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The Rise Of American Soccer, And How To Continue It

Updated on April 29, 2014
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Major League Soccer attendance and TV ratings are at all time highs. Also, it seems, that after much trouble, the US Men's National Team is becoming a dark horse, and a threat to be reckoned with. While the MLS looks like it has a promising future, the NASL and MISL looked the same years ago. Here are some steps that should be taken to improve soccer in America.

#1: Finish With The Expansion Of Major League Soccer

The addition of New York City FC will bring Major League Soccer to 20 teams in 2015. Sometime in the next year, the MLS should decide whether the league should continue adding teams, or end expansion until further notice. If expansion does continue, it should be limited to one or two teams, as any more would be far to many. None of soccer's 'major leagues' (La Liga, EPL, Ligue 1, Bundesliga) have more than 20 teams. Orlando City SC would probably be the best option for the MLS, with the Carolina RailHawks, the San Antonio Scorpions and Atlanta Silverbacks FC as other good options for the league. The Silverbacks and Carolina would probably be favored over San Antonio, as the league currently lacks a Southeast team. After the expansions are wrapped up, the league should take into consideration a promotion-relegation system (see #3).

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#2: Boost The US Open Cup

The Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup is the American version of the FA Cup. It contains loads of drama and upsets, and offers a bid to the Continent's Cup (The Europa League counts!). The only difference between the two competitions is media. Only the final rounds of the US Open Cup are televised, let alone pumped up media-wise, while the preliminary rounds of the FA Cup are live-streamed online, and sometimes even televised. In this year's event, two MLS powerhouses the Los Angeles Galaxy and the Seattle Sounders were knocked out early on my much weaker opponents. While LA and Seattle didn't play their best squads (due to the level of their opponents and the international break), both games were entertaining and would gather a reasonable TV rating. Also, this would boost America's 'minor leagues' the NASL and USL, who can use all of the media coverage they can get.

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#3: A Promotion-Relegation System

The thought of a promotion-relegation system has been tossed around lightly since the establishment of the league, however it has always been shot down due to the thought of low attendance and low quality in the lower tiers. This reasoning is wrong. Attendance has been rising in both the USL and the NASL, with San Antonio pulling in an average attendance of 7,500 (their stadium has a capacity of 8,000), an impressive feat for a team playing in the NASL and in their second year of existence, in a state that already has FC Dallas and the Houston Dynamo. The Indy Eleven who will start playing in the NASL next season have 3300 season tickets sold already, and are expected to average 8 thousand to 10 thousand in their first season. Currently, Chivas USA are barely averaging 8,000 fans and the Columbus Crew and Chicago Fire aren't too far behind them, averaging only 11,000 fans a game.

On the other point of low quality teams, the quality of the NASL and USL are improving, as seen by the US Open Cup matches. Orlando City SC and the Carolina RailHawks both have MLS quality teams, and have consistently beat quality opponents during friendlies. Below is a table of lower-tier teams vs MLS quality teams.

The Bundesliga system, where the bottom two teams are relegated and the third lowest plays in a playoff with the third best in the Bundesliga 2. This system could work in the MLS.
The Bundesliga system, where the bottom two teams are relegated and the third lowest plays in a playoff with the third best in the Bundesliga 2. This system could work in the MLS. | Source

The NASL and USL should merge forming a 16-22 team lower tier. While this would force removing some teams from the NASL and USL, it would be for the best of the league, as FC Edmonton who barely average 1,000 fans a game has neither the quality or the fans to be in the league. A promotion-relegation system would force teams like Chivas USA to improve their team, while raising attendance at lower-tier games, due to the prospect of teams being able to make it to the MLS. The MLS should form one conference, and take the last place team and relegate it. The second to last place team should play a promotion-relegation playoff with the second place team in the lower tier, like in Germany. The system should start around 2016 and it is a system that will move American soccer forward.


A Sample Of Lower-Tier Teams vs Quality Opposition

Lower-Tier Team
Opponent
Score
Charleston Battery (USL)
Portsmouth FC (Championship)
0-0
Orlando City SC (NASL)
Philadelphia Union
1-1
Orlando City SC
Colorado Rapids
3-1 Orlando
Orlando City SC
Stoke City
1-0 Stoke
Carolina Railhawks (NASL)
LA Galaxy
2-0 Carolina
Tampa Bay Rowdies (NASL)
Bolton (EPL)
1-0 Tampa
At the time of the match, Portsmouth was in the Championship and Bolton was in the EPL. This is just a sampling of the many quality results for lower tier teams in the USA.
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#4: Create A New League Logo (Seriously.)

While this isn't the most pressing of concerns, the current league logo is a laughingstock. The logo looks rather old and childish, and could use a tune-up. Rumors have been swirling that a new logo is in the works so stay tuned...

Who Would Be The Best Expansion Team?

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Do You Think That Promotion-Relegation Would Work In The USA?

See results

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    • tazzmania89 profile image

      tazzmania89 4 years ago from Toronto, Ontario

      But you didn't write that it in the article so hence the comment.

    • nlazar profile image
      Author

      N. Lazar 4 years ago from USA

      I know, and that's why I said that expansion needs to stop as "None of soccer's 'major leagues' (La Liga, EPL, Ligue 1, Bundesliga) have more than 20 teams"

    • tazzmania89 profile image

      tazzmania89 4 years ago from Toronto, Ontario

      "The Jamaican team is up and coming"

      So is every other national team that has a growing interest in soccer.

      "These aren't the best of the best"

      Even the "best of the best" is the "best of the rest". Players not playing in the top divisions are not the best players.

      "if you look at the U-17 and U-21 teams, they are stacked with Championship players"

      Most players in U-21/U-19/U-17 are in similar situation as Richard Boakye; loaned out from a top division team. Or they go through their youth systems but eventually end up in the top division.

      " Obviously, the lower division in America wouldn't have as good players as the MLS, but either way having two divisions shouldn't reduce the amount of talent in anyway"

      Ok, so this where the confusion is and I should have been more specific was that too many teams in the TOP division would reduce quality. Having any amount teams in a lower division doesn't do anything to the amount of talent. But you need a fixed amount of spots in the top division to keep competition high thus keeping the quality of players high.

    • nlazar profile image
      Author

      N. Lazar 4 years ago from USA

      The Jamaican team is up and coming, and I wouldn't be surprised if they make the 2014 WC. These aren't the best of the best, but simply the first entries when I searched for "international players in championship/serie b". I would like to note however, that if you look at the U-17 and U-21 teams, they are stacked with Championship players. Obviously, the lower division in America wouldn't have as good players as the MLS, but either way having two divisions shouldn't reduce the amount of talent in anyway.

    • tazzmania89 profile image

      tazzmania89 4 years ago from Toronto, Ontario

      @nlazar

      Let's look at those examples individually;

      Andy King - 17 caps playing for Wales. A good player but he's not jumping into the first 11 in top 10 premier league squad.

      Davide Somma - 28 years old and has 3 caps playing for South Africa. Don't think his internal future is looking that bright.

      Craig Mackail-Smith - 29 years old and has 6 caps to his name playing for Scotland. Remarkable even for a team that is last in their 2014 World Cup Qualification.

      Christophe Berra - 28 and has 27 caps but plays for Scotland. Also happens to be part of the Wolves team that got relegated twice in consecutive years.

      Marvin Elliot - 28 years old and has 5 caps. Plays for Jamaica who haven't qualified for the World Cup since 1998.

      Moussa Koné - 23 old and has 1 cap for the Ivory Coast national team. Not bad right. Oh I forgot, his only cap came 2 years ago.

      Emil Hallfreðsson - 36 Caps for the 28 year old. But I think its important to add that the Iceland national team has NEVER qualified for a major tournament such as the Euro's or the World Cup.

      Richmond Boakye - Kind of an exception since he's 20 years old and is on loan for Serie A champions Juventus.

      Just because they play for an international squad doesn't make them quality players. Also the quality of the international squad is also quite telling. The Jamaican national team is not good, neither is the Iceland national team so playing on either of those teams is not really an amazing amazing achievement.

      *Playing for your national team regardless of the teams success is an remarkable achievement. The statement above is the point of view of your place within the footballing world. What is more impressive, capping for the Spanish team or the Jamaican team?

      I think this article explains what I mean by having too many teams lowers the playing quality: http://www.goal.com/en-us/news/1110/major-league-s...

    • nlazar profile image
      Author

      N. Lazar 4 years ago from USA

      Obviously there are far more, these are just a sampling.

    • nlazar profile image
      Author

      N. Lazar 4 years ago from USA

      @tazzmania just to name a few:

      CHAMPIONSHIP -

      Andy King, David Edwards (Wales)

      Davide Somma (South Africa)

      Craig Mackail-Smith, Christophe Berra (Scotland)

      Marvin Elliott (Jamaica)

      Albert Adomah, Jeff Schlupp (Ghana)

      ---------------------------------------------

      SERIE B -

      Moussa Koné (Ivory Coast)

      Emil Hallfreðsson (Iceland)

      Richmond Boakye (Ghana)

    • CCahill profile image

      CCahill 4 years ago from England

      Ya know what it's a good point, there has to be a consequence for poor performance, it keeps things exciting even once the chase for title is over, in the EPL the battle to survive relegation is often as, if not more exciting than the battle to win the league itself, if anything the most boring position for a team to be is in the middle of league, neither fighting for titles nor against relegation, i can imagine some teams loose some motivation as soon as they get a few losses under their belt and probably just wait for the next season to an extent

    • tazzmania89 profile image

      tazzmania89 4 years ago from Toronto, Ontario

      @nlazar

      Current examples?

    • nlazar profile image
      Author

      N. Lazar 4 years ago from USA

      @Tazzmania89

      Not necessarily. The Npower Championship and Serie B features loads of international players.

    • profile image

      James K 4 years ago

      While I would love to see relagation, I do not believe Americans who are used to seeing poor performing teams just stay at the bottom of the Pro brackets, would actually understand when a team that was "Pro" last year would be "Minor league" this year.

    • internpete profile image

      Peter V 4 years ago from At the Beach in Florida

      I would love to see a promotion and relegation system in the MLS. It would make many games much more exciting. It couldn't happen for a few years, at least until a lower league is solidified, and teams from those leagues are prepared for the opportunity to get into the MLS. I am not sure if it will happen though, because of the structure of the MLS. Nice hub.

    • tazzmania89 profile image

      tazzmania89 4 years ago from Toronto, Ontario

      Really good ideas. Having too many teams also reduces the number of quality players