I think we can agree that fulfillment of potential is something we all yearn for.
But what if the path to fulfillment is taken away from you? What then?
Well, compared to the rest of the world, American soccer is set up precisely to do this. Limit, or even take away, one’s potential.
Whether you are a player, a coach, a club, a community, or any active or would be active participant in the ecosystem, that is something you should be aware of.
This article is but one of what will be a never-ending series illustrating this. Never-ending, that is, until those responsible stop denying and obstructing merit-based opportunity for every constituent in the landscape.
Leicester City FC
We’ll start with Leicester because they are the current toast of global football in so far as highlighting opportunity, freedom, and fulfillment of potential.
Something intrinsic to the very reason it’s called ‘the beautiful game’.
Ok, so who is Leicester City?
A club, with a storied history, but in modern times no one really knew or talked about. Why? Because they weren’t competing in the the English top division – the Premier League.
For the past decade, they’ve been battling in obscurity in the 2nd division. Until they finally got their act together and won the division, thereby earning their promotion back to the major league.
Not only that, but 17 games into this season, they top the table.
In American soccer, Leicester City would still be in the 2nd division, indefinitely caste there, and the spike you see in the image below wouldn’t exist.
Being indefinitely caste in a lower division has insidious consequences.
- The club, an independent business with stakeholders, would remain in obscurity and not benefit from increased revenue modes that come with promotion.
- Its coach would remain in obscurity, his career would stall and not march ahead in tune with his merits and potential.
- Its players would remain in obscurity, their careers would stall and not march ahead in tune with their merits and potential.
And we can go on and on. The cascade effects are endless – the whole ecosystem becomes perverted, toxic, and corrupt.
But today, let’s focus on the 3rd point above – the players.
If earning promotion were prohibited in English football, no one would know who Jamie Vardy is, or what he can accomplish.
At 27, 27!, he had never played in the EPL.
His whole career had been in the lower divisions.
With his club having earned promotion, he’s getting his shot at proving what he can do at the top level.
And guess what?
Midway through this season, he’s the Premier League’s leading scorer.
Clearly he has the level to play in the top flight.
The wild thing to contemplate is this:
He’d still be a nobody, and his personal sporting, social, and economic potential would be stalled, if promotion & relegation did not exist.
How many top caliber American players are toiling in obscurity in our lower divisions?
Now, before you start thinking Vardy is a crazy outlier, he’s not.
Every single year, in pretty much every single country around the globe, clubs are earning promotion, and their players are being exposed to the top level – with all the benefits that come from that opportunity.
Let’s continue with the Leicester roster.
Check this out:
This is Riyad Mahrez.
And yes, guess what, without promotion and relegation he’d continue being a nobody.
He too was in obscurity toiling in the French 2nd division, then moved to Leicester, helped the club get promoted, and now he’s in the big time.
He’s the 2nd leading scorer in the Premier League, behind teammate Vardy.
Clearly another player who has top flight level.
How many top flight Americans are invisible and can’t earn promotion through the success of their lower division clubs?
Again I repeat, these two cases are not outliers, the merit-based opportunity to fulfill one’s potential is commonplace every single year in every country across the globe with promotion and relegation.
You don’t have to be leading goal scorers to make the point.
One can look at the trajectory of the Leicester roster, and other countless ones across the globe, and come to appreciate what a merit-based club system does for the opportunity for fulfillment of player potential, at scale.
The current American system robs players of that.
We’ll leave the club, coach, fan, businessman, and community robbery – among more constituents – for another day.