Column: US soccer could benefit from promotion/relegation system
Published: Monday, October 21, 2013
Updated: Monday, October 21, 2013 22:10
What’s at stake for DC United should they continue to sink deeper into the Eastern Conference? While it looks likely, even after winning the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup, Ben Olsen’s team is headed for the cellar in MLS.
But the door does not shut there; DC United will return to the league next season and will look to revamp their squad in hopes of another MLS Playoff run as was done ever-so brilliantly in the 2012-13 season.
What the United States needs not just in Major League Soccer, but in all of its sports, is a relegation system. Imagine the Richmond Kickers coming up to the MLS and having DC United fall into the ranks of development soccer here in America. While it’d be disheartening to supporters and to RFK Stadium, it’d likely bring a sense of compassion and drive back into the players.
The Barclays Premier League, Serie A and the German Bundesliga have all have been present for years, however they serve as top-class business model, in terms of chance finances and monetary explosions. If a team is to be relegated, elation surrounds the grounds of the promoted club while the relegated teams somberly walk off the top-tiered pitch and prepare themselves for the rough leagues below.
While it may not be feasible at the moment for the United States, the promotion and relegation system promotes a riskier, competitive atmosphere. MLS is still young; markets have not been fully established and supporters are still finding their allegiances. With salary cap issues and financial constraints, fielding teams in every state is already a daunting task to ask of potential investors, let alone multiple teams in one state.
In the English game alone, there are 138 professional teams broken down into 10 divisions: Premier League, Football League Championship, Football League One, Football League Two, Conference National, Conference North and South, Northern Premier League, Southern Premier League and Isthmian League. Quite an expansive list of professional clubs.
Although as we’ve learned, MLS clubs and draw fans, the Seattle Sounders have already established that they can gate at least 60,000 fans attendances at matches.
If only MLS could find that type of support everywhere. That’s the biggest issue, with the United States still growing a liking to the world’s game, it will take time for states like Connecticut to fully adopt the idea of having a professional team.
Every year there is a clean slate, which may or may not be beneficial to lower teams in the professional ranks of the United States. Imagine the New York Red Bulls being relegated to the USL Pro division. What an uproar that would cause.
It’d bring unity as well. Likely, the club would lose some of the plastic supporters; however, clubs tend to band together in times of adversity, and the destination of top flight soccer is top bar none. Unfortunately in the United States, teams could be terrible for decades, but then continue to see themselves win top draft prospects and redevelop themselves out of pure chance.
As for the United States, it only has 40 professionally recognized clubs and nearly 200 affiliated with the United Stated Adult Soccer Association, which is considered amateur. The United States soccer system is broken down into tiers: Major League Soccer, North American Soccer League and the United States Professional Division. And with the top division only having a total of 19 professional teams, we can now better understand that while the promotion and relegation system may be one of the most exciting systems in the world of sports, at this moment at least, it does not promote what the American market is searching for.