other
    American sports in a quixotic attempt to woo fans of those sports
    through structure rather than quality.

    For example; professional baseball didn’t have playoffs for the
    first CENTURY of its existence, and it was another 25 years later
    before expansion to 30-odd teams necessitated 3rd divisions and
    wild-cards. MLS just skipped all that and went strait to the end
    result – except wildly confusing since their structure doesn’t
    mirror their playoff system at all – in the moronic belief that
    playoffs are what we like about MLB rather than the high quality
    of the game being played in MLB (or the NBA, NFL and NHL).

    I wouldn’t mind a bit if American soccer did things an American
    way that didn’t just ape how they do the game in Europe. A split
    season that avoids playing in northern winters and southern
    summers seems like a no-brainer. An unbalanced schedule with more
    than 20 teams playing in real divisions is an obvious way to tame
    our geographical issues. Rational playoffs resulting from such a
    structure would be perfectly acceptable. A farm system to throw a
    bone to smaller markets or an NCAA that had widespread
    participation and played by rules more similar to FIFA standards
    would be brilliant methods of developing talent and fan-bases in
    lieu of pro/rel.

    Seems to me MLS/USSF is too fixated on competing with MLB, NFL,
    NBA and NHL for phantasmal “American sports fans” (while
    insulating its owners from the risks associated with that most
    American of endeavors: Capitalism) rather than creating a system
    whose teams compete with each other for American SOCCER FANS. The
    result is that other American sports, and their fans, ignore MLS
    while the EPL hands MLS its ass on a platter when it comes to
    American soccer fans who don’t happen to live within driving
    distance of an MLS franchise (and the EPL probably dominates
    there as well if to a lesser extent).

    1. I agree that it is a balance. One the one hand you need structures
      that Americans recognize, that are practical to our geographic
      realities, and the American media culture can figure out. On the
      other hand you want differentiation because consumers don’t need
      more of the same- there hasn’t been a successful new league in our
      sporting landscape for a long time. No doubt, part of
      differentiation is the game itself, but we also have a chance to do
      things in better ways. _____________________ By the way, this is a
      common business dilemma – if you have a new soft drink, for
      instance, you might try to put it in a new shaped bottle in order
      for it to stand out and get attention, but you can’t be too
      different; you couldn’t sell it in a bag, for instance, because gas
      stations wouldn’t have the infrastructure to shelve it and
      consumers wouldn’t recognize it as a drink!

      1. All I want is a open soccer league and the Open Cup and Champions
        League to be the only cup competitions.

      2. Tom, are you saying Americans wouldn’t be able to understand single
        table, cup competitions, and pro/rel?

        1. No, they could understand it. The proposed play off format in the
          Op is too complicated. And regional scheduling makes some sense.

      1. 1854. There were no playoffs beyond the World Series until 1969. So
        it actually lasted more than a century without playoffs.

  23. Poeple People People! Not to ruin yall euro wet fest, but nobodyis
    gonna give positive feedback for a struggling team. relegation
    races are a watsed purpose IMO, because those team that are
    involved in a regation race arent playing for anything signifigant.
    ofocurse its gonna be important to the fanbases of the teams
    involved, but thats about it. Overall you cant beat a Playoff chase
    especiallywhen the league championship in stake.

    1. The whole league comes to a standstill to follow relegation Sunday
      in England. You can beat a playoff chase when it makes the regular
      season more or less meaningless (i.e. over half of the teams in the
      league get to play in it). I’m in favor of playoffs, but not this
      crap. 1 leg 2 leg 2 leg 1 leg sounds like a dance move and it makes
      no sense.

    2. I agree with Bama, relegation battles can be really exciting. Also,
      having three new teams every year keeps things fresh, I love that
      about European football.

  24. this is a question for those that are anti pro/rel because they
    don’t believe it will work. If you structured the pyramid where
    there would be a trigger that would implement pro/rel between MLS
    and D2 when D2 met the following benchmarks: 3/4 of D2 clubs must
    have Soccer Specific Stadiums that can hold 12k and 1/2 of D2 clubs
    must have youth academies, how long do you think before D2 was able
    to get to that trigger? Let me clarify. Once D2 met these
    benchmarks pro/rel would be implemented the following year. So how
    many years would it take? 5? 10? 12? 16? 20? or Never?

    1. I am only anti-pro/rel if it doesn’t include some sort of salary
      cap. I also think that those that are so insistent about pro/rel
      need to start supporting their local side or get lost. If you
      believe in pro/rel, then they should show that they will support D2
      and below. To answer your question, I think that your idea is a
      good one if it includes a salary cap. I would say 8 to 10 years

      1. More than half the teams in MLS were created out of “thin air”. it
        wasn’t until recently MLS started poaching from lower divisions.

    2. So all of D2 builds a 12k stadium at a big cost
      ?……………first of all not going to happen, second, no one
      shows up to make it feasible, third, 12k is not what MLS can
      survive on, so promoting them is a death sentence. Making my first
      two points, pointless……………………… Most of the
      pro/rel people are watching England because the soccer is better (
      should be watching Spain instead ). So now they are going to
      magically start watching a small step up from college soccer ? Not
      to mention, these players are what ? Part time players, full time,
      being supported on cheap tickets sold in 12k bunches with no TV
      rights ? Pro/Rel is a great magical idea, perfect for endless blog

      1. Charles..buddy.., If a group of investors gather in a dark smokey
        room and open up their excel spreadsheets and run some valuation
        models do you know what they will find about a D2 team with ZERO
        prospect of promotion? A bankrupt team in a few years. Sponsorship
        money is not there, TV Revenue is not there and most importantly
        fans will not show up. Give villages, towns, cities the same rights
        as your Sounders and you will see soccer explode in this country.

        1. I agree completely. Well you are NOT an MLS fan, so I can see you
          wanting that to spread to the top division……me, I would rather
          it didn’t. MLS is cruising along very nicely. I hope you enjoy it
          some day like I do.

          1. I don’t like MLS because it destroys small town teams for not
            giving them an avenue to reach Division 1. You assume MLS is
            cruising around nicely but have you seen the financials? Why do you
            think MLS bends over backwards for these European friendlies?

  25. At this moment 30+ at best. NASL and USL are a joke of second and
    third divisions they drop and get new teams almost every year. Its
    going to be hard to get people to invest all those resourses into
    making the team top teir ready when their is no way to assure them
    they get there. See the main problem is we are at the what came
    first the chicken or the egg problem. My point is if the EPL
    started a decade ago and there wasn’t relegation they would ask or
    want it. Every business man wants to insulte his profits if
    possible. Oh and Bama stop comparing UK fans with US fans its not
    the same lol. Americans wouldn’t care one bit who got relegated
    unless it was their team.

  26. Jay, One reason NASL and USL are a joke is because there is no
    potential to get promoted and raise the value of the club. Once you
    put the pro/rel trigger in you have economic certainty. What are
    you basing the 30 years on? And if you really think it would be 30
    years for D2 to pull the trigger why are you against this kind of
    system? According to you it will never work and it won’t change
    anything anyway. At least you’ll have D2 trying to meet those
    standards. Btw i think it would be closer to 8-10 years. The demand
    is already there for fan support and there is enough economic
    viability in about 100 american cities to support professional
    soccer. The difficult part would be building the stadiums and
    getting the investment. But like i said once you introduce the
    certainty of the pro/rel trigger it will be much easier for lower
    divisions to get investment. Oh and BTW your chicken and egg
    analogy is absolutely irrelevant. It doesn’t matter if you
    institute pro/rel before or after. If it does someone should tell
    Alex Ferguson who every time he comes to the states on tour with
    Man U brings up the topic of America needing pro/rel.

  27. Yeah Sir Alex Ferguson is the man I want to tell me how to run a
    league. When you have an almost unlimited check book then hell yeah
    he don’t mind relegation because he never worries about getting
    relegated lol. And let me say this if Sir Alex or any other top
    manager had to play with the same money as a Wigan, I bet he
    wouldn’t want relegation either. Back to the real world in American
    soccer where there aren’t unlimited check books and not undying
    interest like in Europe, we have to advance soccer in the world we
    live in not the one we wantBart I’d love to have a local team to
    root for in your setup but I also am a realist and see that its
    going to happen very slowly. It sounds good in theory to have all
    these stadiums and people coming out hoping to get promoted to the
    MLS someday but that’s a gamble a lot of people won’t take.
    Sometimes its ok to just accept things are they way they are and
    enjoy it for what it is. MLS is a solid growing league with no
    relegation. To be honest my perfect MLS would be a 32-36 team
    league split east and west single table. You hit up all the major
    cites in the US and get the whole country someone to root for.

    1. So you want to advance soccer in the USA by limiting it? Jay, if it
      weren’t for Euro clubs coming to the States I’m afraid MLS would go
      bankrupt. If MLS had its league and franchises in its best interest
      why are they risking injury over pointless friendlies in the heart
      of MLS season? Pro/Rel is the solution

      1. So Robert your saying the two or three games they play against Euro
        teams helps cover their losses? If that’s the case hell I’d play a
        friendly once a month if I could. Your saying to stop playing
        friendlies so instead let’s install a system where almost everyone
        loses money even the good teams. (well outside the Bundisliga) We
        can’t just say throw pro/reg at it and it will fix everything
        because it won’t. Robert its not limiting anything its called
        understanding your situation and staying within your means. Should
        MLS just get rid of the salary cap just because it limits teams? We
        have limits but it done for a reason. To safe guard against
        Rangers, Portsmouth, Leeds, situations. The latter two destroyed
        themselves trying to avoid relegation. Look fellas I think we are
        going to have to agree to disagree but if its relegation or not I
        just want a better league.

        1. but like i said. You wouldn’t have pro/rel between D1 and D2 until
          D2 met economic benchmarks (3/4 of clubs with SSS). So this idea
          that teams would be relegated into a NASL or USL type league is not
          what we are talking about. People say, “hey build up d2 and d3
          first then we’ll talk.” But you can’t build up d2 and d3 when there
          is no hope for promotion. There is just no value in those clubs if
          they are in a static pyramid. I’m surprised they get the investment
          they do now.

        2. Here’s a funny little finance fact. A corporation can survive even
          if it loses money. Do you know why? Operating Cash Flow. As long as
          it kind fund its operations you can be a money loser until the cows
          come home.

      2. @Robert Yes sure smart people are investing a $40m franchise fee
        plus operating capital plus $20m to $200m to build a stadium all
        for the opportunity of joining a league that “……if it weren’t
        for Euro clubs coming to the States I’m afraid MLS would go
        bankrupt …….”?!! Do you even know anything about the finances
        of Major League Soccer?

        1. Yes, and obviously you don’t. Taxpayers are picking up most of the
          tab for those mini-soccer stadiums.

          1. Shawn you should bet him the league wont fold in three years…he
            would take it…..I remember when the NASL folded, there were many
            looking to invest in it at the top.prices….Wrong. Robert,
            remember when you said the Sounders would never draw more fans than
            their first year, then they drew more every year for four years
            running and this year they will draw more than Chelsea ? Didnt we
            bet on that ?

  28. then you should be for pro/rel with the trigger. Because according
    to you it wont work and nothing will change anyway.

  29. There have been 45 teams in EPL play over 19 years, so you can drop
    the constant everyone has a chance motto it doesnt fly…………
    5 of those have played 1 season. So lets support MLS, get it to 40
    teams who will all have an equal chance every year…rather than
    pretend they have a chance every third year….PROBLEM SOLVED !!!!!

    1. Charles, MLS franchise clubs compete internationally, which is why
      it gets smoked in CCL. If you want to have a league where “everyone
      has a chance and we are all winners” please go back to watching
      NFL. We don’t need you as a soccer fan because you are holding the
      sport back in this country.

  30. Today put any day in MLS history to shame; almost every team went
    into today with something to play for. For Man City and Man U, it
    was the title, for Arsenal, Spurs, and Newcastle, it was the
    Champions League. For Bolton and QPR, it was relegation. All played
    at the same time across England and everyone in the world was
    watching. Drama from the top of the league to the bottom. Too bad
    we’ll never get a day like that in MLS if you folks have your way.

    1. QPR versus Man City for the championship puts MLS to shame. Give me
      a break. Basically, the Euro playoffs the keep everyone in
      contention are good ? Stay the course MLS !! BAMAMAN has your back
      !…………………..Why don’t you look at the playoff race, a
      race to decide a champion, the last day of the season, the Sounders
      first year in the league. Remember Salt Lake squeeked in, only a
      few points behind Columbus the SS winner……No comparision. MLS
      wins hands down, not even worth my time to discuss…….in real
      news……Montreal drew 60k+, Seattle close to 40k.

      1. In real news, over 100 million watched Man City v. QPR yesterday
        worldwide. MLS has done well to get over 100K to watch their games
        on television. ESPN Classic is re-airing the Man City-QPR game in
        primetime tonight. When have they ever done that for an MLS game?
        MLS has never had a match where one team was fighting for a title
        and the other was fighting to survive. I just thinks folks on this
        blog have a tendency to be extremely unrealistic about MLS’s
        ability to grow its US viewership audience. It would be much, much
        easier for the MLS to go after the 4.2M viewers who watched the
        Champions League final last year, then to go after the people who
        hate soccer but are watching the NFL, NBA, MLB, or NHL. I love
        other sports but I am a soccer fan. I want MLS to be a soccer
        league, not a “North American league” whatever that means.

        1. I think it’s sad that Charles supports a league that holds back his
          Sounders Franchise Club just so NE Revolution can compete.

        2. Well you are probably a huge fan of the latest in bad pop music
          too, draws a lot more interest than real music. Popularity proves
          nothing to me……..Just keep watching your popular Disco Duck
          league. Disco, disco Duck !

  31. Lol Bama you just don’t get it. But ok have it your way and when
    you and the people who think like you watch the league fall to
    pieces on a pipe dream don’t complain. People here in this country
    didn’t give a dam about anything other then the championship was on
    the line and most didn’t care anyway. You seem to think culture has
    nothing to do with accepting things like relegation. It would
    appear some of us understand that. The world is made of differences
    and everyone doesn’t have to be just a like. Was today exciting
    hell yes but was it about Bolton and QPR or Arsenal, Spurs, and
    Newcastle hell no, it was about City and United that’s it. What was
    breath taking was City winning a championship in the final seconds
    on a last second shot. I could care less who got relegated because
    they aren’t winning anything except the chance to get relegated
    next year aka Wigan or QPR. What’s a shame is that you so badly
    want something that you seem to not be able to enjoy what you do
    have. The Houston game on Saturday was amazing the atmosphere the
    new stadium, or even the Philly v New York game was exciting down
    to the final seconds. There were goals all weekend that were jaw
    dropping that have thousands of hits on Youtube and all you can
    talk about is a league across the ocean and how much you wish you
    we were them. Well I’m not, I’m going to enjoy MLS and you can
    enjoy the EPL.

    1. “Well I’m not, I’m going to enjoy MLS and you can enjoy the EPL.
      “……………….Amen. Very exciting week to follow
      too……………….. @Jay, I do think there is a HUGE bit of
      insecurity for the EPL lovers living in the US. So many follow the
      Evertons and the Fuhlhams, because of the American connections, and
      let’s face it, it is VERY boring. Go over to SoccerbyIves and read
      the comments on Dempsey, you really get that sense. They are very
      excited for his success in the league they care about, but they are
      just begging/praying he will get on team that is relevant. Even if
      not very relevant.

  32. @Bamaman Yes there’s no drama in North American pro sports. Have
    you been in a coma during last year’s MLB playoffs? Or the NFL? Or
    this years Stanley Cup Playoffs? Seriously dude open your eyes.

  33. Lol yes I watched because I’m a soccer fan Robert I watch soccer.
    Dude I’m on a site called MLS Talk come on lol. You know what I
    didn’t watch Robert? Bolton v Stoke or Arsenal v West Brom lol. I
    watched a really good MLS game afterwards and didn’t think twice
    about who got relegated in Europe or who got a Champions league
    spot. Try again. Oh and Charles pro/reg fans are like people who
    can’t see the forest for the trees. They want something so bad they
    come up with ridiculous ideas consequences be damed. Playoffs are
    exciting the NBA and NHL playoffs are amazing almost every year.
    NFL playoffs are outstanding and MLB as long is its not the Yankees
    lol is good as well. Yes I know that’s not how most soccer leagues
    work but MLS isn’t a regular soccer league.

    1. Why is MLS not a regular soccer league? I’d argue that the more MLS
      has moved towards regular soccer (allowing ties, counting up,
      balanced schedule, promoting pre-existing clubs instead of creating
      new ones with no history), the more popular it has become. It
      boggles my mind that MLS would want to now reverse course and start
      moving in the opposite direction. I have no doubt that Charles and
      Co. were happier in the days of countdown clocks and shootouts in
      empty NFL stadiums.

      1. MLS is superior in many ways….first and foremost the culture of
        the guys running it. Post game suspensions being handed out because
        they review every game is a great example of this, it will take a
        half of a season, but the diving will stop because of it and the
        players will be safer too. Obviosly you would love the.parity as
        you wanted exciting last days……….how did you know I loved the
        NASL shorltouts ? My first chioce is to play an.extra thirty to
        solve the tie problem.

      2. Lol the reason its not a regular soccer league or ever will be is
        because of the environment of which it lives. MLS has the
        unenviable task of competing with the best basketball, hockey, and
        baseball leagues in the world plus the NFL which is a monster on to
        itself not to mention college sports. MLS can play with the same
        rules as the rest of the world that’s obvious so whats your point?
        What they can’t do is copy the league setups and financial setups.
        MLS can’t run itself like its the only show in town like the EPL
        because its not in fact its so far down the list most people don’t
        watch. When MLS can pull its weight like the others sports in this
        country then maybe we can start talking about changing league

        1. Jay, I’d like to turn this argument against you if you don’t mind.
          So yes, NFL, NBA and MLB dominate the sports media landscape,
          especially in the big cities. This, like you said, is not going to
          change. But thats exactly why i think a pro/rel pyramid would be a
          good strategy for soccer. Rather than trying to compete in big
          media markets, a more national approach where professional soccer
          is in 60+ cities would be a better strategy to build a fan base.
          Right now MLS with its 19 clubs has some sort of fan base in 18
          cities and pretty much no fan base outside those cities. A 4 tier
          pro/rel pyramid means you have a fan base in 4 times as many
          cities. If im a supporter of a D2, D3, or D4 club I no longer feel
          alienated from MLS and I have a reason to watch and support the top
          league. Also, it’s as if the current setup is actually working. It
          was just two years ago that the MLS Cup Final got beat in the
          ratings by Women’s Volleyball.

          1. I feel alienated from MLS because I live 125 miles from a team and
            there is no way in hell I’d root for a Los Angeles Team. Xolos (10
            miles away but in ANOTHER COUNTRY) have courted San Diego fans very
            well and currently have an academy in South San Diego teaching kids
            the fundamentals and on how to play the Xolos way. MLS is too busy
            poaching teams, signing Euro Has-Beens and building stadiums where
            you can order a hot dog from your seat. How’s Red Bull Arena
            attendance going btw?

          2. Bart in a perfect world I would agree that it would give reasons
            for people to hope and support their local teams. However, the
            question is, who is going to want to take all the risk and loses
            when it comes to getting all these teams off the ground. I’d like
            for my local team to be able to move all the way up to the top but
            its just not reasonable right now or anytime soon. The question you
            have to ask yourself is can these teams if they are created survive
            the years it would take to get a foothold taking loses year after
            year? And no of course not I wouldn’t stop watching but would I
            fear the league couldn’t handle it. I rather have the MLS the way
            it is now growing a good steady pace then reach for something just
            to appease soccer purists and fall on our face. We have new
            stadiums being built almost every year, growing attendance, new
            markets bidding to join and more players coming at younger and
            higher levels. So do I think relegation will increase any of this I
            doubt it but when we are ready install it. Nobody in America is
            screaming we want relegation or we won’t come to the games.
            Remember Bart we are on a soccer only website talking about it, its
            not like there is a national conversation about if MLS should
            install relegation. When or if MLS gets to that point, when its a
            national discussion then I think we are ready for it.

    1. You were banned from Why? Anyway, this league
      sucks. Small Central American teams beat you all the time in CCL.

      1. is just a bunch of dorks who never played the sport
        who like to play god by censoring people’s opinions. This is why I
        enjoy MLS Talk because although we share different views everyone
        is open to comment.

      2. if you mean then yes i was banned. I’m not sure why.
        I think if you make good arguments for pro/rel you just eventually
        get banned.

    2. Nah, I wouldn’t stop watching MLS for pro/rel, I actually, in
      theory, like pro/rel, it is cool. The reality is, it is a VERY dumb
      idea. The US would be perfect for pro/rel but there is not any
      interest in soccer, and it is WAY too large a country to have a
      newly promoted team flying 3,000 miles every
      month…………………………………………….. I might
      be forced to quit following MLS, if the Sounders were relegated. IF
      they got rid of parity and the Sounders won every year because they
      have the most money like Man U, I would quit obviously. I have
      better thing to do with my $44 and 3 hours every weekend than watch
      a joke of a league.

      1. Charles, if Seattle didn’t have a MLS team and Portland being the
        closet, would you support Timbers?

        1. I have watched every Timbers game this season, not sure how much
          more I could support them………BUT Nah, I supported the Sounder
          non MLS team for around 15 years, before that FC Seattle ( there
          were about 50 of us there at those games ), before that Sounder
          NASL. There were great games in those years, fun
          times……………………..The funny thing about Pro-Rel guys
          is they don’t really support local soccer like I do most times,
          right ? Usually the excuse is the US quality isn’t as good as the
          best league that has White English speaking players. Then after
          stating MLS is not good enough for them, they follow it up with, we
          should join MLS to a lower league……but all the while you
          realize they won’t watch either way unless a US team passes Barca
          in quality. Very casual fans most of the time.

    3. Ps. I agree with you on your pro/rel comment above. The problem is
      you are thinking people will watch lower soccer. That is NOT the
      case. There were 2-5k of us at lower quality Sounders games, 40k at
      the current level. When it was Seattle FC, there were less than
      100…….People like you (maybe not you specifically ) will watch
      the EPL instead because the quality is not there, right ? That is
      already the case with a VERY talented MLS…………… the
      way it works in these blogs is you rip on MLS, demean it by making
      its supporters feel like they are alone and stupid for being so
      (“…..MLS Cup Final got beat in the ratings by Women’s
      Volleyball……”). Then you ignore that fact when you argue
      pro/rel and say people will watch 3rd tier soccer. (“…..If im a
      supporter of a D2, D3, or D4 club I no longer feelalienated from
      MLS…..”)………………………………..You did that well,
      but you really screwed up….you need to put that in different
      posts or you are arguing against yourself.

      1. and again. If no one watches and if D2 doesn’t meet the trigger
        then there is never pro/rel. So whats the problem? I think you are
        just worried that it would work.

        1. Not worried it will succeed, there is just no need for it. England
          has had about 40 teams play in the top league ( a little more, but
          a few only for one season ) over the EPLs existance. I want MLS to
          get to 40 teams. Don’t really see why you would say to a team, you
          CANT win it all this year, even if you are the best team. Seems
          kind of dumb, actually not kind of dumb, very dumb. Newcastle
          probably finished 6th or so, in a parity league they definitely
          could have won it, BUT NOT THE YEAR BEFORE. No, not invited that
          year. Very dumb. It probably works in England, don’t really care
          either way. Again, I am talking parity league which is the only way
          to go, I am not going to support a joke league like they do parts
          of Europe.

  34. I think another important issue is that parity and relegation can’t
    work together. Parity would mean anyone could get relegated and for
    teams like New York, Seattle, LA, or Houston that isn’t a option.
    So yeah if somehow relegation got installed you would almost have
    to remove the salary cap. Because these teams would want to spend
    to avoid relegation which then would create the have and have not’s
    which then would create the EPL, La Liga, and Seri A all over
    again. What drives the sports landscape in this country is everyone
    believing they have a chance to win a championship every year.
    Relegation creates excitement but it erases the feeling of winning
    a championship for most teams every year. Even baseball which is
    just like the EPL with no salary cap and the rich buy championships
    is frowned on by most people. As Charles said, in England they are
    cool with four teams winning the title every year why I don’t know.
    But in America as capitalistic as we are, the thought of a team
    buying a championship turns people off.

    1. Is that why MLB leads all sports leagues in the world in attendance
      and revenues and outdoes MLS in per game attendance despite playing
      4 times as many games?

      1. Because they watch doesn’t mean they aren’t turned off by
        it……………………………….Plus baseball is a bad
        example because inspite of haves and have nots, it has had MANY,
        MANY different winners, both regular season and playoffs. It is not
        a joke like the
        record in baseball since the start of the EPL…….Starting in 94,
        Montreal, Cleveland, Cleveland, Atlanta, NYY, Atlanta, San Fran,
        SEATTLE, NYY and Oakland, Atl and NYY, St Louis, St Louis, NYY and
        NYM, Boston and Cleveland, LAA, NYY, Philly, Philly………12
        teams that had/shared the best record in baseball over 17 seasons.

        1. Thank God we agree on something – MLB proves firmly that single
          entity is not required to have parity.

          1. Don’t confuse parity with the unpredictability of the playoffs. The
            reason baseball has different winners is the playoffs without them
            and it just went to the regular season champ like the EPL it be the
            same teams each year. Money wins championships unless there are
            playoffs that’s why we have them to counter people who would try to
            buy championships. If MLB had no playoffs to offset the fact that
            people can outspend each other nobody would go to games because the
            Yankees and Red Sox and Dodgers would win every year.

          2. I’m confused. First, Charles’ point was that 12 different teams
            have had the best regular season record over the last several
            years. Second, who is proposing eliminating the playoffs?

          3. Jay, you are wrong. The Mariners won it all in 2001 without
            playoffs…………………………………………I have
            always said that the anti-MLS guys should use baseball as an
            example. They don’t, not smart enough, that is why they are
            anti-MLS in the first place. BUT baseball doesn’t have the biggest
            spending teams ( Yankees ) finish dead last like MLS, in fact they
            make the playoffs EVERY year. LA Galaxy has before and they are on
            pace again to finish last. Keep MLS as is, it is perfect for its
            biggest fans ( like me ) and it ticks off the guys who would never
            be fans anyway.

          4. If MLS stays where it is on television, it will no longer be on
            national television once the current contracts expire. MLS seems
            like a great gameday experience for the 16 American cities that
            have teams. For the rest of the US, it is a non-entity. I want to
            like MLS; MLS does not want me to like it.

  35. First to Tom lol the world cup? You watch the summer Olympic’s even
    though there is no parity in it? The US and a few other countries
    dominate most sports but you watch because of country and pride. As
    for Bama baseball is a bad example to compare to soccer. Baseball
    is a sport where if one player gets hot can carry a team to a
    championship even if the other players are sub par. That doesn’t
    happen in soccer where one player even if great can over come
    having average teammates. I would compare the NBA to soccer where
    the teams with the highest payrolls and best players normally have
    the best record and win the most titles.

    1. My point is that it is about making connections. I don’t mind that
      Colorado doesn’t win the SS, I still want it as something to shoot
      for, and I still root for Colorado because I feel connected to the

    2. Jay, what are you smoking. One player doesn’t do it in baseball,
      that is basketball. IF one player could do it in baseball, why did
      Seattle have the Cy Young winner and finish last
      ?………………………………………………. Basketball
      has a salary cap and I haven’t followed the junk professional
      league ( I have a soul ) since the Sonics left, but I believe all
      the teams are at that cap.

      1. The Yankees with a dam near 200 million dollar payroll lost to the
        Rays with a 39 million payroll. That happens a lot in baseball for
        some reason. There is a big difference between the Heat payroll and
        the Sacramento Kings. I agree that basketball players make a bigger
        contribution but most of those players are on the highest paid
        teams. The Celtics, Heat, OKC, and Spurs have some of the highest
        payrolls in the league and they are still in the playoffs only the
        Pacers and Sixers are moderate spending teams. The NBA may have a
        cap but if your willing to spend to its limit, your going to be a
        better then a team who doesn’t. Charles your a bitter Seattle fan
        lol however Key Arena was a dump and you know it. I’m not saying
        they should have left but come on that arena was awful. However I
        understand your pain I live in Charlotte and we lost the Hornets,
        I’m happy to have the Bobcats even though they suck right now.

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