How Sir Alex Ferguson Would Fix USA Soccer

Rumors of ending promotion/relegation or the creation continent-wide super leagues tend to pop up on periphery of the soccer world every now and then – particularly in these modern days of globalized, high-revenue soccer industry.

In 2011, speculation about closing the Premier League (England’s division 1) prompted a strong rebuttal from the legendary manager Sir Alex Ferguson in this Telegraph article. When viewing from the American soccer closed system perspective, Ferguson’s words provide an accurate diagnosis for USA soccer’s unpopularity and instability problems:

“If you look at the Championship (division 2) at the moment, we have at least eight teams with tradition and history,” Ferguson said. “What do you say to those eight teams? That they can never play in the premier division? I think that would be absolute suicide for the rest of league and particularly the teams in the Championship.

You might as well lock the doors. The only place you can make money and realise your ambitions is in the Premier League (division 1) and you can’t take that away from clubs.”

American soccer is a real-life example of the “suicidal” closed-system conditions that Ferguson warns against. Hundreds of USA soccer clubs have little hope beyond merely staying afloat in their current minor league state. Where is the motivation to innovate and build as a club with no chance of increased revenue and status? Where is the motivation for fans to rally behind a lower division club that is not allowed to aspire to higher levels? Where is the motivation for sponsors or television networks to invest in a product that is not allowed to grow itself in to relevancy?

Today, there are still hundreds of lower-division USA soccer clubs – backed by great fans, coaches, players, and administrators – that do a great job of staying afloat despite America’s toxic, closed-system conditions. It is important to understand that this current lower division landscape is a testimony of what could be under free and open conditions. The struggles that come with captivity must be blamed on the captors (The U.S. Soccer governing federation and its exclusionary, closed-system policy), and not the captives (lower division clubs).

American soccer has long hoped for a stable and popular domestic soccer product like the rest of the free soccer world. It is a nation that has all of the tools, determination, and effort to become a massive soccer nation, but it is simply shooting itself in the foot with its own poisonous governing policy.

American soccer would be well advised to start listening to the global soccer experts when it comes to its decision on an open system. Most agree with Sir Alex Ferguson on this one: inclusion and opportunity are part of the essence of global soccer. USA soccer has ambled in the dark ages of the global game for far too long. Aligning with the open system format that has seen wild success throughout 99% of the free soccer world would be a massive step forward.

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One comment

  1. News reports say Liga Mex is considering eliminating promotion/relegation, but just like Alex Ferguson, Mexican leaders have come forward to declare that promotion/relegation is necessary for the success of the sport.

    For example, Damian Zamogilny, former Liga MX player who is now an analyst: “Even though I went through that pressure [with Puebla and Estudiantes], I think it’s necessary to have promotion and relegation. I understand you need to protect the business somehow, but it would be a bad decision to do away with it. It’s a bad decision.”

    Ben, thanks for your work on this issue, please keep going!


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