Canadian Newspaper Says USL For Sale
In an article posted on Monday, the Metro News out of Toronto, Canada said the USL is being sold by Nike who currently owns the league. Ben Rycroft broke the story on Monday after he was able to get Vancouver Whitecaps president Bob Lenarduzzi to confirm the story. Lenarduzzi is the second Canadian USL owner to talk about the sale of the USL. Joey Saputo, who owns the Montreal Impact, spoke last week about the league’s sale. Interestingly, the two owners who have leaked the story, which has been under tight wraps for nearly a year now, are both Canadian owners who will be moving into MLS or hope to move into MLS in the next few years.
In the story Lenarduzzi said, “The USL owners have been in the loop the whole way since Nike put the league up for sale. There are a couple groups that are interested.”
The story says that MLS has shown interest in the purchase of USL but they are not the forerunner.
Rycroft writes: Two USL sources, speaking on the condition of anonymity, confirmed MLS’s interest, but both said that it was looking less likely now, as MLS was not interested in the type of numbers Nike had asked for. Their feeling was unless something dramatic happens, the third group, comprised of private investors, will be announced in the week ahead as the new owners of the USL.
Rycroft makes the jump that an MLS-owned USL would mean promotion and relegation.
IMS believes a sale to MLS at this point and time would be dangerous for the good of soccer in this country. MLS would have no interest in promotion and relegation, contrary to Rycroft’s delusions. Although I too would love to see a system of teams moving up and down leagues as is used all over the world, Major League Soccer has set itself up in a manner to make sure that won’t happen for a long time. If soccer supporters in the US are disappointed about this they only have MLS to blame. MLS requires $40 million to start a franchise. Why would you spend 40 million dollars at the risk of dropping down a league after the first season? It’s not going to happen with the current league structure as it sits.
Another issue is infrastructure. It’s what we don’t have and what we will need to make this happen. Although there are more and more soccer specific stadiums in the US, it will take years to get enough stadiums built and good teams established throughout the country.
As my friend Kartik Krishnaiyer pointed out on Major League Soccer Talk yesterday, there seems to be an ample supply of supposed soccer supporters in this country that hate USL and think it should go away. Krishnaiyer makes some very good points concerning those comments and I will add to them.
Around the world, the majority of leagues and teams are not super leagues like the EPL, or La Liga. They are small lower divisions. They are everywhere in the world, many with stadiums that hold anywhere from 10,000 to 1,000, sometimes smaller. Although some supporters may have a “big team” they support, they also support their local team. This is the infrastructure of football world wide. Why is it not OK with many MLS lovers to have alternative teams and leagues? It’s how soccer players are developed in a country.
Does anyone really think Manchester United supporters from England think it’s stupid to have 65 pro and amateur teams in the Manchester area alone? I very much doubt it because they understand the structure of football world-wide. The more players playing the game, the more chance one of them will rise up to be the next England superstar. So let’s stop with the “there should only be one league” business already. It’s a tired argument that doesn’t even hold up in any other US sport let alone soccer world-wide. Even Don Garber, commissioner of MLS, has stated that a strong minor league soccer program is important in this country. Yet MLS and Garber don’t seem to be interested enough in it to invest the money that is necessary.
How many teams has MLS established throughout North America? 15 with 18 hoped for in the near future.
How many USL teams have been established throughout North America? 11 USL-1, 9 USL-2, 69 PDL teams, 97 Super Y and Super-20 teams. That’s a grand total of 186, not including the W-league. That is 171 more teams than MLS.
Let’s forget the Super-20 and Super Y teams for now. Just counting the USL-1 and 2 and PDL that’s 89 teams that are settling in nicely to the US Landscape and starting to establish themselves. Some of those teams, like the Minnesota Thunder, have been around longer than any MLS team. Several PDL teams average between 1,500 to 2,00o fans per game. That is infrastructure and this is what will someday allow promotion and relegation.
Also, let’s address the USL’s Premier Development League (PDL) for a moment and make sure everyone understands its popularity and success. As its name indicates, it is a developmental league. In most cases these are unpaid players who don’t want to throw away their NCAA eligibility. That’s why the PDL was started — to give collegiate players a high level place to play during their summers. 63% of all MLS draft picks last year had spent some time in PDL. My recommendation to young promising college players here in Minnesota is, if you want to get noticed by an MLS team, it’s almost imperative to play PDL during the summer. It gives you credibility and gets you noticed.
I don’t know what the potential new owners of USL exactly have in mind for the league, but I believe a league that would be competitive with MLS is not a bad thing for soccer in America. In fact it’s a healthy thing that will get MLS from dominating a landscape that needs the infrastructure of USL, top to bottom. With MLS seeming to show very little interest in developing young talent in the US, let’s hope that USL stays as intact as possible and only gets better and stronger, for the good of soccer in the US.