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?