Friday has come again, which means a slow work day for me and a new article for you to read. Before you get into this one, I would recommend reading 'Part 1,' the original One League To Rule Team All article. There have been some fascinating changes for the PDL and NPSL, both in terms of cost and number of teams. It will make for a great place to start before you dive into what's ahead, providing context for what you are about to read.
If you have already read 'Part 1,' good job! You've been with AP for the long haul! Go ahead and read on, faithful follower.
My how things have changed. In the original OLTRTA article, I compared numbers for the NPSL, PDL, and Premier League of America. The PLA, while still playing, has been getting the shaft recently, losing it's best teams to higher leagues. They are still playing, and fortunately, still growing, but I've removed them from this article since they are still very much a regional league. The point of this article is to cover the cost of joining a USASA recognized 'National Amateur League.'
Replacing the PLA are the United Premier Soccer League, or UPSL for short, and the Champions Soccer League USA, or CSL USA. This past year they have gone from a strictly California based league to more of a national presence, with playing teams in Florida, expansion teams in the Northeast, and a thriving conference in Colorado.
What I'm hoping to do here is present the prices, differences, and pros and cons of each league not just to satisfy the curiosity of the average reader, but also to make things easier on prospective owners and ownership groups. To that end I hope you Like, Share, Comment and Re-tweet the crap out of this to make sure it reaches as many people as possible.
Before getting into the differences and pros and cons of each league, I want to clarify these numbers further. I haven't been able to arrange an interview or establish any connections with PDL clubs since the original OLTRTA article, so the PDL numbers are more hearsay than anything concrete.
Number for the NPSL have come not just from a former prospective team who was looking at joining the NPSL this year, but can also be confirmed by reading Dennis Crowley's fantastic recent piece about planning for a second season of expenses at Kingston Stockade, which you can read by clicking Here.
The UPSL and CLS USA graciously shared with me their numbers for the year of 2017. That means the price of joining and maintaining a membership in three of the four 'National Amateur Leagues' has been confirmed by valid sources. Now, on to some pros and cons.
As you can see, there are some significant difference between the leagues, especially in terms of cost. A few other things to consider in detail are both on and off these lists.
When it comes to building a fan culture or community around a team, the PDL is seriously lacking. There are exceptions, such as the Des Moines Menace, who have been in the league for ages, and Tobacco Road FC. Who are, strangely enough, a former NPSL team. With such a strong focus on developing players, mostly college, so they can say their league sends players on to MLS, PDL teams don't seem to put any emphasis on building an actual soccer culture, but rather giving college guys somewhere to play in the summer.
Because of that emphasis, PDL seasons are incredibly short, running from the time school lets out and ending before classes begin again. If you want to help develop college players and aren't concerned about season length, PDL is a good choice for you, as long as you can afford it.
NPSL has really started stepping up it's game in the communications category, recently starting a weekly recap show on YouTube that airs every Thursday. This makes it easier to not only keep track of scores and standings, but also allows you to see highlights and find out who the player of the week is.
NPSL does have a longer season, since they aren't so reliant on college players, but still rely on them a little too much. Because of this, things also get quirky for scheduling, as some teams on the West Coast have already won their division, and some on the East Coast aren't even halfway into their schedule. However the seasons are longer, there's a greater emphasis on rivalries and creating a real club culture, so it's a good league to join at a reasonable price.
Right now, there is one thing CSL USA is doing that I love. Live Streaming. They have their own channel on MyCujoo, and you can watch a ton of their games. They've also managed to get teams in places that haven't had them before, like Lincoln, Nebraska and two in New Hampshire. That can only be good for the game as whole. And the league is hoping to expand it's schedule from 10 games this year as they add more teams for 2018. So don't look for that short season to continue.
A note from CSL USA VP, Jonathan Langlois: "We have signed a national media deal with CBS Radio. The deal sees CBS as our national marketing partner and puts radio ads on partner channels across the country. They also send different radio street teams to certain games as a pre-game activity where they play games, have giveaways and raffles. In addition to that CBS bought the rights to an event ticketing platform called ticket sauce. They setup all of our ticket platforms for all of our teams, supply each team with username and password specific to their games. Then on game day we just login to our app and we can sell tickets (cash or credit card) and scan tickets at the gate. Additionally they are handling securing some major sponsors for the league through their wide spread national connections."
There are two issues I have noticed, but one is more a product of being new, and is also faced by the USPL, so I'll address that below. The other issue is the lack of information on so many of their new teams in the Midwest. There are no websites, Facebook pages or Twitter accounts for most of them. Indy Saints are the exception. It's a really strange look when someone on the outside can't find anything about a leagues team. How are fans supposed to find about them and show up to the games?
UPSL does a great job of going out and securing sponsors for different needs faced by their teams, such as their recent deal with Aflac. Moves like this not only increase exposure for the league, but sponsorship money also helps UPSL keep costs lower than the other leagues. Keeping costs low for teams is actually a huge goal for the league, as it's allowing Hispanic communities and businessmen in the US a chance to put a team on the field in something bigger than city league. And they have instituted the holy grail of American Soccer: Promotion and relegation. Currently it's only in place in California, but it will soon be happening in Colorado as well, with plans for it in every region as growth allows.
One thing the UPSL is currently lacking right now is that break through team. I don't mean a successful team, as deep US Open Cup runs by LA Wolves this year and La Maquina last year prove there is plenty of quality here. I mean they haven't had their Chattanooga, Detroit City, or Des Moines team. Someone who has launched a team and consistently drawn crowds that make people take notice of not just the team, but the league as a whole. Should the UPSL get that sooner rather than later, I'd watch out for them moving . Because of their low cost, they could become a real juggernaut.
Ultimately, it's going to be up to you, the potential owner, to decide what league is the best fit for your team. You'll have to answer some important questions about why you're doing this. To develop players, or build something for your community? To play a lot of games, or keep things simple? Spend a lot of money, or spend a lot less? Hopefully this breakdown will provide the answers to some of these questions for you.
Again, please Like, Share, Comment and Re-tweet the crap out of this to make sure it reaches as many people as possible. Let's do our part to help non-league soccer in the USA grow bigger, stronger, and reach its fullest potential!