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Ranking soccer teams in US and Canada; best to worst

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Over the course of the last few years, discussion of what an open pyramid in the United States and Canada would look like has become a major talking point for soccer fans. In a closed league system, it’s difficult to conceive sometimes how sides would fare against one another. For example, USL, the current third division, is littered with MLS reserve sides while NASL, the second division, has completely different squad rules than MLS. In fact, the increased flexibility of building NASL rosters, for example the Fort Lauderdale Strikers who started the season with three high-end loanees from major Brazilian clubs due in large measure to the intervention of Strikers part-owner Ronaldo, would not be possible under MLS rules.

The change in MLS rules around midseason to allow one “Core Player” thus permitting the LA Galaxy to shift Omar Gonzalez from the status of “Designated Player” (DP) to “Core Player,” freeing up a spot for the Galaxy to sign Giovani Dos Santos as a DP, raised eyebrows throughout the soccer world. But it was a progressive step to allowing more competitiveness because the type of player that falls into a “Core Player” slot is often an American that has offers from European clubs and might leave the league without sufficient compensation. This is a worry for teams with good Academy programs and systems.

Below, I’ve rank every US Independent club (MLS Reserve teams are NOT included) based several on metrics on a scale of 1-10. I’ve also split the rankings into three — to give you an idea of where the clubs would rank based on the current metrics.

Note that the intangibles includes national visibility, supporters groups, local market penetration, stadium, and club history.

DIVISION I

TeamPlayersCoachingMarketingFront OfficeIntangiblesTotal
1Sporting Kansas City91010101049
2Seattle Sounders9910101048
3LA Galaxy101099846
4Portland Timbers7810101045
5Orlando City7810101045
6Vancouver Whitecaps88910944
7New York City FC781010843
8Toronto FC105881041
9Houston Dynamo7799840
10Minnesota United6898940
11Real Salt Lake7798940
12San Jose Earthquakes7978839
13FC Dallas7979739
14Montreal Impact7688938
15New York Red Bulls8777837
16DC United7777937
17Sacramento Republic6698837
18Charleston Battery6687936
19Columbus Crew7778736
20OKC Energy6688735

DIVISION 2

TeamPlayersCoachingMarketingFront OfficeIntangiblesTotal
1Indy Eleven4599734
2Ottawa Fury6967634
3New England Revolution7866633
4Philadelphia Union7675833
5Tampa Bay Rowdies6687633
6Carolina Railhawks4848832
7Chicago Fire7557832
8Colorado Rapids6675832
9Louisville City5778633
10New York Cosmos7845832
11Jacksonville Armada5487731
12Rochester Rhinos6675731
13St. Louis FC5676731

DIVISION 3

TeamPlayersCoachingMarketingFront OfficeIntangiblesTotal
1Tulsa Roughnecks4488731
2Atlanta Silverbacks6948330
3San Antonio Scorpions4676730
4Fort Lauderdale Strikers6955429
5Harrisburg City Islanders6675529
6Pittsburgh Riverhounds5655829
7Wilmington Hammerheads6665629
8Arizona United5575527
9Richmond Kickers5675629
10Colorado Springs Switchbacks5555525
11FC Edmonton6744425
12Charlotte Independence4555524
13Orange County Blues6633321

Note: Austin Aztex is not ranked due to suspending operations for 2016.

Why Sporting Kansas City?

Sporting Park is the model soccer stadium in this nation, Peter Vermes leads arguably the best technical staff assembled in MLS by somebody other than Bruce Arena, and the club itself is becoming quickly world-renowned. Sporting entities from the Southeastern Conference, Real Madrid and the Washington Redskins have contracted with Sporting KC for consulting services about things as important as fan relations, how to use wifi effectively in stadiums and general marketing. Kansas City over the past few seasons from a technical standpoint is the clearest example of a team having a playing philosophy and principles in any league in the history of American pro soccer. In other words, regardless of market size they are the model pro soccer club in North America.

I am happy to discuss my decisions and views about individual teams in the comments section. Thank you!

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41 Comments

41 Comments

  1. Shad

    November 14, 2015 at 1:41 pm

    Like the idea, but can’t agree on the rankings. Several categories missing, such as # of playoff games (recent), and season and/or playoff record; National Team participants (not only US); payroll; turnover of players; and some game stats that would demonstrate efficient system of training. The order is misplaced on this list imho.

  2. David Hughes

    October 10, 2015 at 2:07 pm

    Mr Kartik, you show know how to draw attention. I’m not sure its the attention I would want to draw. Therefore, I’ll save you and me the expense ins sharing or tweeting this.

  3. Paul Scanling

    October 6, 2015 at 11:07 pm

    You stuck yourself out there, which takes balls, but as a college professor, I’ve got to say that you have a lot of explaining to do. This looks like all of the numbers were generated by your opinion. Is that the case? If so, what went into that opinion? Why did you give each score you gave? Do you have a rubric? How are you measuring each category? I know lists are a great way to generate website traffic, but if you’re going to portray yourself as an expert, and I believe you are a very knowledgeable person, then you have to justify that label. This list requires a lot of explaining to be taken seriously.

  4. Garry

    October 6, 2015 at 7:11 pm

    Sigh… I want to really take this list of yours, let alone the entire article seriously, don’t get me wrong, it’s well written, like everything else you produce, but I can’t and I won’t. This looks nothing more than an “your opinion” rather than a well researched piece. I won’t even ask you about the data you use to come up with such garbage. I’ll tell you what Kartik, when you finally come up with something other than your insipid ego written all over it, I’ll pay much more attention. Hell, I’ll even go out of my way to tell folks to give it a good read, deal?

  5. M. Forte

    October 6, 2015 at 7:00 pm

    Your “ANALysis” sucks balls. Have a nice day.

  6. Joe Vala

    October 6, 2015 at 11:51 am

    I think the overall number for Louisville is pretty much right on (you have them grouped in the wrong place btw, check it out … math is correct but should be in with the three teams that also have 33) but should look more like 6 8 4 8 7 33 – Players: Fondy, Burke, Quinn, Adams, Rasmussen … A lot of MLS teams would love to have these guys on the bench, Front Office under GM Amanda Burke has been outstanding but next to no publicity until they started winning (there are still a ton of people that have no idea there is a team here now) . Fan base is basically rabid (the explosion of sound when Fondy scored in the playoff game last Saturday was insane). Hare not to be a “homer”, but seriously … put this town on the map, there is something special happening here … oh and as long as we are over the Faux Cosmos, that works for me 🙂

  7. neil

    October 6, 2015 at 11:47 am

    Way to explain your data…

  8. Cristian

    October 6, 2015 at 8:29 am

    Kartik doesn’t know **** all

  9. Denuse Vail

    October 5, 2015 at 11:42 pm

    I know your a Fort Lauderdale Striker fan and so am I. But, third division, what? They made it to the NASL play 2 out of the past four years to include last year to the championship game and on the verge of qualifying for the 2015. The have the number one goal scorer, best coach how coached in UEAFA with NASL biggest SSS. You have a lot of explaining producing bogus crap like this. Check out http://www.kenn.com for real soccer analysis.

    • Kartik Krishnaiyer

      October 6, 2015 at 11:31 pm

      Again this is not based entirely on the performance on the pitch. Fort Lauderdale’s front office is a mess and is littered with people that do not have the experience in the pro game in the US to make things work properly in a quick fashion. Secondly, they have less market penetration/recognition in their home market than any other NASL team. Attendance has dropped dramatically in the fall season despite the team’s strong play on the field. Those are among the factors considered.

      • Denuse Vail

        October 8, 2015 at 7:42 pm

        Kartik As one Striker fan yo another please look at http://www.kenn.com website shows statistics of all Soccer clubs Strikers attendance is on average tear over over 20% First, the is the front office ink a television deal with SFL local tv channel for all away and home games. Second, landed a Azul Brazil sponsor & according to unofficial reports close to landing a major kit sponsor. Please due your hone work and stick with facts.

        • Danzo

          October 10, 2015 at 5:29 pm

          And yet no one in the market gives a bleep about the team. And rumors aren’t facts. Minor league soccer doesn’t sell here. Kartik’s point stands.

  10. davud hughes

    October 5, 2015 at 11:27 pm

    Stop…you cracking me up with junk.. OMG its so funny.

  11. Seth Israel

    October 5, 2015 at 11:18 pm

    Where did you pull this from a Cracker Jack box. LOL

  12. agageo

    October 5, 2015 at 11:14 pm

    Did you take Research Methods 600 in college? Where is descriptive data or inference data? This analysis paper would be an F in my book. How old are you? What University did you attend?

  13. Matthew Perry

    October 5, 2015 at 10:40 pm

    I’m curious as to what went into your rankings of my Colorado Rapids. Why a 5 regarding the FO and why a 6 for coaching, given the atrocious record? Lastly, what went into the 8 for intangibles.

    • Kartik Krishnaiyer

      October 6, 2015 at 11:23 pm

      Colorado’s FO and players score was very low compared to other MLS sides. Intangibles for the Rapids include a good stadium, a decent supporters culture and market penetration that’s better than some more successful MLS team in their markets.

  14. Bishopville Red

    October 5, 2015 at 9:17 pm

    Can you explain the Montreal Impact FO rating of 8? Sure, they’ve ben ambitious of r the years, but for every Drogba, there’s another coach or two fired, spinning everything around again. And Nick De Santis, for some reason, keeps employed despite getting received of his hands on duties due to bungling things.

  15. Howard

    October 5, 2015 at 5:56 pm

    This is extremely subjective with no clear criteria.

    Yet I must say the rankings with the exception of a few that can be disputed (San Jose so high, San Antonio so low?) are basically straight forward. Only a few teams far from where they naturally should be.

    So even though the data behind this is dubious, the list top to bottom is pretty solid. I would put Seattle top but the writer probably saw the football lines at Qwest last night so decided KC should be number 1.

  16. @crowntownguy

    October 5, 2015 at 4:15 pm

    Krishnaiyer – I love this ranking. Raises some eyebrows, sure, but I think its awesome.

    Would love to know any of your thoughts on Charlotte. Was a Season Ticket Holder this past season and have a lot of thoughts as a local, but I’m interested in what the perception of the club’s inaugural season from outside the city.

  17. firefan2001

    October 5, 2015 at 2:50 pm

    FIRE’s FO with a 7, come on now. 2 at best…….

    • Kartik Krishnaiyer

      October 5, 2015 at 2:54 pm

      Based on Nelson Rodriguez coming in. Prior to his appointment it was a 4 maybe a 3.

      • firefan2001

        October 5, 2015 at 5:42 pm

        But the FO had nothing to do with it, it was the league that brought in Rodriguez. So it should be a 3, at best moving us into D3.

        • Kartik Krishnaiyer

          October 6, 2015 at 11:33 pm

          That’s a fair point for sure.

  18. yespage

    October 5, 2015 at 2:43 pm

    Quite an ambitious undertaking with such an underwhelming final product.

  19. Jim O.

    October 5, 2015 at 2:30 pm

    Yeah, Kartik. Can you talk about that FO ranking? I’m having a hard time figuring out what that comprises.

    • Kartik Krishnaiyer

      October 5, 2015 at 2:54 pm

      Includes GM’s, PR staff, Media relations and Operations. The Ops part being one that many folks forget about. Not fans but media.

  20. Hahahahahahahahah

    October 5, 2015 at 2:08 pm

    You are making the same mistake so many do when they look at the Timbers. You are giving them credit for what the Timbers Army has created. The only intelligence they have shown is to not mess up something that was already working. They were drawing 15,000 in NASL and sell outs in MLS not because the team is any good, but because the atmosphere.

    I’d love to understand your rationale behind a 10 for their FO and marketing.

  21. Dan Skaarup

    October 5, 2015 at 1:45 pm

    NY Red Bulls, 37 points, ranked 7th. Say what? Why are they the only team not in order? They should be down around 16th.

  22. Mark Bushman

    October 5, 2015 at 1:24 pm

    Have you ever dealt with anybody in Richmond, been to a game, watched a broadcast, etc. There’s a reason that team has lasted longer than any other professional soccer team on your list (more than 23 years). I applaud your effort, but your rankings beyond the top 15 or so make zero sense to me.

    • Kartik Krishnaiyer

      October 5, 2015 at 3:37 pm

      Yes I have. But ownership not as solid as it once was and the stadium still lacking. Those were among the reasons for the D2 to D3 drop about 8-10 yrs ago. But yeah the Kickers are an institution no doubt.

      • Darin Williams

        October 6, 2015 at 7:08 pm

        Yes you have what? Been to a game? Watched a broadcast? Dealt with anybody in Richmond? Kickers have been owned by their own Youth Soccer Club since 2009. Please explain how that ownership is “not as solid as it once was” (in your opinion). No team in your 3rd division gets more than a 6 rating for players or a 7 for coaching? What?? If you have actually attended a match you wouldn’t find either the stadium or the “intangibles” lacking. Except maybe the bathrooms. The pitch itself is first-rate. Come to Richmond next season. I’ll buy you a ticket. You’ll change your mind.

  23. JM

    October 5, 2015 at 12:15 pm

    The Timbers Front Office is a 10? AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA
    AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA
    AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA
    AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA
    AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA
    AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA
    AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA

    • Paul Atkinson

      October 5, 2015 at 2:57 pm

      “Wait…are we ranking from 1 (best) down to 10, or the other way around? ‘Cause these chuckleheads are definitely 10 out of 10.”

      [Publishes article.]

      “Oops. Dammit!”

    • Colt

      October 6, 2015 at 4:25 pm

      I was about to say the same thing myself. As a Timbers fan, I can say the general consensus is that the GM should be gone this season after poor years from Timbers, Timbers 2 and Thorns.

  24. James

    October 5, 2015 at 12:10 pm

    Your anti-Cosmos sentiment is showing again Kartik. The team (which on the pitch is #2 out of the market’s 3 teams) brings in Marcos Senna and Raul, and is the first sports ambassadorial trip to Cuba under the thaw, and you give the front office and marketing a 5/10 and a 4/10 respectively? Gimme a break.

    • Kartik Krishnaiyer

      October 5, 2015 at 12:19 pm

      Local marketing not working. Attendance low, little penetration in the market, espceicially locally on Long Island. My understanding is Cosmos paid attendance in the bottom 3 in NASL. As for on the field NASL’s peculiar format has helped them this year (hurt them last) but they aren’t in current form one of the best teams on the field in that league.

      • James

        October 5, 2015 at 12:23 pm

        I’m just going to point out that you have the front office and marketing capabilities and efforts of the New York goddamn Cosmos on nearly the same level as the Orange County Blues, and then ignore this trolling for the rest of the day.

      • Denuse Vail

        October 5, 2015 at 11:46 pm

        Attendance is not even on your list?

  25. 4four4

    October 5, 2015 at 12:08 pm

    IMO, Minnesota United fc should have been a top 10 organization. For sure the front office deserves a 10, they made $1.5 million dollars on Miguel Ibarra’s transfer right there it shows the club has the ability to develop lower division players. ha.

    • Kartik Krishnaiyer

      October 5, 2015 at 12:22 pm

      11th is close to the top ten 🙂

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