Ranking the professional soccer teams in the United States and Canada from 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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