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!
If you follow US Soccer at all, you'll know it's a train wreck right now. Lawsuits, leagues and teams facing the threat of going out of business, all kinds of shady money. Enough to make you go crazy. But it does make me wonder: What if we had an organized pyramid in the US? Not one with a bunch of made up teams, but one made up only of the teams that exist. Would there even be enough teams to create a functioning top three levels of the pyramid? That was my first big question.
Here's how many pro teams there are right now, per league. We aren't counting NISA teams, or the three expansion teams NASL mentioned in the lawsuit: Atlanta, Detroit, and New Orleans. Or the Chicago NASL group. This is only for teams that actually exist, either with a team on the field now, or announced plans to put a team on the field by 2019 at the latest.
68 pro teams! First off, I'd say that's awesome to see. 68 pro teams planning to take the field next year. Hopefully USSF can sort things out, and we'll see a few more take the field in 2018.
Now, what if you stacked it up to have three leagues at the top of the pyramid? It would actually be quite easy.
Pretty cool looking, no? What teams would be in these leagues? Easy! I took current standings of all the leagues and organized things. Bottom two MLS teams and LAFC join NASL. Top thirteen non MLS 2 sides join NASL.
Toronto, NYFC, Atlanta, Chicago, Columbus, NYRB, Montreal, New England, Philadelphia, Orlando, Vancouver, Portland, Kansas City, Seattle, Salt Lake, San Jose, Houston, Dallas, Minnesota, LA
Miami, North Carolina, San Francisco, Edmonton, Puerto Rico, New York, Jacksonville, Indianapolis, LAFC, Cal United, San Diego, Louisville, Reno, San Antonio, Charlotte, Charleston, Phoenix, Tulsa, Tampa Bay, Rochester, Cincinnati, Bethlehem, Sacramento, Oklahoma City
Orlando B, Saint Louis, Pittsburgh, Ottawa, Harrisburg, Richmond, Toronto 2, Real Monarchs, Swope Park, Orange County, Colorado Springs, Rio Grande, Seattle 2, LA 2, Vancouver 2, Portland 2, Fresno, Las Vegas, Nashville, Austin, Birmingham
I know this is crazy, but it's Monday, and I wondered what something like this might look like. Just a fun exercise and something that was on my mind.
Interest in amateur soccer in the US is at all time high. More and more people are watching teams play, and people are starting more and more teams nationwide. But there are little issues below the surface that are starting to bubble up. Little issues that could cause major fissures if not addressed soon, and if not addressed properly.
In the last month I was speaking with one of my friends who runs a team in the NPSL. Interest in the league, and teams interested in joining their conference, are at all time highs. Good things, right? Maybe not.
You see, this past season his team played 14 games in 10 weeks. Read that again. 14 games in 10 weeks. That's a lot of games, and the season is limited to a 10 week window due to the reliance on college players.
NPSL wants to add more teams to his conference. This means more games in the same season window. If 1 team wants to join, they are looking at the prospect of playing 16 games in 10 weeks. 2 teams means 18 games in 10 weeks. That's not just incredibly draining, but risky for the players involved as wear and tear and fatigue make a player more susceptible to injury. And if you make the playoffs, that even more games.
Why hasn't NPSL addressed this? Why do they keep expanding with no stated design of a longer schedule, especially when the easy fix is right in front of them?
What's the easy fix, you ask? It's a two-fold solution: 1, fix the number of teams in a conference. 2, when that number is met, or is being exceeded, you start a new conference beneath it and start doing promotion and relegation.
For example, NPSL's Southwest Conference has 10 teams. Based on what I'm hearing, that will probably be more like 12 next year, so here's what you do: Take the bottom 3, Oxnard Guerreros FC, City of Angels FC, and SC Corinthians USA and form the Southwest Conference 2. All new expansion teams go there until it reaches 6 teams, then you start a Southwest Conference 3. One up, one down at every level.
Not only does this mean 10 games in 10 weeks, it keeps schedules even with every team playing every week. This set up also allows NPSL to grow as much as it wants. What's to stop them from having 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, or even 6 conferences of 6 as long as the interest is there?
Anyone, I'd love to hear what you think of this plan in the comments below, or of course, on Twitter. Is this a good plan for NPSL? Is this actually something they should consider?