American Soccer can Be the Global Superpower if …

US Soccer number of Registered Players
Well, the discussion has been raging for 100 years.
And yes, American soccer has a century’s worth of rich history.

But unfortunately most of the mainstream discussions have been superficial.

Deep dives are few and rarely, if ever, come from mainstream media outlets. That’s simply not their mission.

But it is ours.

We want to drill. Drill to the center of the American soccer universe, and inspire others to drill.

As practitioners and serious students of the sporting and non-sporting sides of the game, we wholeheartedly believe American soccer has everything it needs to be the best in the world.

The problem is we, as one of the biggest soccer-loving nations on earth, are not leveraging everything and everyone we’ve got in the soccer community.

That has got to change.

Here’s a quick 2 minute video our long time friend, and film badass, put together for us.

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Comments

  1. Joel says

    “The culture’s just soft here.”
    .
    I love it. This gives me such hope. Keep banging away: finishing nail, ring nail, spiral shank, countersink screw. masonry. hex bolt. railroad stake. ball peen hammer, mallet head, crowbar and sledgehammer. By all means necessary. The federation will topple in time and 3four3 will be at the epicenter.
    .
    My hopes are you continue to educate coaches all around the country. My hopes are you grow the camps to all corners and let the youngsters begin to internalize the standard so they can pass it along as they age. Start pounding home to our footballers that this is not some activity you do between ballet, flugelhorn, Playstation and homework. It is a way of life.
    .
    The Union is beginning an initiative to build outside courts for pick up games in certain neighborhoods…. little petrie dishes everywhere need to spring up in a similar manner. Death to travel soccer and one piece of the very manacles holding back our growth.
    .
    On and on and on I could rail but will stop to take a breath and just end with this. I am not a sycophant. I am grateful and gratitude is the road to happiness – never paved the other way around.
    .
    Thank you. Gary and Brian and your growing message.
    .
    By the way… the blue triple shark shirt is killer.

  2. Jordi says

    At lower levels, there is a multitude of reference points to learn from. At higher levels, there are fewer references to learn from. Your choice at lower levels limits potential at higher levels.

    Soccer is an added-value system. Raw product identified and developed at younger ages. Value is added. More value added through U18. Even more value added from 18 – 22.

    Value added systems work best when there if financial incentive at each stage of the process. Meaning alignment and cooperation and understanding of expectations at each stage and especially at the last stop on value stream. Such value systems are fully aligned in professional academy setup with direct path to a first team with pro/rel. No such alignment in Pay to Play (P2P), High School (HS), college, MLS. Different business models with no incentive for improved product at each stage and the end product. The demands of the end product (MLS) has most influence on expectations and how they flow upstream in value chain.

    On the job training is best when in an environment where work is performed. The value stream is aligned to demands of the end product. In soccer, that’s a professional academy / club. Not P2P, HS, college.

    Lacking pursuit of a common goal across all levels (i.e., player development, producing talent for first team, making money, winning championships) – there is no accountability, no incentive to improve. When the system is aligned, everyone has incentive to improve and is accountable to next step in value stream.

    MLS is in business to make money as a first division league. Attendance is increasing, the game is growing, league expanding. Investors making money. There is no incentive for MLS to pursue pro/rel or improve quality of the American player. Investors bought into a closed system. Why would they want to run risk of relegation and lost revenue? It’s a financial issue, not a sporting and a legal issue. The owners are millionaires. If they could make more money in pro/rel – they’d do it!!!

    USSF is in business to improve and govern USA soccer. It’s USSF’s job to align P2P, college, USSDA, MLS, NASL, USL, PDL because to a common cause. Gulati is gatekeeper #1. If the gatekeeper doesn’t open the door, find a different key or a different gatekeeper.

    In my 30+ years in hyper-competitive corporate world (new product lines, campaigns, major change, improvements) — support from leadership to pursue a vision is the #1 success factor. Is Sunil Gulati that man? Has he shown that capacity to lead?

    I’ll leave you with this: the longer you wait to make change, the harder and more painful it will be to make change. Make no doubt about it – pro/rel is a MAJOR cultural shift in the American sports fan. MLS and soccer in general is growing in USA. Like the NFL, NBA, MLB – there will come a time that the sport will be a pastime and initiating major change such as pro/rel almost an impossibility. We’re not there yet. Maybe 5-10, 15 years max. By then, MLS fans and the American soccer system will have become generationally engrained, cultural, a part of the American fabric.

    • says

      Good contribution Jordi.

      There’s a fundamental difference between competing in the corporate world and competing in American soccer.

      You are allowed to compete in the former, and not in that latter.

      Sure, one can nitpick this statement. But the essence of this statement is true.

      Pro/rel (the mechanism by which anyone/anywhere is afforded the opportunity to compete), as you may know, is not up to MLS.
      Pro/rel is up to USSF.

      Essentially, USSF is to soccer what the government is to the country.
      The governing body which sets the rules of engagement.

      A variety of factors influence policy.

      And I think you’re right. The longer we wait, the more entrenched and hence more powerful this monopoly gets.

      But of course we must also mention there’s another entity that can induce change – FIFA.
      FIFA can come down and push for the enforcement of it’s sporting integrity statute (principle of promotion and relegation).

    • Joel says

      Ultimately, we need a solvent second first tier league…let that league grow and grow over time and ultimately produce the necessary grassroots growth… based on love of club not love of MLS.
      .
      I wonder…is MLS just going to keep growing to what, 35 – 40 teams – Silly to me. Maybe an MLS I and MLS II with pro/rel between those two? Maybe that would work. Doubtful.
      .
      We need a second league… my prayers reside with NASL. Slow steady sustainable growth for NASL with other clubs sprouting up along the way that can promote up to the NASL level.
      .
      Enough of these clubs and over time… who knows.

  3. Geeps says

    After listening to this video and Kephern Fuller interview with John Pranjic — it’s clear that there needs to be a new type of club. One that is professionally focused, like JOGA SC. It’s something that bothered me as my son was going through the system. We wanted something like that, but was all country clubs. He and I would often get physically sick, mentally sad at the absence of choices.

    My hope is that what you guys are doing and JOGA SC will influence copy cats and spawn a new wave of soccer in USA.

  4. Kana says

    Looks like MLS is going to expand to markets like Vegas, Sacramento, El Paso, San Antonio. @Jordi comments are spot on.

    FIFA should force pro/rel on MLS via USSF mandate. Attache that mandate to hosting World Cup.

    As I’m siting here watching Manchester United v. West Brom, it’s amazing how many 18 year olds players are on those squad. They were loaned to lower division sides at 16 and 17. Same story true as you watch any European, SA, English game. Or they fight for minutes on first team like Munir and Bartra at Barca.

    The announcers often mention player history, but I think it’s lost on people. Lost on MLS fans who don’t connect the cause and affect dots. Lost to the fact that none of that could be possible without pro/rel in an open system.

    Boys learning from men in competitive environment. Hardship, guts, desire, sacrifice. End product is best of best. We don’t have that. Probably #1 reason US players are surpassed by international counterparts by 16 – 18. It’s why USMNT is mediocre. It’s why MLS is mediocre. It’s why college soccer will never be a viable path to greatness.

    • Jordi says

      I’m often amazed at how many 16, 17, 18 year olds are in top clubs / leagues getting chance. By 22, they have 6 or more years as a pro while American boys finishing up four years of part time college soccer. Even before that, they were in a professional academy from as early as 10, definitely by 14. Astonishing! Staggering! We’re not even on the same planet.

  5. Jordi says

    Before FIFA mandates pro/rel to USA (we should be so lucky, but that’s typical Americans thinking they are center of world and FIFA owes them). There are other countries with large populations where soccer needs help from a World Cup (e.g., USA circa 1994). India, Indonesia, Philippines, China. I also think FIFA would be smart to return to large populations that are doing well but a WC could really put them to next level. E.g., Korea and Japan.

    Turkey is a football mad nation. Why not them?

    I also think USA not getting WC 2018 or 2022 was reason they went after FIFA corruption. If USA got their WC, the Justice Dept would not have acted. Selective morality. USA should get a WC replay, but there are other countries more deserving in my opinion. But USA will bully FIFA and going after corruption will result in a payoff for USA by 2026 or 2030. Just wait and see . . .

  6. Jordi says

    I need to cry. Looked at slightly different, kids elsewhere have 8 – 12 years in a professional environment by the time their 22, while American lads are just tasking it for firs time.

    Even if USSF hit the “pro/rel now” button effective immediately, it would take what . . . 10 years or more for enough clubs to sprout up for a real pyramid. Even longer for the kinks and growing pains to settle. Gulati and Garber have said repeatedly that pro/rel is not in the cards for foreseeable future. We’re fucked and Gulati keeps humping.

    Was reading recently about Klinsmann needing to bring in youth to prep for 2018. Why even bother? Will be same ole average, just new faces. Our system isn’t going to magically produce a squad of world beaters. “Hmmh, let me see, do I select this average player or that one”? Hopelessness is such a hollow feeling. But ignorance is bliss.

    We are so fucking far behind and every wasted day is another light year behind. Commence crying, banging head in wall.

    • Robert Kleemaier says

      The misery extends north of the border, Jordi. Pro/rel supporters up here, including me, are crying in their beer too, I’m afraid. What’s worse, if you guys are light years behind the curve, then there’s absolutely no hope whatsoever for Canadian soccer. :(

      • Geeps says

        We all feel your pain@ Robert. FIFA should award you guys a WC to help grow the game.

        To add misery to what Jordi says, those 10-14 year olds are scouted and offered a tryout based on playing characteristics and his psychological makeup that fits the clubs identity. Compare that to pay to play where coaches fill rosters to maximize their salary and provide club fees. Mixing small skillful types with the manchild, and various hodgepodge of player types that don’t compliment one another, that don’t provide meaningful development to play off each other’s traits.

        In pro academy, the means supports the ends. Purposeful development. Each player fits the puzzle. Players are created. A natural progression. In pay to play and college, it’s ad hoc, un-choreographed, means and ends disconnected.

        • Robert Kleemaier says

          I’ll trust your judgment on that, Geeps, cuz I’m too far removed from the process to say ‘yea’ or ‘nay’ definitively. That being said, I’m currently reading ‘Das Reboot’ by Raphael Honigstein. Aside from being a terrific read, it contains eye-popping revelations about the depth to which Germany revamped its developmental pyramid – I’m talking root & branch change – to become a modern powerhouse. Consequently, I’ve since revised my position about Canada’s chances: we’re not light years behind the curve. No, we’re *galaxies* behind. And here’s the sad thing: if we treated hockey the same way we treat soccer in this country, I guarantee you that people would be beating down politician’s doors demanding a committee formed, comprised of knowledgeable, high-profile individuals, to study & effect change before the next WC! Re hosting a WC, BTW, we would do well at that, but it won’t do the trick for us – this with all due respect towards the men & women currently pulling on our country’s shirt.

  7. Ashey says

    Those against never say pro/rel is no good. They only say things like “it’s a future consideration”, “MLS is still growing”, “MLS is fine without it”.

    BOTTOM LINE: There’s no pressing, immediate, compelling reason to implement pro/rel. No amount of social media is going to change that. Either (1) public opinion forces change, which I don’t see happening because we are not a football bad nation, or (2) owners forego relative safety of safe investment slow growth MLS model to pursue greater risk/reward by going pro/rel, which won’t happen, or (3) the media launches a campaign to pummel the franchise model and shame MLS/USSF to change, which again isn’t happening in this parallel universe anytime soon, or (4) social media beats down MLS/USSF and they capitulate from the intense pressure, which again I don’t’ see happening. MLS and USSF are far too smug and secure, owners too fat and happy to change.

    The most probable scenario is FIFA mandating pro/rel. Instead of haranguing MLS and USSF in social media, the social media campaign should target FIFA. They get pro/rel. Link a future USA World Cup to pro/rel. USSF/MLS are American gatekeepers but FIFA holds the master key and ultimate authority. FIFA knows USA has no pro/rel, but if we aren’t in their face, in their ear, it will be a back burner “let’s do it in the future” goal. Which sounds like MLS. Does FIFA even know there is a growing movement for pro/rel??? They should!!!! But who’s sending the message???? Not Sunil Gulati!!! Not the American sports media!!!

    VERY IMPORTANT: Causes are almost always won or lost NOT on merit, principle, or right/wrong. They are won or lost based on strategy, organization, tactics. The pro/rel movement lacks these. Pro/rel needs someone to champion it, organize and lead it. Lacking that, we’re blowing hot air. Someone who knows who to target, who benefits, who stands to lose, who your enemy, who your friend is, messaging, shape the discussion. Gandhi and M L King understood that. Politicians understand that. Gulati and Garber are politicians. MLS owners are no dummies, they’re rich, educated, successful. Will take more organized than social media complaining to put one over on them.

    • says

      Hi Ashey.
      Yes, good contribution.

      It’s a process.

      A movement doesn’t go from zero to effectively organized in the blink of an eye. It’s a long process.
      What we are witnessing now is a necessary part of that.

      The emergence of a champion and organized leaders doesn’t come quick.

      The pieces of the puzzle develop first. Then a champion/leaders can coalesce the pieces into a unified power.

      • Robert Kleemaier says

        Bang on, Gary, & very glad you’ve mentioned this. Many comments I’ve read on various sites/blogs/tweets recently are accurate but express the hope for change tomorrow. I agree with the authors, but (sadly) think their hope is impractical/misplaced. My personal & formal studies of politics & history have shown that movements headed by leaders of such movements are *long-term* projects, often lasting generations. Let’s just hope the groundswell of support on both sides of the border continues to grow to the point where the gatekeepers in both the US & Canada cannot help but notice, see the long-term benefits of pro/rel, among other things, & effect change for the better within the next 5 to 15 years.

    • Robert Kleemaier says

      Good summary, Ashey. What will be interesting is the outcome of the upcoming FIFA elections. IF – and it’s a big ‘if’ – a reformer get in with the ability to give more than just lip service to changing the global governance structure, then there might be a chance that things will change in the foreseeable future. Otherwise, the cynic in me is inclined to agree with you.

  8. Eli says

    Movements are indeed long-term and need a champion or significant event to change swing the pendulum. Until then, the status quo does all it can to stamp out, silence, discredit counter movements. That’s exactly what Garber and Gulati are doing.

    We can try to change things, but need a bigger stick and/or talk much more loudly. We can also find workarounds. If we don’t like the party invitations, why join the party? JOGA SC basically said “fuck it’ and has eyes on Europe. They just happen to play in USA, but promise land is elsewhere.

    As JOGA SC is successful, copy cats appear. Make their own party. Much, much kudos to JOGA SC!!!!! The counter culture becomes the mainstream. It’s happened all the time in history, even recently with social issues once thought to be unimaginable and more earth shaking than pro/rel.

    I find it amazing USA is the “land of opportunity” yet MLS is closed. It’s a private league. Invitation only if you have population of “X”, at least “Y” amount to invest, accept pro/rel model, and have money to build a stadium. It’s like organized crime where mafia bosses let other gangsters in on the action if they buy in and kiss the ring of the boss of bosses.

  9. Kana says

    “It’s sad, so sad. It’s a sad, sad situation and it’s getting more and more absurd. It’s sad, so sad. Why can’t we talk it over”

    If Sunil and The Don were wiling to listen, do what’s best for the game, then maybe things could move forward positively. Do what’s best for American soccer in the future. Look forward, not to wrong models (e.g., NFL, NBA, MLB). Those leagues have no competition and don’t compete with the world. Meanwhile we carry on in our arcane, American isolationist franchise system.

    Reminds me of my 75-year old dad who has never quite seen the benefits of a smart phone or iTunes. He’s caught in a time warp. He realizes that but cannot change his ways. Sunil and The Don are in their own parallel universe that never gets past American sports being played and competed beyond our borders. They know better but cannot change.

    “It’s a sad sad, situation and it’s betting more and more absurd”.

  10. Soccer Mom/Coach says

    I don’t get how anyone could be against pro/rel. I’m old enough to remember when there was a backlash of Japanese electronics and cars. American business were going to go bankrupt. It was “un-American” to buy Japanese, Chinese, etc.

    But that didn’t happen. Competition forced us to do better. We the consumer benefited. Those business had many more billions invested and years of history than MLS. But they had to learn new ways to survive. We look back now and laugh at how silly and scare-mongering things were. Silly, really silly.

    I coach my niece’s U11 team. My nephew is also a player. He really likes soccer and wants to get as far as he can. But at U12, he already realizes there are caps on how well he can grow. He and is teammates (USSDA club) openly talk about “I wish I lived in Europe or South America”. They would die to have the chance to be seen by a professional academy and doors could open. But here in USA, no such opportunity is allowed. At U12, their dream is more a fantasy and reality crushes their hopes. Pro/Rel will open the doors to any club good enough. Thereby giving many thousands a chance and promoting more and more professional academies.

  11. A Soccer Mom/Coach says

    Sorry, forgot to mention: pro/rel is good for American soccer. USSF must force it on MLS. Stop making excuses. USSF must do what’s best for the American game, not rich owners protecting themselves from free and open competition. Makes me very upset.

  12. Geeps says

    Gary,
    I know of no other website that promotes P/R and improving soccer education. Your site is a natural place to lay the groundwork for P/R. Either that or a 3Four3 Facebook account.

    Campaigns / causes / movements need a consistent message. I follow P/R on Twitter. What I see missing is a charter on P/R. Like a Bill or Rights or Federalist Papers on P/R. Nothing so complex, but a vision or a mission statement on P/R. A reference point for the cause.

    On Twitter everyone says pro/rel. But what does that mean? It’s not MLS in current franchise model with P/R. That would be stupid. P/R must have independent clubs. Buy / sell who they want. Be real clubs. But that also means aligning to international schedule.

    With P/R, independent clubs, and international schedule — club owners now have the freedom to invest in players to keep them in D1. They can build an academy to develop players for first team or sell their contracts on open market. They actually need to make sound ownership decisions that have real consequences and play in a league where all games are important. figure!

    In my mind I can envision an authoritative website where the P/R cause is codified. Someplace supporters can form critical mass and understand how to push the story/cause. Get talking points to help educate others. A place journalists and casual fans can understand the reasons why it’s such an important issue.

    I would love to see your website be at the forefront of this. P/R is the pink elephant in the room and I think the single most important issue facing American soccer. If I look back in say 20-years, I don’t want to see MLS as is. Low ratings of MLS Cup will continue. USMNT will continue to be mediocre. We’ll continue to have no prestigous academies. No world-class players. So what’s the point of continuing on being average?

    The biggest problem I see to this is lack of education of the masses. Garber and Gulati thrive when constituency is uninformed. An educated constituency is their mortal enemy.

  13. Geeps says

    I was having a good day until I read a Twitter post stating the typical “no other American sports does pro/rel, so why should MLS” argument. I want to follow my own advice and use this site to as a way to explain the pro/rel issue.

    1. What NFL, NBA, and/or MLB do or don’t do in comparison to MLS is totally and utterly irrelevant. Comparing apples to a hamburger. Dissimilar sports serving different constituencies, histories, competitions, and governing entities.

    2. As the most popular sport in the world far and away (200+ countries), pro/rel is the standard model for about 100-years now. It is the proven system. In fact, pro/rel is FUNDAMENTAL to soccer. For anyone with a basic understanding of how it incentives and promotes competition, it is beyond debate. MLS franchise model is the rare, very rare exception. If the franchise model worked, American soccer would be better that it is. And leagues all over the world where the sport is billions of dollars, they would adopt it if better than pro/rel.

    3. Soccer has different demographic than NFL, NBA, MLB. I’m a hardcore soccer fan and watch nothing else. All sports compete for the casual fan, but that’s is not their core. Soccer has the added benefit from American Big 3 in we can and do watch other leagues.

    4. There are other sports besides the Big 3 and they do their own thing, so don’t get trapped into the NFL, NBA, MLS trap.

    5. There are already forms of pro/rel in Tennis, Golf, Bowling, NASCAR, Formula 1 (and others I haven’t listed). The circuit, league, rankings determine where their athletes compete based on performance. I for one like the variety. Let’s not all be NFL franchise. Vanilla is so bland.

    6. NFL, NBA, MLS do not have a national federation (e.g., USSF) that is responsible for, among other things, sanctioning leagues and ensuring adherence to FIFA international governance.

    7. None of the American Big 3 sports compete internationally. There is no need for the hyper competition of pro/rel to force them to compete at so many levels. The Big 3 sports are insular, existing in a domestic vacuum barren of competition.

    8. MLS competes with TV viewership from other foreign soccer leagues such as La Liga, Seria A, BPL, Ligue 1, Liga MX. Those countries have pro/rel and is a major reason they have such high quality leagues. Soccer fans tune into those games on TV and ratings doing well. ESPN, NBC, Fox, BeIn, Univision all cover international soccer and ratings are good and improving. But ratings abysmal for MLS. Why? Quality on pitch, which is traceable to pro/rel and the incentives and competition that produces best of the best players and clubs. The Big 3 have no such competition for TV ratings.

    9. The Big 3 don’t have lower league clubs trying to dethrone them. They don’t have hordes of international players and clubs that are better than them. They are limited to 20-30 domestic clubs that never change. The mountain is a small hill. On the other hand, all soccer clubs (MLS or otherwise) are compared to dozens and dozens of international clubs superior to them. Top players, coaches, investors, and sports marketing are wooed by those top clubs. The mountain is Everest.

    10. As a global sport with international competitions and the free movement of players in open market, soccer clubs MUST produce the best talent possible to compete in World Cup. Leagues MUST provide a competition that allows only the best of the best clubs and players to compete. Pro/rel provides incentives for player development and clubs to invest in the yearly #1 goal of remaining in the first division. Decentralized clubs can make their own decisions and operate independently to achieve that goal. This hyper competition for D1 pushes and incentives better players, clubs, coaches, owners. None of this is relevant to the Big 3.

    11. Soccer is the most popular sport in the world. There are global standards and benchmarks over 100-years old. It is good business and proper sporting decision to follow those models. Anything less yields an inferior product and foolish to ignore. MLS is not following those global standards / benchmarks in the form of pro/rel, international schedule, free and open pyramid with independent clubs. Big 3 have none of these factors to contend with. They are American domestic sports and create and follow their own standards / benchmarks as they have no other competition.

    12. It is irrelevant if the Big 3 are more popular than soccer in USA. Soccer is more popular than the Big 3 combined from global point of view, but what does any of this have to do with pro/rel or anything for that matter? Just meaningless banter. The NFL comparison is just a debating technique used to confuse the discussion and get you thinking about irrelevant arguments.

    13. It is harder to make an MLS team than NFL. Yes! MLS can and does recruit from just about every country on the globe. Same across leagues around the world. They recruit form youth academies and various clubs in different leagues within those domestic pyramids. And with so many clubs and leagues with up to 5-10 lower divisions all with the opportunity to get to first division, the competition is fierce. Tens of thousands of players across the world competing for limited spots. Thousands of clubs in countless leagues in 200+ countries competing to remain in or get to D1. Only best of best make it. THIS IS WHY PRO/REL IS SO IMPORTANT! Competition and incentives and open markets yields best of the best and provides best product to sport consumer. America has no such pro/rel system. AND THAT IS WHY AMERICAN SOCCER IS MEDICORE AT THE NATIONAL AND MLS LEVEL. The USMNT has never been “Amazing”. MLS has never been equal with Europe. The value of American players is extremely low in open market. None of this is accidental. In fact, it was purposely designed by the likes of Sunil Gulati in the early 1990s as MLS was taking shape.

  14. Geeps says

    Reposting due to a few typos . . . .

    I was having a good day until I read a Twitter post stating the typical “no other American sports does pro/rel, so why should MLS” argument. I want to follow my own suggestion and use this site to as a long-term way to make points for others to weed out the garbage from the one size fits all American model.

    1. What NFL, NBA, and/or MLB do or don’t do in comparison to MLS is totally and utterly irrelevant. Comparing apples to a hamburger. Dissimilar sports serving different constituencies, histories, competitions, and governing entities.
    2. As the most popular sport in the world far and away (200+ countries), pro/rel is the standard model for about 100-years now. It is the proven system. In fact, pro/rel is FUNDAMENTAL to soccer. For anyone with a basic understanding of how it incentives and promotes competition, it is beyond debate. MLS franchise model is the rare, very rare exception. If the franchise model worked, American soccer would be better than it is. And leagues all over the world where the sport is billions of dollars, they would adopt it if better than pro/rel.
    3. Soccer has different demographic than NFL, NBA, MLB. I’m a hardcore soccer fan and watch nothing else. All sports compete for the casual fan, but that’s is not their core. Soccer has the added benefit from American Big 3 in we can and do watch other leagues.
    4. There are other sports besides the Big 3 and they do their own thing, so don’t get trapped into the NFL, NBA, MLB trap.
    5. There are already forms of pro/rel in Tennis, Golf, Bowling, NASCAR, Formula 1 (and others I haven’t listed). The circuit, league, rankings determine where their athletes compete based on performance. I for one like the variety. Let’s not all be NFL franchise. Vanilla is so bland.
    6. NFL, NBA, MLB do not have a national federation (e.g., USSF) that is responsible for, among other things, sanctioning leagues and ensuring adherence to FIFA international governance.
    7. None of the American Big 3 sports compete internationally. There is no need for the hyper competition of pro/rel to force them to compete at so many levels. The Big 3 sports are insular, existing in a domestic vacuum barren of competition.
    8. MLS competes with TV viewership from other foreign soccer leagues such as La Liga, Seria A, BPL, Ligue 1, Liga MX. Those countries have pro/rel and is a major reason they have such high quality leagues. Soccer fans tune into those games on TV and ratings doing well. ESPN, NBC, Fox, BeIn, Univision all cover international soccer and ratings are good and improving. But ratings abysmal for MLS. Why? Quality on pitch, which is traceable to pro/rel and the incentives and competition that produces best of the best players and clubs. The Big 3 have no such competition for TV ratings.
    9. The Big 3 don’t have lower league clubs trying to dethrone them. They don’t have hordes of international players and clubs that are better than them. They are limited to 20-30 domestic clubs that never change. The mountain is a small hill. On the other hand, all soccer clubs (MLS or otherwise) are compared to dozens and dozens of international clubs superior to them. Top players, coaches, investors, and sports marketing are wooed by those top clubs. The mountain is Everest.
    10. As a global sport with international competitions and the free movement of players in open market, soccer clubs MUST produce the best talent possible to compete in World Cup. Leagues MUST provide a competition that allows only the best of the best clubs and players to compete. Pro/rel provides incentives for player development and clubs to invest in the yearly #1 goal of remaining in the first division. Decentralized clubs can make their own decisions and operate independently to achieve that goal. This hyper competition for D1 pushes and incentives better players, clubs, coaches, owners. None of this is relevant to the Big 3.
    11. Soccer is the most popular sport in the world. There are global standards and benchmarks over 100-years old. It is good business and proper sporting decision to follow those models. Anything less yields an inferior product and foolish to ignore. MLS is not following those global standards / benchmarks in the form of pro/rel, international schedule, free and open pyramid with independent clubs. Big 3 have none of these factors to contend with. They are American domestic sports and create and follow their own standards / benchmarks as they have no other competition.
    12. It is irrelevant if the Big 3 are more popular than soccer in USA. Soccer is more popular than the Big 3 combined from global point of view, but what does any of this have to do with pro/rel or anything for that matter? Just meaningless banter. The NFL comparison is just a debating technique used to confuse the discussion and get you thinking about irrelevant arguments.
    13. It is harder to make an MLS team than NFL. Yes! MLS can and does recruit from just about every country on the globe. Same across leagues around the world. They recruit form youth academies and various clubs in different leagues within those domestic pyramids. And with so many clubs and leagues with up to 5-10 lower divisions all with the opportunity to get to first division, the competition is fierce. Tens of thousands of players across the world competing for limited spots. Thousands of clubs in countless leagues in 200+ countries competing to remain in or get to D1. Only best of best make it. THIS IS WHY PRO/REL IS SO IMPORTANT! Competition and incentives and open markets yields best of the best and provides best product to sport consumer. America has no such pro/rel system. AND THAT IS WHY AMERICAN SOCCER IS MEDICORE AT THE NATIONAL AND MLS LEVEL. The USMNT has never been “Amazing”. MLS has never been equal with Europe. The value of American players is extremely low in open market. None of this is accidental. In fact, it was purposely designed by the likes of Sunil Gulati in the early 1990s as MLS was taking shape.

  15. Geeps says

    “American soccer closed pyramid keeps the entire ecosystem out of synch with demands of the global transfer market.”

    Independent clubs all over the world identify and develop players for first team or to sell their contract in transfer market. The supply reacts to the demand.

    In last 20-years, catenaccio gave way to tiki-taka. Now we see masterful counter, pressure, retreat and compact style of Athletico Madrid, Chile, and Leicester. They are styles of play.

    Irrespective of style of play, they all have one thing in common: the players in those systems are best suited for that and hand-picked based on characteristics to support the style of play. For example, Manchester United under Louis Van Gaal wanted possession soccer. It’s no surprise a player like Angel di Maria failed because he’s better in open game where he can those around him can exploit space to enhance his speed.

    But what produced an Angel di Maria, a Messi, a Xavi, a Neymar, a Godin, a Vidal, and so on? Yes it was the academy. But the academy is there to satisfy first team and transfer market demands. As feeder academies to the top 5 European leagues, the standards are supremely high. It’s highly competitive.

    America hasn’t produced a Messi or any other world class player because they don’t identify them, nurture them, develop them to a standard demanded by the international transfer market and the clubs and agents and coaches and club ownership who want only elite.

    The market demands of MLS are woefully inferior to that of European top 5 leagues. There’s no comparison, incentive, opportunity for pay to play clubs or college to produce that level of quality. And it all stems from the pyramid being closed.

    Imagine if Chile, Argentina, or Brazil all of a sudden became closed pyramids and shut off from international schedule, transfer market, and solidarity payments. Within a few years, they would become average football countries with average players. Their market would be limited to domestic because demands of international are higher standards. That would in turn affect attendance, coaching, national team, academies, marketability, income, and so on.

    Why? It’s the system. Open systems optimize market demands; closed systems do not.

    The hundreds and thousands of independent club academies all over the world are in business to identify and develop players or sell their contract. That model is successful when they can supply demands of the market. That is, players who can fit into the best teams in the world.

    As a closed pyramid, American soccer isn’t aligned to international transfer window. Additionally, it doesn’t participate in solidarity payments. For those who are unaware, solidarity payments is a mechanism not only to reward academies for player development – it also keeps academies aligned to demands of the transfer market. Like any other business: produce what the market demands or become obsolete and someone else will take your place.

    None of these free market mechanisms work in the American system. It is cocooned. A symptom of a closed pyramid with no incentive or opportunity for independent clubs and investors to pursue demands of the global open market.

    Americans can go on about Klinsmann and USMNT poor performance in Copa America Centenario. USMNT could even win or go to semis, but that would only gloss over fundamental problems. The casual or newbie soccer fan won’t look deeper than the tip of the iceberg. Compromised media don’t dig deep and ask fundamental questions.

    The only people looking for real change are supporters of promotion and relegation.

    There is a severe football education problem in the USA.

    • Eddie says

      And as we say in all the Lean Manufacturing training we do at my company, “bad systems beat good people, all the time”. As you mentioned Geeps. the real problems are below the surface of the iceberg.

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