A new report from one of the most respected analyst firms in the world has sent a loud and clear message to the US Soccer Federation — by preventing promotion/relegation from happening in the United States, the USSF is holding back the growth of soccer in this country.
The Deloitte report suggests that as the MLS franchise model reaches maturity, a revised structure can advance the long-term health of the US soccer system. In doing so, US Soccer has a major opportunity to capitalize on growing US interest in soccer and stimulate further growth in the professional club game in the US. The net result would benefit fans, player development and commercial revenues.
In conducting its research for the report, Deloitte found that more than half of US soccer fans polled want to see introduction of promotion and relegation, with just 6% opposed to the move.
The bottom line is that if promotion and relegation was introduced into the US soccer league system, Deloitte believes the world’s most popular sport would reach its potential in the world’s biggest sports market.
Dan Jones, Head of the Sport Business Group at Deloitte, said of the report’s findings: “US soccer has a major opportunity to capitalize on the nation’s growing interest in soccer. We believe the introduction of promotion and relegation into the existing league system could have numerous long term benefits, including increased attendances, increased broadcast audiences, improved commercial revenue and a positive impact on both elite players and grassroots participants.
“The current closed system has served MLS well in its early years, but as it matures it is reaching member capacity, preventing further expansion. Other challenges facing the current structure include growing fan interest in overseas leagues such as the English Premier League and a stagnation in the number of players annually registered with US Youth Soccer. The number of registered players has barely risen since 2000 despite vastly increased rates of participation in high schools.
“Though the US soccer league system may not be ready for such a move immediately and its implementation may not appear urgent, the topic is worthy of greater exploration and debate. US soccer should properly consider the merits of introduction of promotion and relegation and a transition plan for its successful introduction in order to drive US soccer forward.”
Download the Professional club soccer in the USA: An analysis of promotion and relegation report to read the complete analysis.