Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Closed league team stability is a farce



The title says it all.

The idea that there is an extra layer of team stability provided by MLS for a community is a farce. It is a sham. It is a lie built upon the corpses of dead teams all over this country.

An original MLS team, the Columbus Crew, the team who's stadium has provided some of the greatest wins in USMNT history, they are moving to Austin Texas. This myth that somehow being a member of MLS provided fans in Columbus some layer of stability that an Open Pyramid wouldn't have has been yet again shown to be untrue. The city of Columbus and Crew fans have now been shown the the ugly truth about this stability just like Chivas USA fans, Tampa Bay Mutiny fans, and Miami Fusion fans were. If we look at all it is not hard to find dozens and dozens of other teams from leagues big and small from all across the country who have folded or moved as well.

How could your team being moved to another city possibly be better than it being relegated? How could it being contracted possibly be better than it being relegated? How can your club disappearing because of financial difficulties instead of being relegated to a low enough level where it can survive and rebuild be better? How can any of this be better for the soccer community in this country? How can ANY OF THIS be helping build soccer culture?

We've already had a great article by Jake Steinberg discuss how having an Open Pyramid featuring #ProRelForUSA would help protect cities from teams relocating and rent-seeking. We already know the idea that most clubs fold or go bankrupt upon relegation is a myth.

Can we finally admit that the myth that "Closed leagues provide stability because teams can't be relegated" is a utter farce.

Join in and speak up for your community, for your club, and for your fellow fan. Call for #ProRelForUSA.


Friday, October 13, 2017

Divorcing Pay-to-Play from the Pro game



Quite often since the #USMNT World Cup Qualifier debacle that was the Trinidad and Tabago game we have been blessed to finally see writers stepping up and questioning our youth development system in the US. Unfortunately, too often these discussions are being had while divorcing Pay-to-Play from the Professional game.

DO NOT LET THEM DO THIS!

Make them answer these questions when they try to divorce the two items from each other and act like they are separate issues.

1. How do you stop youth clubs from charging?
2. How much money would this take?
3. Who decides which clubs would get USSF support?
4. Do they all get equal funding?
5. How would you stop youth clubs from leaving USSF and its subordinate youth soccer organizations and just charging anyways?
6. How would youth clubs fund a non-USSF subsidized free-to-play model?

I'm sure you can come up with even more to ask...

With youth soccer being a multi-billion dollar industry it would be impossible for US Soccer to fund the game as it is currently structured to give all young players, or even most of them, access to some sort of USSF subsidized system.

Saying "End Pay-to-Play" without talking about what caused this system to develop is ridiculous.

Saying "End Pay-to-Play" without talking about how opening the pyramid changes the incentives clubs have to produce players is ridiculous.

As Gary Kleiban so succinctly puts it HERE...

If we had an open pyramid like the rest of the world, where clubs can merit their way up and down the soccer hierarchy, that shifts the incentives and alters the ‘pay-to-play’ club soccer business model. 
That bursts open the 3 revenue generating incentives outlined above for thousands of existing youth clubs, and all of our lower division pro and semi-pro clubs. 
What pro/rel can do is give existing youth clubs an incentive to form their own 1st teams, and aspire to something beyond their perpetual caste as ’youth club’. If even a small fraction of the thousands of clubs in our country did this, that significantly expands the ‘free-to-play’ incentive footprint in our country.
Similarly, what pro/rel can do is give existing lower division clubs (e.g. in NASL, USL, NPSL) the incentive to form their own ‘free-to-play’, or heavily subsidized, youth academies.
With the closed market system (a caste system) we currently have, only one company, MLS, LLC can benefit from its 20 franchises offering free-to-play teams.
We have to give clubs all over the country the incentive to develop players. Right now quantity rules the day, the more kids you have, the more money you make. When QUALITY rules the day, we will see players being developed, coaches being accountable, and clubs making it a priority.

We need #ProRelForUSA if we ever hope to end Pay-to-Play as the dominant model for youth soccer in the US. We need #ProRelForUSA if we ever hope for our best and brightest young players (both boys and girls) to have a pathway to being top level players that isn't full of economic roadblocks.

Keep speaking up... keep the pressure up... and thank you everybody who has shared one of my articles from this blog. We are going to fix this system.

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

The pot is coming to a boil




As we've discussed before... eventually the conversation is going to change from "should we..." to "When we..." about #ProRelForUSA.

Today we saw both World Soccer Talk and Top Drawer Soccer both put out excellent articles touting the need for total system reform that includes an Open Pyramid.

TOP DRAWER SOCCER

U.S. Soccer is held back by the closed market that has kept the Major League Soccer (MLS) franchise owners happy, but the rest of the sport hindered for over two decades. A closed market that provides a safety net to encourage mediocrity and punish greatness. It’s the antithesis of growth and success. It stands against everything that the American dream represents.

WORLD SOCCER TALK

We can all argue the pros and cons of a promotion/relegation system in the United States, but as long as there’s a closed system like we have in MLS, it breeds uncompetitiveness. When there are teams in MLS that know no matter how bad they perform that there will always be a next season in the top flight, teams (coaches, players and management) can become complacent.

The St Louligans blog also had a wonderful piece today that I feel you should take a few minutes and read as well. 

Now lets add Taylor Twellman going on every show on ESPN dropping gems like this one...
 




The conversation has changed this week.  We've all seen new voices join in this conversation and be much more straight forward with their calls for reform. Keep sharing and keep the pressure building.

The time to say "I told you so..." is not right now. Right now we need to keep encouraging every new voice to continue to speak up. Point them toward writers, bloggers, and podcasters who want to see reform. To help keep turning the heat up... the first bubbles are starting on the bottom of the pot right now.

Will we have a roiling pot of enough voices so that at the USSF AGM we will see a new President of USSF elected who is going to push through an agenda of change?

I think we will...




Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Don't allow any more excuses from USSF



We are not going to the World Cup.

I'm pissed. I'm angry. I'm embarrassed. I always knew this was possible but I never thought it would actually happen.

For YEARS now we've all been told by those who support the status quo that "we're fine", "we're growing", and "everything is going just as it should".

IT IS NOT!!!!!

Please do not listen to Bruce Arena and Sunil Gulati.


We need massive reform and we need it immediately. Incremental change is not going to cut it.

We need an Open Pyramid to push player development to the forefront. Read more HERE, HERE, and HERE.

We need 1000s of clubs pushing for the top. We need to reward those who are innovative, investing, developing players, creating culture, and winning on the field.

We need to call for it every day. We all need to put pressure on USSF.

We need our soccer media to actively follow the NASL Anti-Trust Case and the CAS case. We need the general public to know that these are big deals.

We need every Supporter Group in the United States to stand up for their club and call for #ProRelForUSA. Join the 30 who already have.

Those who have been selling the status quo have to be questioned. Why have they been doing it? Fear? Personal gain? We need to see new leadership within USSF. If you are a voter at the upcoming AGM and you vote to continue with the status quo. You are a part of the problem too.

We need change. It starts with us. Don't let USSF continue to let us down. Speak up. 






Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Is the American media going to ask FIFA?


Pretty simple question.

When is a member of the American soccer media going to ask FIFA and CONCACAF about the three major cases USSF has had filed against it?

Solidarity Payment/Training Compensation
Promotion and Relegation
Anti-trust Lawsuit

Why have we not heard even a "no comment" from our regional or the world body about these three major cases concerning American soccer? We know these could change soccer not only here in the US and Canada, but they could have a major impact on how the sport is governed the world over.


Friday, September 22, 2017

Guest Post: Why I Hang Out In a Twitter Toxic Zone



We are blessed to have another great guest post today... one that perfectly boils it down to the essence of why somebody would subject themselves to being an advocate for change in American soccer on social media. Make sure you give Erik a follow on Twitter! Let us know how you feel about this using the #ProRelForUSA hashtag on social media.

Why I Hang Out In a Twitter Toxic Zone


The discussion of the governance of soccer in the United States on Twitter has been called one of the most toxic, ill-tempered spaces on the social media platform. Given the place that political discourse has gone to, that's saying something. The Beautiful Game is full of passion and emotion, though. And that passion can be on full display in the 140-character-limited conversations found on Twitter.
From the scolds who fly the #ProRelforUSA hashtag to their antagonists who are convinced that the status-quo is the best we'll get and should be grateful for, the vitriol and invective can be off-putting for someone as conflict-averse as myself. I can well imagine a new fan of the game we love stumbling into a thread and deciding they really don't want to know more. Innocent questions sometimes find curt replies followed by behavior trolling and the re-ignition of now decades-old personality conflicts that go beyond the actual subject of discussion.
It can be a really bad look for the sport in our country. Trying to be a grown-up, I can admit my part in the occassional studs-up challenge defending my viewpoint. If I have nicked your shins, or scared you away from commenting, I apologize.
That brings me to the answer promised in the headline "Why I Hang Out In a Twitter Toxic Zone". I throw my two cents in for one simple reason: I want to see the United States Mens National Team win the World Cup in my lifetime. Let me repeat that. I want to see the United States Mens National Team win the World Cup in my lifetime. That simple.
I have played soccer since falling in love with the game more than 40 years ago, before Pele landed with the Cosmos.
I have lived through two versions of Soccer Wars.
I lived in a true world soccer power as they marched to a World Cup Final, experiencing the game’s culture and structure there . I can recall all the strange places and times I have watched the USMNT and the rest of the world play out sports' greatest drama.
I am thankful to those with the means (and those who really didn't) who have taken a gamble that the game can grow and become a success here. Through my observation, participation, and research I have concluded that the way the game is currently organized in the United States will not result in my simply-stated desire.
Based on participant numbers and resources available it is inexcusable for our on-field results to remain mired in the same place we were as qualifying for France '98. We have a wasteful, overpriced player development system whose leakage enriches the few, paid for by the unknowing, at the cost of results and excluding the many. We have eschewed world-class best-practice experience for an exceptionalism that leaves us spinning our wheels.
I don't give two scoops of rooster poop about the motivations behind this stagnation. My only concern is that we move aggressively towards an alignment and system that makes winning the World Cup a truly viable dream. Anyone or anything standing in the way of that movement needs to be removed, and removed quickly. Anyone or anything willing to collaborate to bring us in line with international best-practices is welcome on my band wagon.

I want to see the United States Mens National Team win the World Cup in my lifetime. Do you?

Thursday, September 21, 2017

Guest Post: MLS Viewership Compared to Available Seating



Recently I was on Twitter and saw Jed Kirchenwitz (FOLLOW HIM HERE) tweeting out an interesting thought process he was working through concerning how stadium capacity compared to TV viewership numbers across the "Big 5" sports in the United States. I asked him to write a guest post for this blog... and I'm really glad/thankful that he did. I would love to hear your opinion on it in the comments or on social media (Don't forget to use the #ProRelForUSA hashtag). 




MLS Viewership Compared to Available Seating
One of the big obsessions with American soccer fans are the TV ratings for MLS games.  As I was looking at these numbers recently a question came in to my mind:  What if all the “average” viewers of national MLS telecasts were to show up for games in person?  How much of the available seating would be filled?
On the surface, it probably seems like a strange question.  After all, a LOT more people can watch a game on TV than can attend a game in person.  In theory all those viewers should easily fill the available seating; perhaps they would fill it several times over.  I’m not talking about playoff and championship matches that tend to draw larger audiences either.  I was curious about the viewers of the day-to-day, regular season games.  It would seem logical to say that those regular season games are going to attract the “real fans”, those that care enough about a sport to watch whatever game is on the television at any given moment.
So the question is this:  If all the average viewers for a nationally-televised regular season MLS game showed up at the stadiums person, how full would those stadiums be?
It’s a simple equation—take the total available MLS seating and divide by the average number of viewers.  Since we’re looking at American telecasts only, I even went so far as to exclude the Canadian seating.  Let the Canadians fill their own stadiums!
Total available MLS seating capacity in America in 2016: 384,132
Average American MLS national broadcast viewership in 2016: 257,683
So, if the average American viewership of a nationally broadcast MLS game on TV showed up at American stadiums in person, they would be 67% full.  Sixty-seven percent.  In other words, MLS viewers for an average nationally televised game couldn’t even fill the seats.  
Quite literally, the same people who are going to MLS games might be the only people watching it on TV.
How does the number compare to the NFL, the king of TV sports in America? The NFL would fill their seats almost 8 times over, and that’s even with the fact that NFL stadiums are typically three to four times larger than the average MLS venue.
MLS - 0.67 to 1
NFL- 7.85 to 1
I can already hear the complaints, though.  “You can’t compare MLS to the NFL!  Nothing compares to the NFL!”
Let’s look at some deeper numbers across the “big five” sports, then.  In fact, where we can let’s break down the numbers even further.  For all sports except NFL, good numbers are available for both “mothership” broadcasts on Fox, NBC, etc. and games shown solely on cable.
MLS

1.34
2016 National Broadcast Only, 6 games
0.67
2016 All networks


NFL

7.85
2016 All Networks*


NBA

5.90
16/17 National Broadcast Only
3.84
16/17 All Networks


NHL

2.93
16/17 Broadcast Only
2.00
16/17 All Networks


MLB

1.35
2015 All Networks**
1.78
2015 Broadcast Only**

* NFL Cable broadcasts are also shown on local over-the-air affiliates, unlike other sports.  Therefore I only included the number for both cable and over-the-air broadcasts.
** MLB telecasts have become more regionalized since 2015; finding good numbers after 2015 is more difficult.
What about the trend for the current year?  MLS is two-thirds of the way through the 2017 season as of this writing.  MLS has also added two additional franchises bringing the total seating capacity to 448,527.  What has this done to the viewers-to-seats ratio?  
MLS

0.57
2017 All networks
0.98
2017 Broadcast Only, 4 games

You read that correctly.  Even though MLS added two franchises, TV viewership so far this year is essentially flat.  The viewers-to-seats ratio has actually worsened.  By this measure MLS broadcasts are actually reaching less of the American soccer market!
This is only part of the story, though.  If you only went with the numbers you see above you would assume that soccer is a distant fifth place to the traditional “big four” leagues in terms of popularity.
According to World Soccer Talk (http://worldsoccertalk.com/2017/08/24/most-watched-soccer-games-on-us-tv-for-august-15-20-2017/) , and cross-referenced as much as possible through the various TV ratings reporting sites on the web, the numbers are startlingly higher for soccer in general.
  1. The total average TV audience for ALL regular season league soccer games (EPL, Liga MX, MLS, Bundesliga, and “other” leagues) is about 1,534,000.  This is almost six times larger than the average for MLS broadcasts alone.

  1. If all the average American viewers across all soccer leagues are included, the viewers to seats ratio skyrockets to 3.4 to 1.
The breakdown of viewers-to-seats, from largest to smallest, is as shown here.  For simplicity’s sake, I only used the numbers for looking across all networks, but the list would be in the same order.
NFL

7.85
2016 All Networks*


NBA

3.84
16/17 All Networks


All Soccer

3.4
All Soccer Broadcasts All Networks


NHL

2.00
16/17 All Networks


MLB

1.35
2015 All Networks**


MLS

0.57
2017 MLS Viewers-to-Seats all Networks

That’s a stunning increase and shows just how little reach into the American soccer market MLS truly has.  That’s not the 8:1 ratio of the NFL, but it is in line with the NBA and ahead of both the NHL and MLB ratings.
In the end, these numbers are just another measurement of what we already knew:  MLS is failing to capture the American Soccer market, and failing in a big way.  More importantly, these numbers also represent the huge opportunity that MLS and US Soccer are not taking advantage of.  

Perhaps what this number really gives us is the full potential that US Soccer has for growth with fans of the game.
This also brings some other thoughts to mind:  American soccer fans are clearly interested in promotion/relegation leagues.  Could AMERICAN SOCCER, by simply changing to a promotion/relegation structure, be as popular as the NBA?  And if so, shouldn’t we be clamoring for it to be implemented now?

I realize this is a simplistic view, but US Soccer is missing the true market this badly then we should be doing everything we can to take advantage of what is an obvious opportunity to truly grow the game.

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

NASL files anti-trust suit in Federal Court


The NASL's press release reads:

The North American Soccer League (NASL) announced Tuesday that it has filed a federal antitrust lawsuit against the United States Soccer Federation (USSF) in Brooklyn federal court. The NASL is a men’s professional soccer league that has operated since 2010.
The NASL’s complaint alleges that the USSF has violated federal antitrust laws through its anticompetitive “Division” structure that divides men’s professional soccer for U.S.-based leagues based on arbitrary criteria that the USSF has manipulated to favor Major League Soccer (MLS), which is the commercial business partner of the USSF.  Its business arrangements include multi-million dollar media and marketing contracts with Soccer United Marketing (SUM), MLS’s marketing arm that also jointly sells and markets MLS rights combined with rights to U.S. national soccer teams operated by the USSF. 

The complaint alleges that the USSF has selectively applied and waived its divisional criteria to suppress competition from the NASL, both against MLS and against United Soccer League (USL).  For example, under the USSF’s divisional criteria, there are European clubs that have successfully operated for decades that would be considered ineligible for “Division I” or even “Division II” status due to arbitrary requirements like stadium capacity and market size. 

The complaint alleges that the USSF sought to limit competition from the NASL to MLS and USL, and now seeks to destroy the NASL by arbitrarily revoking the NASL’s “Division II” status for the upcoming 2018 season. The complaint only seeks injunctive relief against the USSF’s conduct regarding its divisional designations.

Rocco B. Commisso, Chairman of the NASL’s Board of Governors and the principal owner of the New York Cosmos, which plays its home games in Brooklyn, stated:  “The USSF left the NASL no choice except to file this lawsuit. The NASL has taken this step to protect not just the league, but also the game, fans, and everyone with a stake in the future success of professional soccer leagues based in this country.”


READ THE SUIT IN ITS ENTIRETY HERE

Some questions that USSF Presidential candidates should ask Sunil Gulati



Recently we have seen public announcement by Paul LaPointe and Steven Gans as candidates for President of USSF against the incumbent Sunil Gulati. Sunil Gulati has not been a huge fan of talking to the media over the course of the last few years.

With the help of THIS NY DAILY NEWS article we've developed a few questions that we feel that these candidates and any who hopefully join in (We are talking to you John Motta and Jerome De Bontin) should be directly asking Mr. Gulati to answer. 



-- What was your relationship with Chuck Blazer? How long did you know Mr. Blazer?


-- As president of the United States Soccer Federation, did you review and sign off on contracts between USSF and CONCACAF that were negotiated by Blazer? Were you aware of commissions paid directly or indirectly to Blazer?


-- Between the bribery scandal that led to Blazer's departure from international soccer circles in 2013 and the Justice Department's unsealing of its indictment in 2015, what did you as a FIFA and CONCACAF executive do to uncover fraud in either organization?


-- As a senior lecturer in economics at Columbia with experience working for the World Bank, how did you not notice the blatant irregularities in CONCACAF's financial reports while you were serving on the organization's executive committee?


-- Have you been questioned by the FBI, Justice Department prosecutors or other U.S. government investigators? Did you appear before or submit documents to the grand jury that handed up the FIFA indictments? Have you spoken to the Swiss authorities who are leading the FIFA investigation in their country? Is it true that you were wiretapped by the FBI during their investigation of Chuck Blazer?


-- Did you ever share office space at the Trump Tower, which was home to CONCACAF, with Chuck Blazer? Were you ever aware of allegations that Blazer used CONCACAF funds to fuel his high-flying lifestyle, including a $6,000-per-month Trump Tower apartment for his cats?


-- Why did you decline to attend the U.S. Senate committee hearing on the Justice Department's FIFA investigation on July 15? USSF chief executive officer Dan Flynn, who appeared on behalf of USSF at the hearing, claimed American soccer officials did not have any leverage to push for reform at FIFA. Do you agree with his assessment?


-- Why does USSF deal with SUM as a broker for its media rights when even MLS (the parent company of SUM) feels that dealing directly with its broadcast partners is required to have a successful partnership?


-- Is it concerning to USSF that MLS favors some teams over others when it comes to player allocation and that a sitting USSF Board Member would lie about it?


-- What are your feelings on the American Soccer United "Call For Change" reform outline?






We would love to hear what questions you want to have Sunil Gulati answer also! Let us know in the comments section below and on social media. Make sure you use the #ProRelForUSA hashtag.

Friday, September 1, 2017

30 Supporter Group coalition release a letter of support for CAS case



August 14th 2017 The Supporter Groups for Promotion and Relegation coalition released a letter of support for Miami FC and Stockade FC  in regards to their complaint filed with CAS last month.

30 supporter groups have currently signed on. This list of signatures includes several MLS SG along with SG from NASL, USL, NPSL and PDL clubs.

This coalition of supporter groups represents thousands of the most passionate fans in this country and yet another display of the rapid growth of the #ProRelForUSA movement.



Thursday, August 31, 2017

Great 343 Podcast featuring Jerome De Bontin



John Pranjic has one of my favorite podcasts out right now. The 343 Podcast always features high quality guests and wonderful questions of the sort most podcasters don't ask.

This one features one of the most interesting men in US soccer at this moment, Jerome De Bontin.

I would love all of you to make sure you check this interview out.

LISTEN TO IT HERE


P.S.
Yes, I am in favor of Mr. De Bontin as the next USSF President. #JdBforUSSF

It is your choice.




Social movements have multiple stages... they emerge, they coalesce, they bureaucratize, and then win or lose, they run their course and end.

The #ProRelForUSA movement has grown extensively over the last few years no matter what a small group of very vocal online detractors say. The movement has moved from a few lone bold souls on Twitter not letting the issue die a silent death, to this point where owners of lower division clubs are now taking cases to CAS to try to achieve its implementation.

Without guys like Ted Westervelt would we be where we are today in this movement? I seriously doubt it. His single minded determination helped bring dozens, if not hundreds of vocal advocates on board through his direct social media actions. Without his tweet to me that said "hoping it happens isn't going to make it happen" I wouldn't have been given the spark to be the American soccer reform activist I am today.

Initially during the emergence of the promotion and relegation movement, creating conversation was more important than anything else. The topic of #ProRelForUSA was a minuscule piece of the overall conversation about American soccer. Really, the totality of the American soccer conversation wasn't even that large.

The plan for creating passionate discussion around the subject worked. It worked well. Today #ProRelForUSA and #OpenSoccer are likely the 3rd most hotly debated topic in all of American soccer right behind the #USMNT and #USWNT. Nothing stirs up consistent passionate debate like these three topics. No league. No team. No player. No coach.

One major issue with Ted and others who have continued to use his tactics on social media during this initial growth stage, is that they have also created countless enemies to the movement.

Today, is this in your face, bold, confrontational, and oftentimes abusive style still the best plan?

In mine and many others opinion it is not.

Where we are on this spectrum of social movement stages can be debated right now, but I think it is safe to say we are past the emergence stage.

These initially most important allies of the movement have now become a part of what is holding it back. The constant attacks on potential allies do nothing to move the conversation forward. The branding of potential allies as enemies does nothing but embolden their resolve to not join in the conversation.

At this point can we still call this very vocal, passionate, and outspoken subset of confrontational advocates allies?

Yes just to clarify Ted, Ben, HowsYourTouch and others out there who I didn't name but think I may be talking about them. I am talking to you.

As this movement progresses and grows. The strategy must change. If you do not grow and change with it... you are no longer allies.You are a hindrance to it.

What does this movement gain by you being an asshole/bully on Twitter?

It gains nothing.

If you want to argue with Dan Loney and the rest of the status quo'ists who are out there all day every day. Have at it.

Please just stop trying to shame, cajole, or bully potential (and in many cases, actual) allies who don't speak up often enough for you, in the manner you want, and when you want in to doing this movement your way.

Trust the facts to persuade them to speak up, when they want to speak up, how they want to speak up, and as often as they want to speak up.

Coalitions are forming. Advocacy groups are starting. Suits are being filed.

The last thing this movement needs is y'all convincing MORE allies to not speak up because you're assholes to them and others on Twitter and they don't want to be associated with you.

No one person is more important than this movement. It is your choice. 

Do you still want to be an ally or not?


Friday, August 25, 2017

New York Red Bulls coach Jesse Marsch comes out in favor of #ProRelForUSA

New York Red Bulls coach Jesse Marsch comes out in favor of #ProRelForUSA in an ESPNFC Boot Room interview with Taylor Twellman.

The tides are changing.

Full Deloitte Report on #ProRelForUSA

The full 2016 Deloitte Report on Promotion and Relegation in North American soccer has been released. It is a 42 page long document that makes quite a few good points. Take a few minutes and give it a read.



DOWNLOAD IT HERE