Promotion/relegation is now the number one topic in USA soccer outside of the regular news cycle surrounding the men’s and women’s national teams. How exactly will an open USA soccer system become a reality? It will happen when enough common people unite their voices on the issue and bring American soccer authorities to the tipping point of public pressure. When the volume of demand for change is loud enough, either FIFA, the U.S. government, or the U.S. Soccer Federation itself will have no choice but to react accordance with the voice of the people.
The immediate goal for the #ProRelforUSA movement is to create a critical mass of education and awareness among USA’s 330 million people, and more specifically: the estimated 30-60 million soccer fan segment within the total population. The common USA soccer fan and constituent has an important role to play in this battle. There are two main reasons why the average USA soccer fan should get behind the promotion/relegation USA Soccer movement. An open system will increase the popularity and quality American soccer players and clubs, and it will leverage the power of the world’s game to do *megatons* of social and economic good for the people of America.
1. Increased soccer quality and popularity
Promotion/relegation in USA soccer will drive interest and investment at all levels of the game. From the powerhouse clubs in division 1, all the way down to the amateur sides in division 12, everyone has incentive to pour time, effort, and resources into their club in order to achieve the next step in excellence.
An open system would serve to leverage and increase existing popularity for the sport. The current MLS closed system is capturing a paltry 6% segment of all soccer TV viewers in America. There is nowhere to go but up when it comes to the proposition of promotion/relegation increasing interest in the U.S. domestic club soccer league system. Can you imagine the injection of interest and arms race of investment that would ensue when USA soccer switches over to a system that gives thousands of lower-division clubs a chance to win a place in the nation’s top division? There are 24+ million soccer players and 50+ soccer fans in America that are waiting for the chance to pour their efforts and passion into a USA club soccer competition that rewards and punishes based on true merit.
An open system will also serve increase the quality of players, clubs, and the national team. The stunning on-field quality of open soccer systems around leaves us with no doubt that the best talent filtration system is one based on sporting merit. Open systems eliminate the greatest amount of human error in the player scouting, selection, and development process. Open systems are also the best way to filter the best coaches, managers, administrators, scouts and fans to the top of the pile. The scoreboard next to the pitch is a much better talent identification tool than arbitrary selection. No matter what position, the good ones will be elevated and the poor ones will be found out and almost assuredly relegated.
2. Creating socioeconomic good
As outlined in this piece by Mehdi Manseur, open systems are a tremendous way to increase social mobility and economic prosperity. What’s more American than equality and opportunity?
Creating an open sports system for America would result in national and regional economic growth heretofore unforeseen and untapped, increased competition and resulting benefits to consumers, increased economic empowerment to minority communities, diversity of ownership of professional teams, the alleviation of the inequities of the NCAA and greatly benefit public finances.
American soccer is at a crossroads. It can choose to keep banging its head against the wall of mediocrity via the same old closed-system, or it can observe the wild success of open-system soccer around the world and align the American ecosystem accordingly. This current U.S. Soccer Federation is now merely a proxy federation for the business interests of one private company: MLS. We need to get it out of our heads that the current status quo leadership truly has the best interest of American soccer at heart. They do not.
What can you do to help?
It is up to common USA soccer fans to make true system reform happen in American soccer. Silence is compliance, and the tired, discriminatory status quo will keep rolling along if no one decides to speak up in opposition. The American soccer fan can push the nation closer to the promotion/relegation tipping point mentioned above. Each person has the opportunity to make a difference by using the power of the internet, social media, and in-person advocacy to push the needle ever closer to change. Use Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, blogs, banners, signs, and your voice and keep waking people up to the realities of the USA soccer ecosystem. The failing status quo can only survive if American soccer fans believe that they do not have the power to make a difference.
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