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A Link to the Past

by M.G. Siegler


The Relegation Debate for MLS

Jeff Carlisle on a debate underway in Major League Soccer; should they have a promotion/relegation style system -- similar to what European soccer has -- or will that stop the league from attracting good owners?:

But the pro/rel component remains a non-starter. Would it make the end of the MLS regular season more compelling? Without question. Such a system would also add a layer of accountability to teams as well. There are also host of negatives on the business side, however. What the game needs right now is investment in terms of stadiums, players and youth academies, just to name a few. The willingness on the part of owners to build that kind of infrastructure would lessen considerably if there were a risk of relegation.
MLS is also in the midst of an expansion-bidding process with entry fees starting at $150 million. In all likelihood, the introduction of a pro/rel system would give prospective ownership groups and communities -- some of whom are contemplating providing public land for stadiums -- reason to have second thoughts.
"No owner with deep pockets is going to say, 'I'm going to line up all my sponsorships, and then get relegated,'" said Colangelo. "No sponsor is going to come in and be the kit sponsor if you can relegated in a year or two. Right now the system just isn't built for the risk.

It sounds like there's no way this happens, but it would be amazing if it were implemented. The easiest way to stop the "tanking" phenomenon is to have the worst teams be sent down to the minor leagues, as it were. Meanwhile, you promote the best "minor" teams to the pros. It adds such a meaningful dynamic to a season that would otherwise be completely uninteresting (if you're not one of the top teams, overall).

But in the end, money gets in the way of everything interesting in sports.


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