|Silverback Defender, Mattias Schnorf is a product of Swiss Football now plying his trade in Atlanta|
I’ve been following and supporting teams in football for longer than I care to admit. In all of that time, I’ve grown to love not only the game, but the culture and the compelling structure of the competition surrounding the world game. But my love of the game is troubled in the USA.
The sporting structure of top league sports is unique in America. The divisional and closed league and playoff structure permeates through the NFL, NBA MLB NHL and MLS. It’s a tradition of structure that has been around since there have been sports in the country.
The USA arguable possesses the best sports facilities, business structure and pool of athletes than any other country on the planet. So with all of this, why do I still prefer Euro Football over the MLS and why are TV ratings for viewership for American TV soccer viewers so much higher for European and World football than it is for the domestic game?
There are lots of theories including:
* The MLS is still young and growing
* The level of quality is not yet matching the world game.
This may all be true, but my reasons for my disappointment in the domestic leagues are quite different. Unlike a lot “fans”, I don’t need the team that I support to be the best in the world to attract me. My love of a football club has more to do with my relationship with the club and the compelling nature of the competition that club plays in.
I appreciate the progress the MLS, NASL and USL have been making in the last few years, but despite that, the competition in the U.S. lacks something that could be there for the U.S. soccer fan. That “something” is promotion and relegation, a league champion and inter-divisional cup competition. The reasons for the lack of these modules in the domestic game is a matter for another article, but I wanted to give my own take on the matter.
The problem with a closed league, devoid of the incentives of promotion and relegation, is that half way through your season, many teams have little to play for in the sense of league rewards. In fact the useless draft system in the MLS actually rewards teams that do more poorly with a better position in the draft. (The fact that a college draft is pointless in soccer is besides the issue.)
In World football, no matter how far you are in the schedule, your team is always playing for something even if they are out of the league title race. Middle tier teams are looking to finish in the top spots to qualify for Cup tournaments, bottom tier teams are looking to keep playing hard to avoid the relegation drop to a lower league. Some of the most exciting football in England last year came on the last match day as 6 teams playing AT THE BOTTOM of the league were playing for their survival! In the USA, this type of excitement is unknown except to those fans of the world game.
|The ADASL follows the world model for compelling soccer competition|
What’s frustrating is that it is easily implemented in the USA if the desire of the soccer governing body were open minded and creative. The MLS would never have it but it’s because of the financial requirements put on an organization to field a team. So a potential MLS Premier League with a NASL 2nd division, USL 3rd division and 4th division cannot happen. But can you imagine the excitement of not only a promotion and relegation possibility but also an F.A. Cup competition that is inter-divisional that could have David Beckham’s L.A. Galaxy coming to play the Atlanta Silverbacks at Silverback Park for a 3rd round Cup match up??? And the knockout Cup competition also satisfies the playoff hunger that many fans enjoy. Doesn’t that sound appealing? If that were here, I wouldn’t need to follow Europe to find that excitement, it would be right here for me to enjoy.
Quite frankly, I’ve always thought that the leagues here need to be regional much like the USL have done with the women and the PDL. It would be easier as a fan to follow their favorite team and also less expensive for a football club to operate considering fuel and travel expenses. Even Manchester United manager Alex Ferguson suggested this idea when asked about the MLS in an interview recently.
Fortunately for Atlanta, there is a “World Like” structure to football competition at the Amateur level. It’s in the Atlanta District Amateur Soccer League (ADASL). There, we do have regional play (metro Atlanta) and a 3 tier system with promotion, relegation and a inter-divisional Cup competition. They also run their league on the same calender schedule as the world game. AFN covers this league and will be expanding coverage this season after the NASL season finishes up.
To sum up, I enjoy soccer in the USA, but I think it could be so much better if U.S. Soccer forged out to be different than the norm here. What I desire for soccer competition may never happen in the States, but there will always be something missing without it.
Reprinted from http://atlanta-footballnet.blogspot.com/