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Kingston Stockade FC

We support Miami FC and Kingston Stockade FC’s arbitration case

Last week, two US-based soccer clubs, Miami FC and the Kingston Stockade FC, filed a claim with the Court of Arbitration on Sport (CAS) to require the United States Soccer Federation (USSF) to to follow FIFA’s rules by adopting promotion and relegation within the US Soccer pyramid.

We at World Soccer Talk endorse this move by Miami FC and the Kingston Stockade. This isn’t meant a shot at the top-tier US league, Major League Soccer (MLS). In fact, were it not for the persistence of MLS owners and their invest millions of dollars in the sport, we may not have top level soccer currently in the United States. It is because of MLS’ success in its first two decades of existence that we are able to have these conversations about promotion, relegation and a general restructuring of the US Soccer pyramid and player development system.

MLS has done its part in growing interest in the game to unprecedented levels in this country. But after 22 years of closed leagues and a franchise-based system, it’s time to take the training wheels off and join the rest of world in having a truly open league system.

The benefits of an open league system for fans are unquestioned. The ability to support your local amateur, semi-pro or professional club with the hope that they can one day rise to the top of US soccer pyramid through sporting merit – the same principle that is applied across the rest of the world in the sport with the exception of Australia. The United States is a meritocracy in so many professions. But in the sport of soccer, an arcane, franchise-based closed system allows those at the top of the USSF or MLS to choose winners and losers, what cities have first division teams and what cities do not. This is completely contradictory to the way this sport is organized across the world as well as to basic core American values.

In a May 2017 interview with another publication, Kingston Stockade owner Dennis Crowley indicated he would seek to build a separate pyramid outside the MLS structure to force promotion and relegation to be part of the US Soccer system since the existing leagues in the country were all franchise-based closed leagues. But what has become apparent to Crowley as well as the owner of Miami FC of the second tier North American Soccer League (NASL) is that limitations at the top of the existing pyramid are preventing the organic growth of this sport in the US.

Crowley has evolved on this subject as he discussed last week in his Medium post.

We think a lot about how a small club like ours can change things, and instead of lobbying the USSF (United States Soccer Federation) which sits at the top of all things soccer in the USA, our approach has been to try to change things from the bottom-up — through writing, documentation, and transparency. Our thesis has been if you can build a strong foundation of clubs and leagues in the lower parts of the pyramid, you can start to make change. And once you start to change the system at the bottom, you can start to push that change up to the top.

However, we’ve come to realize that there are also opportunities to try to change things from the top down.

Crowley’s evolution mirrors the reality of today’s situation. While we have patiently supported lower division teams in our regions and wished MLS well as they have grown to a vibrant 22-team league, the overall growth of the quality of domestic soccer has not matched the increased levels of interest, participation and investment in the sport. The simple explanation for this is that closed systems don’t encourage innovation, player development and real competition. They simply reinforce monopolies and control for the elites.

We (Kartik Krishnaiyer and Christopher Harris of World Soccer Talk) strongly endorse the actions of Kingston Stockade FC and Miami FC and hope it will lead to the types of reforms we believe need to be made in the US Soccer system.

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30 Comments

30 Comments

  1. Weston John

    October 19, 2017 at 5:11 pm

    Kartik, as a south Floridian soccer fan who wants to see pro/rel in the future, what team do you support? One of the 2 NPSL Miami teams or Miami FC? How did you decide to support that team and is it based on their support of the pro/rel model or some other aspect that you think will help the soccer landscape?

  2. Rick

    August 9, 2017 at 6:56 pm

    So when the Football League was created, there was no pro/rel system. In fact it was modeled after a proposed college football system. The additions of divisions didn’t come until years later when other clubs joined the league and not for making the league more competitive but to ensure and organize a season without the clubs doing it themselves like the origins of the NFL (who early in existence had uneven schedules). The pro/rel argument is not the magic bullet nor the real problem in the American system. MLS is the result of trying to start a league from the top down and in the age of television and media. Remember, college football started way before the NFL and was more popular until years after the NFL’s creation; same goes for other American sports. Scotland as pro/rel and well… So what can be done? A couple of things.
    The best outcome for leagues outside of the MLS would be for FIFA to not designate it as the top of the pyramid and disregard free agency rules of the MLS so that when a players’ contract as expired they can go on free transfer outside the MLS. That, itself, would go a long way if…
    Leagues outside the league need to compete with the NCAA/NFL system more directly. Organize a league based around the development of young talent to feed an alternative league in the US first and or European clubs, And its a lot easier to compete especially if you pay the players on guaranteed contracts. For the growth of the sport as a whole and a league besides the MLS, going after the American systems biggest Achilles heel would pay many dividends over pro/rel.

  3. NaBUru38

    August 8, 2017 at 3:17 pm

    The Indian Super League, founded in 2014, doesn’t have relegation either. I-League teams are not happy. But I don’t see that changing, nor the North American leagues.

  4. Real News

    August 8, 2017 at 3:02 pm

    Even the most strident pro/rel supporters have to admit WST posting an article supporting the actions of Miami FC and Kingston Stockage FC is a bit silly.

    • Tom

      August 11, 2017 at 5:06 pm

      ProRel zealots = Anglophile Europoser hipsters who cheer for top-half table teams NEVER in danger of relegation, so they’re completely oblivious to the negative consequences that cripple relegated teams.

      • Joe

        August 12, 2017 at 8:33 am

        Oddly i have never met a Stoke, Watford, West Brom, Bournemouth or even Leicester fan…Wonder why that is? Could not agree more that the ones who will drill you on the internet for even questioning PR are fans of the worlds biggest teams.

  5. Wrong Said Fred

    August 8, 2017 at 2:54 pm

    This author has proven beyond any doubt that his bias toward NASL is such that he cannot be taken seriously on any related topic.

    MLS is far from great, there are huge problems. Even so, this “claim” is utter nonsense that will be going away.

    • Kartik Krishnaiyer

      August 8, 2017 at 8:49 pm

      Funny considering half of Twitter feels I have a vendetta against NASL.

      I don’t think NASL is particularly relevant or a useful league right now actually. I’d love to have a conversation with you privately about it. Email me anytime at kkfla737@yahoo.com .

  6. Monte

    August 8, 2017 at 2:51 pm

    The only way I see us getting Pro/Rel is if the NASL get their d3 division up and going and start it them selfies. The NASL need to have stronger teams that can out play MLS teams. When they start winning the open cups more people will take notice. But since NASL have a hard time getting fans in the stands and not able to keep teams in their league, I don’t see this happening.

  7. dave

    August 8, 2017 at 2:19 pm

    “The United States is a meritocracy in so many professions.”

    hahahahaha

  8. Joe

    August 8, 2017 at 12:56 pm

    Never going happen. They guy who spent 100 mil on a mls franchise is not going to agree to be relegated to a league where a guy spent 3 mil on an nasl team or $7000 for a NPSL team…come on really? It would be fun to have it and you can support it all you want and its still not going to happen. I don’t think it makes things better either….PR all of the sudden does not make bad players good or bad teams better. Fans biggest gripe with watching MLS is not PR its the quality compared to what they can watch elsewhere. I know plenty who don’t watch MLS or any American league and PR has never been brought up as to one of the reasons why.

    • Wayne

      August 8, 2017 at 2:56 pm

      Never say never. Not gonna happen for awhile. If it does happen, I doubt it will take the form of MLS accepting second division teams. It may come to fruition as Dennis Crowley indicated that the number of higher level D2 teams will be such that US Soccer is going to have to deal with it in some way… and that way may appear as a parallel first division. I don’t have anything major problem against MLS… they’re a private business entity and as of yet have not been accused or convicted of any wrongdoing. My problem is that this private entity has essentially confiscated the designation of D1 and any and all privileges (berths in CONCACAF or FIFA club competitions, etc.) that go along with being D1. They can continue to run their private enterprise any way they want. But if they really want to be a beneficial part of the US soccer landscape or pyramid, then some changes or concessions have to be made.

    • CTBlues

      August 9, 2017 at 9:16 am

      Only three teams have paid +$100m franchise fee. The founding teams paid $5m each and yes some owners owned multiple teams but that still didn’t add up to $100m.

      The only reason the MLB, NFL, NHL, and NBA can keep using the franchise model is because those sports professional leagues were founded in this country and we basically run those sports. There is nothing any international governing body can do to them but with soccer FIFA, CONCACAF, and USSF can put there foot down on MLS. FIFA just has to say implement Pro/Rel or any player registered with an MLS team is not eligible to play in FIFA competitions. I’m not saying they would do that because FIFA is corrupt as the come and a few favors here, a few votes there and FIFA could turn a blind eye.

      • Joe

        August 11, 2017 at 7:50 am

        Good point but even the few who are paying $100 mil or close to it will still not get on board. You would need to find a way to recoup the losses sustained from relegation and i am not sure you can put a number on that, I guess i am in the boat where if it happens great and if not thats fine too. I don’t need to watch the best quality to appreciate my domestic leagues however it would be nice to see my NPSL team climb the ladder….as long as they are not playing in a HS football stadium!

        • CTBlues

          August 11, 2017 at 10:24 am

          I really think NPSL should get officially sanctioned as D4. Then NPSL, NISA, and NASL need to get together to form there own pro/rel.

          I can’t wait to watch my NPSL team play in the championship game tomorrow night.

          • Joe

            August 12, 2017 at 8:29 am

            Good luck! My team (Cleveland) won last year. Just sucks they play in HS football stadium because it makes it feel….well high school like. Really hope this league can grow and play a little longer too. I have an MLS team as well so that fills in gap for the rest.

  9. Economics

    August 8, 2017 at 12:26 pm

    Does pro/real help later development? How
    mqny players in Europe’s top leagues come from lower divisions, or do they come from academies and top divisions in smaller European, South American, and African countries?

  10. Wayne

    August 8, 2017 at 12:01 pm

    I agree with you Kartik and the reference to training wheels was right on. Although I’ve not really read up on the development of divisions in other countries, I’ve come to believe that the divisions are like public spaces, similar to a public park or public access TV. Every (eligible?) club should have access to them… or at least the right to compete for a spot in them. US Soccer, faced with the demand to create a first division, created a unique hybrid (MLS) by essentially privatizing a public space. MLS has served the soccer public well, but I don’t think they can keep this situation forever. I ‘d like to see US Soccer conduct a meeting including all the existing pro leagues to discuss the future and direction of pro soccer in the States. Also as a sidenote, I’m curious to know how many MLS owners are interested in ending the single-entity setup. It’s hard for me to accept that millionaires and billionaires would happily remain in that situation indefinitely.

    • jeffson

      August 9, 2017 at 12:27 am

      u think millionaires and billionaires have empathy to the common person? What planet are you living on?

    • CTBlues

      August 9, 2017 at 9:00 am

      That public space/access goes even further in business in Europe where the cellphone companies do not own the cell towers they use, so you have a lot more cell service options thus better competition and lower prices compared to North America.

  11. W

    August 8, 2017 at 11:47 am

    I think you guys are barking up the wrong tree here, and I don’t mean supporting this Hail Mary of a lawsuit. I’ve yet to be convinced that Pro/ Rel alone does anything for player development other than being told players will ‘try harder.’ Pro/ Rel was developed as a political compromise. There are 92 teams currently in the EPL/ EFL and hundreds more outside those in other leagues in the top sport in their country. All in little tiny England. Here, take out all the Canadian and MLS 2 sides and you have 47 teams across MLS/ NASL/ USL currently in what is still viewed at best, the 4th strongest sport in this country. Is Pro/ Rel something we REALLY need or will it just bring more financial heartache than its worth? What about changing the FIFA calendar? Solidarity payments? Increase the salary cap in MLS? I always go back to Liga MX. Is Liga MX a better league than MLS because they have P/R? Or is it because the best teams have owners who spend heavily on better players 12-18 on their rosters compared to MLS’s?

    • MJF

      August 8, 2017 at 9:14 pm

      Well, the issues you discuss are more with salary cap and single entity. A team like Seattle are actively being held back from reaching their fullest potential by arcane mechanisms designed to make sure that the likes of Eric Quill and Pete Marino couldn’t create a bidding war for their services and get paid $60,000 per year rather than $30,000.

      Basketball is a clear number two or three across continental Europe, depending on the country. It sits on the shadow of football and the NBA. However, all of the domestic leagues have promotion and relegation based on minimum arena standards. We have to look outside the football bubble. When you do, you’ll realise that the franchise system doesn’t work for professional sport outside elite world leagues in sports that nobody else plays or nobody else can pay at that level. US independent minor league sport is an utter wasteland of failure and wasted time, money and effort. Other than junior hockey in Canada, it’s a failure. In Europe, when they’ve tried to close leagues or create franchises, they’ve resorted to opening the system because it killed the lower levels.

      Problem is, once this is adopted in one league, people will start asking uncomfortable questions of the entire sporting landscape, which is why conventional sports owners don’t want this under any circumstances.

      • Kelli

        August 9, 2017 at 4:53 pm

        I’ve tweeted this before. Pro/rel will open a can of worms especially for the NCAA. A lot of those small NCAA college towns have passionate fans that support teams week in and week out. If they see small towns supporting lower level soccer and competing for MLS Cups and US Open Cups. They’ll begin ask questions and think they can compete for Super Bowls and NBA championships.

    • jeffson

      August 9, 2017 at 12:26 am

      u hit it on the nail … if MLS pays MLB or NBA salaries … no need for pro/rel none of that . money talks … the best athletes will come and level of play will sky-rocket

      • CTBlues

        August 9, 2017 at 8:53 am

        But the only way MLS teams will start paying MLB or NBA salaries is when the TV revenue is higher and it won’t get higher unless a lot more people watch MLS and it doesn’t look that will be happening anytime soon.

        The best story though about MLS owners recently is you have the Revs still playing in Foxborough but Kraft just bought 2 custom Boeing 767’s for the Patriots, but couldn’t afford to build the current stadium there or a SSS for his team.

  12. Paul

    August 8, 2017 at 10:19 am

    The idea of building a pyramid structure under MLS is a good idea. If that could be established and seen to work for a few seasons then lobbying USSF or MLS or whoever makes the decisions, to open up the top tier would be harder to ignore. This is how the system in England evolved. The National League, originally called the Alliance Premier then Football Conference, was formed in 1979 from the then top non-leagues (Northern Premier, Southern and Isthmain). Once established the Alliance premier then lobbied for automatic promotion to the Football League, which they finally achieved in 1987. A second promotion place was introduced in 2003.

    Prior to 1987 the Football League was a bit of a closed shop with new members having to be voted in which didn’t happen too often. The system in England works well with teams from low down in the pyramid able to rise through the leagues. This improves the standard of football and increases attendances.

  13. Derek

    August 8, 2017 at 9:54 am

    MLS has done lots of positive things for the sport in the US and Canada, but we certainly do not have “top level soccer” here. That is played in England, Spain, Germany, Italy, France, Mexico, Brazil etc. Now if you mean a “top level league”, we’d still have that too, without MLS, by default. There would be some kind of professional soccer league, just like there was before MLS started and after NASL folded. It might not be as polished, but it would be around and just like MLS, not really close to the best soccer in the world.

    The 20-some cities lucky enough to have a billionaire who’s been willing to lose money on a team and keep it going should absolutely be thankful. But that investment hasn’t really done much for the rest of the nation.

  14. Vsqz

    August 8, 2017 at 9:15 am

    Wow you guys are officially off the MLS Christmas list now. Grant Wahl is summoning the MLS freaks now they should be here to comment and down vote shortly.

    • Alo Futbol

      August 8, 2017 at 10:46 am

      Getcha popcorn.

    • Joe

      August 8, 2017 at 12:57 pm

      Grant Wahl may cover more world soccer than domestic. Nice to see you came out from the basement.

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