Sunday, January 29, 2012

The Autonomous League of US Soccer

OBJECTIVE: Build a nationwide soccer league system in the United States that is connected and healthy.

WHY: After the busy holiday season I wanted a project to work on at Helltown. Unifying multiple soccer entities and leagues is a worth while endeavor. It's an exciting thing to work on.

CHALLENGE: Many. Different organizations and more importantly different financial structures.

01: Existing Leagues. When you step back, Major League Soccer's (the United States "top division") closed single entity system is a tough nut to crack. They (MLS) want to own the team, the transfers, the sponsors, TV rights, the grass on the pitch and you. It's not just MLS, though. The NASL, USL and NPSL all have their own way of managing their existence.

02: Travel. MLS's business structure is a road block in creating a unified league system in the United States, but not the most difficult to overcome. Money is. Always money. How so? Travel. This country is huge. The United States Soccer Federation's biggest asset is also it most challenging hurdle.

03: USSF and Sunil Gulati. This number 3 is actually number one, but I have absolutely zero ways or means of controlling it or understanding it (fully). I don't know the thoughts of the board members or C level executives. Heck, don't even know or care who they are. All I need to know is if they realize they are sitting on something special or not. I'd like to think Gulati knows but resolving petty disputes (NASL) about lower leagues is not bringing anything forward and a waste of time.

04: FIFA Calendar. US does not follow it. Simple solution? Change the US calendar to fall in line with rest of the world. But work to be done to get to that. Weather and all that. Plus... the United States of America the most prosperous nation in the history of human kind. Sorta figure; we might be able to make a few rules if we so want. Maybe not.

THE FIRST TWO STEPS: Are always the hardest, and each step brings new challenges.

01: Split the soccer semi/pro playing clubs into EAST and WEST at top 2 levels (for scheduling during regular seasons, maybe play a east/west cup or something to determine US champ, we'll get there). Mississippi River being the divider. Southeast, southwest, northeast, northwest on 3rd, 4th and 5th will be determined by organizing league and team density and will feed East/West on top 2 levels.

02: Promotion and Relegation. Unify Major League Soccer, North American Soccer League, United Soccer League and National Premier Soccer League through promotion and relegation yet allow the individual leagues to retain control of their teams.

Promotion and relegation can be used as a tool to structure league sizes and regional divisions.

THE TEAMS: Autonomy has to be used to organize our current soccer chaos in the United States. It's not going to happen in one year. But it can happen in five... that said; the 1st question has to be asked, how many teams do we have in the US playing semi or pro soccer?

152 total teams in the USA

4 "Major" Leagues, 18 different divisions

75 USL (10 Divisions)
50 NPSL (5 Div)
19 MLS (2 Div)
8 NASL (1)

90 East of the Mississippi, 62 West

Click to view all 152 teams in the top four leagues of the US soccer "pyramid".
It is necessary for the USA to have all soccer leagues working together in order to be competitive on the world stage. I have more coming, just a start!

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