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Hello faithful AP'ers, and welcome back to American Pyramid! You might be asking yourself, 'wait a minute, this isn't an interview. Thursday's are new interview day!' Yes, that's true, but due to requests from some of the clubs I've completed interviews with, I'm delaying their release a little bit. Not for bad reasons, to be clear, but in order for new news to come out and create a larger wave of momentum around the team.
Really quick, in case you missed it, I'm considering starting another blog, talking about all kinds of other sports in the US. Rugby, NBA, College Basketball and Football, Pro Wrestling, MLB, whatever I feel like, really. You can vote on whether that's a good idea or bad idea in my Twitter poll.
Now, today's article is based around an idea I had for a potential new amateur league structure while I was out on a walk. There's some ideas in here that might sound familiar, and some that might not, and I'm sure there are plenty of you thinking 'good grief, another article about how to do soccer leagues in America?' But I implore you to hear me out. This idea is the culmination of over two years of interviews with teams and leagues nationwide, not some click bait article. (I mean, it is, kind of, but I digress) Everything in here is designed to address issues encountered by teams in dealing with leagues, paying costs, needing help, and fan perception.
So without further ado, I present A Better Way. Check it out.
A couple of weeks, I wrote a post based solely around some old maps I had made and found as I started cleaning out files on my work computer. (You can read that by Clicking Here) It would up being way more popular than I thought, and after some positive feedback, I decided to do another one, this time covering soccer in the states of Missouri, Kansas, Iowa, and Nebraska.
Personally, I think any league worth it's salt should have maps as part of it's planning process. Growth is good, but maps can help keep everything organized and keep that growth aligned with a particular vision. For that sake of this project, you can imagine these maps being used three different ways.
There are two things currently going on in the soccer world that are holding my interest right now. The effort of soccer fans in Ohio to #SaveTheCrew from Anthony Precourt's attempts to move the Columbus Crew to Austin, Texas, a process streamlined by some shady contract details that Major League Soccer allowed. And the effort of two different groups to bring pro soccer to the recently saved from bankruptcy city of Hartford, Connecticut.
First, Save the Crew. Plenty has been written by people better than me about why this a sneaky, spineless, generally awful thing to happen. But I want to look ahead to the future of soccer in Columbus, Ohio.
Some of you may be familiar with the story of FC United of Manchester. A group of fans, unhappy with the purchase of Manchester United by the Glazers and it's growing debt, started a fan owned team called FC United of Manchester. And there weren't many of them behind the effort to start. Yet FC United now has a world wide cult following and it's own stadium.
Personally, I don't think MLS cares about Columbus. Precourt certainly doesn't. So I'm pretty convinced that Columbus is out of the league come 2019. So what are soccer fans, and the business owners who tried to purchase part of the Crew last year, to do?
Fortunately, the chaos of American soccer right now also creates opportunity. Chaos is a ladder, after all. I want to look at two options that are open to the people interested in keeping soccer in Columbus. NISA and the amateur leagues.
First, NISA is going to be a team owned league starting in either 2018 or 2019, based on what happens to the NASL. NISA's goal is to allow teams, where possible, to be owned in part by it's fans. This means if spurned fans of the Crew and local business owners teamed up, they could start their own community owned and operated team. Worried Mapfre is too big? Don't worry! There's a nice sized stadium in Obetz that I'm sure would be more than happy to have an anchor tenant.
Supposedly, there are 500,000 people 'signed up' to save the crew. If you could convince all of them to give $10 a year, you'd raise $5,000,000 towards the team. Even if you shrink the number of giving fans to, say, 10,000 at $50, it's still $500,000, enough for a decent stake. That's pretty, pun intended, massive.
Let's say local business owners aren't interested in this route and almost all the save the Crew momentum dies. There's still the option of amateur soccer in the NPSL or UPSL.
Going this route is even easier. 1,000 fans give $100 a year, that's $100,000 a year. That's enough to play in the NPSL or UPSL for years to come, with enough money to even go out and buy your own property and build a nice little stadium. And who wouldn't want to support a team like this, wherever you might be in the world?
Now, Hartford, Connecticut. For those who don't know, Hartford was recently saved from declaring bankruptcy thanks to the state. A few years ago, they were swindled out of hundreds of thousands of dollars by a crook attempting to renovate Dillon Stadium for a proposed NASL team.
There are now three groups attempting to renovate Dillon Stadium. One doesn't involve soccer, the other two do. Midfield Press wrote and excellent, detailed article on this that you can read by clicking here.
One group is attempting to bring the USL to Hartford, which the cities Executive Director seems to like because of the ties to MLS, in spite of the fact that this group has A, no fans and B, is requesting $10 Million in public money to match their own output of $7-$10 Million, $5 Million of which is going to cover the USL Expansion fee.
The other group is NPSL club Hartford City, who A, have fans and B, aren't requesting public money. They are looking to join NASL, which may or may not exist next year, which is an obvious downside, but are a much more prudent choice for a city that is literally out of money.
Yet it appears the great swindle that is American sports may be about to stranglehold Hartford, a city that can't afford what the team wants, while Columbus faces the facts that owners who aren't local don't care about keeping the team in your town if they think the grass is greener somewhere else, and neither does the league your team is in.
As if we needed another story proving that American soccer is in need of reform, the tale of Hartford and Columbus proves that things need to change. Business as usual is not good business, especially for fans and taxpayers.
What if, every two to four years, there was a nationwide competition, displaying the top amateur talent from across the country while pitting states against each other in friendly competition?
Well I've got an idea for that. The United States Cup.
The idea is simple. All 50 state associations assemble their best amateur players into a state team, and play each other in a March Madness style knockout competition. In year one, you do things easy. Top 16 states by population are automatically seeded. The next 30 are in the qualifiers. The 4 states with the lowest population play a home and away qualifier, The First Four.
After that, you randomly draw the next 16 home and away qualifying games. Those 16 winners move onto the United States Cup proper. If you make it to the second round, you automatically qualify for the next edition. Eventually you could do away with this by playing friendlies and having a coefficient.
Think about. With time, this could become not just something really fun, but really important to the American Soccer Landscape. And if you take away college players, it becomes the perfect platform for displaying top adult talent to pro teams around the world.
The layout for the Inaugural United States Cup, presented by American Pyramid, looks like this.
For fun, I put names in a hat, and pretended this actually happened from start to finish. Here are the results. All results were determined after a roll of dice with random hat drawings to determine match ups. With help of my cousin Greg, this nerdy game got underway.
The First Four - Result over two games, aggregate score.
North Dakota 6 - Wyoming 5
Alaska 7 - Vermont 4
Qualifying - Results over two games, aggregate score
Idaho 9 - Nebraska 3
Minnesota 10 - Delaware 9
Montana 9 - Wisconsin 6
Colorado 7 - Nevada 5
Alabama 10 - North Dakota 5
Alaska 10 - Missouri 5
Rhode Island 8 - Louisiana 5
Maryland 11 - West Virginia 5
Oregon 8 - Hawaii 6
South Dakota 10 - Mississippi 2
New Hampshire 10 - New Mexico 4
Oklahoma 9 - South Carolina 3
Connecticut 9 - Kentucky 5
Indiana 7 - Iowa 3
Utah 10 - Kansas 5
Maine 6 - Arkansas 4
Now we enter the tournament proper, single game elimination. PK's happened 3 times, rolled the dice to see who would win, best of 5.
Utah 4 - South Dakota 2
Alaska 5 - Rhode Island 2
Pennsylvania 4 - Massachusetts 1
Oklahoma 4 - Montana 3
Maine 6 - Illinois 3
Colorado 4 - Virginia 2
New York 3 - Ohio 2 (PK's)
Florida 5 - Maryland 3
Arizona 2 - Idaho 1 (PK's)
Georgia 6 - Washington 4
Tennessee 6 - California 2
North Carolina 5 - Michigan 3
Connecticut 3 - New Jersey 1 (PK's)
New Hampshire 5 - Texas 2
Minnesota 5 - Indiana 1
Alabama 6 - Oregon 2
Arizona 5 - Minnesota 4
Colorado 3 - Alaska 1
Utah 6 - North Carolina 1
New Hampshire 5 - Georgia 2
Maine 5 - Connecticut 4
Florida 6 - Pennsylvania 5
Oklahoma 5 - Tennessee 4
Alabama 6 - New York 2
New Hampshire 4 - Arizona 1
Florida 6 - Maine 3
Oklahoma 2 - Utah 1 (PK's)
Alabama 4 - Colorado 2
Oklahoma 5 - New Hampshire 3
Florida 5 - Alabama 2
Third Place Game
New Hampshire 6 - Alabama 5
Florida 6 - Oklahoma 4
And there you have it. Florida are the inaugural United States Cup Champions.
While this might be the nerdiest thing ever written on AP, it was actually a lot of fun. If you want a recap of the rules to play yourself, let me know.
Anyway, a tournament like this has the potential to be something truly special in the American Soccer Landscape. What do you think? Is this a good idea? Would you watch it or attend the games Let me know!