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Club Soccer Scene in the United States Is Officially In a Dangerous Position

USA Crest

This is what I was afraid of. This is the one thing I hoped could’ve been avoided. But sadly it looks like the entire structure of US club soccer has started on the road to self destruction. Some would’ve said Major League Soccer is on life support by now, but who would’ve thought it would be the people that are running & or separating themselves from the United Soccer Leagues.

Once again we have to give thanks to Kartik Krishnaiyer & Inside Minnesota Soccer’s writer Brian Quarstad documenting these events leading to this eventual breakup between the former clubs of USL-1st & 2nd Division creating this new league. As always money is the main objective when it comes to these problems of keeping clubs afloat. At the same time the way Francisco Marcos has continuously forced clubs from the PDL or USL-2nd Division to replace those that have left or sadly been pushed into financial suicide playing in USL-1st Division. Once he has pocketed his three quarters of a million dollars entrance/operating fee, you’ve just sold your soul to the football devil.

Now we see those former clubs of USL break free and trying to bring others to their cause by forming this new league and while some of these new and old sides have already paid their money to team Marcos-Papadakos for the 2010 season, it looks like they are saying keep what we gave you. We are moving away to join our disgruntled friends and help them. What looked to be a schoolyard spat, is now going to become a twelve to fifth teen round boxing match and to be honest it looks like a winner won’t come out of this in a good position.

When it comes to Major League Soccer sometimes we have to think of the positives that do go along with the negatives. Sadly the negatives are brighter than the positives and yes there are some things that Kartik explains are not good. The level of pay a player receives from the top to the bottom is disgustingly painful with those designations like Youth level, Generation Adidas, Senior roster and Designated Player. The ignorance of FIFA International Dates & who gets the money from a certain players transfer deal.

While I understand where he is coming from and where our good readers stance on all of this is I can say with my own opinion of this situation that MLS has been in violation of FIFA rules, yet FIFA will allow them to get away with it because the idea is that the future of the league is with building stadiums for the sport and to be in complete control of the schedule without the interference of certain stadiums that are being rented from an NFL, college or Minor League Baseball owner with the exception of New England & Seattle.

But right now the first major hurdle of keeping the league out of a strike or a lockout is getting thru this very first union meeting with the MLSPA. This is the first time that this league has been in major peril since the contraction of both Floridian clubs Miami Fusion & Tampa Bay Mutiny. That situation sadly ended their existance, but the health of the league needed to be the first priority. But now MLS is facing a bigger situation, the idea of free agency without restrictions. Increasing the salary cap to a better competitive level and if neither side can get an agreement before January 31st of 2010, then it’s all hands on deck.

As it has been reported by my fellow MLS Talk reporters, the great Charleston Battery has relegated themselves to USL-2nd Division and the Cleveland City Stars have done the same. They will join the Charlotte Eagles, Harrisburg City Islanders, Pittsburgh Riverhounds, Real Maryland, Richmond Kickers & the Western Mass. Pioneers. That means only the Austin Aztex, FC New York, Puerto Rico Islanders, and Rochester Rhinos will remain as well as the final season for the Portland Timbers in USL-1st for 2010.

It seems to me that most of the people would welcome a self destruction of MLS & USL and start from scratch again. But in all honesty what good would that do? It would be a serious mistake and the only league worth watching would be a local PDL side with little or no coverage & as of right now there is no official word if this new league has been given the go ahead to start operating from US Soccer. Certain reporters would also welcome the end of both leagues that follow the major pro & college sports including your favorite pundit Jim Rome. In some ways I have to say that I can see MLS surviving this first round of Labor negotiations with the MLSPA, but sadly I believe the relationship with Marcos-Papadakos & those former USL sides is completely broken.

Sadly the hour glass has already flipped over and the sand is slowly funneling down to the bottom. If there is no resolution from all of these parties and their gripes, the overall structure is in trouble and at the same time our American players that are in MLS who are members of the US Men’s National Team could lose a lot of fitness and become useless to Bob Bradley for this summer’s World Cup.

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  1. paul calos

    June 22, 2010 at 6:38 pm

    i am a Soccer payer i looking for club any club to reply me back

  2. thomas

    December 8, 2009 at 5:49 pm

    Promotion/relegation is the only way to institute meritocratic sporting principles and ensure soccer is legitimate in the eyes of fans.

    League and franchise owners can whine on about protecting their business interests all they like, but unless and until they can show significant commitment to the fans and players who support the profession they have no right to expect any entitlement to any business whatsoever and their pampered a**es are gonna get beaten every time.

    Owners have responsibilities to the community they operate in – the whole thing dies if they become a parasite.

    So all power to the new NASL – MLS and USL will be forced to open up or come to an accomodation with them – free association rules!

  3. Chris

    November 30, 2009 at 9:22 pm

    Oh geezes Roger, you are a such a Eurosnobbish tool. Pro/Rel is never going to happen in North America. EVER!!! Do you honestly believe it would be good for soccer if New York and Los Angeles were relegated to a lower division and replaced with Rochester, N.Y. and Fresno, Calif.? I’ll tell you who wouldn’t think so. A television network rights holder like ESPN, who’d be demanding a HUGE refund if they ever lost a big market city or two because of relegation to satisfy the idiotic demands of dreamers like you.

    North America (meaning the U.S. and Canada) isn’t like the rest of the world when it comes to sports. Europe has single tables and pro/rel, even in other sports like basketball and hockey. North America has divisions and conferences and playoffs in all sports because that’s what the sportsfan here expects, and what drives the market. And you know what? It hasn’t hurt the talent development in those sports here. And soccer will be no different, unless people like you get a hold of it and ruin it to satisfy your selfish whims. So either you accept MLS the way it is, or don’t follow it. We can do without your kind of thinking.

    • Roger

      December 15, 2009 at 1:09 am

      Dont you think that ESPN could benefit with promotion and relegation bringing meaninful soccer clubs to hundreds of markets throughout this big country instead of just a few?
      Dont you think that would increase tv ratings?
      There is a principle that the lords of the game in the us forget, soccer is the most popular sport in the planet for a reason, there is certain global mentality about the game. It should not be a benefit to only a limited amount of cities to have a club.
      It should not be a little group of bussinessmen owning our game. It should be open for all to compete and enjoy.
      Promotion and relegation is the ONLY system that can accomplish that in a meaninfull way.
      the logic is twisted in america.It should be soccer first, and the money will follow. Here the owners off the “show” think about money,marketing,money ,marketing.
      the problem with us soccer is that we dont have soccer people in the decision making positions ; we have bussinesmen instead.
      In my opinion the hope of US soccer rest with the fans, we have to make our voice heard. I know that the real soccer fans want promotion and relegation; but until they dont see a banner on every stadium with a big { ^v pro/rel} sing, it wont happen.
      Remember the shout-outs. When fans started walking out every time they had shout-outs , thay had to shout the shout-outs OUT.
      It will be the same with pro/rel . The real soccer fans have the power to make it happen, we have not realized it yet.

      PD: to the people that acuse us of being “eurosnobs” , and use the argument that our american sport culture is somehow diferent than the rest of the world; I would like to ask:
      Is US culture more diferent to european culture than Japan’s,or Bazil, or South Africa(they use pro/rel).

      Promotion and relegation is not an “european” soccer thing, it is a world thing.

  4. Roarschach

    November 27, 2009 at 12:09 pm

    Charles, you’re just one more Seattle fan that thinks the Sounders have saved the league. Please.

    Come back when you have been more than a blip on the timeline of the league. Your city showed that it can easily ignore a good club when you were winning championships in 2008 and earlier. Are we just a season or two away from the Sounders going back down to the sad attendance levels you have been at for over a decade? We’ll see.

    Can the Sounders franchise keep pumping out thre required marketing spends to keep the Seahawks fans coming to see the Sounders during the offseason? That will bankrupt a club quickly. Most of your fans are either American Football fans or more of the passively interested in soccer and many of them are already not renewing their season tickets from what I have heard. There’s a good chance the Sounders can help MLS (aka “the MLS” as you call it) actually fail if they can’t hold up their self-annointed responsibilities as the league’s marquee club in the coming years.

    In short, your comment about Seattle saving MLS is bunk. We look to Vancouver and your rivals Portland to see what the Northwest will really mean for the league. Until then, get off your high horse.

  5. Roger

    November 27, 2009 at 12:22 am

    Promotion and relegation is the only formula US could use not to let about 30 STATES out of a chance of having a soccer team to represent them.
    I am getting to the conclusion that in order for that to happen it would have to be us the fans the ones to finally make a serious league in this country.
    If the real soccer lovers get organized, with a little imagination and hard work we can pull this off. I am getting to the conclusion that the head of US soccer is too much in bed with financial interests in order to do the right thing. It is hard to believe for me at this time that their priority is the fans.
    MLS has to fail in order for US soccer to get ahead. Since the begining this league has no soul. They created it like a produt to be sold.

    There is a reason why soccer is the greatest sport in the planet.The clubs have various diferent meanings for the fans. Sometimes there is a religious issue like the one on Scotland between Rangers and Celtics.Sometimes it is the club of the “people” against the one backed up by the upper class. Other times it is political like the case in Italy between Lazio and Livorno.
    The fact that soccer is in such a direct contact with reality, generates a passion that gives this sport a magic touch.
    I love this game and I ive here in the US. I wish with all my hart to see it succed here, but this synthetic “product” that we have been sold;it is so fake that completly fails to gets me inspired.

    There is a Haitian team in Miami that every time it plays , 5,000 people or more go to see and follow pasionatelly. They broadcast their games on creole on the radio. Im sure that all througout the country there should be similar cases. Those are the real fans.
    By creating a league the way they did,they forgot about the real fans and tried to take advantage of the momentum after the 1994 World Cup to make a profit. There should be no doubt at this point that this leagues interest in to protect owners interest, they do not care about the game or the fans, otherwise the Vancouver Whitecaps and the Islander should have been on MLS, no Portland and of course no Philadelphia.

    This is my view of how an US soccer league should be:
    The right way to do it is to start from the bottom, not from the top like they did it. Instead of “creating” from scratch 12 soccer franchises like they did; we should give teams like the haitian in miami and others alike a chance to get “afiliated” to the league.
    There should be an affordable price for this clubs to affiliate, not 40 million dollars .
    There should be promotion and relegation, so that clubs have to earn on the field their rights to the upper levels.Clubs would be force by competition to field a good product.
    No salary cap is essential for an US league to be able to atract the best soccer talent on the planet.
    This aprouch should generate lots of small and medium size clubs afiliated to a leages system linked by promotion and relegation.That way we would take all that ground that “trditional american sports” leave out.The key to succes should be to make franchises affordabe , no otherwise.
    Soccer should give comunities a sense of pride by offering them a chance of been represented by a local club

    Eventually some clubs would grow and be suscesfull therefore they would move up in ranks.The “cream of the cream” would raise to the top. The big stadiums, the big name players, and so the big money would follow.
    We should welcome european, mexican and south american clubs to engage with franchises.
    The idea should be to start from the base up.
    Let comunities build their clubs by making it affordable.The local rivalries , the meanings of clubs flags, the magic of the game would follow naturally. The real way, the essense of the game would not betrayed US.
    Profits should be a result of the magic of soccer, not a reason stoping us from enjoying it!!

  6. Roger

    November 26, 2009 at 3:11 am

    I believe there is such a thing as the soccer gods,and at the end US soccer is going to get it right.
    In my view the problem that US soccer have had is that somehow people with no soccer background and mostly on it for the cash have found their way to the top of the desicion making positions.
    They have succeded selling the idea that promotion and relegation would not work in america and therefore US soccer has never had a league that practiced pro/rel in a serious way.
    USL kind of did it but not for real; they would get a new team inserted straight into their first division in complete disregard of the ones on their second division and that practice defeats the pro/rel purpose.
    By not practicing pro/rel US is not in tune with the philosophy FIFA tournaments try to cultivate, which is inclusion , give everybody a chance, lets add up and get together.
    Look for instance at the world cup, tiny little islands try every four years to qualify. Some of these little islands entire population could fit into the Azteca, yet they are granted a try even though realistically they may have no chance. The right to compete is a central part of this sport beauty and it should be one of its core values.
    We all know that promotion and relegation is widely practice in world soccer, yet in no other country it makes more sense that in North America.
    The first reason is because of our size,we are one of the biggest countries in the planet so having a main league with a limited number of teams is a waste of our potential, it leaves too much “outside”.
    Another reason is competition.An US soccer league not only has to compete against other soccer leagues in the world but also with the other 4 mayor US sports. These other sports have the best talent on their fields and a huge propaganda machinery behind them.
    These other “mayor” sports are run like monopolies (even though they would not admit it) , they are run by the owners like a private club, that way the money goes to a little group of selected owners.Therefore they leave a lot of “ground uncover”; I’m talking about many cities that could potentially have franchises but dont.
    The right strategy should have been to hit them on their Achilles tendon, and promotion and relegation would have done just that; give a chance to have a team to represent them to all cities,communities or institutions that are left out of the current US sports system.
    Money is another point. Bringing the best players in the world is an essential factor for an US soccer league to succed. Eliminating the salary cap and encouraging competition for promotion to higher divisions is the best way to get this accomplished.
    Pro/rel and salary cap are oposits.One benefits competition , the game and the fans; the othe benefits the owners by helping them keep expenses low.
    Pro/rel in american soccer makes too much sense to keep been ignored.

    • J

      November 26, 2009 at 8:49 am


      Your logic runs in the way of business sense and current trends in world soccer. If anything, world leagues are going to eventually move away from pro/rel. as it makes less business sense overall for clubs. Pro/rel was established when the game was a hobby — an activity, not a business.

      The idea of course is a lot of fun and adds a lot of drama. Business people however hate these two things… Wouldn’t be surprised to see a push to get pro/rel out of England in the next 10 years, just like the idea of starting a “premier league” in it’s time was a foreign one, it’s there now. Starting a premier league without pro/rel is not far off, IMO.

  7. Kevin

    November 25, 2009 at 7:54 pm

    Astonishingly poorly written and filled with unsubstantiated conjecture.

    “It seems to me that most of the people would welcome a self destruction of MLS & USL and start from scratch again.”

    Really? “Most of the people”?

    Reading this and commenting was a big waste of time.

  8. RPW

    November 25, 2009 at 3:02 pm

    What are you even talking about? This was a terrible post and to be honest with you it was so negative. I feel that the majority of soccer fans here in the US want to see growth in our sport and an article like this in no way helps the cause. This is Major League Soccer Talk, not Major League Soccer I’m a Crying Little Emo Kid!

  9. sidereal

    November 25, 2009 at 2:27 pm

    It seems to me that most of the people would welcome a self destruction of MLS & USL and start from scratch again.

    What? Who? Most of what people? Is this some of that laughable conjecture I’ve read so much about?

  10. CK

    November 25, 2009 at 11:56 am

    While I agree with the points that the article is trying to get across, I also have to agree with the first two posters. It was incredibly difficult to follow the logic since he went back and forth between talking about the MLS and USL without any attempt at clarification. Hard to read, but I get the gist of the point that he was making. This isn’t a good time for US club soccer.

  11. Vnice

    November 25, 2009 at 11:36 am

    Actually, Bart is right. This article sounds as if it was written in a foreign language and put through the Google translator. There are no substantial facts to back up his positions. It makes little sense, and I’m surprised at Kartik for letting this kind of poor writing permeate this blog.

    • Patrick Johnson

      November 25, 2009 at 3:14 pm

      Have you ever checked to see who actually runs this site? While Kartik maybe the most senior writer on this site, you will find out by looking for who runs the site, it’s not him.

      Take it up with the true owner of the site.

  12. Charles

    November 25, 2009 at 10:38 am

    Let’s face it the tension comes from teams jumping to MLS. It might be bad for USL, as they are clearly losing. No owners left behind want to be a minor league team owner, as much as the Euro-lovers want a second division in NAmerica.
    It has been good for soccer here to have the Seattle be in the MLS….unless you want to see MLS fail.

    The contract negotiations all boil down to money, the players want/need more. I hope they get it, because I think the league has to spend more to be successful. IF the national team won the World Cup would that help MLS, sure, but not much, with the most talented players not playing in MLS.

    The MLS HAS to spend money to get salaries up. America doesn’t support second best, never have and never will. Call them rainy day, call them whatever, the reason people support MLS is because they hope it will be great one day.
    Read every thread in this blog about MLS, the Euro-lovers don’t care if the MLS is a minor league feed for Europe, they rip on the league every chance they get, almost hoping it never gets good. They already have a winner. The guys that don’t give a rip about Europe are eternally optimistic about .9 ratings for Finals.

    • Paul

      December 30, 2009 at 6:35 pm

      The flaw in your thinking is that owners know they can be very successful running a minor league operation. Look at the Goldklang Group. They run 3 or 4 minor league baseball teams. Each one operating in the black.

      People don’t support the USMNT for 2 reasons, and neither of them have anything to do with success (people STILL root for the Chicago Cubs, right?) First, few people in the US care about international competition. We live in our own little world, and if it happens outside the USA, it really doesn’t matter. Look at all other pro sports in the country. Baseball, basketball, football & hockey. The closest we get to international competition is a Bruins/Canadiens game. The other problem has to do with what I call Beltway Fans. In Washington DC nobody really supports the Nationals, Capitals or Redskins because everyone in DC is from somewhere else.

      Personally, when it comes to international competition, I root for Ireland first, USA second.

      But besides that, this is just a poorly written piece. I’m not even really sure what the point is. Sorry, Daniel. Everyone’s entitled to their opinion, but some people just shouldn’t be given a platform.

  13. Brian

    November 25, 2009 at 9:58 am

    People like “Bart” that get on these message boards and complain about the way an article is written are ridiculous, why do you care if the article is full of “laughable conjecture”? Who cares and get a life.

    But I do completely disagree with the author here that things are in dire straights. I think if we have a system in this country of 3 separate divisions with MLS, NASL, then USL I think that is a good thing. These owners in the TOA want to improve the product on the field and want to market their business more to the local and national communites, how can that be a bad thing? If they try and compete with MLS for 1st division status then it could get ugly but I think cooler heads would prevail there. Lets face it USL is a truly minor league and is ran that way, the TOA owners want to be more “major” I guess. The USL is a good league for those owners who want to keep their product at a minor level which this country still needs. The PDL in my opinion is the most important league in this country, however it is a deveopmental league not professional. I do agree with Kartik in that this year may have been the tipping point for soccer in this country and hopefully after the current mess is over the sport will be able to flourish for decades to come.

    • Chris in Belfast

      November 25, 2009 at 5:49 pm

      I’m sorry… I’m not certain you’re aware of the internal contradiction of your post.

  14. Bart

    November 25, 2009 at 9:47 am

    This is the most sophomoric and poorly worded article I have ever read. It contains little or no facts of any reasonable measure, conjectures that are laughable and has little basis in reality.

    Why don’t you write something substantive?

    • Scott

      November 25, 2009 at 11:15 am

      The fifth paragraphs is one long run-on sentence. It made m eyeballs want to pop out of my head.

      I like the fact that this site tries to get a variety of opinions and perspectives but can we at least get posts that are well written?

      • JMB321

        November 25, 2009 at 12:07 pm

        Agree with you both as this one was a tough one to get through. There is no reason why we should be subjected to poorly written posts. Editor, please ?

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