Making (North) American Soccer Great Again

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Growing up in the Tampa Bay area and remembering the popularity of the Rowdies, the NASL franchise, I get a little annoyed that our area with its deep soccer history doesn’t have a team in Major League Soccer. It seems to me that when you get past the popularity of the World Cup and English Premier League soccer here in the States, Major League Soccer seems at best to be an afterthought.

Monday night, I was looking at the structure of the MLS for the 2018 season and saw the first problem: it has an odd number of teams at 23, with plans to expand to 25. With an odd number of teams, every team can’t play in a given week.

There’s enough talent in the US for many more teams, so if anyone wanted my opinion, I’d use a version of the system used in Europe generally. Have two leagues of 16 teams each. I’d place every team that’s won the MLS Cup in the past five years in the top of the two leagues, then include the best teams over a five-year average excluding the cup winners. The remaining teams would go to the bottom league along with expansion franchises and maybe teams from the other current leagues. Like I said, there’s enough talent in American soccer for 32 teams, maybe more than that – I just use that figure as a starting point.

As they do in Europe, I’d have promotion and relegation, where the teams that finish the lowest get demoted to the bottom league, while the best teams in the lower tier subsequently get promoted to the top league. The MLS can still have their Americanized playoff system at the end of the season (I’d recommend having the best eight teams seeded into a two-game total goals playoff, again like done in Europe) and find a champion that way.

Will American soccer ever adopt the fall to spring calendar the other renown leagues use all over the world? I think that would be a tougher nut to crack with some teams sharing facilities with NFL teams. They would also have to have contingency plans in mind with teams in northern cities getting snow and winter storms with a bit more frequency as seems to be the case in Europe.

Anyway, that’s what I’d do with soccer if anyone gave me the ball, so to speak.

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