Pouring some more cold water on the nerds’ dreams of MLS promotion and relegation

We interrupt this period of the World Cup to bring you news from one of the weirder, darker, lonelier little corners of the American soccer universe. No, not the Red Bulls’ trophy cabinet… worse.

That’s right, it’s the promotion-relegation (pro-rel) debate. For those of you lucky enough not to know what I am talking about, here’s a quick summary. There is a small, but obnoxiously noisy contingent who believe that MLS will never be a “serious” league until it instigated promotion and relegation between it and lower divisions. There are those who take this even further and say that the lack of pro/rel and the use of a salary cap is evidence of MLS being rigged either towards certain teams or (the most wacko theory) towards keeping soccer’s popularity tied down in the interest of the owners’ other business interests.

I disagree entirely with all of that, as I have said quite vocally for some time. Click the previous link for all my justifications, I’m not getting into it again.

But anyway, this weekend, Stefan Fatsis got the nerds into such a tizzy by writing:
This set off a pro/rel nerd feeding frenzy on Twitter as they imagined a world where MLS owners would, just for their Euro-poseur validation, single-handedly destroy their own business model and turn MLS franchise ownership from a fairly safe long-term growth bet into a hugely risky proposition for club owners.

But oh boy, were the nerds excited this weekend – even more excited than they were when they heard that Olivia Munn would be on the Daily Show. That’s a lot of nerd saliva slipping through their collective overbite.

Yet, as I’ve said time and time again, the EPL will get rid of promotion and relegation before MLS ever enacts it. Promotion and relegation decreases league and club stability which, if you’re dealing with a “growth” product such as American soccer, is just unnecessary risk not worth creating.

Despite the nerds’ protestations, that 25 years quote by Sunil Gulati means nothing. Here’s why. In 25 years, Sepp Blatter will be 99, Jack Warner will be 92, and even Mohammed Bin-Hammam will be 86. None of them will be around in any significant capacity. Who knows the hell FIFA, soccer, or sports in general will look like in 25 years? Will they care about MLS playing in warm weather? Will they care that MLS doesn’t use pro/rel? I doubt it, but who knows?

Gulati just gave a classic kick-the-can-down-the-road quote that doesn’t relate one iota to the reality of quote ever coming to pass. The only way Gulati could’ve sounded less sincere about the issue is if he had promised to appoint a “commission to study the matter.” And let me add, Gulati is dead right in doing nothing but mouthing meaningless words over the pro-rel issue.

There will never be promotion and relegation in American soccer nor shall there ever be. If that is simply too much for your finely-honed soccer sensibilities to allow you to support MLS and its clubs, than go back to playing Dungeons and Dragons, building Captain Kirk’s chair or whatever the hell you want to do. But please, for the sake of all the bar patrons you bore, web forums you insist on trolling, and journalists whose emails you fill with garbage, just shut the hell up.


81 thoughts on “Pouring some more cold water on the nerds’ dreams of MLS promotion and relegation

  1. I actually think it could happen one day, but by no means do I think it’s certain. When I talked with Ivan Gazidis a couple of years ago for the book, he outlined for the record why it couldn’t happen now but left the door open down the road.

    It would take more than 30 teams that have viable facilities and steady financial bases. MLS now has somewhere between 10 and 14 teams meeting those criteria. After the next three teams join, it could be as high as 18 (D.C. United, at best, would have a stadium in progress).

    I’d peg 2020 as the absolute earliest it could happen. By then, will the Premier League still have relegation?

  2. See, that’s my point. Pro/rel is not an inherently better system, especially when you discuss the consequences of team/league instability over the longer term. We’ve seen leagues move away from pro/rel in EVERY sport other than soccer and we’re starting to see it in soccer in places like the US, Australia and most recently Ireland. It’s just a matter of time.

  3. When you introduce relegation in MLS, you essentially kill off the team who is relegated. That team will lose a ton of money and probably never come back. Why would MLS want to start killing off its own teams? Isn’t the goal of the league to have as many viable teams as possible? Once a team gets relegated, their going to lose a piece of the MLS pie and they’ll never be the same again. Sure, you’ll see teams coming back up, but after a year or two, they’re back down again. You’ll only have about 8 or 9, at best, stable teams. You’ll kill the league.

    One of the things I really enjoy about MLS is the fact that every year anyone can win. Year after year, someone different can win (except RBNY). Look at England, Italy, and Spain: Same 4 teams vying for a championship every year. But in MLS, you never know. Can you imagine what the Premier League would look like under the current MLS model? That would be incredible to see teams like Bolton and Chelsea competing on the same level playing field. I know a lot of people don’t like that, but it’s still something I would like to see.

  4. How dare you slag the good name of Olivia Munn, sir!

    There is still hope we’ll have relegation for soccer bloggers, right?

  5. First of all, couldn’t you come up with a better knock than “nerd?” Anthony Edwards, started off as a nerd. Without nerds Kraftwerk and Devo, we’d all still be listening to Bad Company and Lynyrd Skynyrd.

    You get the jist. I like nerds. You better like nerds if you’ve been an American soccer fan for more than the last two weeks. As we all know, soccer has been a part of American culture for a long time. The problem is, bashing soccer supporters has also been a hallmark of American culture.

    Unassimilated immigrants of every shape, size and color have been bashed for over a century for liking soccer. Yet, the nerds are still here.

    You know what the latest nerd bash is? MLS.
    Here’s how it works:

    Soccer’s always been here, and it’s here now. 16 million nerdy Americans watched the US England game. More American nerds bought tickets to the World Cup than nerds of any other country. In fact, soccer nerds have showed up in weird numbers for soccer at many points in the American soccer history, ever since a bunch of Jewish nerds packed the Polo Grounds in 1926 to see Vienna Hakoah play the New York Soccer Giants.

    The problem has always been, how can American sports owners make money off of these nerds? They spoke different languages, and didn’t fit into a nice demographic. Worse, the soccer league systems in most of the nerds home countries was frighteningly open – any 11 nerds could technically rise up to play in whichever league they could perform well enough to play in. This pushed the standard of play, guaranteed the open Euro nerd leagues wouldn’t succumb to the worst financial crisis of the 20th century.

    Problem was, our owners couldn’t corral our nerds, and soccer didn’t fit into the brave new world of monopolistic pro sports power laid out in baseball’s anti-trust exemption. So, even though the US made the semis in the first World Cup, our first great age of professional soccer died as leagues fought one another, and the Federation, for control and market share. As our leagues tried to kill one another, per American custom, they were left behind by European nerd compatriots, and were left vulnerable to the Depression that finished them off.

    Still, the nerds persisted. They got a laugh twenty years later, when we “stunned” the English.

    Nerds were laughing harder when the Cosmos were outselling the Giants and Yankees twenty years after that.

    Twenty years after that, US Soccer had to get a well financed league up to placate the boys at FIFA before the ’94 World Cup, and owners had to find a way to make money off the nerds.

    So, US Soccer and the anti-nerd American sports establishment came together to scratch each others backs. American sports establishment jocks would put their sizable bank accounts behind soccer, as long as US Soccer gave them another HALF CENTURY to control it.

    Of course, the US establishment jocks had many reasons for doing this, not least among them, protection from those pesky Euro nerds who had made soccer the most popular game on the planet by putting together an open structure in which leagues didn’t spend time killing other leagues. Instead, their game thrived and grew in a system in which clubs were encouraged to build the best possible teams, and move through the leagues. Without monopolistic visions of power, their leagues didn’t fight like ours did. Instead, they got busy turning out the best product, instead of trying to corner the market.

    Today, the establishment jocks own a fifty year franchise on an unhealthy KFC soccer league. Meanwhile, us nerds are ready for unprocessed, genetically unmodified soccer without all the trans-fat.

    It’s time for the nerds to get some revenge.

  6. soccerreform.us:

    What does all this have to do with promotion/relegation? Your argument for why MLS needs pro/rel is confusing at best.

    I’ll try to decipher at least one point you make, and please correct me if I’m wrong at any time. Do you honestly think that pro/rel makes for a more pure game in the US? How is that possible? MLS isn’t the Premier League where a team can make $90 million just for being promoted. The budgets are much tighter. Some MLS teams already operate in the red. Relegating those teams would essentially kill them off. I’ll just use an example of the Galaxy. They’re just an example, so no disrespect to them or their fans. LA is a strong club now, but let’s say they have one bad season. They’re relegated. They’ll lose the money MLS is putting into their team. Also, they’ll lose fans because no one wants to watch a minor league team after they’ve had a major league team. Americans don’t think like that. All of those British teams have had followings for decades, and their loyalties live and die with them. LA is only 15 years old. Plus, they’re not the only game in town. People will lose interest and won’t pay top level prices to see the Galaxy play second level teams. Poor attendance leads to less money coming in. After a while, ownership won’t want to keep pushing a bleeding animal along, and they’ll cut and run. This could very well happen with relegation. Why would you want to chance all of that just to “purify” the game? It makes no sense.

    If you like football (and I’m willing to bet you do), pro/rel shouldn’t have any effect whatsoever on your enjoyment of the game, so there’s really no need for it.

  7. Look who’s back! Let’s all say hi to Ted!

    “HI TED!”

    Okay, that’s out of the way. I’m not going engage in your arguments too much because for all the yammering, all the vomit-on-the-keyboard verbosity that comes from you, where is a single scintilla of evidence that you have to back your claims of conspiracy? I’ll listen. I’ll listen to anything that comes with some evidence. But until you can even put together some even circumstantial evidence of conspiracy, then you, for all your words, aren’t worth listening to.

    Trust me, I too can pound out a 600 word free-association ramble. It’s not hard. It doesn’t make you special. It doesn’t make you talented. It doesn’t make you any more listened to by anyone big or small. You are a nuisance. A nuisance whom I can assure has few listeners and probably even fewer things that truly bring you happiness.

    Get some help, Ted. Conspiracies are warm blankets, I know. They help to explain things that otherwise don’t make sense. You’re sitting there amazed that American soccer teams used to draw huge crowds and then suddenly they didn’t. You’re confused that today that there are so many fewer people that appear to like this thing, soccer, that you appear to care so deeply about. It doesn’t make sense to you Ted, does it? Where did all those fans go? Why doesn’t MLS draw those same crowd numbers? You read those histories, and you see those old black and white photos and it just doesn’t add up. But conspiracies don’t answer any of the questions as to why that happened? Believe it or not, the question as to what happened to American soccer between the 20s and 90s is one that’s difficult to answer – maybe even impossible to answer fully. It’s too complicated to blame on single actors like the NFL, Don Garber or US Soccer.

    Don’t take it from me, take it from these two sociologists.
    It’s something to keep in mind the next time you rapid-fire 27 Tweets in an hour to journalists or leave 500 word comments under seemingly every article relating to MLS and US Soccer.

  8. Let’s clear this up:

    Aaron is right. MLS, in it’s current form, does not need, want, or care about promotion, relegation and independent clubs.

    Of course, whether MLS needs pro-rel or not has nothing to do with whether American soccer, and American supporters need it.

    I think it’s pretty clear MLS was designed from the ground up to thwart any attempt to bring about promotion and relegation. There is virtually no way to jive it with all the micromanagement, league ownership of clubs, and all the other policies and procedures that were designed, largely, to thwart the financial instability that something as radical as promotion and relegation would bring to the system. Questions like WTF did I pay the $25 -$40 million franchise fee for would be pretty pertinent.

    Perhaps most importantly, MLS has an entitlement from USSF that appears to be built out to over half a century. They own it. They can do whatever they want, and subjecting owners to relegation is NOT what they want.

    What are we left with? A league whose priorities are confused. A league that is primarily worried about the entitlements of the American sports owners to permanent first division statues. A league that sends Commissioner Garber on international junkets to proselytize about the wonderfulness of their closed system, and the American way of imposing mediocrity on every club and permanent first division entitlements will bring wealth to every owner – as long as they can pry the future of their clubs from their supporters.

    To us nerds, there is a lot of hope. FIFA supports a transition to promotion and relegation, and the right USSF President can change it. He/she could stop the franchise fee ponzi scheme that the league apparently still runs on, pry it out of the collective hands of people whose agendas are as broad as their portfolios, and increase lower division investment exponentially. He/she could let our top clubs build as far as their owners and supporters can take them, not as far as MLS parity prerogative lets them go.

    Of course, he/she probably shouldn’t be paid by MLS. Imagine if Obama was paid by BP…. Sunil Gulati is getting a bonus paycheck every month from Revs owner Bob Kraft, so that kinda limits his scope.

    So, you’re right. MLS does not need it.

    The vast majority of American soccer supporters who aren’t watching MLS DO need it.

  9. Oh Aaron. We’re not talking Roswell here, or Elvis, or even Courtney Love. We’re talking about an entitled group of billionaires under the opaque rules of MLS governance. It’s not like the Chupacabra. It’s a bunch of guys who think promotion and relegation are worse than communist countries that don’t allow them to outsource American manufacturing.



    Common Sense.

  10. Remember, Aaron, a billion people agree with me. Just because they don’t look, act or talk like you doesn’t mean their opinions are any less valid.

  11. Ooh, the racism canard. The wiffle-bat of debating methods – hollow, easily swung but ultimately weak.

    Still no evidence…. not one iota.

  12. The horrors of instability traded for the hollow imposed mediocrity of the single entity…

    If we were talking about clubs who weren’t exposed to real, unlimited international competition, you might have a point. Unfortunately, and the ratings agree, it’s not that exciting to watch an MLS outlet under KFC franchise rules take on a real, independent club.

    Seriously, why does MLS even bother with first div at all? If they are so sure of their methodology, it should work just fine outside of the pyramid. That way, we can try it the right way too.

    Maybe they’re right. Maybe Americans are the only people in the world who will stand placidly by and let them dictate club performance levels to maintain their closed league entitlements. If that’s true, why are we wasting a perfectly good pyramid on them?

    I know, they’re so weak and poor – they just can’t handle competion….

    Only 4 million fewer US viewers tuned in to US v England than Brit viewers. And let’s not try to explain those numbers with hispanistyria…

    I know, it’s a conspiracy theory to indict MLS business model when they barely average 1/20th of that number.

    This isn’t the X Files.

    I’m not David Duchovny.

    I know, the MLS pity party is strong. And it might all go up in a puff of smoke if we even talk about pro/rel.

    With World Cup audiences like that, you know it’s not soccer’s fault.

  13. You could have addressed the issues, instead you just go straight to discredit. It’s as predictable as it is pathetic.

    Look, I know every one of the 53 or 4 die hard KFC/MLS supporters prowl in here, and look for every opportunity to bash pro/rel as some kind of social menace.

    You’re still better than the vast majority of American supporters who just turn away and blame the USA for being too stupid to do it right, and are too apathetic to care.

  14. So more Americans would follow soccer if there were professional teams in Wilmington, West Chester, Camden, and Media, as well as Philadelphia and Chester proper?

    Think about how dumb a league that would be.

  15. I can’t believe this asshole.

    “I think it’s pretty clear MLS was designed from the ground up to thwart any attempt to bring about promotion and relegation.”

    Talk about conspiracy theory. MLS was “designed” to prevent promotion and relegation from happening? MLS was “designed” to give America a soccer league. MLS fielded only ten teams in their first season. What, they were supposed to set it up so that five teams would be in the top flight, and five in the bottom, and they would move back and forth?

    The people who founded MLS were trying to make sure the league would survive. They didn’t have the resources, or the interest, or the backing to have enough teams to have two divisions. Period.

    “The horrors of instability traded for the hollow imposed mediocrity of the single entity… “
    That’s YOUR OPINION. You state it like it’s a fact, but it’s YOUR OPINION. I, for one, don’t believe that just because the teams are more equal financially that it somehow makes for bad soccer like you do. I happen to think that not really knowing who’s going to win every time the teams take the field is pretty cool. And even if the idea that not allowing the teams to break the bank on players somehow excludes the possibility that MLS might have one or two decent players in its league, the competitiveness of the teams in the standings makes up for it.

    And guess what? Even if you could somehow convince me that you’re right, that MLS = mediocrity? I’m going to let you in on a little secret.

    I STILL DON’T CARE. The league is struggling as it is, financially. (Or some of the clubs are, anyway.) Having a big superclub-stocked league doesn’t matter if the cost of doing so means the league goes bankrupt in a decade.

    And try telling the Galaxy that they’re mediocre.

    “Seriously, why does MLS even bother with first div at all? If they are so sure of their methodology, it should work just fine outside of the pyramid. That way, we can try it the right way too.

    Maybe they’re right. Maybe Americans are the only people in the world who will stand placidly by and let them dictate club performance levels to maintain their closed league entitlements. If that’s true, why are we wasting a perfectly good pyramid on them?”

    And what is this f****ng pyramid you keep talking about, as if it’s supposed to impress people? The last pyramid I gave a crap about had Dick Clark in front of it.

    “I know, the MLS pity party is strong. And it might all go up in a puff of smoke if we even talk about pro/rel.”
    Who needs a pity party? We like MLS. We support MLS. We watch matches. We go to matches. We buy gear. We — WE are the ones who are trying to make sure the league doesn’t die on us, whereas you, apparently, are the husband who thinks his wife isn’t pretty enough, so he beats the crap out of her to prove himself right.

    We like the league. If you don’t, take your ball and go home.

  16. As a DCU supporter I’m extremely glad we don’t have pro/rel. Not that I have anything against the Carolina Railhawks……

  17. Just for fun I’ll wade into this mess. Two points. First, MLS is not a closed club. For 30-40 mill, a decent 18K stadium, and an owner with enough cash not to be broke after securing the first two, any town on the North American continent can have an MLS club. I doubt that modest investment gets you an English first or second division club. Second, Saint Louis is a poster child for the dangers of pro/rel. A couple of years ago they were touted as a great MLS market. But apparently there isn’t even enough money in the minor league club to pay the salary of a 36 year old former MLS player.

  18. You see Aaron, this is what happens when you post a blog about the possibility of pro/rel introduced into MLS. You invite humongus ass trolls like soccerreform.us to voice their opinions about it like flies to shit, which is a perfect metaphor for this douchebag.

    BTW, soccerreform.us has been reduced to voicing his opinions about the subject over at the soccer haters thread since he’s been forbidden to do so at other legit threads by moderators because of his obnouxious attitude.

    Isn’t that right ass troll, aka soccerreform.us?

  19. Because I like being pedantic, I’m going to point out that those 16 teams aren’t barred from competing in the ’14 finals.

  20. I understand why it wouldnt work, but I dont know why everyone on bigsoccer is so against it. The only hope i have is that once MLS is at about 32 teams, they split MLS into two tiers. Now I know that that would not be the case because MLS would much rather prefer an NFL like format of 8 divisions with four teams each.

  21. Thanks, Ted, for making it nearly impossible to advocate for any sort of reform without being tarred with the brush they use for you.

    I am for something, eventually, when there are stable clubs at several levels, like “MLS 1 and MLS 2” with some sharing of the pie for the “2” people.

    And the second I say something like that, I am immediately branded a playoff-hating, blood-pudding-eating wannabe who wants to make Toronto fans trudge out in February, and, apparently, a “nerd.” There are a range of opinions held by a range of people. In the part of the range I inhabit, I do not consider that MLS is a conspiracy of the Skull and Bones, the Vatican, the Masons, BP, Mossad, the invisible Mothership, and the Trilateral Commission to keep our domestic game mediocre and corrupt our precious bodily fluids.

    Nor do I consider the status quo infallible.

  22. Really? I have never ever heard of or seen a league collapse due to having a pro/reg system. So please go into details.

    Going on.

    You know an argument is weak when you need name calling in order to get a point across.

    My question to the OP is; Why do you feel so threatened by Pro/Reg?

  23. Ted, I unfortunately missed the post where you detailed exactly what your plan was, and where the money goes when one makes a donation to your site. Could you repost that, please? Thanks.

  24. That isn’t what he said. He was talking about the league which is so aimed at making money that teams go on the field without a single Englishman among them.
    No, the strength of our arguments are independent of our name calling, you poo poo head.
    Because it is simply a monumentally stupid idea in America. It solves problems MLS does not have, and introduces problems that could destroy the league.

  25. I fail to see how blowing up MLS does the game any good in this country. If anything, the failure of MLS (or the failure of any its teams, through relegation or relocation or what have you) would only re-arm the hysterical anti-soccer voices in America’s sports media who have been baying their heads off this entire World Cup. New stadiums and new teams have stripped them of their well-worn arguments that the league would fold and nobody in America cares about soccer (esp. not domestic pro soccer).

    Make no mistake about it, the first MLS team to be relegated- be that into whatever league ends up being the official Division 2 or some kind of “MLS 2” league- folds. Simple as. Sorry, you won’t be going to LA or Chicago this year, you’ll be traveling to Puerto Rico and Charleston, South Carolina. Good seats still available!

    But then of course your team just folds. Which of course means someone else will just immediately step up and spend a few million (even lower league clubs are worth a few mil) to try his hands at it, right?

  26. MLS will switch to a Fall/Spring schedule when the EPL, La Liga, and Serie A institute a salary cap… or maybe sometime after that.

  27. Pro MLS single entity supporters are so eager to put the profit motive first, yet so unable to see how profits are being gleaned by MLS ownership. By controlling the sport, and not putting the best possible product on the field, they protect the American sports establishment from promotion and relegation.

    If you’re going to continue with that profit, profit, profit stuff, at least be honest about it.

  28. Yeah, I was going to say, a European salary cap is at least a remote possibility.

    You know what would be amazing though? If FIFA gets its way and everyone plays fall-to-spring, you can look forward to Rubin Kazan playing with zero visibility or an afternoon match in Trondheim played in total darkness.

  29. Probably because there’s nothing inherently wrong (or right) about pro/rel. And Sepp Blatter is someone you want to humor, even if he’s mostly full of hot air.

    And probably because a decade or two down the road, we’ll be looking at a two-tier MLS (similar to what J-League has with J1 and J2), a closed league with 30+ teams (18+12 seems doable to me) and pro/rel SO THE WORLD WILL FINALLY TAKE US SERIOUSLY OMG, sorry, I meant a pro/rel within a supersized MLS, which wouldn’t be the worst thing for the league’s stability.

  30. Slam the door on pro/rel, and slam the door on ’18 or ’22.

    So, you want to do a profit share between two divisions, with the salary cap, squad size limits, and all the single entity trimmings?

    You’re going to have to dilute top division quality of play even more to give the cash handouts needed to placate franchise fee payees who get relegated.

    Outback Steakhouse wouldn’t use this model, and neither will MLS, under current leadership, and in current form. That’s because Outback Steakhouse shares more business DNA with MLS than EPL does. Until MLS fundamentally changes, pro/rel is as far removed as great clubs, and a healthy set of lower divisions.

  31. not going to happen, to take the “rest of the world” as a model for the sport is a laugh given the fact that the majority of the clubs are complete money pits

  32. MLS isn’t a money pit? Tell me about how much they’re making, exactly, with crowd controls and infomercial sized TV audiences?

    MLS owners gain from their money pit, just like Euro owners do.

    Some money pits are worth their weight in gold.

  33. Considering there’s already a spending limit for teams in CL and Europa League that’s going to take effect in 2012, which will serve as a de facto salary cap (and it makes sense for soccer, because North American salary caps don’t account for transfer fees), league-specific salary caps don’t seem so far fetched or unworkable.

    Basically, teams will have to limit their salaries and transfer fee balance based on a percentage of their revenue, which isn’t all that different from NFL and NBA caps that are set as percentage of leaguewide revenues.

  34. Not really a cap at all, in MLS sense. Under that model, Sounders could get pretty globally competitive, and the road to return of the Cosmos would be paved, and real pro/rel could be considered.

    They are on a different path to responsible cost controls, one that doesn’t turn their leagues into KFCs and one that allows club support to be freely applied to club improvements – a concept to which current MLS is diametrically opposed.

    The only way to keep soccer breathing in a closed league is through MLS controls. Otherwise, Cosmofication occurs.

    That’s why pro/rel isn’t just different, but far better for the sport and the supporters. It eliminates permanent stratification, since Clipper cellar dwellers aren’t permitted, while allowing top clubs to grow as far as supporters can take them.

    Time to take our soccer off the ventilator. It’s not designed to keep soccer breathing, it’s designed to keep soccer breathing in the closed league model American sports owners feel entitled to.

  35. Agreed
    I believe he is talking about the informal concept of an American Soccer Pyramid based on the league system of England. It is the road map for pro/rel in the countries that use it. And guess, what – most countries do not really use it below the second division.

    Whats more, the US does not use it at all – and from what I can tell, never did. The USL is a tiered league, but they never instituted pro/rel – and they were actually in a position to do so, unlike MLS. The USL has three divisions which means in theory its teams could move up and down like the Euros. But guess what? Nobody seems to want to do that. Other than Tedrick here, that is.

    And to answer Tedrick’s question: MLS is the top tier league on the American Pyramid because FIFA demanded it. Way back when we were bidding to host WC 94, the USSF agreed to set up a top tier league, which USL apperantly was not. FIFA approved the structure, knowing that survival was of the utmost importance.
    For the sake of simplicity, the American Soccer Pyramid is essentially the same as the Baseball, Hockey, and Basketball pyramids (if such things existed). The difference is that we have not made the lower levels of soccer into affiliated minor league feeder teams – yet. Although Vancouver and Montreal plan to do that with Edmonton and Quebec (or whomever they are using) once they join MLS.
    And that, my dear dear Tedrick, is the future of the American Soccer Pyramid as well. Love it, hate it, or whatever, we have our own sporting culture in this country and it rakes in more money in a larger number of sports than anywhere else in the world. Money drives everything and if it’s not broke (the larger concept of pro sports in the US/Canada), then why fix it?
    Heck, even Australia and New Zealand are content to follow the American System. Ever hear of the Hyundai A-League? Here’s an example using the Wellington Phoenix:
    Sure sounds like the beginning of a minor league to me rather than pro/rel…

  36. During this WC, I’ve read a number of articles on how Europeans are better at training athletes, organizing leagues and the like.

    Then, I look at the numbers, rather than feelings, and find that the top 3 leagues in the world, financially-speaking, are the NFL, MLB and NBA. In terms of training top-tier athletes, the US minor-league and college systems pump out world-class athletes for 4 major sports leagues as well as a mid-level soccer league, in addition to a large number of Olympic athletes and athletes in sports like tennis and golf.

    So,our system works, probably better than anywhere else in the world. MLS seems to have figured out a viable business plan for itself, based largely on the US approach to sports.

    Why, exactly, should MLS scrap its current model and experiment with a totally new approach?

  37. Exactly. That is what people like Ted fail to understand.
    Adding to your point as well as my previous post, we also use our minor league 7 college system to develop players for other countries. Hockey many international track athletes, and baseball. basketball, and hockey players have played in the American minor leagues and/or colleges?
    Simply put, the American system does a great job of creating and developing professional athletes. And the leagues, owners, and fans all make a ton of cash in most leagues, for the most part. Even minor leaguers do pretty darn well.

  38. Well said. England is the size of a larger US state (and not even the really big ones). The US/Canadian league is continent-spanning. Having all D1 teams be from, say, the West Coast and Northeast for a few years in a row would be enough to kill the sport in regional dead zones of D2.

    At least in the continent of Europe, you have different leagues for each state-sized amount of ground you cover…

    I’m a bigger believer in the extreme side of maintaining and expanding Conference competition, with even representation of teams from each geographic region qualifying for playoffs/championships.

    Because, isn’t that basically what they go for with the UEFA champs leagues and Euroleague? Inclusion of all geographic regions of Europe… And, no — Concacaf CL is not our version of UEFA CL. I understand it’s supposed to eventually be. But Concacaf is a two-league confederation — with a few feisty non-Mexican Latin American teams that can make MLS look bad in a few single matches here and there (teams that would rather being playing in the Libertadores anyway…)

  39. What I don’t understand is why you think we have to use the format for every pro sport – unless you’re a pro sports owner who is terrified that their closed league entitlements will be under assault.

  40. That’s the way it goes in the USA. When our closed leagues fold, they take clubs with them.

    Another fringe benefit of open leagues:

    They don’t fold.

  41. You want to be more like New Zealand and Austrailia, I want to be more like Germany and Italy.


  42. No MLS club, or USMNT, has ever won a match on Mexican soil.

    And with MLS shackling top clubs to try and make their owners money, it’s not about to happen.

  43. *under these conditions: When the league is clearly predominant, and when clubs are not exposed to meaningful international competition.

    MLS doesn’t fit the mold and MLS owners know it. It’s about the protecting the American pro sports owners entitlements, and not about soccer at all.

  44. Unless, you know, soccer isn’t the most popular sport in a particular nation. Like India, where cricket is king, and their National Football League…which featured pro/rel…you guessed it…folded. Oops.

  45. Aaron, leave us nerds out of this! Don’t try to put us in the same category as pro/rel people! Well, maybe you can put the pro/rel people with the furries and plushies.

  46. India is developing fast, but still doesn’t have the pro sports culture we have, doesn’t have the transportation infrastructure, and most citizens don’t have the disposable income to support more than one national sport league.

    Meanwhile, we have five or six.

    While you try and tear down the open league model, and promotion/relegation, Major League Lacrosse, a sport perfect for the closed league mold (predominant league of it’s kind, no meaningful int’l competition) is getting ready to pass MLS.

  47. Wow. I’m calling you out on this one.
    Getting ready to pass MLS how exactly? You mean on the way to the end of its existence? You do realize that there are only six MLL teams, one of which is owned by the league and is being test marketed in several potential relocation markets this summer, right? They folded four franchises last summer – including both California teams, the NY market team in NJ, and Philly, who won the league championship in 2008 before spending 2009 in the same situation as the Machine this year. Whats more, defending champion Rochester was moved to Toronto and renamed. The Nationals have since been booted from BMO my TFC.
    You really have no clue about this, do you?
    For the record, I am a lacrosse coach, fan, and player. Soccer is my love and passion, but lax is my life. Sadly that pro league is in bad shape. Being controlled almost completely by a single equipment company (New Balance) has that effect.
    MLS on the other hand, is in pretty good shape. Although all decisions run through the league office, teams have more control than in MLL. Heck, players have more control. They can use whatever footwear they want, for example. MLL players can only use New Balance products. MLS also has a wide variety of advertisers and a weekly game on ESPN and FSC. MLL has Bud Light, and, uh, New Balance. And six games all season on ESPN2. Apples and carrots, my friend.
    -Oh, and in reference to this:
    Reread it. Context is quite important. I said that NZ & Australia are emulating us. Not the other way around. Our system has worked so well that others are adopting it rather than the European models. Its based on stability.


    Dude, you’ve officially crossed over into pulling stuff out of your bulbous ass. Unoficially, you’ve been doing it forever. And besides, with the success of the U.S. squad in South Africa, interest in the game and in pro/rel free MLS will only increase, making your drug induced fantasy world even more difficult to achieve than it already is.

  49. Lacrosse?

    Talk about a sport that’s even more regional than ice hockey, and anyone who says that it’s going to be a bigger deal than soccer at the professional level on a nationwide basis is obviously a provincial ninny who never ventures west of the Appalachians.

    Seriously, people always rip the NHL’s expansion into Sunbelt cities with the old, tired “nobody plays hockey there,” but I can tell you for damn sure that more people play hockey there than play lacrosse.

  50. Maybe curling has a better future as a closed league, too, since it is “a sport perfect for the closed league mold (predominant league of it’s kind, no meaningful int’l ompetition) is getting ready to pass MLS.”

  51. Actually, that is not correct. Lacrosse is huge in Florida, Texas, Arizona, and California. It is growing faster than hockey mainly due to the fact that it can be played pretty much anywhere year round. Add in box lacrosse (played in hockey rinks or indoor soccer facilities) and you see even higher participation numbers.
    Lax definitely trails behind soccer everywhere, but is growing faster than hockey in warmer states and even parts of the midwest. Omaha, for example, has eight high school lax teams and only one high school hockey team. Every PAC 10 school, including Colorado & Utah, has a MCLA (lax) team while only 8 have ACHA (hockey) teams. In fact, nearly every university on the west coast, Rockies, Arizona, Texas, SEC conference, Florida, etc. have lax teams. Most do not have hockey. However, there is a ton of crossover between the sports.
    Lacrosse is now played at some level in all 50 states. Mostly they are college club teams founded by East Coast, West Coast, or Colorado transplants. It’s bigger than you think.
    Lax is growing around the world too. The World Championships are in Manchester this July 15-24. Thirty nations are competiting this year, including many traditional soccer powers like France, Italy, Spain, and England. That’s up from 21 nations in 2006. Really, the growth is amazing.
    But lax – pro or otherwise – will not be bigger than soccer any time soon.

  52. Having lived almost all my life in various parts of Texas, I can only conclude that you’re using a different definition of “huge” than is commonly found in English dictionaries.

  53. Throwing cold water onto cold water

    You know, I hate to be perceived as taking the side of Ted on anything. And I haven’t even read his posts because too many in the past have been unworth reading. But that said, 90% percent of the arguments voiced against pro/rel are lazy and sloppy, and the one that’s dominating this debate is no exception:

    1) Calling your opponents ‘nerds’ at the outset is a great way to lose a debate before you’ve begun it. Ad hominem aside–in an intellectual argument, to call the other guy a nerd is essentially to call oneself a meathead. And in that fight, the smart money is usually on the nerd.

    2) “Relegation causes bankruptcy” is a historically lazy argument. Spending to avoid relegation might be a financial threat, but that’s no fine distinction–because a) it’s easy enough to design rules that would eliminate this problem (the current UEFA proposals would do, though they have other costs), and b) it’s no different from overspending to try to get to the Champions League, or to win the domestic title.

    Relegation has, in real life, served as a safety net more often than a threat. It gives a club near carte blanche to cut underperforming contracts and rebuild, (something that’s actually substantially harder to do in many American sports) at a league that requires a great deal less salary expenditure to be competitive. Newcastle are vastly better off for being relegated than the Philadelphia 76ers have been for their prolongued, more torturous suckitude.

    But historical laziness is not a big a deal as
    3) The pure logical sloppiness and absurdity of trying to use virtually the only non-pro/rel second division as an example of why pro/rel is allegedly bad. Could you be more logically bass ackwards?

    (Also, as advice for newer posters, the phrase “Simple as.”, or “End of.” or the equivalent is usually a red flag for an intellectual bluff. What it really means is “I have no evidence of this claim, so I’m going to act like it’s obvious and hope that cowes everyone out of debating it.”)

    None of this is to say I can demonstrate that pro/rel can work. . . in fact, I could argue against it better than you guys have. (Hint: the argument against it starts, and mostly ends, with stadiums.)

    Just that the claims of its detractors that pro/rel serves as some kind of medieval Oubliette where you are pissed upon by cackling Ostrogoths are silly and don’t advance the discussion.

  54. The evidence that pro/rel is interesting and exciting and not necessarily the death of relegated clubs is the experience of it over and over and over again.

    This does not mean that we want to import England’s problems and end up with the worst of all world’s. What I have proposed is taking some of the best elements of Europe in a way that makes sense in our context.

    A time may (and I say shall) come when a combination of SEM and pro/rel makes sense. That time is not now. I am joined in this opinion by Don Garber and Sunil Gulati. So, Kapt Powers, et al, demotion to an MLS2 at some future point when the diehards outnumber golf-clapping AYSO picnic people will not mean “fold, period.”

    But if you want to keep scoring easy points against the Lyndon LaRouche of American soccer, rather than seeing a more complex and interesting picture, then carry on. Whatever makes you feel good.

  55. Lacrosse is a great sport for suburban white kids: you get to play a sport that requires a bunch of equipment, you look cool, no one actually knows whether or not you are any good, and you’ll never have to worry about playing a team from the ‘hood.

  56. Bullshit, bullshit, and bullshit.

    You have to be quick, strong, and smart. That’s why that suburban white kid Jim Brown was really good at it. And it’s not called “lacrosse” because two pudgy white kids on “Lacrosse Street” invented it.

    There are arguments to be made for how to develop less popular sports. Lacrosse and Rugby, etc.

    Soccer is a totally different problem. How do you translate massive popularity into butts in seats in a domestic league with sponsorship and broadcast rights money? And, of course, a pro/rel drama would be really lousy for that, wouldn’t it?

    I mean, prove it! Show me the evidence of where pro/rel has produced positive results in the United States or Canada! We don’t test hypotheses here! We declare Garber and Gulati are prophets, even though we say they are lying to appease false gods when they say that pro/rel may be feasible at some point.

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