US Soccer Development – Part 2

We previously talked about playing young players as an emphasis in American soccer development, the next aspect we will look at is supporting local soccer. The American soccer landscape is not clear in understanding for many, but that should not hold us back from seeing the sport flourish. There are many opportunities for support, no matter where one may be in the United States. Yes, some areas are easier in access than others, but finding a local team or teams to support is vital for the game.

There has never been a time where soccer was as accessible as it is now. Youth soccer is everywhere with more fields than ever before. High school soccer is thriving across the country. If you are looking at college soccer, you have over 1,400 men’s and 1,500 women’s programs spread throughout the country.

The next level up, in the highest level of amateur soccer, there exists over 150 clubs to support, such as CDLFC! Professional soccer boasts three leagues to support: MLS, NASL, and USL. Within those three leagues there are over 60 teams to choose from. Is the US soccer system perfect? No. But, it will not get any better without your support of local soccer.

In our city of Cincinnati, USL side FC Cincinnati has reached unprecedented heights. They are there because of the unconditional support of the FCC faithful. No one predicted their outstanding support. It may be somewhat hard to believe, but there was a time that the Cincinnati Riverhawks averaged 480+ fans per game. The Riverhawks existed from 1997 until 2003. After the Riverhawks, the Cincinnati Kings operated from 2005 to 2012 and averaged 189 in their last year.

February 2018 is an important month for the US Soccer Federation and the American soccer landscape. The Federation president, Sunil Gulati, is up for reelection. Since 2006, when Sunil first won the presidency, there have been no other opponents during his reelection times. Currently, there are six candidates that have come forward for the USSF presidency. What will those candidates do to progress the American soccer landscape?

A hot topic for all candidates is the talk of promotion and relegation. If you are not familiar with promotion and relegation, here is a little crash course. The promotion/relegation system operates when teams are transferred between multiple divisions based on their performance during a season. A professional league system would be structure with Division I, Division II, Division III, and so forth. Division I will remain the highest (currently MLS), Division II is second highest (currently NASL & USL), and Division III the next. A team that wins Division II gets promoted to Division I. A team that wins Division III gets promoted to Division II. In the promotion/relegation system, typically there are 2-3 teams that move up/down on a yearly basis.

Currently, USSF does not sanction any other divisions but Division I, II, and III. All three of those divisions are sanctioned as professional divisions. Any other league, including ours (PDL) is technically not in a US soccer division. With a true promotion/relegation structure, the PDL could sit at Division IV and get promotion to a professional league.

Imagine the emphasis that local soccer support has in this system! It does not matter where your team is located, they could be promoted OR relegated based on their performance. Fan support is critical for a team and individual’s success. A promoted team has tremendous fan support because they have risen from a spot that may be unexpected. A relegated team could sort their issues out and make a run at promotion again or even just the opportunity to compete within a league that may suit them best.

Canadian, American, and Australian soccer are the only countries that do not operate a promotion/relegation system. Do we see a trend with those countries? Currently all three are missing out on Russia 2018. Australia has the chance to qualify if they win a playoff against Honduras.

Another example of how the promotion/relegation system affects the US, coupled with supporting local soccer is the MLS debacle with Columbus Crew SC. If Columbus could not compete, they would be relegated. Simple. Unfortunately, that is not the case as they are now in the Eastern Conference Finals in the MLS Playoffs. Columbus also was MLS runners-up in 2015. The downside, a metro population of over 2 million fails to put more than 15,500 fans in the stadium regularly. Compare that to a metro population of 2.1 million for Cincinnati putting over 20,000 fans in the stands regularly. Sure, there are other circumstances for failing attendances.

In the end, we do not want any fan to be without a team. We would love to see more teams exist in the United States. We would love to have more fans at our matches to support the guys pursuing professional careers! How can you support local soccer? Can you be involved locally to help soccer players develop? Could the system change so more players can play and achieve professional dreams?

Your support makes an immediate difference. We ask that you support local soccer. If you are in the Cincinnati and northern Kentucky areas, we welcome you at CDLFC and hope you support other local programs.

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