I’ll open by first acknowledging that there are many superb things going on with soccer in this country – it’s grown – not by inches in the last few years – but by leaps and bounds.
And a huge amount of that growth is down to the owners, of not just MLS teams, but those looking to bring the sport to cities through NASL, USL, and other Club level Leagues…
That said, it’s takes Two to Tango and the collective ‘we’ representing the other ‘one’ are the supporters of soccer/football in this country. It’d be rude not to recognize how much the collective ‘we’ bring to this country in following, with their hearts, the best individualized-team sport in the World!
But, alas, with strength comes weakness – and with all that growth I would offer there is some irrational thinking occurring within umbrella of College Soccer in United States. To begin…….
College Soccer – NCAA Rules and Regulations versus that of US Soccer and the rest of the World:
First off, being going all negative, it’s still a good thing that the NCAA provides an organized style of soccer – that’s not the issue – the issue is the inane rules and regulations governing the sport and how that not only affects plaeyrs, but coaches and, yes, referees.
I’ve heard there may be as many as 1,100 organized teams in the NCAA; that’s huge for the sport in general but what about the environment in which they play?
With roughly 1,100 organized teams that’s about 25,000 soccer players/students who are learning to play a tactically flawed game given current substitution rules.
This is not supposition, through interviews with a number of Head Coaches, to include those in MLS, NPSL, PDL, and College Soccer, they indicate the style of soccer played in College simply does not match that of the professionals.
The high volume of substitutions and the ability of a player to actually come off the pitch, get a rest, and then go back on!
And that higher frequency of player rotation results in at least three separate issues.
First and foremost is the common style of play that occurs when teams have substitution capacities that exceed what is required for the rest of the World.
Games played are frenetic, fast paced, high pressure events (across almost the entire length of the pitch) that end up resembling direct-ball festivals where long passes are the norm and results of those long passes mean a constant barrage of deflections, rebounds, 2nd chance balls.
In other words there’s minimal tactical nuance (time and space) for players to really master critical skills they’ll need when trying to transfer to the professional ranks.
In addition, it also means that College Soccer Coaches are always forced to try and run the same tactical approach/system – leaving them no room to grow and experiment with different tactics and strategies.ends up driving the tactics of the game towards frenetic play – with no concerted possession-based attacking. Put another way – the style most often seen in College Soccer is direct play, (long passes) that result in deflections, rebounds, 2nd chance balls and disrupting tackles that often turn into rough tackles resulting in injury or suspension.
If you want to visualize a game like try to get your hands on the Seattle Sounders vs Portland Timbers US Open Cup game last night – great result for the Timbers but a blindingly poor result in trying to sell the beauty of soccer in this country.
Even College Coaches interviewed have expressed concern with trying to tactically manage teams (that need to win) in styles that go against other previous training outside of the College environment.
So why would it be good for the development of US Soccer or the NCAA (a learning environment) to have upwards of 1,100 clubs with as many as 28,000 soccer players, 44,000 coaches (both Head Coaches and Assistant Coaches) plus (perhaps?) 20,000 Referees operate in a constrained environment that completely ignores how the rest of the World plays soccer?
I’m not sure – but a few more thoughts from another angle.
As USL, NASL, and other Professional Leagues and Clubs begin to develop more players, outside the structure of the NCAA College Soccer, the ability of students (players) playing College Soccer, and then transferring to the professional ranks, will get smaller and smaller.
Meaning a potential hot-bed for talent will see fewer and fewer highly qualified coaches resulting in a lower educating environment that will drive the creation of more players with lower quality skills – with an end state that will enhance an even worse tactical style of play.
Consequently there will be less value from those 1,100 teams, 28,000 players, 4,400 coaches and 20,000 Referees… basically translating to an idea that if NCAA College Soccer continues to ignore US Soccer and FIFA rules and regulations they will become extinct.
Here’s a different question…
If the NCAA is really about educating and helping students better prepare themselves for the professional ranks of their chosen field then I think it’s about time the NCAA reorganize and educate/help their students prepare for professional soccer; if that’s a chosen professional intent.
And, if US Soccer is really about promoting the growth of soccer in America then they should begin asking tougher questions of the NCAA and how (they) intend to plot a future business plan that not only fits into qualifying as an Official Amateur League(s) but ones that can then join the likes of everyone else as they compete for the US Open Cup.
College is, after all, a learning environment – and what better way to educate the players/students about professional soccer than to have them play by those rules?
USL – Competition versus Development:
I get it – the development of USL is a good thing – and so is a more competitive environment for MLs teams to develop players in an effort to make them “MLS ready”
But after conducting a number of interviews with teams in the USL, these past few months, I’ve reached the conclusion that there are two types of teams in this league.
Teams, whether well-intentioned or not, are either 1) set up to compete with the intent to make a profit and eventually get promoted (if you will) to MLS versus teams or 2) set up to develop players for either a) the MLS first team, or b) to loan and/or sell-on as a way to try and turn a profit in a sport where profits are really hard to come by.
For example, when one team was interviewed a few weeks ago they offered that when playing “MLS team #2 type team” the player personnel fluxuated considerably – in other words sometimes you’d get players who are really trying to ‘develop’ versus players who are not regulars on the first team but do fit into the ‘first 18’.
Meaning that some USL ‘competitive teams’ are not playing the same level of quality players in “MLS team #2 teams” as other ‘competitive teams.
So while USL shows all the trademakrs of being a highly competitive league that has equal status as a US Soccer “League Division 2”; it’s really not what’s it’s advertised to be.
I don’t offer this as a negative to MLS franchises – they are merely trying to set the right conditions to get younger players the best competitive environment as possible – the problem is – not all MLS teams treat their ‘team #2 teams’ the same way.
US Soccer – US Open Cup:
US Soccer uns the US Open Cup that is not “open” —> it’s geographically controlled where zones have been created to filter and drive specific match-ups.
The US Open Cup permits (in essence) non-competitive (more development like) MLS team #2 teams to participate, and part of that participation means (outside of the final US Open Cup) a ‘team #2’ cannot compete with a ‘team #1’. What’s open about that?
In essence what US Soccer is allowing for is Arsenal the opportunity to play the Arsenal Reserves in the English FA Cup Final at Wembley stadium… WOW!
That’s like ignoring the fact that Formula 1 teams don’t try to ensure their #2 driver doesn’t get more points than their #1 drive if a win in that race secures a Championship for the #1 driver… go figure?!?
It also means that if the two organizations get both their teams in teh US Open Cup semifinals the ‘team #1’ has to play the ‘team #2’ of the opponent in the Semi-final…. again not an ‘Open Cup’ kinda competition.
The US Open Cup is one of the oldest competitions in the United States – and it beggards belief that today, with all the professional soccer on TV we have yet to see US Soccer secure either 1) a significant sponsor, and 2) a TV contract.
What could be better for soccer in the United States than a televised fourth round match (on national TV) between a team like the Pittsburgh Riverhounds and DC United? Or for that matter, what could be better for US Soccer than to see a 4th round match between Seattle and Portland ( a potential Final match) that occurs in the 4th round?
Seems like a very good and very reasonable way to really promote the growth and development of Soccer in US Soccer!
US Soccer – Foreign Nationals:
What is the point of foreign player limitations in this country if this country is built on the fact that competition, free enterprise competition, is the foundation for capitalism?
It’s like the US Government telling Ford Motor Company, or Boeing, Nike, or Intel that they can only employ “x” amount of foreign employees in the United States and that anything greater than “x” must be filled by Americans… how long do you think that would last?
It simply isn’t reasonable that teams in any professional league in this country are hamstrung to employ a minimum number of ‘americans’ – especially when the only real American source for soccer players gets its foundation from Colleges – where the NCAA doesn’t even play by the same rules as the rest of the Soccer World.
I don’t propose to have all the answers but in my view, I would suggest US Soccer and the NCAA take a REAL HARD LOOK at how they govern the world’s greatest individualized-team sport in this Country.
If the INTENT is to develop players to create a “learning” market of soccer that fourishes, not only professionally, but for pride at World Cup type events, in the United States then US Soccer and NCAA have some pretty tough questions to answer when asking themselves how they can get better in order for soccer to get better in this country.
If you’ll notice I excluded mainstream media from this effort – why?
Pretty much because much of mainstream media, for this sport, is behind the ‘educational’ power curve on all the nuance of this sport; (perhaps???) it takes others, who have a passion and blog about this sport, to really plant the seed for other, more known journalists – like Grant Wahl – to call-out what looks pear-shaped.
Nevermind that some of the major news media outlets still consider Soccer as an “other sport” on their websites —> yet, now, there are more youth playing soccer than any other sport in this country… and no – Ann Coulter is not the answer either; she already proved her ignorance of the sport during last years’ World Cup!
What are your thoughts?
My thanks to everyone who has supported my web site the last four years!
It’s been a learning experience for me and, I hope, for you too.
As the new year starts I’ve got at least five new articles planned; here’s a quick synopsis on what to expect:
- Following up on Coaching Youth Soccer Part I and Coaching Youth Soccer Part II, I’ll be offering Coaching Youth Soccer Part III – digging into which team statistics to use, why, when, and how to use them. For those who don’t know me these three articles highlight my coaching philosophy into one three word catchphrase “muscle memory mentality“.
- Two new individual soccer statistics: This (may?) be controversial – My intent is to submit two new, professional level, individual, soccer statistics that could transform the player market value system.
Said differently; are private statistics companies, like Prozone Sports, OPTA, and InStat (along with player agents) manipulating the player market value system by ignoring what might be the most logical, intuitive, individual soccer statistics ever?
- Expected Points – An updated version of my previously created Expected Wins series of articles. A follow on to what was offered at the World Conference on Science & Soccer 2017, Rennes, France.
- Expected Goals – A new way to calculate this over-hyped soccer statistic that brings it a bit closer to reality.
- World Cup 2018 Total Soccer Index; to include predicting the winners after round one is complete.
For now, in case you missed one or two, here’s my rundown on the top five articles in each of the last four years.
- World Conference on Science & Soccer 2014 – a power point presentation of what I offered as a guest speaker at this prestigious event. #2 All Time.
- Is European Football Really Higher Quality than Major League Soccer – a look at possession with purpose across Europe as compared to MLS. #5 All Time.
- On Fire – or Can’t Hold a Candle – Are Chicago Fire Burning at Both Ends – a look at Chicago Fire in 2014 and their woes in not winning.
- Possession with Purpose Revised Introduction – my second update to PWP; the most accurate, publicly generated soccer index. #1 All Time.
- Major League Soccer – Week 25 – Portland Finally Show Up
- Possession with Purpose Revised Introduction – two years running in the top five.
- Busting the Myth of Moneyball in Soccer Statistics – my take on the flawed reasoning that individual statistics actually add great value in evaluating player effectiveness. #6 All Time.
- Redefining and Modernizing total Shots Ratio – Debunking TSR – note this statistic has now been shoved to the side. #8 All Time.
- World Conference on Science & Soccer 2014 – two years running in the top five.
- Is European Football Really Higher Quality than Major League Soccer – two years running in the top five.
- US Soccer – Improving College Soccer in the United States – peeling back issues with College Soccer – a topic with a very high visibility rate now. #4 All Time.
- Moneyball 2 – Soccer Statistics Taking it to the Next Level – thoughts and ideas about the next iteration of individual soccer statistics. #7 All Time.
- Training Soccer in America – God Smackingly Obvious Or is It – my first article highlighting my frustrations with US Soccer Youth Development – a topic with a very high visibility rate now.
- Busting the Myth of Moneyball in Soccer Statistics – two years running in the top five.
- Possession with Purpose Revised Introduction – three years running in the top five.
- Porter Pulls out of Portland – Caleb Porter resigns. #3 All Time.
- Updated Possession with Purpose – four years running. Update includes a revision to my Total Soccer Index. Two new algorithmic revisions have the correlation (r) to points earned in the league table exceeding ‘goal differential’; the benchmark statistic of modern day soccer.
- Getting Hot in Portland – On a poor run, Portland Timbers head coach, Caleb Porter publicly humiliates some of his players during post game press conferences – the first article in America projecting he may be out by the end of the season.
- Portland Timbers hire Gio Savarese – Caleb Porter’s replacement; no frills from an MLS shill here – let’s wait till the end of year 1 before drawing any conclusions or over-hyping what he offers.
- It’s not just US Soccer that Needs to Wipe the Slate Clean – The first article offered in the US Soccer media environment that publicly slams mainstream soccer media for inadequate journalism – a topic with a very high visibility rate now.
- I called for Jurgen Klinsmann to be sacked after WC 2014 because his tactics and in-game adjustments weren’t up to snuff. Three years later the rest of the american mainstream soccer media world agreed and Klinsmann was sacked.
- I called for Sunil Gulati to be ‘ousted’ after WC 2014 because his leadership in helping youth development and head coach selection weren’t up to snuff. Three years later the rest of the american mainstream soccer media world agreed and Gulati is out.
- In hindsight – I wonder where we’d be in youth soccer development if we’d have made those decisions three years ago?
- No, I do not favor Caleb Porter as the next US Men’s National Team head coach. I like Caleb, he’s a stand-up guy and always took time to share and listen. That said, in my opinion, he’s not (consistently) good enough at reading in game situations and making tactical adjustments that lead to better performances; the exact same issue I had with Jurgen Klinsmann. .
- I’m hopeful either Eric Wynalda or Steve Gans are elected as the next United States Soccer Federation President; electing Kathy Carter is a NO-GO in my view as there’s perceived ‘collusion’ between MLS and SUM. As a retired Air-Force veteran perception is reality until proven otherwise – some may disagree?
I wish you all the best for the new year.
Two years ago I wrote this article, it had widespread readership across the college soccer coaching establishment and it appears to have had considerable influence with US Soccer too.
I’ll leave everything as is and let you read it anew…
Original article offered in January 2016.
If you’re anywhere near being an enthusiast of Major League Soccer, or soccer in general, the tides of potential change in College Soccer should be a welcomed sight.
And this latest article from MLSSoccer.com should be mandatory reading to get a feel for how things are progressing.
For me, that progress comes as no surprise. And in case you missed it here’s what my thoughts were earlier in 2015: Major League Soccer – Can it truly reach the heights of top European Leagues by 2025 .
So with those two articles, plus two interviews Stephen Brandt and I have had on the Yellowcardedpod with Jamie Clark (Head Coach University of Washington) Interview with Jamie
& Jeremy Fishbein (Head Coach University of New Mexico) Interview with Jeremy Fishbein
it should help us carve out some questions as we spend time with Sasho Cerovski (Head Coach of University of Maryland) later this month.
My intent, through questions and discussion, is to touch base, in one way or another, with how College Soccer might better envision topics like these (below) as part of a successful end state (perhaps before 2025)?
And yes, the NCAA is a tough nut to crack, but if colleges are really set up to help those, who attend, to better prepare for their lives in a professional environment then it only makes sense to seek out better ways to prepare students for the real rigors of professional soccer.
I don’t claim to have all the answers or even all the questions but if there is intent, true intent, to make the United States a leader in soccer then it’s worthy to consider that changes need to be made at the college level. It is… after all… the most beautiful, individualized, team sport in the world and it’d be rude for the NCAA not to consider how it can better serve their students who wish to play professional soccer.
- A college soccer season that mirrors the length and rough number of games played at the professional level. (Being worked as of February 2018)
- A college soccer ‘rules of law’ that mirrors that of FIFA and US Soccer. (Accepted and part of new ‘test’ in College Soccer Division I – February 2018)
- A soccer competition (that US Soccer supports) where College teams can potentially play against Professional teams for the US Open Cup – and yes amateur leagues across THE REST OF THE WORLD compete in national cups.
- A training environment where players can experience the same type of physical training and game tactics they’ll face in the professional leagues. In other words get rid of count-down clocks and multiple player substitutions as well as the silly rules about what constitutes soccer training versus workouts in the gym. (Accepted and part of new ‘test’ in College Soccer Division I – February 2018)
- A coaching environment where coaches can experience the same types of tactical nuance that professional coaches face. In other words, again, ditch the multiple substitution rules. Thereby forcing head coaches to have their players experience tired legs, which in turn, can change the tenor/tactics of a game. Meaning it isn’t simply about playing – with fresh legs for all players – a full 90 minutes. This then translates to better understanding possession with purpose – possession for the sake of possession – versus possession for the sake of penetration – or – (put differently) non-possession where you lure your opponent into untenable defending positions if/when they lose the ball in attack. (Accepted and part of new ‘test’ in College Soccer Division I – February 2018)
- A refereeing environment where referees gain valuable experience in governing a game relative to the rules of FIFA and US Soccer… I think most would agree, the greater the pool of eligible referees to manage professional soccer, the greater the likelihood that refereeing in this country will get better. (Accepted and part of new ‘test’ in College Soccer Division I – February 2018)
If you did read my article, or previous articles I’ve written on these topics, you should know there are roughly 1900 college soccer teams in the United States; that equates to roughly 41,800 players playing outside the governing rules of FIFA and US Soccer.
That also equates (if each college team has 1 Head Coach and 3 Assistant Coaches) to 7,600 coaches not coaching and managing tactics (successes and failures of those tactics) they are likely to experience as a professional head coach. This isn’t to say coaches are not aware of those different types of tactics – it’s only to offer that having the regular experience of managing, relative to those tactics, may be different in the professional ranks as opposed to college ranks.
Finally, every game needs a referee and two assistant referees, plus a fourth official on the sideline. So that equates to 7,600 referees managing games outside the governing rules of FIFA and US Soccer.
Bottom line, that means the single greatest level of amateur soccer in this country is failing to properly prepare players (in their prime), coaches, and referees for professional soccer.
So… Jurgen Klinsmann and Sunil Gulati – if you’re really going to espouse to a greater success of soccer, across this nation, then I’d expect you need to focus on supporting college coaches, as much, if not more, than MLS. Others may disagree… (NOTE: Jurgen Klinsmann and Sunil Gulati are both OUT at US Soccer)
What are your thoughts?
What prompted this piece was the recent article published on Soccer By Ives about Don Garber’s vision for MLS by 2025 : http://www.sbisoccer.com/2015/09/insists-worlds-leagues.html
It’s a good article and worth the read.
Editorial – In a follow up to this article (below) Stephen Brandt and I, on Yellowcardedpod, interview Brian Dunseth and Thomas Rongen on some of these topics: http://www.blogtalkradio.com/ycp/2015/09/22/wingers-and-bow-ties–mls2025
Before digging into some of my thoughts/questions on what else might be a part of this 2025 vision I’ll first ask this question – does MLS “need” to attain that level? Mull that one over as I offer this caveat prior to digging in a bit deeper…
My thoughts offered are not intended to reflect that I don’t follow the league, support the league, or wish the business model of the league to fail. – I like (no) I love soccer – it’s been a passion of mine since the early 90’s and I continue to think and feel it is the greatest individualized-team sport in the World!
In no particular order some topics I think are worthy of consideration as MLS looks to develop/implement reach their 2025 vision:
Unbalanced League Schedule:
Probably the single worst aspect of the current system is an unbalanced league schedule where some teams you play once a year, some teams you play twice a year, and some teams you play three times a year….
I get it – at least for now – but it seems reasonable to me that the vision of 2025 needs to include a ways and means to create a more balanced schedule.
And I find it very doubtful that a schedule looking similar to how things appear today will convince others, outside this country, that MLS is a premier league.
League and Conference Size:
I think most would agree that the league will continue to grow – the question remains on what is the ideal stopping point of expansion?
If MLS wants to compete against the likes of La Liga, Serie A, EPL, and Bundesliga I would offer the stop point is 36 to 40 teams with two distinct conferences of 18 to 20 teams each.
This not only facilitates a balanced league schedule it also facilitates the league taking on the best of the single-table model those other leagues use; while also taking what I sense is a great attribute of American sports – the Playoff system.
There is a down side to this in that it may eliminate teams like New York City visiting Portland during the regular season – or other big cross-country games – but with every strength there is a weakness.
A possible end-run on that weakness is to open up the US Open Cup and eliminate ‘geographical area’ match-ups? And in the current conditions the US Open Cup is not ready for prime-time TV coverage – if eliminating geographical match-ups in the early stages of the US Open Cup occurs those matches might have greater value to the overall soccer TV audience…
However viewed, having a single table for each conference with a playoff scenario at the end of the season does set up MLS to get the best of both soccer worlds – and it might even convince those across the pond to set up a playoff system too?
Expansion – specifically the Expansion Draft:
I get it – the reality, at least at this time, seems reasonable to allow for an Expansion Draft but seriously, is it reasonable to continue penalizing strong organizations – who build depth for the ever-competitive season – by asking them to potentially sacrifice good players they’ve already invested time and money in only to see them disappear just when they begin to reach their potential?
My view is no – the sooner the Expansion Draft is stopped, in MLS, the sooner the league goes on record to reaffirm that if you are going to be a part of the “premier” league in America you need to have already developed an organization from within that will help you sustain that ‘permanent promotion’ to MLS.
Of course – when MLS reaches that final team number the Expansion Draft is toast anyway – so perhaps this potential 2025 vision doesn’t matter?
Free Agency: Maybe the most contentious (now):
A question if you will – when is the last time you heard about a company like Boeing, who has plants in every state of the United States, prohibiting that employee from seeking a greater wage packet, with Boeing, elsewhere?
The current lack of an expanded free agency system in MLS really does hinder the ability of this league to attain a top league status across the rest of the world.
If MLS is expecting to be a great league in 2025 then a more flexible Free Agency system is most likely needed to sustain that vision.
MLS College Draft:
While I understand the goodness and intent behind the College Draft I remain unconvinced that the hype and expectation of a player moving from college to the professional ranks is really a high-value proposition if MLS is to attain status as a top league across the world.
There are other angles to consider to include 1) NASL has no draft, 2) to who really ‘owns the player’ and 3) what rights the college player already has in other competitive leagues.
I figure it’d take a lawyer or two, like with Free Agency, to work out all those details – especially since the ‘college draft’ is a primary mechanism for other American Professional Sports to improve their organizations.
I’m not going to bet on this but I wouldn’t be surprised to see the glamour of the MLS College Draft decrease – especially if MLS is intent on being a top flight league across the world.
On the other hand, if the NCAA pulled their head out their arse and looked to attain full status as an Amateur League within the US Soccer system then a whole new vision could open up where the likes of Ohio State, and other Colleges could find themselves competing in the US Open Cup – now what sort of atmosphere might that create where a College Team finds themselves playing a Professional Team in a College Stadium that holds 100,000 supporters — for me that sort of atmosphere would be monumental – never-mind the financial and media interest it may draw from the commercial world of the United States!
The question, for me, then becomes – what is the vision of the NCAA for soccer in 2025?
Taking a greater leadership role in the development of Soccer in the United States (College Soccer continues to play ‘outside the lines’ of US Soccer and FIFA regulations):
While some College Head Coaches may disagree, from any number of reasons, those that I’ve interviewed seem to agree that – for the most part – the game of soccer played in college is not the same style, or of the same tactical nous, of professional soccer.
Count down clocks and substitution policies – along with Referees that are not FIFA qualified – place young, impressionable players – at the prime age of skill development, in an environment that comes no where close to matching the type of soccer environment they’ll potentially encounter in the professional ranks.
And if college is supposed to provide a ‘learning environment’ isn’t it reasonable that that learning environment match, as closely as possible, the environment those same players will need to operate in as professionals?
To put this into perspective – there are roughly 1100 organized NCAA teams – meaning there’s roughly (20 X 1100) 22,000 players looking to hone their skills in an environment that doesn’t match professional soccer.
In addition, if growing Professional Referees is an objective then if there are 1100 teams that equates to roughly 550 crews of one Referee and 2 Linespeople also adjudicating games under rules different to those of FIFA.
Last but not least – Coaching staff – if MLS is to be truly competitive isn’t reasonable to expect that there also needs to be a pipeline for Coaches. With 1100 teams that’s 1100 Head Coaches and probably 2200 to 3300 Assistant Coaches all learning to manage a game that has little comparison to the types of tactics they’ll encounter when managing a professional side.
With all that said I remain unconvinced MLS will attain this lofty status when the single largest pool of Players, Referees, and Coaches, in the United States, plays outside the FIFA governing rules of soccer.
This topic is probably a topic for every league in the World but if memory serves MLS has yet to completely close the loop on mandating that all Professional Referee’s be full-time for every league match.
Some opinions may vary on this but I do sense it is reasonable to believe that the level of adjudicating MLS matches, by full-time Professional Referee’s in this country, will be better in 2025 compared to now.
Perhaps we might even see FIFA decide to have two primary Referee’s adjudicate a game, just like the National Hockey League? That may be helpful, for not only MLS, but World Soccer as a whole.
Perhaps another 2025 vision includes better use of video technology in support of Referees?
NASL – Where and how it fits – and if not what happens to those organizations:
There’s no question NASL run a competitive league but the money invested isn’t really on par with what teams leverage in MLS.
If it did then the business model that would best match and create a true environment like that of Europe – would be NASL’s.
So part of the MLS vision should probably consider two different possibilities.
1) Either NASL begins to fade away or 2) NASL merges with USL
Here’s the thing though – if soccer continues to grow in popularity for this country there is a risk to MLS that NASL could surpass MLS in league attendance given an influx of new owners that prefer the European Model of competition – the more you invest, the more likely you are to earn more, which in-turn means more attendance and media coverage, which in-turn drives a larger income, and so on….
Conversely – if MLS and USL are linked then it would seem reasonable, that in order to further strengthen a ‘lower league’, MLS needs to see USL merge with and absorb NASL – with ‘MLS Team 2 teams’ in USL getting relegated to a league division 3 status.
I wonder if that sort of consideration has been given as MLS looks towards a vision of 2025 – especially when looking at European leagues there are no ‘team 2 teams’ that can ever have an opportunity to directly compete against a ‘team 1 team’ – and as things stand today it is possible, not probable, but possible that LA Galaxy 2 could end up competing against LA Galaxy 1 in a US Open Cup Final – now what sort of bollocks would that be?
Before closing on this topic – a thought or two on mergers. If you recall the AFL and NFL merged to create a new NFL. The ABA and NBA merged to create a new NBA. The World Hockey League and National Hockey League merged to create a new NHL. And the American League and National League eventually tied the knot to create inner league play where both leagues still operate under slightly different rules.
Is it too far fetched to imagine, that by 2025, there will be MLS and then leagues operating directly below MLS where the business conditions are the same? However viewed I believe a reasonable vision of MLS (and) US Soccer, in 2025, sees greater clarity on where NASL fits into the mix.
The business model of MLS (in America) compared to the business model (in Europe):
It’s ironic really – the business model of Europe sees a socialistic society operating a capitalistic business model (survival of the fittest) while a capitatlistic society (in America) operates a socialistic business model.
If you don’t follow I’ll put it this way – no team, in any top league across the World, is ever guaranteed the right to play in their countries highest level soccer league – they must prove, year in and year out that they are good enough to stay in their top league.
Whereas here, in America, if you join the MLS franchise you are always guaranteed (provided you are somewhat financially savvy) to always have a team in MLS.
Now some may offer this is a bit brutal but I think it is worth noting the word “entitled”; teams in Europe are not entitled to anything – just ask Leeds or Glasgow…
But anyway – I kind of digress here because the intent of using the word ‘entitled’ isn’t really about MLS it’s more about the overall tenor of youth soccer in this country. Americans should never forget that the game of soccer is/and always has been, in other countries of the world, a game for the working class.
When parents are required to spend money, sometimes greater than $3000 per year, to support their child’s development in soccer they feel that their child is ‘entitled’ to play.
So while MLS may have a vision of top-flight status by 2025 I really believe that status will never be attained as long as the youth learning this game think they are entitled to play if they pay… and with College Soccer facilitating that entitlement to play through their obtuse substitution rules that entitlement is reinforced!
I’d offer there are a number of issues that may??? impact a ‘top-world-league’ vision for MLS 2025.
With some European teams operating on a budget the size of the US Department of Defense (just kidding) is it really reasonable to expect that an MLS franchise, with a salary cap, is going to be able to attract the worlds greatest footballers, in their prime, to the United States?
I’m not so sure.
In case you missed it – Raheem Sterling was just sold to Manchester City for 49 Million Pounds – I think the purchase price for one player is greater than the team budget of most clubs in MLS…
Do we really expect a team, within the MLS Franchise business model, to pay 49 Million for one player? Not likely…
So in going back to the first question. Does MLS “need” to attain that level?
I don’t think so.
But I do think and feel there is value in seeing soccer attain top-flight status as a sport in America.
For me that means a vision where MLS is operating on an equal footing with Basketball and Football – the other Football…
As to the rest of the world I’m not sure it matters much to many folks – if we want to watch the EPL, the best league in the World, all we gotta do is turn on the TV and take it in.
Would I want to see a league table that mirrors the yearly expectations of the EPL here in America?
I admit I don’t like the parity concept from a personal standpoint as I’d like to see the Portland Timbers win every game – but it’s not realistic so I understand and get the business model.
And being a stats guy, who’s analyzed team performance in MLS, La Liga, Bundesliga, and the English Premier League, I pretty much like the greater chances the format offers than the usual (same old teams) we see finishing atop those other league tables.