Thursday, December 22, 2016

The MLS model has delivered sustained growth myth

As I've said several times writing posts for this blog, its main purposes are to educate and myth bust.

If you've ever had a discussion about how closed league single entity MLS business affects soccer as a whole in this nation, I'm sure you've seen a thought expressed similar to this tweet...



The common line of reasoning is that the Single Entity structure of MLS and the closed league structure of the US Pyramid has allowed the protection needed for the fledgling sport league to achieve the slow and steady growth it has had so far.

This is FALSE. By the words of FC Dallas President Dan Hunt, in 2001 the league died. It's single entity structure... closed league... USSF supported model... failed. 
The league was, in theory, dead. They gave up and were ready to close up shop. MLS had failed. The investors were out and there would no longer be a top flight professional soccer league in the United States.

For at least a few hours, MLS essentially ceased to exist.
"We were having a league call in November and the league folded," Hunt said. "It went out of business, they were preparing the documents and that was it."
 READ THE ENTIRE ARTICLE HERE

The creation of Soccer United Marketing (SUM) as the marketing arm of MLS in 2002 saved the business.

So really what allowed MLS the business to come back from the dead?

1. SUM deals with disgraced admitted criminal Chuck Blazer.
2, SUM brokered USSF National Team assisted media deals with obvious Conflict of Interest issues.
3. SUM selling Mexican National Team sponsorships and matches in the United States
4. SUM selling FC Barcelona to the US market

and much more from SUM.

It is plainly obvious that SUM is the driving force behind the current growth of MLS. Without it the closed system single entity model was a massive failure. 

What many don't know is that at any point in time USSF could decide to pull the NT assistance for the severely under-performing MLS media rights deals and decide to sell the NT media rights in house like every other sport governing body in the country does.

At any point in time USSF could stop allowing SUM to host Mexican NT games on US soil.

At any point in time USSF could stop sanctioning any SUM promoted friendlies.

Will it? Should it even do this? Those are very big questions. Any of these things could easily put a huge damper on MLS/SUM growth.

What USSF also could do...

1. Mandate an end to the current privately owned for profit league system.
2. Outlaw the "single entity" model MLS employs.

It would allow current MLS investors to continue to profit via ownership shares in a newly spun off (and highly profitable) SUM. They would also be acquiring independent ownership of their clubs that would be firmly stationed in Division 1 USSF controlled soccer.

A separate positive by-product of this split would be the relieving of quite a bit of the COI issues related to soccer governance in the US.

This would be a great first step toward more USSF control of how the US soccer pyramid is managed and a future Open Pyramid featuring #ProRelForUSA.
 




Wednesday, December 21, 2016

A simple question... Whats next?

 A week ago I was sent this very simple tweet...


What do we do next? About a year and a half ago I wrote an article about the massive growth of the #ProRelForUSA reform movement. Today you can find dozens of people with the hashtag in their social media bios, Instagram accounts dedicated to the movement, Facebook groups, Supporter Group Coalitions, and anything else you can think of trying to move us forward as a soccer nation. This has all happened since I wrote that article...

Today I saw two very interesting pieces of Twitter analytics comparing #MLS vs #ProRelForUSA.

 


As we can see very easily the #ProRelForUSA conversation is reaching quite the audience. One that is not very far behind the #MLS conversation. Over 1.4m impressions and a reach over over 500k people.

Now lets amplify that ... 

That is the next step. Every time you see somebody speak up in support of an Open Pyramid, USSF reform, promotion and relegation, ending the Conflicts of Interest at USSF, single entity structure of MLS... anything tied to the #ProRelForUSA movement. 

1. Tell them thank you for speaking up.
2. Ask them to continue to speak up. 
3. Invite them to use the #ProRelForUSA hashtag
4. Point them in the direction of helpful articles, blogposts, and infographics to support their ideas.
5. Ask them to share them. 

This is how we continue to grow the discussion online is a civil manner and put pressure on USSF and the powers that be in American soccer to change. 

As the Deloitte study pointed out via the first released polling data on the subject, 88% of US soccer fans would like to see an Open Pyramid. We don't need to worry about convincing the 12% who oppose it to change their mind. THEY are the small super vocal minority of fans... we are the super majority. 

Now lets ALL speak up!




Monday, December 19, 2016

An Open Pyramid for US soccer is not about a competition format




The day you stop thinking of USSF as simply who puts together the US Men's and Women's National Teams and start to think of it as the regulatory agency tasked with one specific portion of the nations economy is the minute you see that #ProRelForUSA is about much more than a simple competition format.

Now that we are all thinking of  the USSF as a industry specific regulatory agency, we can see that the current USSF imposed regulatory environment has created glass ceilings that are restrictive concerning the growth potential for an entire group of entrepreneurs. On social media fans act like an Open Pyramid featuring #ProRelForUSA is a gimmick or competition format... we know it is not... unfortunately much of our entrenched American soccer media has not done a good job making it clear that the closed system that we currently have is a barrier to growth for those outside of the privileged group of investors that are allowed entry in to the closed top tier.

It is as simple as that... no matter how much money, sweat, and ingenuity you invest in to growing your business, if you are not "in" with those in power then you can't fully expand as a business to the maximum the market will allow.


How many other investors are holding back investment because of this regulatory environment?

Now some big questions need asked...

Would this regulatory environment be allowed to exist in any other industry in the United States?

I think it is fair to say that it would not...

So why is this creating of artificial barriers to entry and glass ceilings on growth being allowed to exist in this industry by the regulatory agency (USSF)?

As myself and others have explored over the years there are severe conflict of interest issues at play concerning the USSF, MLS, and SUM.

We know MLS has for its entire existence created policy via USSF decisions that have hurt all clubs not a part of their singular business to ward off any potential competitors.


Knowing all of this, it is frustrating to see people actively root for the oppression of small business owners... people who dedicate their lives to their club... their fans... players... staff... the sport itself. To have them be rewarded daily with people, not just fans but many influential media members and sitting USSF board members, actively participating in their businesses nightmare of regulatory sabotage by the group that is tasked with growing the game at all levels even though a recent Deloitte study shows it would be best for the long term growth of the sport.

That's what you are doing when you support a closed system like we have now... you support the regulatory crisis that small business owners nationwide are trying to overcome. These people who have invested life savings in to their club... decades of their life... you are rooting for them to fail... it actually makes me sad to think of the toil that these 1000s of great people put in... and you choose to root for billionaires pocketbooks via a regulatory system 100% stacked in their favor.

Thursday, December 15, 2016

Worries about USSF Conflict of Interest issues are not new.

Recently Stefen Szymanski and Roger Pielki Jr released a wonderful article about the Conflict Of Interest issues within USSF and the lack of external oversight on these potential conflicts.

READ IT HERE




While this current crop of COI issues concerning many of the non-profit USSF board members and their potentially self serving relationship with their for profit business ventures MLS and its Soccer United Marketing (SUM) marketing arm are alarming... concerns over Conflicts of Interest from USSF leadership are not new at all.

During the initial creation of MLS the Chicago Tribune reported that many inside and outside of USSF were concerned about the inherit COI issue between USSF President Alan Rothenberg and his self described substantial financial stake as an investor in MLS.



It is easy to understand why voices and eyebrows were raised over the process by which the U.S. Soccer Federation gave preliminary approval for one of the three plans it reviewed to start a top-flight pro league in the United States.

After all, the USSF's Board of Directors approved the plan submitted by its president, Los Angeles attorney Alan Rothenberg, likely to be an investor in the entity he calls Major League Professional Soccer, Inc.

The USSF also advanced Rothenberg a six-figure sum from the 1994 World Cup's expected surplus to help him develop the plan. Rothenberg is chairman, president and chief executive officer of the World Cup organizing committee.

And several of the directors who voted 18-5 to approve Rothenberg's plan are employed either by the USSF or World Cup '94.

The apparent and potential conflicts of interest in that situation dismayed members of the two competing groups, both of whom figured the deal was done long before the board voted last Sunday in Chicago.

"We were shocked and disappointed by the decision," said Bill De La Pena, president of the American Professional Soccer League, which wanted to move up from its minor-league status.

"People beholden to Alan were central to the decision," said Chicago businessman Jim Paglia, who wants to establish his League 1 America as part of a real estate development plan.

Another item that can easily be seen as a blatant lack of good governance caused by a COI is the fact that the USSF approved spending a very large chunk of money to support MLS's creation and did not receive an ownership stake in the league.

To that end, the USSF has pledged 30 percent of a World Cup surplus projected at $20-to-$25 million to start the league in 1995.

 But the man who helped push through MLS and his investment in the league as President of USSF did... 

READ FULL CHICAGO TRIBUNE ARTICLE FROM 1993 HERE


Looking back at these issues with the clarity that the lens of these current COI issues gives us we can see that these types of issue have been long standing and quite worrisome to many.

Another item that time has made apparent is that USSF leadership has not always picked wisely when it comes to allies. Sunil Gulati and USSF's relationship with Chuck Blazer has been documented quite well and with his fall from grace that relationship has come under some scrutiny.

Pairing Alan Rothenberg and his obvious USSF/MLS COI issues with what we now know about disgraced former FIFA President Joao Havelange and their relationship along the power play FIFA made to keep Rothenberg in power...we now have two USSF Presidents who have made very poor choices in who to align with.

Despite the success of the World Cup, which he helped organize, Rothenberg has been a controversial figure within the USSF during his four-year team. His current difficulty centers on Rothenberg's twin positions as president of the USSF and head of the proposed new professional league, Major League Soccer. Many within the USSF, particularly from the pro division, see this as a conflict of interest.

The pro vote, which delivered the election to Rothenberg in 1990, nearly cost him the presidency this time. The three voting blocks--professional, amateur and youth--split among the candidates. Only one of the four pro leagues voted for Rothenberg. His strength came from the amateur division and Groff took most of the pro vote and some of the youth.

Havelange's unprecedented attendance here has angered some delegates who resent FIFA's interference in the election. Most voters remember FIFA's support for Rothenberg's election in 1990. FIFA's role then consisted merely of a phone call to one presidential candidate, asking him to withdraw from the race.

FIFA's role in this election has been far more open. At a banquet Friday night, Havelange spoke for several minutes and lavished praise on Rothenberg, mentioning him by name some 16 times. On an evening that was meant to celebrate the sport of soccer in the United States, Havelange's nomination speech seemed out of place.
and

Earlier in the day, Havelange had summoned candidate Des Bordes to his hotel room. Speculation was that FIFA would request that Des Bordes, who had little chance to win, withdraw. Des Bordes would not reveal what was said but reiterated late Friday night that he was still in the race.

However, Des Bordes dropped out after the first ballot. Further fueling the FIFA-deal theory, apparently all of Des Bordes' delegates went over to Rothenberg on the second ballot.

Groff, for all of his conciliatory talk after the vote, was clearly angry with the FIFA influence on the outcome.

"FIFA is very insensitive to the operation of individuals with their constituents in the United States Soccer Federation," Groff said. "They didn't need to push so hard. FIFA is so scared to death that if Alan is not in front of MLS, it won't succeed.

"They took that one step further--if Alan is not president of the U.S. Soccer Federation, MLS won't succeed. It was all totally inappropriate."

READ THE FULL LA TIMES 1994 ARTICLE HERE


The calls for transparency and reform within USSF are becoming more frequent and louder.

If you agree that something needs to be done... check out this website

USSF REFORM

If you agree with any of the platform... sign the petition.

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

What is "#ProRelForUSA"?

Pretty simple question right?

Well... yes and no.

By now we all know the simple definition of what the competition format of "Promotion and Relegation" is... but #ProRelForUSA is much bigger than that. Our great friends at www.ProRelForUSA.com summed up what the movement is quite succinctly.

Open The Pyramid

We believe that soccer (football) clubs in the United States and Canada deserve the same opportunity as clubs in the rest of the world.

Per FIFA statutes, national federations throughout the world organize their professional divisions within open and fluid pyramids where the most competitive clubs rise to the top based principally on sporting merit. Through a system of promotion and relegation, the best-ranked teams in the lower division are promoted to the higher division for the next season, and the worst-ranked teams in the higher division are relegated to the lower division for the next season.

The United States, Canada, and Australia are the only federations in the entire world that have a closed and locked pyramid that suppress their member clubs and confine them to pre-defined classes. The continued deployment of such a system has residual effects throughout every level of soccer in our country.

It is our mission to drive positive change within the sport and our federation through a grassroots movement & awareness campaign that supports:
    • “opening the pyramid”
    • a logical roadmap for member clubs achieving sporting success
    • inclusion of our entire country, regardless of geography or population
    • providing development incentive for players, coaches, and clubs
    • providing financial incentive for investment in the game at all levels
    • development of the most competitive professional structure possible
    • transparency of the United States Soccer Federation
    • a strong and incorruptible governing body
    • neutralizing conflict of interest among stakeholders

We are not anti-MLS. We are advocates for a healthy U.S. Soccer.
We believe America is the land of opportunity.
We believe in the American Dream.


Obviously this includes items other just the competition format known as Promotion and Relegation, many more.

No matter where you fit in the struggle to improve US soccer we think that you can find something that you agree needs addressed. It is easy to see that the #ProRelForUSA fight is one to reconstruct the system from the ground up for not only the professional game, but also the adult amateur game, youth soccer and how they are governed in this country.

 Join us... please speak up on all social media platforms using the #ProRelForUSA hashtag. Invite your supporters group to officially speak up in support of the changes needed at US Soccer to give the club you love the same opportunity as clubs the world over. Ask your clubs ownership/leadership to speak up and speak out in favor of the changes so desperately needed to give lower division local soccer in the US the stability needed to achieve long term growth in the US.

The pressure on those who govern the sport we all love in this great country needs to be raised to the level that it can no longer be ignored.


Monday, November 21, 2016

What could a regional D4/5 set up look like in VA, WV, NC and SC?




With recent reports that the USL owned PDL has been offering NPSL clubs 10k cash incentives to move in addition to waiving of the 75k entry fee and no yearly fee... the UPSL announcing rapid expansion in to Colorado, Idaho and other west coast states while putting in place a #ProRelForUSA system between 2 divisions of play... I just can't get past the thought that a USSF take over of the unofficial D4/D5 level of semi-pro/amateur club system and the introduction of a complete nationally structured regionally aligned system would be very beneficial to all parties involved.

To think about what the current system of competing national and regional D4 and D5 for profit leagues has led us to we can think about what it does to the member clubs. In many cases we have these small, limited budget clubs driving hours past clubs from other leagues who are much closer to get to distant league rivals. We have, comparative to club revenue, exorbitant entry and membership fees being charged by PDL. Franchise proximity clauses in place in many leagues keeping local rivalries from developing. The national focus of  NPSL and PDL do not allow for local league leadership to pursue sponsorship opportunities for league and cup competitions.

At the fully professional D1/2/3 levels the states of Virginia, West Virginia, North Carolina and South Carolina feature the Carolina Railhawks in the 2nd Division NASL along with the Richmond Kickers, Charlotte Independence and Charleston Battery in the 3rd Division USL and the Wilmington Hammerheads dropping from USL to PDL this year.

Right now there are 17 more clubs competing in the PDL and NPSL with several other rumored new clubs out there.


We can see that this is a really strong existing base for a regional D4 and D5 set up in a relatively small geographic footprint.

From my work trying to develop a much smaller regional league in this area I can confidently say that there are at least 5 investor groups and youth clubs who would immediately join a competitively priced regional league like this that I personally have talked to in WV and southwest Virginia alone. From looking at the list of cities of 25,000 and larger we see that this area has 76 separate cities with populations that large with only 21 clubs existing in them.




I think it is safe to say that the potential for rapid growth is there. This potential could easily lead to a system in place with a top level D4 with a north and south D5 that features promotion and relegation between the leagues. This does not even touch on the existing USASA and US Club sanctioned local leagues that already exist all up and down the region that if properly included could be the start of a de facto state level D6 club level and below.

In Virginia alone there are these USASA leagues...

  • Braddock Road Adult Soccer League (BRASL)
  • Burke Athletic Club (BAC)
  • Central Virginia Soccer Association (CVSA)
  • Churchland Soccer League (CSL)
  • Culpeper Soccer Association (CSA)
  • Fauquier County Adult Soccer League (FCASL)
  • New River United Soccer Association (NRUSA)
  • Northern Virginia Adult Soccer Association (NVASA)
  • Northern Virginia Soccer Club (NVSC)
  • Northern Virginia Soccer League (NVSL)
  • Northern Virginia Women's Soccer League (NVWSL)
  • Portsmouth Soccer Club (PSC)
  • Roanoke Adult Soccer League (RASL)
  • Shipp's Corner Soccer Club (SCSC)
  • Soccer Organization of Charlottesville / Albemarle (SOCA)
  • Southeastern Virginia Women's Soccer Association (SEVWSA)
  • Virginia Rush-Hampton League (VA RUSH-Peninsula)
  • Warren County Adult Soccer League (WCASL)  

Pairing this dedicated regional D4/5/6 system with a USSF mandated regional cup competition that features the 4 D2/3 pro teams could make for a very exciting regional league and cup set up.


13 team D4 playing a double round robin 24 game schedule
2 North/South 13 team D5 leagues playing 24 game double round robin schedules
6 state sanctioned D6 competitions (WV, Va North, Va South, NC East, NC West, SC)

D4 Relegates bottom 3
D5 Promote each North/South league winner with playoff for 2nd and 3rd place from each of North and South to qualify a 3rd team for promotion
D5 relegates 3 teams each from North/South
D6 promotes 1 team each from 6 state leagues.

With this set up not facing the profit generating pressure that the current league set up faces with USSF hosting the leagues the price point for entry and membership fees could be kept very low. A great comparison would be the Gulf Coast Premier League in the deep south and the Evergreen Premier League in Washington State that both have yearly expansion and membership fees of $1500 or less.

This lowering of fees, proximity of league members lowering travel costs, (hopefully) development of local rivals and away fan travel could all lead to improved health and profitability of this level of soccer in the region and massive growth.

Now think of this set up in your part of the country... how do you think this could change the way local soccer works? I think it would be a GREAT change that would do nothing but strengthen the base of the pyramid all across the country.

Thursday, June 9, 2016

Three great reads and one great listen

First... 

Make sure you take a few minutes and read this GREAT piece by @terryblaw on the pending Crossfire v USSF Training Compensation and Solidarity Payment case with FIFA.

Despite developing numerous players who would entitle them to training compensation, solidarity or both, no United States youth club has ever received these payments.  Domestically, U.S. Soccer has refused to enforce either rule and, allegedly, has pressured youth clubs to decline any payments from foreign clubs.  But recently, youth clubs have begun to push back.

READ THE ENTIRE ARTICLE HERE



Second...

With Copa America going on right now and the regularly scheduled pre-USMNT game #FireKlinsmann banter from our more MLS centric sports writers and fans we come across this very solid read "Targeted Allocation: Jurgen Klinsmann is not the problem" on FourFourTwo from Graham Parker

As many of us know... the entire US soccer system is the problem and this lays it out really well.



Third...


This is a wonderful read on the huge hurdles on the development of young players in the United States by Les Carpenter in the Guardian. 

The talents of some of America’s best young players are being suffocated by a process that never lets them be seen. He sighs.

“People don’t want to talk about it,” he says.

Andreassen used to dance gingerly around the topic, using the same careful code words as the other coaches and heads of leagues, trying not to push or offend only to find that little changed. He has stopped being political. He is frustrated. He is passionate. He is blunt.
“The system is not working for the underserved community,” he says. “It’s working for the white kids.”


READ THE ENTIRE ARTICLE HERE
 






Finally a very good interview of Jerome deBontin by Paul Scanling on the Gorilla Talk podcast... as you can guess from the image above Mr. deBontin comes out and says exactly what he thinks.


Sunday, June 5, 2016

The $100m American owner relegation myth

If you've been a part of a discussion about having an Open Pyramid that features Promotion and Relegation in the United States and Canada you've without a doubt heard this statement made in one form or another...






This basic answer has been spread by MLS and its supporters ever since the discussion of Promotion and Relegation in the United States has started to heat up.

In very simple terms this statement is a 100% fabrication (and everybody in MLS knows it) because in an Open Pyramid you will no longer be able to buy in to MLS in the fashion you can now.

Simply put... every new soccer club in the United States and Canada will have to start at the bottom of the pyramid. There will be no more buying directly in to the First Division with a new investment. It will NOT BE POSSIBLE to buy a new MLS franchise. Now yes... you will be able to buy an existing club and continue to operate that but you will make that investment with the knowledge that you will be able to be relegated.





Just like current DC United ownership just did with their purchase of 60% of Swansea City for you guessed it.... $100 million dollars.

READ ABOUT IT HERE

Thursday, June 2, 2016

Why was Sunil Gulati working to force out Domenico Scala?

Earlier today some very interesting things about Sunil Gulati hit the internet.

For unknown reasons FIFA President Gianni Infantino and Sunil Gulati worked behind the scenes to get FIFA’s Audit and Compliance chief Domenico Scala to resign.

In this article from FAZ that transcribes a recorded FIFA meeting in Mexico City the President of US Soccer is quoted as saying that

Gulati: “We met a number of times in the last 24 hours. We thought we had a resolution, a friendly resolution that would work. We did not get that realized, we do not have that right now.”
 After Gulati was unable to get him to resign as Inside World Football reports here

Ultimately this led to a statutes change that removed the independence of the ethics committee and other governance officials by giving FIFA the power to hire and fire them at its own discretion. This inevitably forced Scala’s resignation – he would presumably have been fired by FIFA in any case once the motion was passed by Congress.

But for some reason Sunil Gulati was worried about having a legitimate reason to fire him... one, it would seem that was not necessary to have to work behind the scenes to get him to step down. The FAZ transcript quotes him as saying

Gulati: "We need facts." (...) "We can not operate that way. We can not dismiss people without a piece of paper and facts. "

Why would the head of US Soccer feel that he did not need "facts" to try to proactively work in secret to have Scala resign but would need "facts" to vote in public to have him fired? Was he worried about potential media investigation in to the "why" he was voting to have him step down?

Could Sunil Gulati have been working diligently to have Scala, a known reformist within the confines of FIFA, who was quoted as saying

says he is "consternated" by a decision that makes it possible for the council to "impede" investigations by either dismissing committee members or "through the threat of a dismissal".
This, he added, "undermines a central pillar of the good governance of Fifa and destroys a substantial achievement of the reforms".
"[This is] a wake-up call to those persons who genuinely advocated for implementing reforms," 

removed for this reason that Steve Graff covered in his great article on VAVEL earlier this year.

It is not the fact Infantino was elected, or any of the other names in the FIFA presidential race were elected. It might not have even been the run offs. It was that corrupters, specifically MLS commissioner Don Garber and Gulati played a central role. 

The corruption started and ended with their bargaining of FIFA presidential candidates. The bargaining process is how deal makers can significantly wield their influence to get what they wanted. Allegedly, one of the promises to not enforce one of futbol's most empowering principles and one that provides actual meritocracy to sustain the institution of futbol. 

That principle, the principle of promotion and relegation, preferably implemented based on results on the current season alone, is so important to sustaining the game that FIFA has coded the principle as an ethics principle in its bylaws.


Scala would be in charge of making investigating all member organizations that are not following FIFA by-laws such as this one concerning meritocracy and promotion and relegation that the USSF does not follow, solidarity payments and training compensation for youth players that Liviu Bird covered wonderfully for SI in several articles that USSF does not follow, or looking in to how Sunil Gulati, Don Garber, Chuck Blazer and Sepp Blatter are all tied together when dealing with US soccer.

It would seem that Sunil Gulati, Don Garber and MLS, and USSF as a whole have multiple reasons to make sure that FIFA does not actually reform... but just talks a good game.

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Two must listen to podcasts deconstructing American soccer

Two wonderful podcasts from These Football Times. Every fan of American soccer should listen to them both ASAP.

Part 1. Jon Townsend, Jim Hart and Nate Abaurrea break down the US game in The Lob: Deconstructing American Soccer.


Part 2.  Award-winning economist from the University of Michigan and author of Soccernomics and Money and Soccer, Stefan Szymanski. joins Jim Hart and Jon Townsend.

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

#ProRelForUSA = HOPE

This tweet and passage says it all...


Monday, April 25, 2016

#ProRelWeek May 8th - 14th


The great people at Support Groups for Promotion and Relegation have been hard at work putting together #ProRelWeek.

#ProRelWeek features the opening round of the US Open Cup sandwiched between two MLS/NASL/USL game weekends and the start of the PDL and NPSL opening weekend where supporter groups and soccer fans in the United States and Canada are being asked to show their support for the Open Pyramid movement during matches.

Make a banner, tifo, chant during the game... document it and show the world on social media using the #ProRelWeek hashtag.





Monday, March 28, 2016

Friday, February 19, 2016

Chicago Tribune article calls for #ProRelForUSA

I've made posts in the past about the rapid growth of the #ProRelForUSA Open Pyramid movement... recently writer John Kass authored an article in one of the largest news papers in the nation, the Chicago Tribune, touting the virtues of a second club for Chicago playing in the NASL to compete with the existing MLS Chicago Fire branch outfit and promotion and relegation.



This isn't the first (or likely last) article from a writer in a city with interests in MLS to write a great piece such as this one. Last year Andy Furillo penned a great piece in the Sacramento Bee letting us know "It's time for promotion and relegation".

READ THE ARTICLE HERE


With every article in a mainstream media sports section the Open Pyramid movement starts to look more and more like the shift in opinion sports fans saw concerning the college football bowl system. The arguments of "this is the way its always been done" and "there it too much money in bowls" rapidly changed due to message boards, social media and writers sticking their nose out there and advocating for a radical change to a playoff system.

It just took people calling for it... raising their collective voices until it was undeniable that it was going to be a money maker for the decision makers and things changed.  If 100 plus years of college football bowl going tradition can be changed by the NCAA in a few short years then a few short years of MLS history can be changed by the USSF in the blink of an eye.

Continue to speak up... join the conversation online by using the #ProRelForUSA hashtag. Let your voice be heard!

Monday, February 8, 2016

How does NASL's attendance stack up against 2nd Divisions world wide?

Earlier today I was perusing my Twitter timeline and saw a very interesting graph from Mike Pendleton about NASL's attendance. I had actually never thought of asking this question before... you see NASL vs MLS vs D1's in other countries but I had never even thought of looking to see how NASL stacked up vs some of the top D2's in the world.






It is interesting to think of the US having a stronger D2 than Mexico and basically equal to France attendance wise and not too far behind Italy and Spain.

Every day if you follow the Open Pyramid discussion on social media you will see the argument made that "we just aren't ready" and that our D2 "Isn't strong enough yet". Well according to this metric we are just as ready as some of the greatest soccer nations in the world.

I would love to hear your opinion in the comments or by using the #ProRelForUSA hashtag on Twitter and Facebook.

Friday, January 29, 2016

A read, a listen and a "say what"?

As many of you know some Louisville City supporters have a great podcast that we've linked to before... recently Louisville City supporter Joe Vala wrote a wonderful piece on McSoccer in the United States that covers some very interesting topics.

And why?  Well, I have my thoughts. Basically they revolve around the need for promotion/relegation to grow EVERY ASPECT of soccer here in the country, and that includes MLS.

Specifically:

A) The contradictions I see with MLS fans and their “love” for their teams.
B) How the Franchise/Profit model and its lust for large TV markets hurts not just everyone, but MLS specifically.
C) How to make it all better, and the need for patience in the process.
D) How it is all dangling on a thread and what can snap it (you’ll love that part!!).

YOU CAN READ THAT PIECE HERE


One of my favorite podcasts, Two Daft Yanks, recently had Ted Westervelt on as a guest to talk about the recent rise in popularity of the Promotion and Relegation/Open Pyramid subject (which we have also covered) and some common misconceptions on the topic. It is a great listen that I highly recommend.

LISTEN TO THE PODCAST HERE

and finally....

The manager of El Tri, the Mexican National Team has told his players to stay away from MLS.

J├╝rgen Klinsmann has gotten shit over the years for failing to cheerlead for MLS. He has called for the league to get better, and for his players to challenge themselves at the highest levels of the sport. To some, this is evidence not of Klinsmann’s ability to recognize the obvious, but of some sort of shortcoming. But would any other manager worth his salt behave any differently in similar circumstances?

The answer is of course not. Proof of this is Juan Carlos Osorio, the manager of the Mexican national team. Like Klinsmann, he has had to face the prospect of a number of his potential charges being tempted to trade in the stress and uncertainty of Europe’s leagues for a fat check and inferior competition in MLS. Like Klinsmann, he does not want to see his players slumming it in a retirement league, not when they’re still in their prime.


READ ENTIRE ARTICLE HERE

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Supporters Groups for Promotion and Relegation podcast w/ Flakoglost

This is a real solid listen from the Supporters Groups for Promotion and Relegation (FACEBOOK and TWITTER) on the Flakoglost Podcast discussing the history, future and idea behind the SG's for Pro Rel movement.


CLICK HERE TO LISTEN


Monday, January 18, 2016

The "average" American soccer fan...

I think I can speak on what the "average soccer fan" in America is... I was one for years.

Played the game from early childhood through adulthood... watch MLS when I caught it on TV... when I was not doing something with the kids watched EPL on TV... coached some kids.... watched every World Cup game and all the USM/WNT games I could possibly watch. There are millions of Americans just like me.

Just speaking from my experience and speaking to so many other "average" fans... 

1. The average American soccer fan doesn't know what "Single entity" means.
2. The average American soccer fan doesn't know USSF sets Division designations.
3. The average American soccer fan doesn't know what a top level youth player looks like on the field.
4. The average American soccer fan doesn't know FIFA or USSF's role in managing the club soccer game in the world.
5. The average American soccer fan can't tell you why MLS, NASL and USL are D1/2/3.
6. The average American soccer fan doesn't know when the most important stage of a players development is in age. (Hint its not college)
7. The average American soccer fan doesn't understand why ending Pay to Play for youth players is important.
8. The average American soccer fan doesn't know what Generation Adidas, Allocation Order etc are and how they affect young American soccer players league/club choices.
9. The average American soccer fan doesn't understand the sheer scope of the world game.
10. You can LOVE the game but be trapped in the American soccer bubble very easily as an average American soccer fan. I know I was...

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Does NASL need MLS's USSF subsidy?

As most readers of this blog I'm sure already know the Atlanta Silverbacks folded up shop this week when the NASL suspended operations of the club that had existed since 1998.

Kartik Krishnaiyer did a great job covering the contentious history of pro soccer leagues in the United States and the predatory practices they use to raid each other... and how the United States Soccer Federation has done nothing about it in this GREAT PIECE.

The United States Soccer Federation (USSF) has sat by while the three professional leagues in the US and Canada have engaged in predatory practices for their own survival. While some critics of the North American soccer market claim it is the most tightly controlled and regulated on the planet, the opposite is in fact true. With no vertical integration in the pyramid and divisional designations largely meaningless, the leagues have engaged in a war against each other. 

There is a question that I can't get out of my mind since this happened...

Would the Atlanta Silverbacks still exist if the USSF paired its USMNT, USWNT and Youth National Team broadcasting rights with NASL instead of with MLS's subsidiary Soccer United Marketing (SUM)?

Looking back through the history of SUM we can see that it was founded in 2002. The same year that MLS dropped to 10 teams. Via its partnership with USSF and the marketing of the largest domestic soccer rights property in the country it was able to leverage the NTs to help grow MLS's footprint (and make some seriously needed coin!). This subsidy from USSF likely saved MLS in the short term and MLS's growth since has directly mirrored the growth of SUM. (Read more on SUM/MLS and their ties to Chuck Blazer here)

With MLS now bringing in 100+ million dollar expansion fees and on solid footing is it now time for the USSF to pair these National Team broadcasting rights with lower division soccer in the United States (especially since they are actually separate competing leagues and not a truly unified pyramid structure) to help them grow these leagues media footprint (and infuse cash!) and result in growth of game in the United States? Can we as a soccer nation afford to continue to have our Federation pick and choose winning leagues and clubs?


Billy Haisley of Deadspin recently wrote an article talking about how USSF policy is holding back the NASL's Ft Lauderdale Strikers as well.

This is the real shame of America's lack of promotion and relegation. That system allows ambitious owners to buy up lower division clubs for not too much money, invest in them in ways they believe will bring sporting success, and potentially, reach the pinnacle of the pyramid. It allows for innovation, like the Strikers' plans for international fame or the New York Cosmos' announced strategy of bringing in good players from abroad but mainly focusing on finding and developing the best youth talent. But without the possibility of promotion, there's a ceiling on the return on these clubs' investments, and in turn the number of clubs with the ability to improve the game as a whole.

Just think about these facts... The USSF has chosen to subsidize MLS. The USSF has also chosen to not give a subsidy to any other professional league in the US. The USSF has set policies that limit competitors to MLS's potential growth. The USSF has also set policy that stifles innovation and investment in hundreds or thousands of clubs as well.

We then wonder why lower division (read that actually as MLS's competition for the soccer marketplace since we already know the USSF Divisional structure is arbitrary) struggles so much in this country.