The common declarations on the state of USA soccer continue to be: “We need a stable system!” and “We need to grow the game!”
Wait a minute. Let me get this straight:
- USA has had soccer for 100+ years (yes, even pro clubs and players that go back that far).
- USA has 24 million soccer players (more than the entire populations of many great world soccer nations).
- USA sets the attendance and profit standard for hosting World Cups (USA just promised an $11 BILLION 2026 World Cup profit to FIFA).
Despite all this, USA is still lamenting over how weak and unstable its soccer is?
The real story? America goes bonkers for the normal soccer seen around the world, but its domestic club soccer competition (led by a failing MLS closed division 1) is woefully unpopular (MLS has a paltry 6% share of soccer TV viewers in USA).
There is no soccer problem in USA. There is no soccer fan and player interest or passion problem in USA. Perhaps it is time to examine U.S. Soccer governing federation (USSF) leadership and policy?
“It’s the SYSTEM, stupid!” – me
A closed USA soccer system that only gives one company/club (MLS) access to division 1 is absolutely toxic to stability and growth. Why should millions of soccer-crazy Americans care and invest in USA domestic soccer when they are denied a fair opportunity to compete? Compare the world’s open systems with USA soccer’s closed system and there is no contest.
No open soccer system has collapsed in world history.
Open. Systems. Never. Ever. EVER. Collapse.
100% stability rate.
Most of the soccer world has seen wild success under open-system policy. The planet’s top national teams, club teams, and players all come from open systems. Off the pitch, the most profitable and popular domestic and international competitions are made up of open system clubs and national teams. The most profitable clubs come from open systems.
USA’s closed system:
USA’s domestic club competition sees an average club collapse rate of TEN clubs per year. This really is all the evidence we need in this debate. USA has the most unstable domestic soccer system – by far.
Many USA first-division (MLS) players make less than $100,000 per year. Many second-division players (currently USL) do not make a livable full-time wage. No paid playing opportunities exist with clubs below these two divisions.
USA soccer’s closed system encourages league versus league infighting. Leagues are able to poach clubs from competitor leagues (MLS D1 has poached multiple clubs from NASL D2 in the last 15 years) or place new clubs in close proximity to competitor-league clubs in order to drive them out of business.
Here is a snapshot of USA soccer closed-system chaos as of October 2017 (via @Flight_19):
The evidence is clear: open soccer systems are far superior to closed systems. Any argument that the current USA soccer closed system is more conducive to stability and growth than the open system alternative is just plain wrong. USA soccer’s closed-system policy is a self-fulfilling prophecy of instability.
Are open soccer systems utopia? No one is claiming perfection or that the harsh realities of open markets do not exist, but an open system that is 90% healthy is leaps and bounds ahead of USA soccer’s current stability standard.
Clubs can struggle or even collapse within open systems, however, these examples account for just a tiny percentage of the ranks of healthy clubs in open systems. Even with these outlier instability cases, clubs that have to shut their doors or file for bankruptcy (administration) usually have brands and supporter trusts that live on for “rebirth” in the future. Soccer clubs, when hosted in an open and unlimited soccer ecosystem, are practically inextinguishable.
Does the current U.S. soccer federation intentionally plot this instability, or is it just a result of clueless incompetency? Is this federation now just a front for MLS business interests and are the decisions made by this supposed “impartial” body meant to benefit MLS and kill of any outside competition? With the way the federation continues to double down on this toxic closed-system policy, questions like these must be asked. It is time to hold the USA soccer governing federation accountable.
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