Tuesday, December 30, 2014

What would we do about lower division clubs who cant handle being promoted?

I feel a portion of the mission of this blog is to debunk some of the myths and answer the regular questions surrounding if the US is ready for an Open Pyramid that features Promotion and Relegation.

A common refrain you hear from those who are either leery about what an open pyramid would bring or are just trying to sort through their thoughts about the subject is that "too many lower division teams are not ready to be promoted, we need to wait to have stronger lower divisions" and as was even asked in the comments on THIS ARTICLE on the opening of the Dutch pyramid "Will they be forced to move up against their will?"

In England and many other nations these very issues have already been addressed with a pretty straight forward solution. Before each season every club who wishes to be promoted must apply for promotion, have their stadium, financials etc be audited to make sure they meet the minimum standards of the higher division and then only if they pass each of those tests AND reach the Top 3 in the standings will they be promoted to the next level.

It is a very easy solution to the worry about teams being promoted who do not wish to be or are not structurally ready as a club to be promoted.

Do you think this system of promotion sounds like it will collapse the lower divisions or strengthen them as clubs ramp up investment, development and support to make a run at the next higher division? We would love to hear your thoughts on the subject in the comments on on twitter (use the #ProRelForUSA hashtag!).

Monday, December 29, 2014

Who actually controls whether Promotion and Relegation exists in the US?

Some common misconceptions you hear when the Pro/Rel discussion comes up is that "We will never see Pro/Rel 'in the MLS'..." , "MLS owners would never want to start Pro/Rel" or some variant of those phrases.

Well I think it is pretty obvious that MLS owners would not want to implement Promotion and Relegation on their own. The one glaring flaw in the logic behind the earlier statements is that neither MLS owners nor Commissioner Garber are in control over whether or not Promotion and Relegation happens in the US or even if MLS retains its Division 1 status.

The USSF is at a crossroads right now as Jon Towsend pointed out in this great piece on >>> Far Post Footy <<< recently.

 "I’ve said it before, our soccer culture must decide to rule or be ruled."

The USSF can continue down this path that has led us to today or take a look at what is wrong with our nations soccer (as it is doing with hiring an outside firm) and totally revamp the system as Jurgen Klinsmann and many others have already called for.

"I'm a deep believer in promotion-relegation systems," said Klinsmann a day before the Americans face Ecuador in a friendly at Rentschler Field. "It's not up to me saying there should be MLS, and there should be second division (that) is NASL, and there should be promotion-relegation.
"It's not up to me now saying that MLS is higher level than NASL because I'm not every weekend around either of those stadiums," said Klinsmann. "What we're doing more is we look at the players individually, so we're looking at their path, how they come from their system and where they end up and how they impress then in their respective clubs."

Steve Graff pointed out several of these big things that the USSF needs to address in his two part series on Vavel on Promotion and Relegation.



Right now the USSF needs to get its house in order. Its policies are stifling the game the US in direct contradiction to its stated goal of " to grow the game". As fans of soccer in this country do we want to continue to wait on MLS to maybe become world class using a pay to play development system that has never worked and currently is not working? Or do we want to open the pyramid up for the hundreds of existing clubs and thousands of potential clubs to competition at every level and reward those that do their jobs of developing great players, great systems and great teams with promotion to the top levels of the game?

Just remember that it is the USSF's call... no one eles's.

Sunday, December 28, 2014

Promotion and Relegation fan survey

The good people at Wrong Side of the Pond are currently running a fan Promotion and Relegation survey. They would love to have your input.


Tuesday, December 23, 2014

John Pranjic interview of Ted Westervelt on Promotion and Relegation

John Pranjic ( @ThatCroatianGuy on Twitter) interviews Promotion and Relegation advocate Ted Westervelt ( @SoccerReform on twitter) for his blog on possession based soccer coaching that you can check out HERE

Cosmos and NASL challenge MLS and the structure of US soccer

With the lack of promotion and relegation between divisions, the basic structure of the US soccer pyramid is defined by arbitrary financial divisions created by the USSF. Many clubs see this difference as a chance to actually compete to be the best league/club in the US and not just the "2nd Division".

To fully understand the framework as put forward by the Cosmos, essentially rejecting the idea of MLS as the division one soccer league, here's how O'Brien described the decision not to pay $100 million in expansion fee to join MLS: "We took a very simple view. We were prepared to invest capital, and we have done, but I'd rather invest in our own business than a franchise fee for exactly the same recipe. I don't hold myself out to be a genius, but that was our decision. We said let's invest the capital in our own business, to build a great business on and off the field, rather than for the pleasure of playing in a particular league or another."

With the divisions being only arbitrarily assigned levels and not based on merit the whole of the professional soccer pyramid in the US could easily be described as one MLS division, a second NASL division and another third USL-Pro division and it would be just as accurate as our current naming system. 

Thinking of this always brings me to several questions, two of which are...

If the NY Cosmos's plan does work and they become the best club in the US and maybe even North America, will having its best club be in the "2nd Division" permanently be whats best for the sport in the country? What happens if another group (or several groups of) of investors steps up and create a super club in LA or Indianapolis or any other city trapping it in Division 2 and locking it out of international club competitions, is that good for American soccer?

I would love to see what you think ... join the discussion in the comments or on twitter using the hashtag #ProRelForUSA.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

How can the USSF open access for more kids and improve youth player development in one easy move?

Recently one of the hottest topic amongst US soccer fans has been how to improve development for young American players. MLS even put out a video entitled "When will MLS produce its own Messi" that a great response was written to ...

"Major League Soccer’s official website recently put together a short mash-up video asking the question, “When will MLS produce its own Messi?” The video itself, more paid promotional collateral soaked in corporate initiative-driven opinion than honest exploration, reiterated the common reasons and myths regarding the perpetual absence of an American player of world-class caliber."


With recent announcements of European soccer giants Bayern Munich and Barcelona starting youth academies or partnering with existing youth clubs in the United States the worry becomes to what ends are they doing this? 

Alexi Lalas is cynical about the arrival of the European giants. “Make no mistake,” he says. “This is a gold rush. This is a land grab.”

Lalas has invested most of his life in Stars and Stripes soccer, playing for USA at the 1994 World Cup and serving as general manager for three MLS teams – including the LA Galaxy that signed David Beckham – before becoming a high-profile TV presence.

“US soccer is littered with decades of people coming over with little more than an accent to their resume, and using the naivete we’ve had and the inexperience and lack of soccer history and culture to their advantage,” says Lalas.


Above and beyond if these European clubs are starting to tap in to the US market to develop players or to expand their brand or just plain make major money off of our "pay to play" system we must worry about what is actually going on in the top levels of US youth develop circles. Billy Haisley of Deadspin summed it up perfectly in his ARTICLE HERE...
The Guardian's own opening scene offers a strong hint to which way the wind is actually blowing. The article opens with Joe Bradley, CEO of GPS, in Bavaria, observing a Bayern youth team practice. During the session, he has an epiphany about the youth coaches' area of emphasis:
"They had a real commitment to game intelligence and the technical aspect of the game, and didn't worry so much about winning or losing," Bradley says of the games he saw, with players ranging from 11 to 16 years old. "We're going to put this at the top of the list," he adds, referring to the work GPS does training about 55,000 youth players in 11 northeastern US states.
If the CEO of a company charged with training 55,000 of America's young soccer players is shocked that skill development and not meaningless on-field victories is what clubs like Bayern focus on, American soccer is a lot further behind than we thought.

 Later on he makes one statement that can only be answered by the USSF...

Still, someone has to figure out how to develop truly world-class talent, because the potential galvanizing force of an American superstar cannot be overstated.

The rest of the world has figured out this process and distilled it to its most basic essence. Competition and merit are what get you and your club to the top rungs of the sport. If the USSF would open up the pyramid (READ HERE TO FIND OUT HOW OUR PYRAMID WORKS), expand the organizational structure below the current top 3 levels and institute Promotion and Relegation it would then become in every club in the United States best interests to do several things. Develop young players to improve their first team and chances for advancement up the pyramid, to scout all local youth players to find undiscovered talents/diamonds in the rough and to open access to as many youth players as possible to expand their available player pool.

Which do you think will work better for US player development? Our current pay to play system that is focused more on parents bank accounts than player talent mixed with a few dozen limited high end regional development academies? Or a system of 1,000's of clubs working to develop players of the highest levels possible in every community all across the nation that are rewarded for providing top level coaching and developing those players?

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Meet the Man Behind the Promotion-Relegation Banner at MLS Cup 2014

As many of us know already Ben Fast (@bwfast) was the man behind the Promotion and Relegation banner during the MLS Cup Finals. Sean O'Leary took the time to interview him this week ...

Unless you are completely unaware, the lack of promotion and relegation in American soccer has been a sore sport for many, as it is custom in every other country playing soccer in the world.
Through a coincidence, my recent post on a hypothetical relegation league for the NFL drew the attention of Ben Fast, who just happened to be the man behind the now-legendary MLS Cup banner.
This week, I interviewed Ben (@bwfast) about his motives and whether promotion/relegation is realistic here.


Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Parity... is it even an issue?

Many times when talking with individuals who do not see the advantages of Promotion and Relegation when it comes to American soccer the idea that Pro/Rel is the sole reason for a lack of parity in leagues across the world is sited as a reason why the USSF should not move toward the process.  One key problem with that argument is that ...

Major League Soccer's parity is often trumpeted as a key to the league's success. But the parity is dangerously fading as the salary divide between the Haves and Have Nots increases.

READ MORE HERE >>>> The MLS CBA: The Growing Divide Between the MLS Haves and Have Nots


A second key issue with the argument that Promotion and Relegation destroys parity is that other leagues outside of the United States that use Pro/Rel attempt and succeed in creating parity amongst their soccer clubs (franchises in MLS's case). Some though are beginning to wonder if this is the best thing to do in their leagues. With the global nature of the game and its media coverage... 

The question is whether or not the high level of parity in the J.League gives people outside Japan a misleading (and negative) impression of Japanese football. The structure of Japan's domestic league and associated cup competitions, and the revenue-sharing structure of its contract with the media (particularly SkyPerfecTV, which holds the primary rights to broadcast both league and cup matches), has kept the revenue disparity between teams to a minimum.


With parity fading in MLS (will the required "fixes" to maintain parity even be worse for the American game?) and other national leagues worried about the stature of their leagues on the global stage being sabotaged by this desire for parity. Can we agree it is pretty plain to see that this "parity issue" against Promotion and Relegation is something being used just to move the actual discussion away from the real issues behind why we do not have and should have Promotion and Relegation in a restructured US soccer pyramid. 

Saturday, December 13, 2014

What would USL-Pro moving to D2 mean for the US soccer pyramid?

It is being reported today by Reckless Challenge that USL-Pro will be applying to move to Division 2 of the pyramid in 2017.


In February of 2014 USSF released updated requirements for each Professional division of US soccer.


If the distinction between D2 and D3 is on paper only, what do you think the reasoning is behind their desire to move up a division?

Friday, December 12, 2014

How could Promotion and Relegation even work in the US/Canada?

There are literally hundreds of different ways that have been proposed throughout the years on how to make Promotion and Relegation work in the United States (and Canada in some cases). Contrary to what you may read on twitter and in the blog-osphere very few of these proposals are calling for an immediate implementation of Promotion and Relegation amongst the different levels of the pyramid.


A few different proposals on how to implement Promotion and Relegation in the United States are included




I would love to hear your ideas on how you would like to see Promotion and Relegation implemented in the United States. Leave us a comment below and make sure you use the #ProRelForUSA hashtag on Twitter and Facebook when you are in discussion on the subject so that others can join in!

Monday, December 8, 2014

Do you know what Solidarity Payments for youth players are? Why doesn't USSF enforce this FIFA rule?

Recently Don Garber lamented the fact that MLS could not sign youth players in their academies to contracts since they would become ineligible to receive a scholarship from NCAA institutions...

There are a multitude of articles that touch on his and MLS owners feelings on Jurgen Klinsmann and his words for top youth players in the US. 

 Now, Jeffrey Carlisle is reporting that Klinsmann has been nudging not just star players, but youth prospects in MLS academies, to explore their options in Europe. Several MLS owners are “irate” with Klinsmann for advising that young players bypass the domestic league entirely.

  Complexities In U.S. Youth Development Structure At Heart Of Klinsmann/MLS Debate

But the bigger issue is not what MLS is doing or not doing to keep its youth players but how the USSF structure has kept non MLS clubs from being able to receive training compensation and solidarity payments.

Professional soccer clubs and youth soccer academies that produce future pro soccer players depend upon the world governing body of soccer, FIFA, to enforce and reward these clubs that have invested significant resources in training players through a system based on two FIFA mandated compensation systems “Training Compensation” and “Solidarity Mechanism.

READ MORE ON IF U.S. Youth Clubs Leaving Money on the Table HERE

Friday, December 5, 2014

NASL PR Director Neal Malone discusses Promotion and Relegation in a "Two United Fans" interview

Earlier this week the TWOUNITEDFANS podcast interviewed NASL PR Director Neal Malone. They discussed a variety of topics including (at about the 33 minute mark) that Promotion and Relegation becomes a possibility within NASL after they reach the magical 18 team number.

Check it out

Thursday, December 4, 2014

New Promotion and Relegation structure for Dutch soccer and a US league adds it while growing

While the Dutch have employed Promotion and Relegation among their top professional divisions for decades, the entire pyramid was not "open" and tied together in the same way that the English system currently is until Monday with... 

Great Promotion and Relegation podcast featuring Taylor Twellman and Ted Westervelt

From Nov 2013

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

How exactly does the US Soccer "Pyramid" even work?

Some people in the United States think of the soccer pyramid in the United States working exactly like how it works in countries around the rest of the world. Unfortunately it does not.

Actually many casual fans in the United States don't even know what the "Soccer Pyramid" is  >>> 

The Premier League is the pinnacle of world football. Nearly 15 percent of the men who played in the 2014 World Cup play professionally in the Premier League, easily more than any other league in the world. Four English teams — Arsenal, Chelsea, Manchester United and Manchester City — have World Cup players numbering in the double digits.
But the EPL is just the tip of the English football iceberg. It’s the most visible element of an intricate hierarchy of some 7,000 football teams, playing under the auspices of the Football Association (the FA) — let’s call it the Great Football Pyramid of England. In terms of the number of teams, the Premier League represents about one-quarter of 1 percent of it. (This and much of the empirics here rely on information from football stats site ThePyramid.info, which in turn assembled data from the FA’s league administration website, and individual clubs’ and leagues’ sites.)
The pyramid has more than 20 levels and hundreds of leagues. This is what it looks like:

This article on FiveThirtyEight.com >>> CLICK HERE TO READ ENTIRE ARTICLE <<<  does a great job explaining the basics of how the entire system works.

And if you would like to dive more deeply in to lower levels of the soccer pyramid in England >>> CLICK HERE TO READ ABOUT THE PYRAMID <<< and you can see truly how regional and local the smaller clubs are.

Now on to our own "pyramid" in the United States...

Monday, December 1, 2014

The 1 Soccer Policy that Cripples the National Team all the way to 9 Year Olds

It gets no more simple than Gary Kleiban's (@3four3 on twitter) opening statement ...

US Soccer not creating a true soccer pyramid with promotion & relegation.
That’s it!
  • You want youth development on par with the rest of the world?
  • You want our top flight pro teams at the level with the best in the world?
  • You want the National Team to consistently be a legit World Cup contender?
Well, we need a soccer pyramid – like the rest of the world – where the best can rise and the mediocre get punished.

CLICK HERE to read the entire article

A great podcast segment by Massive Report co-host Greg Benson

Yes even MLS fans can/are in support of Promotion and Relegation for the US soccer pyramid. Greg Benson @Gregulator614 of the Massive Report (Columbus Crew SC podcast on SB Nation) gives an impassioned take on the state of US soccer and the need for Promotion and Relegation in the pyramid. His segment on the subject starts at the 90:50 mark, it is must listen material for any fan of US soccer.

10 Reasons why the United States needs Promotion and Relegation

Are you even positive what Promotion and Relegation is? Like to know a few good reasons why we need it in this country?

CLICK HERE to read the soccermommanual.com's 10 reasons

Ted Westervelt on Sirius XM defending the need for Promotion and Relegation

Last week one of the most ardent proponents of the need for Promotion and Relegation in the US, Ted Westervelt, was featured on the Sirius XM "Over the Ball" show >>>

So exactly what would Promotion and Relegation do for player development in the US you ask?

This is a great take on the subject from one of my favorite soccer writers, Jon Townsend. If you are in the least interested in the growth of the game in the US you should follow him on Twitter >>> @jon_townsend3 <<< he is a wealth of information.

Rather than discuss why promotion and relegation needs to happen, I’ll just discuss what promotion and relegation would do for the growth of the game at levels outside of MLS, which is interested in expansion–and that’s not the growth I’m alluding to (and relax, MLS peeps, I’m not attacking the league). Promotion and relegation turns a formerly closed soccer market into a open marketplace for the sport whereby player development and competition are rewarded via meritocracy, monetarily through player trades, allows coaches to be compensated and incentivized to produce better players, and opens the door for small businesses to provide incentives for teams gearing up to earn their way to the top.


Jurgen Klinsmann wishes the USA would adopt Promotion and Relegation

I think the best way to start this blog would be to start with some comments from the head of the USMNT.... 

Responding to questions about whether Klinsmann sees the NASL—which stands for the North American Soccer League, and is in the news for one of its players, Miguel Ibarra, getting a USMNT call-up—as the equivalent of the second-tier to MLS's first-tier, Klinsmann would not delineate things so clearly:
"I'm a deep believer in promotion-relegation systems," said Klinsmann a day before the Americans face Ecuador in a friendly at Rentschler Field. "It's not up to me saying there should be MLS, and there should be second division (that) is NASL, and there should be promotion-relegation.
"It's not up to me now saying that MLS is higher level than NASL because I'm not every weekend around either of those stadiums," said Klinsmann. "What we're doing more is we look at the players individually, so we're looking at their path, how they come from their system and where they end up and how they impress then in their respective clubs."

CLICK HERE to read the full article on Deadspin