It's been too long, readers. Time for another op-ed!
Recently the United Premier Soccer League, a regional league with teams in California, Idaho, Nevada and Arizona, recently announced they would be splitting the league into tiers. The top level will be the Pro-Premier Division, and the Championship Division, with full blown promotion and relegation between the two. You can read their press release with some more details by clicking Here.
Now, I've been ruminating on the idea this article covers for awhile. It's taking the UPSL's regional league model, and building it on top of existing state soccer structures. This topic recently came up in during an upcoming interview, and I decided to finally put my thoughts down for people to ponder, consider, debate and destroy. Check it out.
Let's start off by laying some ground work. The state leagues I've built my, let's call it a Hypothesis, around, were chosen based on Geographical proximity. In order to ensure maximum exposure, I went with leagues from states that are not only close to each other, but close to New York City, and have some natural rivalries. First, a few of the leagues that I did consider but ultimately didn't go with.
While both Philadelphia and New Jersey have teams closer to New York City then Boston does, the NYC/Boston dynamic is too much to pass up. And I really wanted to keep things realistic with travel distances to minimize overnight stays. It's 4 hours from NYC to Boston, but Boston to Philly is 6. Trying to make this economical as possible. So, the leagues that would form the building blocks of this regional league would be as follows.
Currently the Cosmopolitan and Bay State leagues have 10 teams each in their first divisions. Rhode Island has 7 and Connecticut has 6. In order to keep things balanced, the RegionalLiga North East, as I'm calling it right now, (You can thank my German Lessons for the weird nomenclature) would also contain 10 teams. The amount of teams from these state leagues in the RegionalLiga breaks down as follows.
How do you determine which leagues teams join the RegionalLiga? Easy. You take the top 4 finishers from BSSL and Cosmopolitan and the league champions of the CSL and RISL. If this league were announced tomorrow, this is what it would look like.
Not a bad start. Of course, what to do about promotion and relegation once the RegionalLiga finishes season one?
The relegation structure of the RegionalLiga would be the same as the current BSSL structure for Division 1. The bottom two are automatically relegated, and the third team from last is in the relegation playoff with the third place team from the division below it.
How does this work with 4 states leagues and only 3 promotion spots? I'm glad you asked. Since the CSL and RISL only have one division, their winners would face off in a two legged promotion playoff. The winner of that game would then face the eighth placed team from the RegionalLiga in the Promotion-Relegation Final.
The winners of the Cosmopolitan and BSSL First Divisions would receive the automatic promotion spots. It's a little unbalanced, but they are the larger, more established leagues who would lose the most teams to the RegionalLiga at it's foundation. Not to mention, this structure provides an incentive for the CSL and RISL to really work on strengthening their leagues so when the RegionalLiga expands and potentially begins to include teams from the USL and GSSL, they get an extra seat at the table.
Eventually, if this idea were to work and really catch on, you could add teams from not just Pennsylvania and New Jersey, but the rest of New York, Massachusetts, and even New Hampshire, Vermont and potentially Maine. Of course, that would involve lots more travel, and maybe even two RegionalLigas in the North East.
For now, this is what I'm going to leave you with. What do you think? Does it seem feasible? A terrible idea? What would you do differently? Sound off in the comments and let me know how you're feeling.