Ideas for MLS League Design [Superthread] III

Discussion in 'MLS: Expansion' started by Sport Billy, Nov 2, 2011.

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  1. jfalstaff

    jfalstaff Member

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    the way to create a stable D2 is to say to D2 that promotion to MLS will be possible if certain benchmarks are met. Otherwise I don't see the lower leagues ever becoming very stable. There's just a ceiling on how much value a club that is lower tier can be worth when it cannot be promoted.

    You could put an economic trigger in that once D2 met the benchmarks, for instance 3/4 of clubs that play in a SSS, promotion to D1 would be go into affect within 3 years. It would probably take 7- 10 years just for D2 to get to that point.


  2. DCU1996

    DCU1996 Member

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    24 clubs - check.
    Make it nice & simple. See the post below yours.
  3. AmeriSnob

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    With 24 clubs: Split them into 2 conferences, play in conference teams 2x (22 games) + plus the other conference 1x (12 games) = 34 games. Coincidence? I think not, and it's probably what MLS will do.

    As for what the 5 new teams will be? As I discussed in my other thread, I believe they will be the following in no particular order: New York 2, Orlando, Carolina, Atlanta and if the Sacramento Kings move which seems more and more likely every day, Sacramento. That also means moving Houston and Kansas City to the West again.

    With 30 clubs: Split them into 3 divisions, play in division teams 2x (18 games) plus the other divisions 1x (20) for a 38 game season. For playoffs, take the top 2 in each division + the next 4 regardless of division and seed straight 1-10 (I personally like the NBA system which doesn't guarantee the division winners top 3 seeds, but top 5).

    If we want a few less games (and we have good reason to), we can split them up into 5 divisions instead, making the season 35 games. This also means playoffs can be done by taking the top 2 from each division (or division winners + 5 wild cards). As for what the next six teams are after 24, who knows? I'm not going to predict that.
  4. fischy

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    I think you're spot on as to how to organize a 24-team league. I think they're already building towards that scheme, with the one game vs. non-conference opponents. There's a post above suggesting tree division s in each conference, with 4 games against each division rival. I think that's just 2 many games against the same teams. True, rivalries are great. Fans love the NY-DC rivalry, but how many DC fans care about playing the Revs? Yeah, Garber wants to develop rivalries, but I think that would be taking it too far.

    As for which teams are on the horizon -- New York, for sure. A Florida team (my money was on Orlando until Garber's comment this week about Miami). San Diego (unless Chivas moves there). And, I'm gonna guess Ottawa, though Edmonton could be a dark horse 4th Canadian side. Why a 4th Canadian team? Because FIFA and MLS are starting to notice Canada. Also, because FIFA rules restrict national leagues to 20 teams. If MLS has 4 Canadian teams and 20 US-based teams, they could skirt that rule for a while. Eventually, if MLS goes beyond 24 teams. they'll have to get FIFA to reconsider the rule -- but why upset the apple cart too soon? It will be a long time before MLS goes beyond 24 teams. At least a decade -- time enough for FIFA to finally award another World Cup Finals to the USA (or, maybe Canada). In 2026 (or 2030), it might be time for MLS to re-visit the 24-team limit. With the USA hosting a Cup finals, that would be a good time to start moving into more problematic areas. Atlanta (Miami, too), Phoenix, San Antonio -- all cities that would be great if soccer economics could support climate-controlled stadia (retractable roof, etc). Perhaps in 15 or 20 years, that might be possible. I'd throw in another Bay Area team (either in San Francisco or Oakland), a Carolina team would be good, too. And one in either Detroit or the Twin Cities, getting MLS (eventually) to 30. Basta.


  5. Achowat

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    No they don't. There's no such rule. And if there was, someone would have told The Football League by now
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  6. AmeriSnob

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    Agree.

    Wait, what? I thought this pretend rule was restricting top leagues to 18 teams? Now its 20?

    Actually, it isn't anything. There is no such rule. No one who says this links to any FIFA document, let alone linking to any credible source at all, and when they did, it was some mere suggestion or rumor which would've applied to European leagues only. If anything like that ever materialized, the Premier League and La Liga and Serie A and every league with more than 18 teams would laugh at FIFA and UEFA's face, and break away, with the rest following suit including MLS.

    FIFA wants the US and Canadian game to grow, and some arbitrary and non-existant limit to number of teams in the top division will not get in their way.

    After 24 (and I'd even venture to say even after 20 or 21) all bets are off. All we have is a list of cities that can potentially maybe if all cards line up right pull some sort of bid together.
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  7. kenntomasch

    kenntomasch BigSoccer Yellow Card

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    Yes, there is no FIFA rule or directive or guideline or bylaw that restricts national leagues, top flight or otherwise, to 20 teams. FIFA Congress passed a resolution in 2006 that would require top domestic leagues to have no more than 18 teams. It was never implemented, it has never come close to being implemented, and it (or a 20-team limit) is unlikely to be implemented.

    In any MLS expansion discussion, it seems, this phantom "rule" is brought up and generally accepted as if it actually exists, when it does not, in fact, exist.
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  8. AmeriSnob

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    Funny part of that article was that Garber said there would be a break in expansion after the league brought back San Jose and added "Cleveland or St. Louis" (heh). Really makes me totally doubt any of that talk now.
  9. kenntomasch

    kenntomasch BigSoccer Yellow Card

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    Things change.

    There's been a pretty good shift in things in this country in the period since about 2003 or 2004. I wouldn't really hold people to things they said then, necessarily, or think they were bullshitting. Things have just changed a bit.
  10. SYoshonis

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    Also, people tend to ascribe meanings to Garber's words that are not necessarily there. For example, every time someone asks him about what the future holds for MLS expansion, and he answers with what is most likely just an educated guess (e.g., "I think we'll be taking a little break at 18 teams."), BS goes all mental as if he declared that MLS WILL REFUSE ALL BIDS AND CAP EXPANSION!!!1!!!1!

    Then, when something different happens, people call him a liar or bullshitter or whatever, when it turns out that what they thought he said wasn't carved in stone. Entire threads have been created and amassed hundreds of posts based on stuff that Garber didn't actually say, or even mean to say.
  11. kenntomasch

    kenntomasch BigSoccer Yellow Card

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    ...and they act as if Garber acts by fiat. "What do you think of this, Garber?" "How about MY city, Garber?" When it's the Board of Governors who makes decisions.
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  12. Achowat

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    Well, there was a time in the League when the Commissioner, y'know, did act by fiat. Back when there were more Bob Krafts and fewer actual owners.

    Old habits die hard
  13. 4door

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    I believe the strongest financial and sporting strategy for MLS is to create a dual league set up similar to American League and National League in baseball and have both leagues operate separately. Each division would name a single winner. The branding of the divisions would not be geographic, but sound and feel like two distinct leagues. The top 6 in each division would be 'promoted' up to MLS Cup which operates like a Champions League style group/knockout tournament with a mixture from both leagues.



    MLS Alliance (name can change)
    1Vancouver Whitecaps
    2Seattle Sounders
    3Portland Timbers
    4San Jose Earthquakes
    5Los Angeles Galaxy
    6Chivas USA
    7Colorado Rapids
    8Real Salt Lake
    9Houston Dynamo
    10FC Dallas
    11San Antonio Expansion
    12Phoenix Expansion (indoor facility)
    13Sacramento Expansion
    14San Diego Expansion
    15Las Vegas Expansion (indoor facility)
    16Inland Empire Expansion
    17Edmonton Expansion
    18Calgary Expansion

    MLS Premier (name can change)
    1New York Red Bulls
    2New England Revolution
    3DC United
    4Philadelphia Union
    5Toronto FC
    6Montreal Impact
    7Columbus Crew
    8Chicago Fire
    9Sporting Kansas City
    10Atlanta Expansion
    11New York City Expansion
    12Tampa Expansion
    13Minneapolis Expansion
    14Orlando Expansion
    15St. Louis Expansion
    16Miami Expansion
    17Baltimore Expansion
    18Ottawa Expansion

    • 30 US teams
    • 6 Canadian teams
    • expansion would take until at least 2030 (averaging a team a year)
    • 34 regular season games
    • 2 League Champions (automatic bids into CCL, team with the higher points has the option to play in Copa Libertadores)
    • 1 MLS Cup Champion (winner plays in Club World Cup)
    • USSF will bid to host the Club World Cup each year in December. Because the host country can send one team, the MLS Cup winner is guaranteed a spot each year in the Club World Cup to start directly after the final in early December.
    --------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
    Division 2
    Each of the 36 teams are required to either partner with an existing D2 club or create their own affiliate club outside of their home city. Division 2 is a multi conference system that looks similar to PDL today. Some teams are independent, some teams are partnered with MLS, and others are directly owned by MLS clubs. This league would be similar to the AHL in hockey (but with optional independent clubs). It would bring stable professional soccer to dozens of secondary markets who are too small for MLS, and allow for a professional development system that can replace our college system giving kids post-HS a chance to play and make a living before being 'called up' to their MLS club.

    D3 Winter League
    There will be a D3 winter league operating in the desert climates and or Puerto Rico, similar to baseball. By operating a short season in the winter months, young players from D2 can play year-round professionally for more development.

    D4 - we will continue to be amateur clubs and off-season college players in PDL and NPSL.
  14. SYoshonis

    SYoshonis Member+

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    Was there ever a time when the commissioner alone decided where expansion teams would go? I don't think there was.
  15. Achowat

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    Expansion, no. And I doubt you'll ever find an example of the Board not officially making the decision. Because someone had to use the rubber stamp, if you catch my drift.
  16. SYoshonis

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    I do, and I think that your drift severely overestimates Garber's power back then. If anyone ran MLS "by fiat," it was Phil Anschutz, and he didn't either.
  17. AmeriSnob

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    What Syoshonis said. I did not mean to say that he ruled by fiat (in fact he never did), nor that he was bullshitting us. But, like Kenn said, things change, and therefore what Garber says about expansion should be taken with some level of doubt no matter the situation. He is not the decision maker here.
  18. Potowmack

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    I think the larger point is that there is no particular expansion plan, at least not one that is set in stone. MLS is generally reactive, rather than proactive, when it comes to expansion teams. Yeah, MLS might like a NYC2, but that is wholly dependent on an outside owner group creating said franchise.

    If four (or more) owners showed up all at once with viable bids to put teams in NYC, Orlando, San Antonio and Minneapolis, MLS would go from 19 to 23 teams very quickly. If no owner groups show up, MLS will stay at 19.

    People need to get over this notion that MLS has any particular number of teams in mind. MLS will keep growing so long as it is in the interests of its owners for the league to keep growing.
  19. SYoshonis

    SYoshonis Member+

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    This.

    And just to head off any dispute about NYC2, let's remember that a second team in that market has been a stated desire of the league for as long as there has been a league. The latest, more focused efforts have been the result of two or more potentially viable ownership groups (the number depending on how "viable" you wish to judge the clusterCosmos) surfacing, including, for the first time, a genuine real estate opening courtesy of the Wilpons. It's not like Garber woke up one morning and decided to devote all of his attention to NYC2 all of a sudden, as so many people seem determined to think.
  20. kenntomasch

    kenntomasch BigSoccer Yellow Card

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    I'm not saying you should doubt everything Garber says, or that he doesn't have some influence (if the commissioner has no power or influence, he's just a puppet). I'm just saying that he's not the only guy you have to impress. The investor/operators, at the end of the day, have the final say and their agenda is the most important one.

    Just curious, have the last several years (from Toronto on) looked haphazard? I have a guess there was a fairly strategic plan. I don't believe they're just saying "Oh, I heard yesterday about some team in Portland, do you think that might be a good place for us?"

    As for NYC2, yeah, but that's not happening in a vacuum. They're not just saying "Get that together, come back and see us." They're actually working to make it happen, rather than saying "Gee, I hope someone in New York gets their shit together."

    "Very quickly" or "all at once?"

    I don't think they're ignorant of the NASL 1978 expansion, where six teams came in at once. You say "viable," and, obviously that would differentiate them from the Phil Woosnam Can You Spare A Million Tour, but I don't think they'd add four teams in one fell swoop (at least, that would be contrary to how it's been historically, with no more than two at a time).

    And, again, I've said this - outside of the symmetry and eliminating the scheduling issues inherent with an odd number of teams, there's no huge pressure right now for them to acquire new investors and new markets. They can, if it works, or decline, if it's not quite right. Obviously, they're not going to take #20 just to eliminate the scheduling issue, because they're getting closer to the ceiling now than they were in the past.

    But only if and when it is in their interests. What people also need to get over is the idea that if 19 is good and if 20 is better, that 30 would be awesome. I think there is a realistic (though there is no statutory, despite what some people want you to believe) ceiling, but reasonable people can disagree about what that ceiling is.

    I honestly believe that right now (and I have nothing on which to base this), the number MLS has in mind is 20. There's no other target number out there that they have to reach, no Manifest Destiny pushing them towards 22, 24, 26, 28 or 30. That, obviously, can (and likely will) change. Garber has said that some of these things will be "the next guy's problem," because he appears to feel he won't be around to see a league that's 50% bigger than it is now.

    While the game's popularity in this country continues to grow, while they've had great success with their choices of expansion markets going back to 2004 (we can debate Chivas), economic conditions can change, owners can lose fortunes or get divorced (indeed, one often follows hard upon the other) and any number of things could happen to derail a straight-line progression from 10 teams in 2003 to 30 teams in 2025.

    I think I've said this before...I believe there are real benefits to the league to continually having more suitors for potential expansion teams than published openings for expansion teams. I don't think they have to take everybody who wants in, and I believe that in some ways, it helps keep what might be termed an "exquisite tension" (to borrow a phrase) on the whole enterprise. MLS right very well rather be a club that there are still people waiting outside to get into rather than one that everybody who could potentially be in is already in. But YMMV.

    From a strictly bottom line perspective, if additional expansion fees (which are a one-shot thing, and which I've never seen an accounting of where, exactly, they go) and potential increased revenue from new markets far outweigh that, a businessman might very well decide to go for it. But now you have 19+ businessmen with votes. They're not all going to see eye-to-eye.

    And I, for one, think there's such a thing as overexpansion. I don't think we're there yet. But I think too many people discount it.
  21. 4door

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    I have long advocated for a large MLS broken up into 2 equal divisions without pro/rel (MLB or NFL model). But I think that the market will decide the number of teams will we end up having, but I believe that over expansion would be extremely difficult in this sport. The NASL did so by expanding foolishly, without proper infrastructure. There wasn't a single stadium built for soccer or single penny spent to develop the players that would fill these rosters. If MLS decided to take its current player pool and resources and spread it endlessly thin, then yes it would be over expansion. But we all know that is not what is happening.

    There are 2 major arguments against expansion...player pool and 'slice of the pie' arguments. The first one states that MLS can't go over 30 because thats the number all the other sports have come to and if you go further than you dilute the player pool. This doesn't take into account that MLS (unlike those other leagues) is not the biggest league in the world. There is no one else for the NFL to attract into their league with more money, increasing payroll will not attract anyone better. That is not the case with MLS. Also the player pool for soccer is larger than any other sport in the world. Other sports in this country do not have international player rules like we do, if we were to abandon that rule, teams could have an almost limitless supply of talent to bring in. Also we forget that our player development is changing. We have far more and better players than we did 20-30 years ago, with continued development and investment into youth soccer, our player pool could be radically bigger and better decades from now than it is today.

    The other argument is the 'slice of the pie' argument saying that with each new team, the contracts and sponsors get reduced until it is no longer profitable. But remember we are still a league that only hits 15 US markets (1/2 of the other leagues) and within those markets we are sometimes not even the most popular soccer team. There is huge amounts of market still up for grabs. I'm not saying we need a 30 or 40 team league, but if MLS could find 10-20 more investors who can really capture those markets and bring in large percentages of TV viewers from markets MLS is not hitting, then it will without a doubt make the pie much bigger. Remember other leagues in this country have the advantage of being the biggest league in the world for their sport. If you are a basketball fan in St. Louis, you are still going to watch the NBA because Lebron and Kobe are still the best in the world even if you don't have a team in your backyard. You will adopt another team or just watch the games casually. MLS doesn't get these casual viewers (or at least not in large enough numbers). If MLS will not be culturally viewed as the best league in the world, then they at least need to be the local club. If the closest MLS team is hundreds of miles away, then why would you care to follow them? If you can adopt any club in the world, why adopt one in MLS? Unless MLS can reach all the major markets in this country, they will be at a large disadvantage since they will always have a difficult time reaching markets outside their footprint. That is why I think they need as large of a footprint as the market will allow.
  22. kenntomasch

    kenntomasch BigSoccer Yellow Card

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    Limited only by a budget, based on an expected return on that budget, in theory. Beckham and Henry move the needle. Drogba probably would, to a certain extent. But someone good enough to play for, say, AC Milan, would have to be compensated at least as well as they are at Milan, don't you think? And would they move the needle? I'm asking because I don't know, though I have an inkling and I'd take the under.

    This is absolutely true. 30 years ago, Americans simply couldn't play. We can now. We have tons more competent soccer players than we used to, though I'm not 100% sure we can expect too much more out of the American player pool, at least in the short term (my pat response has been "Dan Gargan's already in the league, how much worse do you want it to get?"). Decades from now? You'd think and hope that, yeah, we'll be growing more Landon Donovans than just the one, especially if potentially very good players see that there's a realistic chance to make a decent living playing this sport as opposed to another.

    But the idea of opening up the player pool to the rest of the world, as it were, by further reducing or eliminating a cap on foreign players (and I have no idea what US labor law would allow in that respect, either way) begs the question, "What kind of league is this?" I read the other day that something like 51% of MLS minutes are currently going to US-born players and that that's the lowest figure in league history (though that's far above what it was 30 years ago). I don't know where the equilibrium is between the American player and the foreign player, I don't know where National Team development gives way to selling tickets in the league, I don't know any of that. I don't know where the sweet spot is, beyond which the league skews too heavily one way or the other, and I'm not sure anyone else does, either, given how subjective some of this stuff is.

    Would a league with 65% foreign players be 16% more appealing than MLS is now? I don't know. With the right extra 16%, sure, if you can afford them. Do you get more of a return on the investment or not? Do you care if your national team players play in their domestic league (as most top national teams' players seem to do, given most top national teams have pretty highly-regarded leagues) or does it not matter? And if you create a "better" MLS by creating more markets and bringing in more high-quality foreign players and growing the pie, as you put it, does it mean you do want Clint Dempsey and Tim Howard and Stuart Holden playing here rather than in England or Italy or wherever? And would they want to anyway?
  23. 4door

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    There are ways to tie the development issue with expansion. For instance having teams not only pay 50-100M to get in, but require them to fully fund a 10-17 yr old local academy and fund a minor league affilate team limiting players 18-24 (with maybe a few over age exceptions to help mentor the young guys). If these owners are forced to build a structure from 10 yrs old all the way to the first team, then our player pool will certainly be improved.

    So what will our system look like? Will future Dempseys and Holdens still bolt for England, will we be 100% S. American? My dream scenario is a very large D1 without pro/rel and a large second division with affiliates similar to AHL. You can imagine that the starters in our D1 teams would could make millions, our bench players could make 100s of thousands, and our D2 players could be making under 100k with maybe a few exceptions. This is exactly what we see in NHL today, and that is what we should shoot for in the next 10-20 years. At that time our players will find the position in the pyramid that fits their abilities. If Dan Gargan is a D2 level player who is only worth 70k then that where he will be, if Kenny Cooper is a 250k player then he'll find a spot on the bench, and the Donovans, Dempsey, Holdens of our player pool would find starting spots. If we invest in development hopefully we have many more of these kinds of players. The reasons why we want players to move to Europe is because the competition each game and even to get on the field is so high. I believe that raising the level of competition in MLS and even to get on the field is going to make our players and USNT better.

    But will we still loose guys who want a shot at Champions League? Of course. Even Man United lost Ronaldo, any player no matter what league they are at will answer the phone if Barca or Real are calling. Everyone looses players. But as our league grows and our salaries grow, and we can maybe offer better competitions (I suggested hosting Club World Cup and getting an automatic spot and playing in Copa Lib) than I think most of our player pool will stay once we are at full growth. I think playing at an American powerhouse club can someday be better than going to Bolton and getting relegated or playing in a mid-level league. Top clubs in top leagues will always be attractive to our guys, but outside of those teams, I think we can retain the rest once our league is strong enough and the pay is similar to what those clubs can offer.
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  24. Achowat

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    We'll be invited to Copa Lib once we can demonstrate to Conmebol that there's money to be made in putting Copa Lib games on English-language US television. (It's a bit of a vicious circle)
  25. kenntomasch

    kenntomasch BigSoccer Yellow Card

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    In theory. But, as we've seen, scouting adults isn't an exact science (Denilson, please pick up the white courtesy phone, Denilson...), scouting youths can't be, either.

    I said in another thread that we don't know yet just how much improvement in the player pool we see from various initiatives. I think there's a general sense that college soccer is a hindrance (even though the bulk of the American players in the league have played college soccer), that a D2 or D3 league is an essential part of the puzzle (even though most players in MLS don't spend any time in those leagues on their career trajectory) and that youth academies create future MLS stars. We've seen them produce home-grown players. We're too early in the process yet to say what effect all these youth schemes are going to have on the MLS product next year or in 2016 or 2020. And just because the concept appears to produce effective players in European leagues (again, I have no idea as to the percentages) doesn't necessarily mean it'll happen here, when our best athletes are playing other sports.

    I mean, it sounds good. But we'll have to see how it actually all comes together.
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