North American Soccer League(s)

I have had some excellent talks with soccer coaches, people, and non-soccer coaches and people over the last few weeks.

One of the biggest things that always comes up is: “What is it going to take to make the US competitive internationally?”

We could go on all day long on how that can be “fixed.” In the end, it’s not an easy one to fix. It’s also not one that will happen overnight.

Meanwhile, something that is constantly talked about and pushed is a promotion/relegation system for MLS. If you are not familiar with promotion/relegation, basically, if you win your league or are in the top 2-4, you move to the up a league; if you are in the bottom 2-4, you move down a league. The biggest problem the professional soccer scene in America faces with this system is…we do not have a united professional system to make this work! So, initially, the United States Soccer Federation would have to step in to consolidate MLS, NASL, and USL Pro, or any combination of them.

This is my theory, and my theory only.

I believe the United States is too big — geographically — to operate with one professional league. We need to operate two. We need to split the States in half, sort of, and operate an East and a West League. We need to make sure that fans and teams can financially operate. Let’s make things easier for all involved. Deal? Okay. Make sense? I think so.

I know what you are thinking, we already have an East and a West Division in MLS. True story. But it’s not truly “East” and “West” divisions. Just take a gander at Houston and FC Dallas…no reason they should be separated into separate divisions.

So, let’s make us our Leagues…

Western North American Soccer League

  1. Real Salt Lake
  2. Portland Timbers
  3. LA Galaxy
  4. Colorado Rapids
  5. Seattle Sounders
  6. San Jose Earthquakes
  7. Sporting KC
  8. Vancouver Whitecaps
  9. Chivas USA (or at least until they relocate, HA!)
  10. FC Dallas
  11. Houston Dynamo

Eastern North American Soccer League

  1. New York Red Bulls
  2. Montreal Impact
  3. Philadelphia Union
  4. Columbus crew
  5. New England Revolution
  6. Chicago Fire
  7. Toronto FC
  8. DC United
  9. MLS 20

There we go, a start, but…we aren’t done yet.

So, adding onto it, the NASL and USL Pro:

Western North American Soccer League:

  1. FC Edmonton
  2. LA Blues
  3. Phoenix FC
  4. San Antonio Scorpions
  5. Minnesota United FC
  6. Sacramento

Eastern North American Soccer League:

  1. Dayton Dutch Lions
  2. Pittsburgh Riverhounds
  3. Atlanta Silverbacks
  4. Rochester Rhinos
  5. New York Cosmos
  6. Harrisburg City Islanders
  7. Richmond Kickers
  8. Carolina Railhawks
  9. Charlotte Eagles
  10. Wilmington Hammerheads
  11. Charleston Battery
  12. Orlando City
  13. VSI Tampa Bay FC
  14. Tampa Bay Rowdies
  15. Ft. Lauderdale Strikers
  16. Puerto Rico Islanders
  17. Antigua Barracuda
  18. Indy Eleven
  19. Ottawa Fury FC
  20. Virginia Calvary FC

I know what you are thinking, why would you put 17 teams in the WNASL and 29 in the ENASL? Well, I’m not done yet. But, think about the population densities. One could technically operate two leagues with varying memberships in the same country. In England, the Premiership has 20 teams, but the Championship has 24, League One has 24, and League Two has 24. So, why not? If it calls for it, then so be it?

Heck, MLS operates with 19 teams already, so why not just make 17 on one side of the country? It’s still an uneven number, at least until another area can operate another club — here’s looking at you Vegas. Other professional sports leagues operate with 30 teams nationwide, I imagine that nearly 30 teams could operate simply in the eastern part of the states and Canada (also Puerto Rico and Antigua).

But, can we do something more for the ENASL?

Yes. We. Can. Time to add the Canadian Soccer League. Why? Well, because we already have 7 teams located in other countries, with 4 of them being in Canada. Might as well incorporate the CSL.

So, the ENASL gets:

  1. Brampton City United
  2. Kingston FC
  3. London City
  4. Niagara United
  5. North York Astros
  6. Burlington SC
  7. SC Waterloo Region
  8. Serbian White Eagles
  9. St. Catharines Wolves
  10. Toronto Croatia
  11. Windsor Stars
  12. York Region Shooters

I did not incorporate the Second Division of the CSL. Many of the Second Division teams are reserve teams for the First Division teams. For those teams that are not reserve teams, then they could be incorporated into the promotion/relegation talks:

  • Brantford Galaxy
  • Mississauga Eagles
  • SC Toronto

So, that brings our ENASL up to 41 teams (or 44, if you include the last three clubs). VERY easy to come up with a promotion/relegation system within that setting. Yeah, potentially unfortunate for the WNASL not to have the same setup as the ENASL, but life isn’t fair huh? Put the leagues in the regions’ hands. Make Regina and Winnipeg responsible for developing and promoting the sport and really drumming up the business to make the WNASL successful.

But, if we divide it up into easier travel for all involved, then maybe other places could be more feasible for clubs to start? Maybe we could see St. Louis get their club? Maybe we could see Iowa, South Dakota, Idaho, Tennessee, Kentucky, Alabama, Mississippi, New Orleans, Maine, Montana, Hawaii, or New Mexico get advantageous in professional soccer? Or, maybe we could then see the promotion/relegation system really start coming to fruition with the NPSL and PDL getting involved because they are located all across the country with there being over 120 of those clubs in existence.

I think I’m on to something here…

While this may not be an overnight fix either, there needs to be something more done to promote the growth and unification of soccer in America and even Canada — yes, I said it. The English Premier League has clubs in Wales, and some are even calling for the incorporation of Ireland, Northern Ireland, and Scotland into the EPL too. So, why can’t MLS and CSL combine? Why doesn’t it make sense for the betterment of soccer in both countries?

I’m tired of seeing Columbus Crew Stadium get 11,000 fans at games. There has to be something that gets more meaning to the games. I’m tired of seeing a couple of hundred fans at Dayton Dutch Lions games. It is pitiful. There’s got to be something more that can bring people to the games. There has to be something more that can be an attraction. It’s not bad soccer — yes, it’s not Messi and Barcelona…

But, c’mon…it’s what we have. If you are an American (or Canadian), you MUST support your local soccer. If you are an aspiring professional soccer player, you MUST seek the local professional soccer to see what it takes to make it to that level. You have to cut your teeth there first. You won’t be seen by a Barcelona scout before you are seen by the local club. Manchester United won’t find you before the local CSL, USL Pro, PDL, NPSL, or NASL club.

I got off on a tangent there…

Soccer is heading in a direction here in the States. Who knows where it’ll head in the next 2 years? 5 years? 10 years? I hope there will be some positive things coming from the youth players. Coaches. Parents. Clubs. Schools. Colleges. Teams.

If you are in the soccer scene, I hope you are doing something to make a positive impact. Do something that changes the game for the good. There’s a lot of places out there that need “the beautiful game.”

“The great fallacy is that the game is first and foremost about winning. It’s nothing of the kind. The game is about glory. It’s about doing things in style, with a flourish, about going out and beating the other lot, not waiting for them to die of boredom.” — Danny Blanchflower


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