SAN DIEGO – North American Soccer League might be changing its structure soon. The chief commissioner of NASL, Bill Peterson, said it is time to change the American game’s system, and his plans include the introduction of promotion and relegation.
Peterson wants soccer in the U.S. to follow a global structure, because as of now, it is following the blueprint of the professional sport in the U.S., with independent leagues and no movement between divisions.
The United States is the only major country in the world that does not have a pyramid system for soccer, and it is something that many people are calling for, including U.S. Men’s National Team head coach Jurgen Klinsmann.
[quote_box_center]“I’m a deep believer in promotion-relegation systems,” said Klinsmann, “It’s not up to me now saying that MLS is higher level than NASL because I’m not every weekend around either of those stadiums”, “I just wish that we would have a system in place where all the young players and all the players in general know that there’s the next higher level and there’s a lower level (and think), ‘If I play a bad season, then that lower level is waiting for me. If I play a very, very good season then there’s the chance to go up and play at whatever you describe then as the highest level.'” [/quote_box_center]
The MLS has always opposed promotion and relegation, as they said it makes “absolutely no sense”.
[quote_box_center]“The other [American sports] leagues… have been doing pretty well without promotion and relegation,” said Don Garber, MLS commissioner.[/quote_box_center]
Soccer is a global sport, not an American pastime, and this is one of the reasons why Bill Peterson believes there should be a tiered structure in North America.
According to U.S. Soccer Federation, MLS is considered division one, NASL division two, and USL division three. Below that, there is NPSL, which would be division four. All of these leagues function independently of each other.
[quote_box_center]”I don’t think we become the soccer powerhouse that we can until every community is engaged in the pro game through a tiered system that has promotion and relegation,” Peterson told The Telegraph, “When that happens, we become the largest soccer economy in the world bar none. At that point a lot of interesting things can happen. Without engaging every community in this country then all you have is a regional phenomenon, similar maybe to ice hockey in the United States, where if a city has a team there’s interest but if you don’t have a team there’s not much interest.”[/quote_box_center]
[quote_box_center]”We believe that the global model is the right model – I learned this personally from living in England [working for NFL Europe] and having people pound me over the advantages of having a tiered system with promotion and relegation versus a closed system and they were right.”[/quote_box_center]
[quote_box_center]”Not everyone has to participate, it’s a free country, but we’re going to continue to strive and move forward and start to take action at some point to build this out.”[/quote_box_center]
However, all of these discussions will not be put into action until NASL achieves the plan of having 20 teams. Currently, there are only 11 teams in this league, with 2 more joining in 2016, Miami FC (owned by former AC Milan player Paolo Maldini) and Puerto Rico FC (owned by Carmelo Anthony).
The next focus for NASL will be to start building teams from the West Coast since it is a US Soccer requirement for NASL to have teams on the West Coast for division one status.
[quote_box_center]”We expect to make some announcements this year regarding new teams in the league based on the West Coast,” Peterson added. “So we start to get to a number of 15, 16 or 17 and from there we have to be careful what we do with the last three, which is a great place to be for us.”[/quote_box_center]
NASL has been around for only 5 seasons up to now, but they have come a long way already, and according to Peterson there is still a lot to achieve in the future.
[quote_box_center]”We’re very satisfied with where we are. Obviously it’s not the end of where we want to be or where we’re planning on going. But to think about what we’ve accomplished in less than five years with 13 teams and the type of owners we’re attracting and the calibre of players that are coming to the league”… “Everything we measure from attendance to revenue growth is in incredible numbers. But our aim is to have a 20-team league and to be able to compete with anyone in the world in a short order of time – not necessarily beating them but to stand toe-to-toe”… “So we still have work to do and that’s what we try to stay focused on.”[/quote_box_center]