This is the second on Twice A Cosmos’ series on Pro/Rel. Check out Nick Mcadam’s piece here
At the moment, soccer in the United States stands at a crossroads. We have the upcoming USSF vs. NASL cases, a presidential election for our federation’s president, and of course, an upcoming World Cup where our best talent will be watching from their couches at home rather than competing. Simply put there needs to be change.
For me, the point of talking about this issue isn’t to point fingers, burn bridges, or start controversy. In my humble opinion, pro/rel is simply about giving clubs and their fans the best platform as possible. Teams with on field success and loyal fans should be given the resources to go as far as possible.
Pretty much every time I’ve gone to a lower league game, NASL or otherwise, I’ve found that many casual fans have no clue how the soccer pyramid in the United States works. This is simply unacceptable. The casual sports fan should be able to explain the relationship between the top and lower leagues, just like many can in Europe.
New York has done a lot to show their ambition over the last few seasons, including back to back cup titles, a new stadium in Brooklyn, and bringing in superstars like Raul, Marcos Senna, and Emmanuel Ledesma. The Cosmos are a team that should be thriving, but rather they find themselves questioning whether they will survive year after year. More than anything else, I hope the team can find stability for the sake of their players, staff, and fans.
This summer I spent a lot of time in Ohio for a work opportunity, and while there I was lucky enough to catch two soccer games. The first was a Dayton Dynamo match and the second was a FC Cincinnati match in Nippert. Although obviously different in size and scope, both of these fans provided open and fun atmospheres. If you’re follow lower league soccer Twitter at the moment, you know these clubs are finding themselves in two very different situations.
Cincy is one of the hottest independent properties in sports and this season had a very successful cup run and record attendance numbers. FC Cincinatti games are a straight up blast, and if you’re ever in the area I highly recommend going. They shouldn’t have to be lobbying with MLS for the option to be a in the first division, but rather have the opportunity to play their way in themselves. Hell, Cincy did take somes MLS clubs down on their way to the cup semifinals after all.
The Dayton Dynamo are a smaller operation, playing in the semi-pro NPSL. After a successful playoffs run the club is looking to take the next step and go fully professional. However, as they look for not only to hire professional staff, but a full time league to play in as well.
Vini, vidi, vici. We won the league but San Francisco Deltas will not continue next season. It is sad because we had created a great human group and a real TEAM. Thanks to all my teammates for an unforgettable year!— Cristian Portilla (@Portilla18) November 26, 2017
Looking for a new destination! pic.twitter.com/2XirI41vG0
Obviously everyone knows the story of the San Francisco Deltas as well. I won’t go into it too much here since the wound is so fresh. Simply team that wins their league should be rewarded rather than having to fold.
The San Francisco Deltas and the Dayton Dynamos should be allowed to thrive in our system just as much as the FC Cincinnati’s. Every team, with ambition should be given the resources and the platform to thrive and have a chance to make it to the top of the sport, not just the ones cherry picked by the MLS.
For those who don’t support an MLS club, it can be difficult to follow your team if you’re not going to games. Heaven only knows how many times I’ve had to scour the channel guide to find Cosmos games in year’s past or dive deep into the internet in order to find a less than legal stream to watch my favorite club. The NASL isn’t perfect, but it has helped a lot in this aspect by partnering with BEIN Sports.I imagine this is even harder for those who support lower league teams with less of a history or just starting out. The current system makes it difficult for those smaller teams to attract a television audience and I think a reconsidering of what our soccer pyramid values can help change that.
Pro/Rel is obviously a loaded topic and I clearly don’t have all the answers, especially on the financial side, but I hope the changes made in the future can be to the benefit of all teams. No matter whether you support an MLS, NASL, USL, NISA or NPSL you shouldn’t have to worry about your team going out of existence over politics.
As I write this, I’m procrastinating studying over my business ethics final, so I’ll leave you with something I’ve learned in that class. The Soccer pyramid in the MLS should follow an act utilitarian philosophy, meaning it should be able to provide long term benefits to as many people involved as possible. As I pray that I get to see my team play again next season, I hope those in charge keep that in mind.