Thursday, November 12, 2009

Not Really Promotion, but no Relegation

The formation of a new American soccer league, composed of former USL First Division teams, has received much attention in the recent weeks.  This attention is driven by what purpose the league will have and who it will be affiliated with.  The group of owners, which broke away from USL-1, held talks with MLS and have applied to US Soccer to be sanctioned as a Division 2 league. The league will apply to be a Division 1 league in Canada. Both of these Divisions (2nd in America and 1st in Canada) are currently held by the USL First Division.

So what does all this mean?

First with the sanctions, the USSF and CSA are unlikely to give them the sole 2nd or 1st Division sanction because this is a new league.  As of now there are only 7 teams in the new league, with Vancouver heading to MLS in 2010 and Montreal heavily rumored to follow.  This would leave only 5 teams (if there is no expansion, which is planned),  making it more likely that they will give them the same sanction as USL-1, instead of taking a chance with the new league and knocking USL-1 down a division. 

Second is the promotion/relegation rumors,  MLS are not going to allow promotion and relegation, like in other countries, to happen here in the near future.  The league is set up with expansion fees and a single entity structure so it is hard to see the current owners passing a new league law that could see them drop to a second division or MLS-2, after paying $40 million to be in MLS.  Where promotion could happen with these teams is not really promotion.  It will the same story like we saw with Seattle, and are going to see with Vancouver and Portland; where the new owners come in to these teams and there is a soccer-specific stadium in the works.  Then the MLS owners accept them as a new expansion team and the team leaves their current league.

Third, how will the new league be involved with MLS?  If the new league is involved with MLS in anyway MLS will need a direct benefit.  One problem MLS has had in the past is getting games for developmental and non-first team members of their clubs.  The reverse division had its time but was axed by MLS last season and a new system is needed to be implemented.  This is where the new league could help MLS and help develop players that are not getting regular time for their MLS club.  These players would be loaned out or dropped down to the new league sort of in the way we see with the NBA, NHL, and MLB.  It would benefit MLS by having players developed that usually are not even on the bench and the new league would probably only have to pay a portion of the contract which would also keep cost down for them.

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