According to Ben Rycroft in Toronto, MLS is investigating buying the USL. I guess since the USL is apparantly knocking on death’s door, MLS thinks it might be able to get it at a very bargain price. Of course, this author reads as the next step towards promotion and relegation.
For the 3,406th time…
That isn’t ever happening in American soccer. It increases to risk to the individual investor far too much and, in one swoop, turns MLS into a terrible business proposition. That remains a fact. A purchase of the USL doesn’t change that.
What a purchase of the USL might do is give MLS its own minor league with a system of affiliations that more resembles the American Hockey League instead of England’s Football League. Sorry, truthers, this USL purchase may lead to a few good things, but pro/rel won’t be one of them.
I could see some kind of amagalmation of USL 1 and USL 2 into a single second division of affilated clubs supported to different degrees by their parent clubs. MLS is not going to purchase a bunch of shoestring operations (with Seattle, Portland, Vancouver and possibly Montreal gone, all the good organizations are in MLS now) and suddenly give them a chance to oust one of their long-standing clubs and chuck them into the “minors.”
Rycroft says that the MLS deal is looking more unlikely (and thus making his headline all the more misleading) and that some group, “comprised of private investors,” will instead purchase the league. I would be willing to bet that this will only hasten the end of the professional USL divisions.
If I were an owner of a USL 1 or 2 club, I’d want to get under the wing of a parent club as soon as possible. Do you give up a piece of your identity? Sure, but you also gain a great deal of security. Look at how long other AAA markets have had teams in their respective sports. Scranton’s had AAA baseball since 1946. Toledo’s has had a AAA team since the 60’s. Looking at hockey, Hershey’s had an AHL team since 1938 and Rochester’s had one since 1956.
For the USL to go it alone like this is simply bad business. If their goal is to survive long enough to have MLS inexplicably absorb them as European-style second division, they’re living in a world just as delusional as the pro/rel “truther” fans demanding it.
It’s not hard to imagine a 20 team minor league made up of current USL markets and a few new ones. Imagine this:
- Long Island
- St. Louis
- San Antonio
- San Diego/Orange County
- Des Moines
- Las Vegas
I do think the two Caribbean teams might get pushed out here because I doubt MLS teams will want their affiliated players so far away. I included Canadian teams because 1) they’re clearly interested in getting teams and 2) the AHL, PCL, and IL have had teams in Canada for decades and getting them back and forth to the US quickly hasn’t proved a major issue.
I hate yet again to be the one who removes the straws the pro/rel truthers clutch so tightly, but it’s simply not going to happen. The EPL will get rid of promotion and relegation before MLS ever enacts it. They’ll only be joining all American sports, Rugby League’s SuperLeague and NRL, as well as Rugby Union’s Super 14 in doing so.