promotion & relegation survey: personal reflections


WSOTP - Blog - Promotion & Relegation Reflections.fw

This is the third and final article in a three part series based on the results from a survey that ran on the site in December and January that looked to gauge the actual fan and owner interest in the implementation of Promotion & Relegation in the US and Canadian professional soccer pyramids. 

Read part one: Supporter Results  |  Read part two: Owner Results

I have to admit that making the decision on whether or not to write these series of articles was not any easy one. The debate I’ve held with myself over writing about the subject of promotion and relegation stretches back for the better part of a year.

Deep down, I knew that doing so would bring me a windfall of grief.

My words would be twisted, my intentions distorted and my mind numbed by the incessant drumming of some of the debate’s largest figureheads. All that happened well before I’d ever written a word on the topic in this space, so it was destined to be worse once I voluntarily jumped in with the sharks. It has been.

But if I could imagine a world in a vacuum where one could talk about pro/rel in the US and Canada without igniting a firestorm and one’s name being dragged through the mud, it’s a fascinating topic to discuss.


Set aside the incendiary nature of the debate as it currently stands. A comparison of the positives and the negatives of promotion and relegation’s implementation against the pros and cons of the current system requires so many different layers of thought. Logistics, finances, structure, migration path, legalities, desires — all of these are key elements in the conversation. And when one system appears to be beneficial for one of those factors, it could be a huge detriment to one of the others.

I love reasonable, level-headed and cordial debates like these. And it’s for that reason that I considered writing about promotion and relegation long before I ever knew of anyone named Ted — I just never got around to it, other than stringing together the occasional set of 140 character opinions on Twitter.

But it’s probably for the best that I didn’t. Because the reality is, it’s morphed into a ridiculously combustible topic here.

It’s a conversation that features extremely passionate group(s) of supporters and opponents. Both sets seem to be growing, but so too are those that have grown annoyed with the discussion and its tone. The mere mention of the phrase “pro/rel” on Twitter can literally set off a never-ending stream of notifications on your cell phone for the rest of the night. It’s hard to not get caught up in it — particularly for someone like me whose passion for the game pretty much defines their existence.

Unfortunately, in all of the mudslinging that goes down, there’s lots of hyperbole and opinion that’s tossed in alongside it like they’re undisputed facts.

That drives me bonkers.

Everyone’s entitled to their own opinion. But if you’re going to broadcast yours and attack others unsolicited for theirs, you damn well better have more than a “belief” to back it up. To be honest, soccer is too important to me as a human being to allow potentially incredibly influential popular opinion to be established without it having some solid data to lean against.

That’s the reason I ran these surveys in the first place: to establish the most comprehensive data set on the opinions and desires of two of North American soccer’s biggest constituents. I didn’t care where the numbers fell one way or another — I just want something to refer back to other than hunches and speculation.

So with all that said, what is my opinion on the topic of promotion and relegation here in the US and Canada? What are my reasons for those thoughts? And did my thoughts change after seeing the results of the surveys?

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promotion & relegation survey: owner results


WSOTP - Blog - Promotion & Relegation Owner Resultsfw.fw

This is the second article in a three-part series based on the results from a survey that ran on the site in December and January that looked to gauge the actual fan and owner interest in the implementation of Promotion & Relegation in the US and Canadian professional soccer pyramids.

Read part one: Supporter Results  |  Read part three: Personal Reflections

When I first devised the idea of running the promotion and relegation survey, like many that had come before it, it was nothing more than a supporters poll.

In itself, it wasn’t that bad that the survey would wind up similar to other polls that had been run. But pondering it over, it felt limiting to go down that path again.

Ultimately, to truly gain a deeper understanding on the subject, we would need to broaden the perspective the subject. Since we’ve already heard from the largest constituent base of the North American soccer market already surveyed and analyzed — the fans — I wondered: who else should have a say in this debate?

As mentioned in the last article, we the fans are the end consumer in football. And so far, the promotion and relegation movement’s primary goal has been try to influence the demand for the game we drive enough to force US Soccer and the Canadian Soccer Association’s hands. But for any of us that have taken a simple course in economics, you’ll recall that in order for there to be consumers, there must also be producers.

And what we’ve not heard to this point is what the producers of football want.

We’re talking about the owners, the chairmen, the CEO’s, the big wig types. Do they favor promotion and relegation, are they fine with the current system, or do they want something entirely different?

So why exactly do we want to know what they think?

Ownership opinions obviously matter for a multitude of reasons. They have the most to gain from a promotion and relegation system, but also stand to have the most to lose. They’re almost always fans of soccer themselves, too. But perhaps at its most basic level, without owners opening up their check books to take a large financial risk on a still niche sport, successful and viable professional soccer in this country becomes a much more difficult task to achieve. As such, they speak for the clubs themselves. And or that reason alone, their input matters just as much as the fans’.

Too, supporters of pro/rel often claim that the lower league clubs — like those in the NASL, USL, PDL and NPSL — want promotion and relegation themselves. But as alluded to above, I don’t recall an owner of a North American soccer club publicly supporting the system. Though maybe I haven’t been looking hard enough, either.

So, with that in mind, I set out to find out what the clubs want.

While lower league clubs get to mingle with and occasionally topple the big boys of Major League Soccer in the US Open Cup, does their leadership feel they could do that consistently? Do they feel they should get to move up the ladder if they prove themselves on the field? Are they feeling held down by “the man” — erm, USSF/CSA?

Now when it comes to actually gathering the answers to those questions from the decision makers in US and Canadian soccer? Significantly easier said than done.

Read on to find out more about who we talked to, and what they actually said.

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promotion & relegation survey: supporter results


WSOTP - Blog - Promotion & Relegation Fan Resultsfw.fw

This is the first article in a three-part series based on the results from a survey that ran on the site in December and January that looked to gauge the actual fan and owner interest in the implementation of Promotion & Relegation in the US and Canadian professional soccer pyramids.

Read part two: Owner Results  |  Read part three: Personal Reflections

Supporters — as I’ve written before — are the lifeblood of the beautiful game.

In the most basic of senses, the professional version of the game couldn’t even exist without us. Every dollar that is pumped into the machine that is modern professional soccer comes from you and I. We pour our money directly in by way of purchasing tickets, gear and other club paraphernalia. And we also indirectly fund the billions that broadcast providers are willing to pay to air games, both through the subscriptions we pay to use their services and via advertisers willing to pay ungodly amounts of money to have their names in our faces while we’re watching.

So as the primary client for football — or ultimate end product that the soccer entertainment companies sell, depending on how you want to look at it — it would be natural to assume we are entitled to have a say in how the game is run and delivered to us. You see it all the time. Fans calling for a manager’s head. Demands for new players. Cries about the limited access to watching games on television. Calls for lower ticket prices. It’s so common place that you probably don’t even notice it.

Yet most of the time, our requests and demands fall on the intentionally deaf ears of those that run the game. Even when the powers that be do decide to bow to the demands of the supporters, their concessions are often small and/or ancillary. But just because we don’t often have the desired power to make the changes we would like to see in the game, that doesn’t stop the debate from raging on amongst us.

The amount of whining and whingeing within American soccer circles right now is at an all-time high, both in diversity and in volume. Hot button topics range from how Klinsmann runs the national team to hemming and hawing over a particular team’s new kits. More fans, more opinions, more debates: growth is good right?

But if I had to single out just one topic that’s caught the most attention over the last year? That would have to be promotion and relegation in the American and Canadian professional soccer systems. Or more specifically, the lack thereof.

I don’t feel like I’m exaggerating when I say the fires fueling the “pro/rel” debate are burning out of control right now. No matter your stance on the issue, it’s practically impossible to have not yet been dragged into the mire at least once in some forum or another. Heated arguments unfold on message boards, Twitter, Facebook and occasionally even in your local soccer pub. It’s unavoidable. The rhetoric is thick, the instigators aggressive and the sides entrenched.

Should we use it or should we not use it? I’m not particularly concerned with that in this post — I’ll do my best to leave my own opinions on the debate for Part III of this series.

Instead, I want to know not only what people actually want, but also how much people actually want Promotion and Relegation. No more generalized statements, no more inferences, no more room for interpretation. Cold, hard data.

You see, one of the oft utilized arguments put forth by the supporters of promotion and relegation’s implementation is that the “majority of soccer fans in this country want promotion and relegation”. Depending on how it’s being phrased, you might also hear that “they demand it”, too. And those arguments are often issued with such an air of infallibility that many just accept it as fact.

But is it really? That’s what I intended to get to the bottom of with the WSOTP Promotion & Relegation Survey.

Did we get that? Well, read on and find out.

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longing for the good ‘ol days


WSOTP - Blog - Anger.fw

The new US away kits officially dropped on Monday. It was impossible to miss, with images of the new blue-streaked shirts littered across social media by everyone from Nike, US Soccer, current mens and womens players to blogs, news agencies and randoms alike.

But if you weren’t paying that close of attention, you could be forgiven for thinking that someone had instead dropped an atom bomb on the USSF headquarters in Chicago, such was the negative reaction to yet another American soccer decision.

Whether or not it was a majority is up for debate, but it’s clear a sizable portion of the American fan base hated the jersey. Their ire seems to be pointed in multiple directions too, with Nike, US Soccer and even Sunil Gulati receiving poignant 140-character tirades since its official release. It was described as “ugly”, “effortless” and “unneeded”. Some were angry that it replaced the beloved “bomb pop” kit dawned by the US men in Brazil last summer — which, if you recall, also received a fair bit of scorn when it was first released.

Whether or not you like it, I don’t really care. I’m a fan. But then again, it’s my opinion and we’re all entitled to our own. It’s all subjective anyway and it’s no skin off my back if you don’t like it.

But the outrage that followed the new kit release wasn’t an isolated incident.

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an interview with professional soccer social worker lawrence cann


Street Soccer USAIt’s not an infrequent occurrence to hear someone describe soccer as their life.

For many that I know — myself included — that’s a fairly accurate statement. I run a soccer website and spend a majority of my free time watching and taking in the beautiful game. My sister and her husband are both college soccer coaches. A fair few of my friends make their livings training and working for youth clubs. And a privileged few of my acquaintances actually pay their bills by playing the beautiful game.

But it’s a rarity that you ever hear someone talk about how soccer has saved their life. Unless, that is, your name is Lawrence Cann.

Lawrence Cann is president and founder of Street Soccer USA, a non-profit that aims to “improve health, education, and employment outcomes for the most disadvantaged Americans by using sports”. Working most frequently with homeless youth and adults, the program currently operates soccer-based programs in sixteen cities around the country.

Probably best known for the team they send to the annual Homeless World Cup, SSUSA’s biggest project every year is actually the domestic Street Soccer USA Cup. At that, all sixteen cities in the program send a representative squad of program participants to take part in a national tournament.

And as it just so happens, the 2014 edition of the Street Soccer USA Cup kicks off this weekend in San Francisco.

So to help get a better understanding of everything that the SSUSA program and their annual big event does to help the disadvantaged across the country, I spoke with the Lawrence Cann to get the low down on how they’ve managed to use soccer as a vehicle for social change.

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WSOTP pod: season 2 episode 32

WSOTP Podcast - Season 2 Episode 32

You might be inclined to think that with this being the middle of an international break, we wouldn’t have much to talk about on this week’s “Pondcast”. Well, if you were so inclined, you were wrong. There were of course international matches to talk about, including a pair of European USMNT friendlies and European Championship qualifiers. Plus there was MLS, for some reason playing through a FIFA break despite having 10% of their players called up. And we even invited on Gary Wiggins of Copa to Cleveland to see what our neighbors to the North are doing to bring the 2016 Copa América to Ohio. The guys also spoke about their trip to Kentucky on Saturday to watch the inaugural Louisville City and St. Louis FC match in USL. Plus, our normal Winners & Wankers and Fantasy Update segments made appearances once again, too.

PSA: don’t forget that we want to talk about topics that are interesting to you! Feel free to send us your questions and topics to cover via email (contact[at]wrongsideofthepond[dot]com) or by social media using links at the bottom of the page. And if you haven’t yet, subscribe to the WSOTP Podcast on iTunes/Stitcher/RSS, too.

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WSOTP pod: season 2 episode 31

WSOTP Podcast - Season 2 Episode 31

Premier League recap? Yep. Champions League wrap? Uh huh. A look at domestic matters ranging from the US Open Cup field finally being set, Minnesota United’s impending announcement as the 23rd MLS club and the media frenzy swirling about one of the investors in the potential Miami franchise? Oh you better believe that’s in here, too. There was a lot on the #Pondcast team’s plate this week — including Winners & Wankers, Fantasy Update and the Championship Watch — and the boys did well to stomp their way through it all in a manner that only Steven Gerrard could appreciate.

Have a question or topic suggestion you want the guys to hear the guy’s tackle on the next podcast, shoot them our way by email  (contact[at]wrongsideofthepond[dot]com) or by social media using links at the bottom of the page. If you haven’t yet subscribed? Well, best get on that too using the links below to get the WSOTP Podcast on your favorite mobile device automatically.

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pic of the week 3/16-3/22


Mario Balotelli Being Held Back by Liverpool Supporters

There were probably a dozen images that could have earned this week’s Pic of the Week plaudits, and about half of them came directly from the Liverpool-Manchester United derby that took place yesterday morning. And I’ll be honest, Gerrard seeing red just 37 seconds after stepping on the pitch was a really hard candidate to turn down. But there was really only on moment that could possibly earn the honors. That moment? When the already cautioned substitute Mario Balotelli had to be restrained by his own supporters at Anfield after a clash near the touchline with United’s Chris Smalling.

Tensions were high as Liverpool were already reduced to playing with ten men and had pulled one back just ten minutes earlier. And when he appeared as a substitute, it only seemed inevitable that Mario would make his way on to the pitch and then see red himself. After picking up a needless yellow for clipping a heel moments before, we nearly saw further fireworks — if not for the quick thinking of the nearby Liverpool faithful.

Only Mario, right?

ten words or less #107

The process I follow when collecting the links I use for these Ten Words or Less posts, the first one is normally saved as a draft within hours of the previous edition going up. Sometimes, others are added to it quickly and we have to rush this out faster than I had planned for. Other times, it takes a while to accumulate them and I fend up filling the links below up with fluff. You tell me which scenario this edition is after hitting up the links below.

Even legends lose their cool. –

Can’t wait to get Marcelo Claure together with Vincent Tan. – (via Howler)

Fan burnout is real. –

Great idea that will never happen: US boycotts Qatar 2022. –

Dope design runs deep in football. –

How do you say “moneyball” in Dutch? –

A winter MLS schedule isn’t just stupid because of weather. –

That other Bradley’s excellent look at the current US landscape. –

Excellent soccer blogging. –

Poor journalism aside, there’s still some truths in here. –

WSOTP pod: season 2 episode 30

WSOTP Podcast - Season 2 Episode 30

After spending all day Saturday emceeing Cincinnati’s downtown St. Patrick’s Day party, it was a tad tricky for the Pondcast team to take in most of this weekend’s action. They made do, however, by huddling around a tiny laptop stream for hours on end to catch it all so that we could provide you with the adequate coverage on this week’s podcast. And in this week’s episode, we delve into matches across, Major League Soccer, the English Premier League and UEFA Champions League. And in addition to weekly segments like Winners & Wankers and Championship Watch, we also made room to tackle the debate surrounding the American Outlaws and the furor that’s caused. So saying this episode is jammed tight is putting it lightly.

Questions made it back into this week’s podcast, and we’re hoping to field them next week too. So make sure to send your’s our way by email  (contact[at]wrongsideofthepond[dot]com) or by social media using links at the bottom of the page. Also, if you haven’t yet subscribed, be sure to do so using the links below to get the WSOTP Podcast on your favorite mobile device automatically.

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go forth and multiply

Manifest Destiny

Major League Soccer dropped a bomb of sorts yesterday afternoon.

In a release on the official league website, it was confirmed that MLS has accepted a bid from current-NASL side Minnesota United FC to become the latest expansion side. While that in itself is great news — United are a far more attractive bid than their cross-city rivals in the Vikings — it wasn’t the biggest news in that release. That was reserved for literally the very last, sentences of the article, and it’s blown the lid off of American soccer social media since.

“Over the course of 2015, we plan to evaluate potential expansion beyond 24 clubs.”

Now that’s some MLS expansion news.

Now if I’m being totally honest, when Don Garber announced back in 2013 that the league was hoping to expand to 24 teams by 2020, very few of us in the media ever thought that twenty-four was a legitimate, hard cap. Even then, there were too many cities interested in having an MLS franchise to limit it to that number. Too, MLS would be leaving far too much money on the table by limiting themselves to just twenty different markets. Twenty-four always felt like far more a milestone than a finish line.

But that begs the question: where is the finish line for MLS when it comes to expansion?

We’re currently sitting at 20 teams in 2015, and we know we’ll have 22 in 2017 when Atlanta and LAFC join the league. With Minnesota likely to be joined by Sacramento in expansion talks, that get’s us to magical number 24. But what does that mean for city’s like San Antonio, St. Louis, and Las Vegas (please, no) all seemingly chomping at the bit? Or even more pertinent, what happens if Beckham’s Miami bid ever gets its act together?

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pic of the week 3/2-3/8


Altiore Flipped Off

So yeah, this was supposed to go up at the beginning of the week, but things got busy and I forgot to publish. But the image selected for the latest “Pic of the Week” is just too good to not be shared, even if temporarily forgotten. What follows is what you would have seen if I had published it on time…


Above we see a man who has been granted few opportunities to smile over the past 18 months finally getting an opportunity to smile. Even when being presented an unappreciative face and lewd gesture from a member of the opposition support, he doesn’t care. That’s the reaction of a man who scored two goals that day — his second and third goals since joining Sunderland in July of 2013, by the way. Look how wide he’s beaming. Unburdened. Freed. Relief. I can practically taste the joy.

The moment, when shared by Toronto FC’s Twitter, was described as Jozy Altidore’s “Troll Face”. Maybe he was trolling bird-wheeling Whitecaps fan, Kirsty Olychick. Maybe he wasn’t. But either way, the moment captured in that photograph is awesome for more reasons than one — probably two if you ask Jozy.


WSOTP pod: season 2 episode 29

WSOTP Podcast - Season 2 Episode 29While there was still Premier League and FA Cup action to cover, this week’s episode of the Pondcast takes on a decidedly domestic feel as we do a full-scale preview of the already started 20th season of Major League Soccer. And to help us talk it over, we brought on a man who’s watched every one of the previous 19 seasons from Columbus Crew SC’s broadcast booth: Dwight Burgess! We chatted with Dwight about how he landed his gig, how the game has changed, his outlook for the Crew and much more. And if you come for Winners & Wankers, Championship Watch or Fantasy Update, we’ve got all that for you again this week too.

We didn’t have room in this week’s podcast for listener questions, but we will make room for this week’s and more on next week‘s podcast. So make sure to send your quesetion or topics our way by email  (contact[at]wrongsideofthepond[dot]com) or by social media (links at the bottom of the page). And for the lazy, don’t forget to subscribe using the links below to automatically receive the latest episode of the WSOTP Podcast on your favorite mobile device.

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