Friday, August 4, 2017

Hooligan's Daily: Neymar Watch ends and a lawsuit for pro/rel

The big story on home soil was Riccardo Silva, owner of The Miami FC and the owners of the NPSL's Kingston Stockade suing FIFA, CONCACAF, and the USSF for the implementation of pro/rel in the professional ranks of the American pyramid. They've filed a claim with the Court of Arbitration for Sport, which has handled sporting disputes throughout the world.

They want FIFA to step in and force the USSF to adopt the same open system used in every other country in the world, save Australia.

Now, I'm not a lawyer, so I'm not going to try and interpret FIFA's bylaws to determine whether or not they actually mandate the use of a pro/rel system worldwide. Regardless, they seem to be focussing a lot on the first section of Article 9 of the FIFA statutes that reads: "A club's entitlement to take part in a domestic league championship shall depend principally on sporting merit. A Club shall qualify for domestic league championship by remaining in a certain division or by being promoted or relegated to another at the end of a season," while ignoring the following parts that account for non sporting aspects of a club such as infrastructure, financial, legal, and administrative functions. I would expect the current system to win out on that second part.

I'm all for pro/rel coming to the United States, but I also recognize that the soccer environment in this country isn't ready for it yet. There is such a large gulf between even the lowest clubs of MLS and the best of the NASL and USL, with a couple exceptions. I don't mean this on the field, either. Except for FC Cincinnati and Sacramento Republic, no lower league team attracts the crowd, and, by extension, the money, to compete in MLS. You have teams paying players peanuts while playing in front of a few thousand people in minor league baseball stadiums. To say that these teams could make the jump to MLS just because they can is disingenuous to what it takes to run a top level pro soccer team.

There are differences in travel costs, player and staff expenses, stadium infrastructure, and more that keep the lower league teams as just that. Bringing pro/rel in won't fix those problems.

Sure, there would be more investment in the minor leagues that could help close that gap, but that alone isn't enough. Soccer is just not popular enough around here to make it work. Pro/rel works throughout the world because it is far and away the most popular game out there and it has been for generations. The USA doesn't have that history or expansive fanbase, in part because there are a ton of other sporting options for fans to turn to if one team isn't satisfying their entertainment needs. The only sport that could handle a pro/rel system in this country is probably football, because the masses can't seem to live without it and that's the level of obsession it takes to work.

Finally, the pro/rel zealots love to tout what such a system would mean to the smaller clubs throughout the country while ignoring what it would do to the big clubs in MLS. There are several teams that struggle to gain a foothold in their markets without the risk of becoming a minor league team. Chicago Fire, D.C. United, Columbus Crew, and others struggle at the gate when the team isn't winning. Relegation would be enough to kill them off entirely as fans lose interest in a minor league team. You cannot lament the lack of opportunity for smaller clubs without acknowledging the overwhelming risk brought to those at the top and the millions of dollars their owners have invested in their businesses.

So, while I think pro/rel would be cool to have one day and I will welcome, we need to wait for the pyramid to fill out and the gap between MLS and the lower leagues to shrink considerably before we can think about how well it would do. This lawsuit won't help. In the unlikely scenario where it succeeds, it will only serve to railroad the leagues down a path they aren't ready to take, which could have severe negative effects for the game as a whole in this country.

So, my closing word to the Pro/Rel supporters out there is this: quit spend your time and energy demanding pro/rel right here, right now by hatefully screaming into your keyboards at anyone who opposes you. Having peaceful debates and acknowledging the arguments of the other side will help create fewer enemies and potentially convince more of those folks to join your cause.

Focus your efforts on supporting and spreading local amateur soccer and the lower professional leagues. With your support, and that of the new fans you can attract, you can help close the gap between the lower leagues and MLS both on the field and, more importantly, off of it. Support USL and their initiatives towards building soccer specific stadiums so they can get out of their minor league baseball parks that create an awkward environment for soccer. Support the NASL and their up front attitude that keeps everyone on their toes so they don't have another brush with death this winter.

You can also support MLS. I know it will be hard for you, but a popular and successful MLS is better than one with a bunch of angry soccer fans actively working against them. Any league that fails is bad for the game as a whole. even if you hate that league with every fiber of your being.

The one thing soccer in America needs more than anything else is a unified fanbase. If the fans can stop their internal squabbling, perhaps the leagues can come together and create the open pyramid you all wish for and I would love to see as well. It will take a lot of hard work and a lot of commitment towards building up those lower leagues, but it will be a lot more effective than yelling into Twitter at anyone who opposes promotion and relegation as if they were the spawn of satan.

Yesterday's Scores

Neymar Watch 2017 has officially come to a close. The now former Barcelona star has signed with Paris Saint-Germain after Barcelona finally accepted the briefcase full of €222 million Neymar had for them. He will be announced today and could be available for PSG's season opener on Saturday.

It looks like Real Madrid are going to have to sell Gareth Bale if they want any hope of landing Kylian Mbappe. They evidently don't have the cash on hand to match Monaco's €150 million or more demands for the young winger and Bale is probably simultaneously the most expendable and expensive option for them to sell off.

The draw for the Champions League playoff round was held in the wee hours of this morning and we have a couple intriguing matches. Liverpool will take on UCL first timers TSG Hoffenheim and Napoli will play Nice in battles of top five leagues. The other top club, Sevilla, has it easier. They play Turkey's Istanbul Basaksehir. Here's the full slate of ties to be played On August 15, 16, 22, and 23:

Istanbul Basaksehir v. Sevilla
Young Boys v. CSKA Moscow
Napoli v. Nice
Hoffenheim v. Liverpool
Sporting Lisbon v. FCSB
Qarabag v. Copenhagen
Apoel Nicosia v. Slavia Prague
Olympiakos v. Rijeka
Celtic v. Astana
Hapoel Beer-Sheva v Maribor

Today's Matches
Ligue 1
AS Monaco v. Toulouse- 2:45pm- beIN

Liga MX
Morelia v. Santos- 8pm- Univision Deportes
TIjuana v. Monterrey- 10pm- Univision Deportes

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