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I wrote about the idea of promotion and relegation in MLS a while ago here.
In some Facebooks groups that I posted this to, I got quite a bit of negative feedback, mostly through not understanding the United States broadcasting system or the ownership/franchise system in Major League Soccer.
I’ve thought about that information and come up with a second model.
Immediate changes to MLS
There will be at least 20 teams in the league by the time this model starts.
RECOMMENDATION 1: Join the Eastern and Western Conferences together to form one consistent ladder where the teams play a double round robin tournament.
The only change I would recommend is the cessation of an East and West Conference model – while it works in the US, it is my sincere opinion that this is a construct I believe works well at the lower or regional level but at the top flights of football or soccer, there is no need for it. Even Russia does not have a conference system.
Further to that, it is my suggestion that the teams play 38 games a year (assuming 20 teams in the competition) in the league. Obviously, any future expansion of the league would result in more games.
RECOMMENDATION 2: MLS should investigate all opportunities relating to allowing teams to finding their own kits manufacturers.
Given that the teams would be entering the MLS structure, they would be entering and run the risk of having to break the contract they currently have with their kit provider, given that MLS is currently tied to adidas. It is my belief that this is an opportunity for MLS to give the clubs to find their own kits providers and create more revenue opportunities for themselves. I do not recommend this with wanton abandon – obviously there is the case of Generation adidas players. I do believe this is worthy of further investigation.
An alternative approach could be to allow MLS2 clubs to choose their own kit deals and in due course, allow MLS clubs to choose their own kit providers in the future.
Obviously, the US soccer pyramid is already quite substantial without truly being linked together, due to various reasons.
It’s my belief that MLS2 (my name for the second division) needs to be framed in a way to encourage clubs to sign up under the MLS model. This may mean a different way to encourage clubs to sign up, with a stepped model to have a level playing field with MLS.
This would mean that North American Soccer League, United States Leagues Professional Division, and the various leagues sanctioned by the United States Soccer Federation would know exactly what they need to achieve to start in MLS2 and start working towards it, unless they already fit in it. It is my belief that there are some clubs that do already fit inside the criteria or are working towards it for the near future.
This means that there is a development of a pathway for club to enter the MLS/US Soccer pyramid.
RECOMMENDATION 3: I would recommend that MLS and US Soccer work together to create a set of criteria that is slightly lower than the criteria for MLS. This criteria should cover a wide range of areas including but not limited to stadiums, media market sizes, minor league team success, demographic base, finances, etc.
This method means that it is clear what each team needs to qualify for MLS2. I do not purport to know the bid requirements for MLS, which is why I suggest that US Soccer and MLS should work together to properly construct a combined set of criteria for qualification. In addition, it can create a grading scale for each criterion which could show clubs where they need to improve to make the grade in future. This means that there can be a stepped increase in league size as individual clubs reach the requirements for entry into MLS2.
This means that clubs who have made significant overtures for expansion such as Orlando City Soccer Club and San Antonio Scorpions as well as areas such as Miami through David Beckham. Other markets who are allegedly interested in MLS franchises include Atlanta, Cleveland, Las Vegas, Minneapolis-St. Paul, Oklahoma City, Ottawa, Phoenix, Pittsburgh, Sacramento and St. Louis. Some people have suggested other areas such as the Raleigh-Durham-Chapel Hill “Research Triangle”, Detroit, El-Paso and Indianapolis.
Promotion and Relegation
Now, the important point here is that the two leagues need to be ready. When I say ready, I particularly mean financially ready. On this basis, it is my suggestion that MLS and MLS2 run individually with no promotion and relegation for a period of (say) 5 to 8 years to ensure that MLS2 teams are ready to step up into MLS. This also means that the MLS teams have 8 years to prepare for the risk of being relegated.
Obviously the next question is how promotion and relegation takes place. I propose that the last two teams in MLS would be relegated to MLS2, while the first two teams of MLS2 would be promoted into MLS.
At some point in the future, it may be appropriate for the third highest placed team in MLS2 would replace the third last team in MLS but I believe this should be a decision not taken lightly. It would take much consultation between the clubs to work out if and when it happens.
I believe that this is a better way to create a second tier for MLS and a move to create promotion and relegation in the MLS.
I wonder what you think about them – I’d appreciate your thoughts so leave a comment below.