Thursday, January 31, 2008

Looking at the Responses to US Promotion/Relegation Discussion: Revisiting Blasphemy

Above- No, not Hastur the Unspeakable but He Who Should Not Be Named...

Thanks for the thought provoking responses to the MLS promotion relegation question. I agree that MLS promotion/relegation is presently out of the question. In most foreign leagues there are numerous 1st, 2nd, and sometimes 3rd division clubs located in the big cities, ensuring television revenue from the major media centers (i.e., London or Rome). This may be necessary for the success of a promotion/relegation system.

I was impressed when reading Dan Loney’s well written and informative piece on the evolution of professional football and promotion and relegation in England. Yet when did the soccerati secretly met and determine that "(US)promotion and relegation discussions are played out”. My ego asks why the hell I wasn’t invited to that party.

On a serious note, ripples regarding this subject emerged with Dan Loney’s blog on the subject and 8 responses, 13 responses on ours, with Jeff Bull (Center Holds It) having trouble responding and subsequently starting as usual excellent thread on his blog with 3 responses. The responses ranged from “what the @#$* are you thinking bringing this up”, implying that my post somehow undermined MLS stability; to thoughtful discussions of why “it cannot be”. Others considered the possibility or acknowledged preference for promo-relegation but were comfortable with the present system. I was stunned when the author I quoted, Michael Veseth, also contributed several well reasoned paragraphs, stating these discussions are much needed, then adding that the Sounders were a prime example of a successful minor league franchise being “promoted”. The majority of the responses on each site were much more thoughtly constructed than anything I’ve written. Truly, thanks again to those who took the time to respond here, there, or anywhere.

Surviving its infancy and primary years, the MLS now hurtles toward adolescence looking to expand. Decisions about league structure will help to define the culture and future of soccer in the US. Changes in the US’s ethnic makeup could also heavily influence- will the MLS try to attract the new demographic, seeking to lure soccer fans from home country clubs (i.e., Club America or Pumas) to local US teams? Or will marketing toward white suburbia continue? Frankly, I question both the American and MLS sports structure: Is this the consensus of how we want things to be? Is this what we want in 10, 25, 50 years? Years from now, will some of us think we traded ideals for beads and baubles? Perhaps by then I will have become acclimatized to promoting parity, rewarding mediocrity, and the American sports model notion of musical chair championships. Granted DC United, the Galaxy, the San Jose/Houston franchises, and in a bridesmaid’s role, New England have dominated MLS Playoff History, but if the American sports model is the ideal, you might as well tell perennial also-rans like the Red Bulls, don’t worry, you’ll have your day. A Red Bull Crown will be nothing like Man U’s climb back up to the top from the first division (80’s) or Chelsea’s ascendancy. An MLS crown may become less of a big deal- like other American sports leagues; it was merely your team’s turn to win. Feast to famine, famine to feast. If the college system did a better job at developing youth, I think we’d even see cellar dwellers “playing to lose”, seeking the big draft pick.

Dan Loney brought up an excellent and original question, “But why do both sides assume that theirs is not only the preferred system, but never seem to have considered any other?” showing me the discussion has not played out and seems to have more creative energy than a MLS marketing scheme. I think this could be a different direction for a supposedly “played out” discussion.

I am not a fan of the MLS playoffs. Some of the more obvious reasons include LAG '05 and the Rapids ’97. I can only hope the Champions League gathers steam and the US Cup becomes something other than USL teams pitted against MLS reserves. I’ll stop there.

What will the future bring? God only knows. I believe the US Soccer Community is strong enough to handle and not run from conflict. Perhaps someone new to the game will enter the discussion like a breath of fresh air, offering something both workable and revolutionary. I hope the discussion continues, even if in the closet, until then.


playtherapy said...

Damn- must have OD'ed on Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure cuz if ya use the word excellent 3 times in a piece- the word loses all meaning. Whoops! They weren't fooling about what the long term neural effects of using ganga during those college years. I clearly should have listened. Maybe that explains why I'm posting ont he forbidden topic- AGAIN!

playtherapy said...

Nothing says a topic is over more than no response. Chirp, chirp sing the chorus of crickets. Not even the Mightly Cthulhu swayed them!