Hello readers, I wanted to begin by apologizing for the long wait on this article. For those of you who might not know, several weeks ago, or should I say, Thanksgiving weekend, I threw out the idea of doing an article on the pros, cons, and cost of an amateur team joining a regional league over a national league. I make no promises as to how long or short this article might be, and I will do my best to be as fair and un-biased as possible. Check out the article after the break.
Now, before we go any further, I want to go ahead and get some of my biases out in the open so I can, hopefully, get them out of the way of the rest of the article. Fair and balanced, that's how we like to be.
Bias Number 1: I prefer regional leagues. In my research, I've found them to be cheaper in every way. Lower entry fees, lower yearly fees, less travel because teams are closer to each other. Regional leagues also have the ability to tap into regional pride on a macro level, pitting teams from certain areas of the country to determine who's the best. National leagues tap into this on a more micro level. 'Yay, you're best in your region. But are you best in the country?'
Bias Number 2: Personally, I believe regional leagues are the key to the growth of the game in the US. They can foster competition and investment in the game in specific areas of the country, allowing small cities, towns, and even neighborhoods an opportunity to play the game and help players grow.
Alright, with those two big biases out of the way, lets get rolling. The first thing I want to do is give a cost breakdown of the two primary national leagues, the National Premier Soccer League and the Premier Development League. Now, I haven't been able to get exact data for everything, and anything I can't verify through my sources will be marked with an * to help provide full disclosure.
Several things really pop out once you look at these numbers, some good, some bad.
Premier League of America
Yearly Cost: $2,000
Annual Fee: $1,000
Obviously these guys are newcomers to the scene, but they have the lowest cost of any of what I would consider to be professionally run National Amateur Leagues. They have already started to get some NPSL teams to switch leagues, including one of the founding NPSL teams, Madison 56ers.
Sad as it might be to see such a well run regional league go national after year, they will be worth keeping an eye on as their expansion teams spiral out from the Great Lakes. With such manageable costs, it's going to be much easier for neighborhood and small community teams to move up to bigger playing field. Take the PLA's newest team, Carpathia FC, as an example. They are an old Michigan team, located in Sterling Heights, that will be playing on a bigger stage for the first time ever. As a bonus, Oakland United is in Rochester Hills, right next door. These are the kind of teams and rivalries the PLA is designed to facilitate.
Now, each league has some pretty obvious pros and cons, that I'll address below.
As you can see, every league has good things, every league has bad things. There are plenty of teams that don't play regionally because their players won't be presented on a larger stage. But that is no reason to dismiss regional leagues if you are looking to starting a team. For the second year in a row, the Evergreen Premier League has had a player receive an invite to the MLS combine. You don't have to play nationally to be know nationally. You just need to play well. And there is no reason for your team to not be know nationally either. The biggest issue facing amateur teams on local and national levels is, quite simply, branding. If you brand your team poorly and don't treat it like a big deal, it won't ever be a big deal, to anyone, anywhere.
Ultimately, the choice of what league a team should be playing in will be up to the owner. A guy starting a team in Annapolis, MD will have some entirely different options compared to the guy in Santa Barbara, CA and the guy in Santa Fe, NM. It will be up to each owner to do all the research he can on every possible option to make the best decision for his team.
I hope this was a good, informative read for everyone that wasn't too biased. Keep your eyes open for other op-eds down the line. Feel free to comment with any topics you'd like to see covered by the Pyramid. As always, like us on Facebook and/or follow us on Twitter for all the latest news and updates. Until next time.