Well, really it’s just my suggestion on a type of promotion/relegation that could work in the United States. I know it’s far fetched, but I am a fan of pro/rel. It’ll never happen, but what’s wrong with more debate on this polarizing topic? Before I start, here’s some ground rules:
- My pro/rel pyramid only consists of MLS-NASL-USL. The 4th tier wouldn’t be able to afford to be in MLS nor have a stadium situation that would be up to MLS standards.
- All teams in the NASL and USL would need to play in an acceptable MLS stadium, or one that could be converted in a short time.
- There would have to be a uniform format for the lower leagues. I think a European, single table format works best. No Soccerbowl or playoffs (more on that later).
- My pro/rel is 1 up/1 down, not 3up/3 down.
- Since Garber has eluded to 3 out of the next four expansion teams being decided already, the first year this pro/rel would be instituted would be for that 24th spot. So no team would get relegated in first year, only promoted.
Now that the rules are established, here is how it would work.
The team with the worst record in MLS would face off against the winner of the NASL (single table winner). It would be a home/away match-up. This promotion game would essentially become the “championship” game for the NASL in addition to the trophy for winning the table. I think winning a seat in 1st division beats a Soccerbowl championship. This would work the same way for the worst NASL team against the USL winner.
I think that is a very fair way of promoting and relegating a team. Fans would love it because it would be so different from what they normally see in American sports. It would make the teams who purposely tank accountable. How many baseball fans would love to see the penny pinching Miami Marlins relegated to AAA? Or how about a Chivas USA? There would be no safety net for MLS teams, they must be competitive.
I believe this method would do wonders in strengthening the lower divisions. Fans of Rochester, Indianapolis, Carolina all would have hope of getting to MLS. Attendance and support would improve. It’s all about the opportunity.
The cap situation gets sticky. With no cap, an NASL team like the Cosmos could drastically outspend their competition and win the league. Hopefully the MLS cap would be drastically increase by that point and NASL could have a similar cap. Small price for the ability to move up.
Sadly, MLS owners would never go for this. If you were the owner of an established team or paid these exorbitant expansions fees, why would you want to do anything that could potentially demote your business? It works great in Europe because teams have had 100 years and generations to build their fan base, not so in the U.S. I don’t know if fans of an MLS team would support it in the lower divisions, which could kill them.
In the end, I know pro/rel probably won’t happen, but it’s still fun to dream about it.