Promotion and relegation may be coming to professional soccer here in the United States. The Athletic is reporting that the United Soccer League (USL) will soon vote on the possibility of bringing pro/rel to the lower divisions.
According to the news outlet, the official vote by team owners is set for USL’s board of governors meeting in August.
Sources with The Athletic claim that there is optimism that the vote will pass. Nevertheless, final approval it is not necessarily a foregone conclusion just yet. If confirmed, the USL would be bring the first open league system to U.S. professional soccer in recent memory.
The initial vote in August will, however, not establish a concrete plan to bring pro/rel to the USL leagues. Instead, the vote will essentially gauge interest by club ownership in the idea of open leagues. Assuming the idea gains traction, the organization will then continue to work on ways to implement pro/rel in the USL.
Team owner says changes needed regarding USL promotion and relegation
Those in favor of an open system in USL believe that the move would create more interest in lower-level clubs. In fact, one USL team owner told The Athletic that Major League Soccer “will destroy” the lower leagues if they stick to the current model. A recent study has also claimed that failure rate of American soccer clubs is the worst in the world.
“If you somehow think continuing on our current trajectory will make us competitive and where we all want to be, you’re fooling yourself,” stated the anonymous owner.
“The reality is MLS will destroy USL long-term (on our current trajectory). But if USL successfully adopts pro/rel and can get division one sanctioning (for the top level), it’ll be transformed.”
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Will additional division be added to USL tiers?
The USL was introduced in 1986 and has gone through a series of significant changes over the years. Under the current system, the organization operates the second, third, and fourth tier of U.S. soccer.
There is also consideration by the USL to create a brand new league that will fall into the third tier of the pyramid. This new division would place between the USL Championship and current third-tiered USL League One.
Introducing such a pyramid is essential to the USL’s future. It would also potentially be a place for expansion clubs to start.
Major League Soccer is not currently part of the plan for this upcoming vote. Pro/rel in USL would only affect clubs in these lower levels. Despite many Americans soccer fans wanting a full open league system throughout the country, there are no immediate plans for MLS to adopt pro/rel at the moment.
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