Tuesday, December 23, 2014

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.


  1. These are all great questions. Personally, I am incredibly intrigued by the idea of having in essence two top flights that operate vastly different.

    The way I see it NASL needs a few ownership groups to push the envelop. Television deals and their associated revenues are key, but in order to accomplish this teams need to appear as major. Whether or not the quality on the field is the same level as MLS, perception will always be that the league is lesser as long as it appears that way.

    If even one NASL team can get an MLS quality stadium and consistently fill it. They'll pave the way for other clubs to follow suit. Once other clubs start following a television deal is the next hurdle, but all of the sudden is realistic.

    This is why I try to follow these stadium discussions so closely. The Cosmos have the Belmont project. Indy Eleven is working with the state to get a MLS quality stadium. San Antonio has plans to do awesome things to their home stadium (although this is contingent on MLS). Hopefully, San Antonio even without an MLS team will take a leap of faith.

    Tampa Bay is also interesting as they now can renovate and expand Al Lang as they see fit. It would be fantastic to see the club push things there and maybe eventually, Al Lang can make a Providence Park like transformation.

  2. I agree with you on several of your points. One key component to a TV deal is having 16+ teams to give the game inventory to fill a full seasons schedule for the network. With the Cosmos already having a national TV on a small network. It would not be hard to see a future where the league can agree to a deal on a network that currently is not covering soccer... I think CBS/CBS Sports Net are a very viable landing spot especially if they would pair NASL with a US Open Cup contract for the later rounds at least...