Sunday, December 28, 2014

Should USL Pro Be Moved from Division 3 to Division 2?

Rumor has it that Division 3, USL Pro, on the USSF Men's pro soccer pyramid, will apply for Division 2 sanctioning.  This is according to Reckless Challenge.

The news shouldn't be so surprising as USL Pro has been competing for respect in the minor leagues since its inception in 2011.  In this same time period, it also has been competing directly and indirectly against the NASL as well.

United Soccer Leagues, the USL of USL Pro, has consistently provided minor league pro and amateur soccer for decades.  The NASL was once a marketing machine and brought Division One soccer to the forefront of sports spectatorship in the late 1970's and early 80's.  Regardless of which league is ahead of the other on the pyramid now, both have extraordinary achievements in U.S. soccer history and deserve their fair share of recognition.

But, there can only be one Divison 2 for American Soccer (one would think-who knows how USSF could end up ruling on how things proceed).

The USSF put together some stipulations demanding that owners of teams in Division 2 pass financial requirements and there is some doubt as to whether some USL Pro owners would satisfy these, but that is not the primary reason USL Pro does not deserve to have the mantle of #2.

Just by looking at the sizes of metro areas that USL Pro has in its league and comparing it to the NASL metro areas, USL Pro sizes up fatter and richer with almost twice the amount of teams, including soccer rich cities-Rochester, Pittsburgh, Sacramento, Austin, Tulsa and St. Louis-just to name a few.

So, why not move USL Pro ahead of NASL, especially with the slow growth progress of NASL? The NASL has not made true with all of its franchise promises.  Some teams have delayed their starts (Virginia) or have made commitments that have not been followed through on (OKC).

But, USL Pro has had its own problems as well with some teams not making it a whole year through (Caribbean teams) or getting shelved after one or two years of survival (LA Blues).

Now, with 24 teams though, USL Pro looks more significant on paper and its last team to leave the league, Orlando City, jumped straight to First Division MLS.

The reason I can't give my blessing to USL Pro is because of how they have allowed the MLS partnership to turn the league into a development league.  As a fan, I can't get that excited to see LA Galaxy II or Sounders 2, even if I don't have the chance to see I or 1.

By letting MLS have second rated teams into its Division, USL Pro has sullied the Division.  I don't mind the MLS alignments with these teams if they are Division 3 or Division 4, but in Division 2, it will feel like its all mucked up.

Right now, there is a lot at stake to be considered Division 2 and by bringing MLS alignments and partnerships into it will feel like a monopoly of sorts or that the competition is fractured and not pure.

As long as Pittsburgh, Rochester, Sacramento and Austin are affiliates of MLS teams, it means they are not their own teams.  They are not independent and the system can't be trusted.  As a fan, I'm not seeing the players play their best for the team and fans.  They are playing their best to be scouted.

It may be true that all players are playing to be scouted at all times, but I'd rather know they are there purposely playing for a championship.

Business is business and transfers will happen.  This is true.  But for me, the value of seeing a team play diminishes when players are developmental nomadic pawns who have little internal desire to remain with that team.  (The same can be said for any Division 2 player who is trying to get to Division 1, but I believe the difference can be found when Division 2 teams are making independent decisions for the best future they can have for their team and their fans.)

Triple A, Double A and Single A baseball are conditioned and theoretically developed to be part of the steps that lead to Major League Baseball.  This system is not how soccer should be in the U.S. now because pro soccer needs to be pushed to be at its best and Division 2 can be that catalyst. (Obviously, this leads to a promotion/relegation discussion, but if that discussion can't take place, then there has to be a discussion for how Division 2 should be managed and whether First Division alignments should be allowed.)

I would like to see a Second Division the same size as a First Division but without alignments and partnerships among teams between divisions that is purposely for the development of players.

As with most U.S. pro soccer issues, USSF will make its decision and soccergoers and supporters will have to live with it.

Scroll down on the right to vote on poll for Divison 2 or 3.


  1. Meh. Germany and Spain have B teams in their second divisions. I have no problem with it.

  2. @Danny Boy, you're wrong about Germany. Second teams are prohibited from promotion past the 3rd division. Also, if the first team should ever be relegated to the 3rd division, the second team would be forced down into the 4th division.

    @MikeFirpo, what's the point of discussing divisional status for USL Pro without a pro/rel federation structure? Without pro/rel, divisional status is meaningless.

    If pro soccer in the USA is to be modeled after MLB rather than the German soccer pyramid, for example, then one might consider rating the player development minor leagues AAA, AA, and A.