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Is Now The Time For Promotion and Relegation Between MLS, NASL and USL PRO?

don garber Is Now The Time For Promotion and Relegation Between MLS, NASL and USL PRO?

On Saturday in Atlanta, the second division North American Soccer League will crown a champion for the 2013 season. The Atlanta Silverbacks will play host to the New York Cosmos who, despite not playing a full season, are eligible for the championship.  The winner will be crowned champion but will not win promotion to Major League Soccer, the top flight league in the United States and Canada. The champion won’t get a spot in the CONCACAF Champions League or any other international competition.

On the surface, this smacks of being highly unfair as a highly subjective, largely economic standard has been used to differentiate Division 1 from Divisions 2 and 3 in North America.

For years, I believed this standard was not only subjective but wrong. But once you work in the business, you realize why the structure is the way it is. While many of us would like to see changes made in the current environment, they are not possible in the near future.

Those who are connected with the beautiful game abroad want to badly see promotion and relegation in the United States. From a competitive sporting standpoint, it is the appropriate way to go. I count myself among this group. However for the model to work in the US, changes must be made to the domestic professional leagues. In other words, PRO/REL cannot work under the existing league setup. Here’s why:

1. Divisions 2 and 3 remain unstable and lack the infrastructure and professionalism to maintain first division standards

I worked at the NASL for three and a half years. When I began working there, I believed Major League Soccer (MLS) was a monopoly that was quite possibly violating anti-trust laws backed by the US Soccer Federation. I believed at the time a league like NASL could challenge MLS and blow them out of the water. By the time I left earlier this year, I believed Major League Soccer was largely a well-run league whose standards of professionalism and presentation exceed most football leagues on the planet. I also came to believe lower-division soccer needs to be overhauled and upgraded in the ways we talked about at the NASL but now seem to be ignoring.

What changed my thinking? Dealing with the wild west of lower division North American soccer where a lack of ownership stability, consistent standards and league structure inhibit the development of the game. The staffing of the leagues and the constantly changing formats and structure do not help either. USLPRO, the Division 3 in the country, has just once in the past decade gotten through an offseason without a team folding. The NASL, which manages Division 2, has trimmed its league staff and league budget since 2011 while Traffic Sports, which owns three teams in the league, has done the same as revenue projections have not been met. Sponsorship sales are difficult at the team and league level in both Division 2 and Division 3. Most lower-division teams could not possibly cope at the Major League level with the infrastructure they have. And attempting to compete for a single season if quickly relegated could contribute to bankrupting the ownership groups.

Top flight soccer does not sell itself in most markets. Professional, well-staffed clubs are a must to compete in the entertainment market at a high level in most towns that have pro soccer teams in any division. Many Division 2 teams have venues that are too small for MLS. And Division 3 teams have venues that are too small or not appropriate for NASL. Consider also what happens to MLS teams that have been sold for upwards of $100 million and have large soccer-specific stadiums. If those teams are relegated to the second division, consider how dramatically detrimental it would be to American soccer if it were in a large one team market (like Chicago, Philadelphia or Boston).  Conversely, do owners who spend a couple hundred thousand dollars to buy into USLPRO deserve a seat at the table?

2. Regional considerations

One of my greatest concerns about promotion and relegation being implemented now revolves around the geographic distribution of the clubs in each division. Travel costs already account for a large percentage of the budgets of lower division teams. Increased travel or, perhaps even worse, the first and second divisions lacking a presence in certain regions of the country will hurt the growth of the sport.

Considering resources in the United States are skewed towards larger urban areas and both coasts, is it possible with a promotion and relegation scheme that a concentration of teams on both coasts in MLS will be complimented by NASL being concentrated in the Midwest and southeast?

As far as USL PRO, the majority of third division teams from around the country are structured to minimize travel costs and lengthy cross-continent trips. This was among the reasons Rochester and Charleston, two of the strongest USL brands, dropped from Division 2 to Division 3 within the last five years. Self-relegation was the easiest way to counter increasing budget busting travel costs. Thus if promotion and relegation were implemented in the current scheme, one must wonder if teams will turn down the promotion to the top flight citing budgetary concerns.

3. Growth of game stifled

The lower divisions of American soccer are committed to growing the beautiful game and honing markets until they are ready to jump to the next level — as Seattle, Portland,. Montreal, Vancouver, and soon Orlando have proven, building the right model and infrastructure. Growing the sport in untested markets means managing budgets properly. In England it is estimated upwards of a third of Football League clubs buried in lower divisions could be sold.

Given the lack of ownership stability in the lower divisions of American soccer and the continued difficulty teams have making budgets year after year, it could be suicidal. England’s leagues have attracted large numbers of foreign owners at traditional clubs to cope with the existing structures. There’s no guarantee that American soccer will attract similar interest from foreign owners or even from domestic owners. Interest in the sport as a business is still limited in the US and Canada and despite Promotion/Relegation being far preferable to the existing system, from a sporting competitive standpoint.

Recently the NASL has made noises about competing with MLS including NASL Commissioner Bill Peterson claiming on the October 7th Ultras Alive show that teams may eventually want to leave MLS to join NASL. Peterson has previously claimed no NASL teams wants to join MLS and that NASL was looking at expanding into Los Angeles as a core MLS market.

Should NASL raise its standards to an MLS-lite level, we can begin to seriously discuss integrating the pyramid. But currently the gap between the NASL and MLS from a business, team and professionalism standpoint is not like the Championship and Premier League in England. It is more like the gap between the lower-tiers of League One and the Premier League. Thus NASL has lots of work to do. Additionally, NASL’s recent moves towards a more decentralized league take it further away from the goal of integration with MLS and the rest of the pyramid. USL PRO has even more work to do as the number of unstable franchises with what can be best described as “cracker jack” ownership would could not hack it in a more competitive business environment.

Ultimately I believe some form of promotion and relegation will happen in North America. But now is not the time just yet. The business side of the sport is not mature enough or sophisticated enough to handle the sort of flux promotion and relegation brings. This having been said, my personal preference from a sporting standpoint is to have promotion and relegation and to dump the socialist model of American sports entirely in this game. However, the time to do this has not arrived as of yet.

This entry was posted in Leagues: Major League Soccer, NASL. Bookmark the permalink.

About Kartik Krishnaiyer

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

56 Responses to Is Now The Time For Promotion and Relegation Between MLS, NASL and USL PRO?

  1. andrew beck says:

    What kind of effect do you think MLS clubs owning USL-Pro sides is going to have? By 2015 the Sounders are going to own a USL-Pro side. I imagine a lot of other MLS clubs are going to make similar investments. Do you think that help stabilize USL-Pro?

  2. Total Relegation says:

    Oh please, MLS is not stable either. The PNW are outliers for the league while the rest struggle to fill their stadiums on a weekly basis. Did you not see the horrible turnout for RBNY playoff last night?

    Growth in the league has come from expansion and as soon as the novelty wears off, who will be the next buyer of a franchise to “boost” attendance.

    • andrew beck says:

      I wouldn’t factor in playoff attendance in any argument. Selling tickets for the playoffs is hard. Teams don’t know when the games are going to be and/or who the opponent is until just days before the match. In Seattle, on the last game of the season; we didn’t know whether we would have a game the following Wednesday until it was over. That’s two days to sell tickets. Then we had to win that game to know if we had a game the following Saturday. Not to mention that the Saturday game tickets went on sale at the same time that payment installment for season ticket holders were due. We could have another game Saturday, or perhaps Sunday (we don’t know yet) but only if we win tonight.

      People have lives and plans, and the MLS playoff schedule makes it hard to work regular lives in.

      Regular season attendance was actually up this year, if you discount the dumpster fire that is Chivas.

      • Total Relegation says:

        What’s your excuse for TV Ratings?

        • andrew beck says:

          I think TV Ratings face a lot of the same problems as baseball do (but to a much greater effect because soccer is less popular).

          People care about their local team. Sounders fans watch the Sounders, but they might not watch any other games.

          • Total Relegation says:

            Then why are EPL ratings on NBCSports killing MLS? Most matches are played in the early AM on West Coast.

          • KapUSMC says:

            EPL is beating MLS for a couple of reasons. First off, the product is better. Second, the time slots aren”t competing with other sporting events. The later EPL games that go head to head with the NFL get clobbered.

            Fact of the matter, is ratings for neither are particularly good. EPL ratings are still behind the big 4 in the US. The game is growing, but this will be a long process.

    • KapUSMC says:

      Look, we know you hate MLS… But really, what you are saying is complete rubbish.

      MLS has been growing pretty steadily for 10 years, and its attendance is in compared to leagues outside the big 4 and Mexico.

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Major_League_Soccer_attendance

      • Total Relegation says:

        Before you start comparing attendance learn a little bit about math. Look at the denominator. If MLS played a balance schedule (Like the rest of the World) and not some goofy NFL schedule the denominator would be 342 games a year leaving avg. attendance to be 17,574 and not 18,608.

        This was the first year with zero expansion and there was a 1.06% drop in total attendance.

        • KapUSMC says:

          I really hate trying to carry a legitimate conversation with irrational people. First… MLS schedule has exactly 0 to do with the NFL schedule. In the NFL you only play other teams outside your division once every 3 years. This is much more closely related to the NBA or NHL schedule where it is weighted for in conference games, but you still play the teams from other conferences. Second, the argument about the denominator is idiotic. Your premise is that nobody would attend the extra games added to the schedule. If anything, it would most likely add to the average attendance because that would the only time the additional games would see that opponent in that given year. And finally, back to the your original post of MLS not being stable the link I provided showed the attendance by team, which excluding the train wreck that is Chivas has been constant with a trend toward growth. Again the MLS is a top 10 league in attendance.

          • Total Relegation says:

            58% of the teams in the league are below their last year’s attendnace. Looks like ChivasUSA isn’t alone.

          • Total Relegation says:

            70% of teams are below their inaugural season’s average.

          • KapUSMC says:

            Every team was within 1,000 in attendance from last years numbers except the dreadful Chivas and Chicago (which had a rough start but got much better after the inexplicable Magee for Rogers trade). Yes, you can say 58% of teams were down, but most of those were down less then 100 or so.

            Look, I don’t like Serie A. I don’t care for the bruising nature and 3 man back lines that are so prevalent with the slow pace. But I don’t go around bashing anyone who likes Serie A, or talk about how horrible the league is. I get bashing on MLS makes you feel superior. But really, it just comes off as childish and ill informed.

  3. KapUSMC says:

    Kartik,

    Thank you. This is far and away the best article I’ve read pertaining to the domestic leagues on this site. I especially enjoyed the inside insight into the NASL.

      • R.O says:

        Yes thanks for the article and a closer look at NASL. From news and info I had read, I thought NASL had the potential to become a top level league and in the future possible surpass MLS. After reading your post, doesn’t look like it.

        Do you feel NASL is in a stronger position over USL Pro and USL?

        Thanks

  4. David says:

    The answer is no, US & Canada are not ready. And they most likely never will be anytime soon.

    • David says:

      Kudos to this site for trying very hard to appeal to fans outside of the EPL. I’m willing to bet many of the people reading this article are fans of European teams & leagues first, MLS second (if at all).

      Financially, it will never make sense. It costs hundreds of millions of dollars to create an MLS franchise. No owner in their right mind will want to jeopardize that.

      Country size is also an issue. MLS purposely tries to balance teams all around the country for a reason. If teams from one region all became relegated, it would create a big problem for the league.

      Parity is also what sets MLS apart. Parity can only exist with level playing field for every club, even though some clubs clearly spend more than others with DP’s, but it’s close.

      I look forward to the day where there are hundreds of clubs with great foundations, but many clubs don’t have a history of fan base or quality players at their disposal to make pro/rel a realistic possibility in 20 years let alone NOW, as this article suggests.

  5. Steve says:

    I would love to see Pro/Rel in N.Am., but for all the reasons above, it simply won’t work within the current structure. I also cannot see owners willingly creating a potential risk of their club falling into a lower division – especially considering all of the money a lot of these owners have put into their franchises.

    Having said that, I wonder – as more and more teams get added to the league, whether it makes sense to go to an MLS1 and an MLS2 in the future. Let’s say you have 34 – 38 teams in the league, you could split MLS into 2 leagues, an upper league and a lower league, with teams rising and falling in those leagues. Thus, the teams would be insulated, to a degree, within the MLS structure.

    But it remains to be seen whether an MLS team that has dropped down a division (even within MLS) would still be supported at the gate.

  6. Dean Stell says:

    Great article.

    I’d like to see pro/rel too, but am enough of a business person to understand why it won’t happen anytime soon.

    I do wonder if we’ll kinda back into pro/rel at some point in the future if MLS keeps expanding. MLS will always want to expand and won’t want any non-MLS clubs to get too big and popular….not when they could charge them a $100MM expansion fee and co-opt that lower league club. But, eventually such a league will become unwieldy. So, maybe over time (as other commenters have said), we’ll have MLS1/MLS2/MLS3.

    Or maybe chop it up by regions to better accommodate the diverse weather in the US/Canada. And then do some kind of North American Champion’s League (I think that would be HOT).

    I guess I’d just love to hear someone in MLS say something indicating they plan to ever allow lower league clubs to play in a pyramid with them. Anytime the topic comes up they just start getting hives and yelling about Eurosnobs.

    • Hal says:

      i think MLS and some of craziest supporters have alienated a lot of soccer fans in this country. I used to go on bigsoccer.com and mention pro/rel and would get some of the nastiest comments from MLS fans. And it was always the same five or six people who would just reign down on you with all kinds of vitriol.

      I find MLS way too Americanized for my taste. But, I always thought it was just me. Then I started to notice that all my friends who play and watch soccer refuse to watch MLS. And they too had the same criticisms about it – too plastic, too inauthentic, deliberately ignores the rest of the world, sycophantic fans.

      Just look at the TV ratings for these playoff games. They are horrible. No one is watching. American soccer fans are rejecting this league. You would think the league and its fans would want to know why.

  7. AdamEdg says:

    “Most lower-division teams could not possibly cope at the Major League level with the infrastructure they have. And attempting to compete for a single season if quickly relegated could contribute to bankrupting the ownership groups.”

    This is the single best argument against promotion and relegation I have ever read. And it applies everywhere, not just the US and Canada. Look at how many teams in England and other European cities have gone through variations of bankruptcy trying to compete (for a midtable spot at best) in their top leagues.

    Your other arguments are also strong, in relation to the US specifically.

    The thing that pro/rel fanatics don’t quite understand is that given the choice today, most of the power teams and leagues in Europe would not have pro/rel if presented the choice. They would use a “closed”/franchise model like MLS, NFL, and the other US sports leagues because it solidifies marketing and revenue streams. It also creates consistency and allows more control over the operation of individual teams and the league itself. This has been proven by EVERY major league sport in the US.

    Also, Peterson is full of sh*t. San Antonio has made plenty of noise about moving to MLS. The Cosmos were heavily focused on MLS until they were denied. Every team that is not owned by Traffic has interest in MLS, if they could afford it. I get that he has to promote his league, but those kind of lies show how poor things really are.

    • Total Relegation says:

      Clubs do go bankrupt and it’s a part of capitalism and business. But look how many leagues have folded in the United States. Would you rather have clubs folding or entire leagues?

      • AdamEdg says:

        Your “argument” is asinine.
        I would rather have the strongest model possible, which in the case of US sports is the model we currently have. MLS has lasted longer than any other top flight soccer league in the US. The league’s overall strength and popularity continues to grow. Within its first 20 years of existence, it has reached a point that nobody (honestly) thought possible in 1996, and certainly not following the contraction of two teams over a decade ago.
        Is it perfect? No, but what league (in any sport) is?
        Do you honestly think that bringing in a bunch of lower division teams that lack the resources to travel, let alone compete, is the solution?
        I’ll tell you this much: the stability of each MLS team is greater than the lower 2/3 of the EPL and their odds of winning the league championship (SS or MLS Cup) are exponentially higher than their English counterparts. At the beginning of each EPL season, we all know it will be one of four or five clubs that walks away with the championship; the same handful of clubs have won the league for the last 15 years and will win for the foreseeable future. Hell, the same block of teams have filled out the middle of the table for that same period of time, and the same clubs continue to go up and down in pro/rel. This same argument applies to Italy, Spain, and Germany as well. You cannot say that about MLS, which makes for a more exciting league, in my opinion.
        Sure there are arguments about quality on the field and tradition, but when it comes down to being entertained, and to the point of your argument about stability, neither apply here.

        • S04th says:

          Quality on the field is inapplicable to being entertained? Sh*t son, why not just go watch the local rec league down in the park on Saturday morning then? It’s not like the enforced mediocrity of the MLS makes anything beyond checking the tables every week a necessity. Might as well just decide the game at the coin flip right?

          Also, to have 100+ years of tradition does argue for a certain degree of stability.

        • Hal says:

          Just because the NFL is still around or MLB is still around it doesn’t make their model any better than how European soccer is structured. That’s not an argument for anything.

          • KapUSMC says:

            Hal, the problem with your statement is the by and large the teams in the major US sports are to be far more profitable then most European football clubs. Out of the top 50 most valuable sports franchises only 7 are soccer, while almost all of the remaining were NFL, MLB, NBA, and NHL. As far as actually profit goes, even the big clubs in the Europe are dwarfed by the major American sports teams. From FIFA financial fair play half of professional clubs are losing money, and that number is growing, not decreasing. That number is 7 for sports teams from the big 4 (and that number is questionable, since many contend they make far more then that, and numbers are skewed for tax implications). Between fair play (maybe someday actually getting teeth) and the influx of American owners (many who own American franchises as well) into clubs in the various top flights I wouldn’t be surprised if the landscape in Europe to change pretty significantly over the next decade or so.

      • tim says:

        You are a complete wack job.

    • RS says:

      MLS is limited in its size and scope thanks to single-entity. NASL has the New York Cosmos, the single most recognizable soccer brand in North America as well as Traffic Sports who are the largest soccer marketing company in the world’s biggest soccer country, Brazil. The paid flaks and lakhis believe NASL can never challenge MLS but those who actually apply critical thinking skills realize MLS is the one at a serious disadvantage and have created a structure meant to impose a monopoly but instead will limit the league’s ability to compete.

      I too oppose Promotion and Relegation right now because it would relegate the NASL with the best minds, the best brands and most experience in the sport to second-tier. In 5-7 years MLS will be overtaken by NASL and then we can have a proper discussion.

    • Hal says:

      the Cosmos were not denied entry into MLS. They didn’t want to be part of MLS LLC.

      Most of the top teams and leagues in Euorpe wouldn’t want pro/rel? Okay, that’s the dumbest thing I’ve probably ever heard on here or anywhere.

      Pro/rel actually expands the fan base in these countries. If you are a fan of Derby County are you going to watch the EPL if its a closed league and you have no chance of making it in? Maybe, but most wouldn’t. They would feel alienated and shut off from the process.

      What makes the EPL so popular in England is that it is open to to so many teams. If the English pyramid was closed like the American one is it would be the death of English football. Most of the pyramid would collapse.

  8. R.O says:

    I would say no, not for all three. Yes for Promo and Relegation between NASL and USL Pro.

    Maybe in 6-10 years MLS would be part of promo and relegate.

    • Hal says:

      you can’t have pro/rel when you don’t include the top tier. There’s just not enough incentive for lower division clubs otherwise.

  9. Daniel Feuerstein says:

    Unlike some of the people who claim they know what’s going on with this topic, the real pundit who has been on the inside of this argument is Kartik Krishnaiyer.

    So listen to him and not anyone else who claims they know what they are talking about.

  10. Americano & Proud says:

    I’ve been disappointed at this site on their MLS coverage lately. However, this is the most realistic piece on Pro/Rel I’ve seen. Kudos.

  11. Hal says:

    pro/rel is how the game is played around the globe. We should get our act together and implement it here. But we have to be smart and pragmatic about it.

    To answer your question, “is now the time” No. Now is not the time. To implement pro/rel you need two very important things: a stable second division with clubs playing in MLS size stadiums and fan support. Right now our 2nd division has neither. But with the right incentives it can get both.

    This is how you could implement pro/rel safely:

    -pro/rel between MLS and NASL automatically triggers when NASL has 18 clubs, 3/4 of which play in MLS sized SSS, and with league wide average attendance of 10k.

    That would be a stable league for a D1 team to fall down in to.

    What that economic trigger would do is give economic certainty to lower divisions and it would increase investment in those divisions. One of the reasons investment is so poor in our lower divisions is because there is no chance for promotion and thus no chance to raise the value of the club.

    How long would it take for NASL to reach those benchmarks? It takes time to get capitol, builds stadiums, build a fan base. I think its a decade away if we started now.

    I won’t be surprised at all if someone replies to this post by calling me a euro snob or calling pro/rel un-American.

    • Matt says:

      No one will call you a Eurosnob. Just a little delusional or naive. The NASL averages 4,000 a game. Where will this money and interest come from in 10 years to have them all average 10k with SSSs? Especially when MLS is expanding! I have a better chance of being Pope.

      • Hal says:

        the NASL averages 4k and that’s with their fan base knowing they never have a chance for promotion. It limits their fan base and their marketing strategy.

        I used 10k as an arbitrary number. In reality, avg fan attendance of anywhere from 7-10k would create a stable d2. But 10k is easily attainable if the pro/rel trigger exists. Just look at some of the NASL cities and the potential for growth.

  12. john marzan says:

    “This having been said, my personal preference from a sporting standpoint is to have promotion and relegation and to dump the socialist model of American sports entirely in this game.”

    In the USA, the socialist model only works in fake life (sports leagues). Team salary caps, individual salary caps, revenue sharing, profit redistribution from the haves (LA, NY, CHI) to the have nots (small market teams). As one famous individual said: “I do think at a certain point you’ve made enough money”

    in real life, try telling americans business owners they need to redistribute their earnings to their less fortunate competitors, have their salaries capped, and any additional profits to be put under the “luxury tax” and see where that gets you…

  13. EPLNFL says:

    Kartik this is a master work. It is well written and absolutely analytical of the issue. Your piece sets out the reasons why promotion/ relegation can not take place in the near future. I truly believe that for the next 5 years or until MLS has finished its next round of expansion to a total of 24 team your piece says it all.

    What I would like to see from you and our other insightful commenters here is what can be done to make NASL & USL PRO strong lower divisions so when the time is right a prom/relegation system can be instituted.

    In my mind it will take having a lower division club in all of the major markets as well as 2 MLS clubs in selected cities. It is impossible to see a future where NY, LA, Chicago, Seattle, or Boston does not have a top division team.

    So much more to say on how to build the system. WELL DONE!

  14. Matt says:

    Let’s star here. MLS will never pro/rel with something it doesn’t control or own. So in order for pro/rel to occur, MLS will need at least 40 clubs. So get back to me in the year 2030. Until then, wasting time on pro/rel is pointless.

  15. Guy says:

    Nice article, Kartik. I have wanted to post something on the possibilities of pro/rel with MLS, but couldn’t work it out.

    Glad I didn’t. :-)

  16. Rick Smith says:

    No, there are various reasons why the pro/rel argument is only feasible for one sport in the US and that’s baseball. The area that needs more organization and direction is the college game. You could also do a pro/rel system there. Until the college game starts producing top quality players consistently, the MLS will always hit a wall. However, further expansion should stop at this point for quality reasons.

    • Guy says:

      Don’t mean to be argumentative, but I don’t think even baseball would work. The Bosox finished last in their division last year. If that, somehow, got them relegated, Fenway would have become a minor league venue this year? And the team from AAA that would have replaced them in the majors would have been whom, playing where??

      Uh-uh.

      • Rick says:

        Although last in there division they weren’t bottom of the MLB. Baseball could do it by cutting down to 20 teams and forming a league underneath with AAA teams. But I still wouldn’t introduce relegation to American pro sports. It would, be more beneficial at the college level along with US Soccer getting more involved in the college game. If the MLS wants to compete with the other leagues around the world, that’s where they need to start.

  17. Hal says:

    lots of confirmation bias by anti pro/rel zealots in the comment section.

    pro/rel has worked everywhere in the world. It won’t work in the U.S because?

    I’ve never heard a good argument for why pro/rel wouldn’t work. Instead, you just get people saying “it will never work” as if that is an argument.

    • Rick says:

      Part of the problem is geography. If you want to see one of the most glaring reasons look at what as been happening in college football with realignment. The majority of teams have been rearranging to get closer to their opponents. It’s one of the more heavier financial burdens on teams and fans. Newcastle to London is a short trip compared to New York to LA. The basic footprint of travel to and from games in the UK are more comparable to college sports than the top professional leagues in the US. This has been cited as something burdensome on Women’s pro football and they have had to make arrangements to cut down the cost. What’s the worst case scenario of your football team falling down a division, you have to change travel plans for between 50 to 250 miles. Major cities in the US you are talking on scale of 75 to 750.
      Another problem is the way stadiums are funded in the US. You can’t afford the uncertainty of pro/rel income if you are going to convince politicians and taxpayers to foot a bill. There is a reason Beckham as bought a MLS team rather than a team in England. He can not only build his team but also bring in extra revenue with a football designated stadium in South Florida. Had a pro/rel situation existed in the MLB, the Marlins would not have gotten that stadium, which still was not the best in decisions for spending money on a team.
      There is also the matter of the franchise system in America. The rights to teams are owned by individuals and not the teams them selves. This is why the majority of teams in US are so spread out. It goes in part with the geography argument. The team in your town may not be the team you follow but one of the teams in league might be and to have the opportunity to view games in your local market vs travelling from say Kansas City to Los Angeles to see them play is worth it for them being there. Jordan was popular throughout the country and not just Chicago. Ownership counts on this as does your team. Instead of worrying will your team fold, it gets swapped out for are they good enough to make the playoffs; that’s a worry for college sports and semi-pro leagues.
      It feels has if I need to write an entire paper explaining the differences of systems to fully explain why the promotion relegation argument in the US is a moot point for any professional league. The better point would be to reform some of the playoff systems used in the States (I’m looking at you NBA).

  18. Mike C says:

    The time to have this discussion of promotion and relegation in North America is now, especially when you consider that you have a USL team paying MLS to skip NASL altogether, making a mockery of the North American pyramid (further allowing MLS to violate FIFA’s top flight max of 20 teams).

    • KapUSMC says:

      The 20 team rule is really the 20 team guideline (really more of a suggestion). And its suggested because they don’t want players playing too many games. This is where the MLS unbalanced schedule comes into play.

  19. WSW says:

    I love how MLSnobs say how great their attendance is and NASL attendance sucks, well look at some eastern european D2 leagues and I would say NASL is doing pretty good for it’s 3rd year, and NASL is going to do what MLS can’t do and that’s expand. NASL is following european/south american model.

  20. Adam says:

    I do agree that it would be chaotic if a 100 million dollar team were relegated. I understand the implications that would have on fanbase/financial stability/ etc. However, this would also do the opposite for the team being promoted. You could have a small town with a 4k capacity stadium be promoted, play well, gain recognition, and in 10 years have a modern stadium built. Look at the beginning of every other league. The NBA, NFL, and MLB all had teams that no longer exist. It’s part of building a sports league of any kind. But, as I said, with every relegation, there is a promotion. I am an EPL guy. Always will be. Liverpool. However, I am excited about Indianapolis getting a NASL club. Relegation/Promotion would work. Fortunes would be lost, teams would collapse, but, fortunes would be gained, teams would be created. Most of our sports movies are about the underdog team winning the championship. As a “Hoosier”, “Hoosiers” comes to mind. What would be more awesome than some little team in Iowa or something playing well, being promoted, and ending up winning the MLS Cup?

  21. Kahkakew Yawassanay says:

    I would like to see the MLS purchase both NASL and USL Pro making them MLS2 and MLS3. Pro/Rel would only be between MLS and MLS2 as MLS3 would be the reserve league and could consist of 42-48 clubs eventually, one reserve team for each MLS and MLS2 clubs. As MLS already has a notoriously low salary cap , revenue sharing would enable all clubs to survive relegation. Eventually MLS and MLS2 would each have 24 clubs. Add the NPSL and an eventual CSL as the semipro/amateur clubs that make up the north American soccer pyramid along with the PDL club and one could see upwards 250+ clubs competing in the Lamar Hunt and Amway championships for the CCL, truly emulating the FA

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