The argument for promotion and relegation in Major League Soccer has now reached its coaches. Phil Neville, manager for Inter Miami, is firm supporter of pro/rel in MLS, citing that the concept can help the league’s competitiveness.

In an interview with The Athletic, Neville talked about the growing pains of Inter Miami in Major League Soccer. The club managed to make it to the MLS Cup Playoffs for the first time in 2022, the club’s third season, and second full stint. In the other two, Miami was middle to bottom in the table. Not threatening with the worst in the league, but comfortably outside the playoff spots. Moreover, there is still confusion on the MLS Playoff structure for this season, but that is in the future.

That did not make things too interesting for Inter Miami in the latter stages of the season. That is a stark difference from the bottom half of the table in Europe, especially in England, where Neville spent 20 seasons as a player.

“I see it in my country in England, where it’s life or death at the bottom,” Neville told The Athletic. “We talk about moving forward. Well moving forward you’re going to have to make brave decisions. I think this league has always made brave decisions.”

One of those brave decisions could be the inclusion of promotion and relegation.

Neville backs pro/rel in MLS

MLS is moving forward. Things such as the Apple deal for global streaming and the continued expansion with new teams are growing the competition in popularity. Or, at least, that is the hope.

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“How do we keep moving the league forward? I think some kind of reward, or promotion or relegation, is not a daft idea to explore. I’m sure they are (exploring it),” added Neville.

Certainly, the idea of promotion and relegation in Major League Soccer would make the entire season more meaningful. The MLS playoff push is one thing that other leagues do not have. However, there is no real punishment for missing out on the playoffs. Instead, teams just do not have the opportunity to play for a title.

“I’m an advocate that maybe it’s another step for the league to take — to make it to where right to the last game of the season, we’ve got a real competitive league where the bottom two go down.”

In this hypothetical promotion and relegation system of MLS (a concept that Don Garber has discussed), there’s drama at both ends of the conference divisions. This can still include the traditional postseason phase of MLS.

“I’m all for it. It would increase the competitiveness in the league.”

Inter Miami less enthused

The Athletic included a note to clarify Neville’s comments on promotion and relegation. It said Inter Miami expressed concerns over Neville’s comments. Neville reinforced that these were his personal opinions based on experiences as a player.

“With that being said, the single-entity format has contributed towards the league’s position on the world stage, has enabled the sport to grow enormously in this country, and has allowed it to become the highly competitive and exciting MLS that we enjoy so much.”

Phil Neville begins his third full MLS season on Feb. 25 against Montreal on MLS Season Pass.

PHOTO: IMAGO / Icon Sportswire

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