An attempt to force MLS promotion-relegation has been filed in the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) to require the U.S. Soccer Federation (USSF) follow FIFA rules, as argued by Miami FC (NASL) and Kingston Stockade FC (NPSL).
The current United States soccer pyramid, as defined by USSF, is a closed system: teams don’t move up from Division II NASL or USL based on record, and teams aren’t relegated to Division II from MLS, either. Similarly, teams in the fourth-division National Premier Soccer League have no opportunity to rise to a higher league under the current closed system.
The complaint argues that USSF follow FIFA rules and force MLS promotion-relegation. It’s the system used in other countries for leagues and competitions ranging from the Premier League to UEFA Champions League.
“The closed system for soccer used here in the United Sates is in violation of FIFA rules,” said Miami FC CEO Sean Flynn. “By adopting the rules followed by virtually every other soccer playing nation around the globe, soccer in America will be open, resulting in better teams through all divisions, compelling story lines to increase fan excitement and greater financial success for everyone involved in this beautiful game.”
“When it comes to soccer success, America lags behind the rest of the world. One reason is because our system is not an open system and is actually blocked from becoming an open system,” said Kingston Stockade FC owner Dennis Crowley. “By embracing pro/rel and using this tried-and-true system, we would have a greater ability to unlock additional soccer markets, reward investment in those markets, and create new talent pools within the United States.”
The biggest argument for a closed system: an MLS expansion franchise costs $150 million, a USL franchise costs $5 million. The USSF certain has economic reasons — at least from the MLS side — to maintain the price integrity for franchises. But the FIFA rules quoted by Miami FC and Kingston Stockade FC are certainly not clear:
“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.”
That’s a pretty big or clause here: it doesn’t actually mandate promotion-relegation. But the fact that promotion-relegation is in FIFA rules is an arguing point. You can read the full Miami FC/Kingston Stockade argument here.
It’s clear that Miami FC ownership is working hard for promotion-relegation. In a move that raised a few eyebrows, Miami FC owner owner Riccardo Silva offered $4 billion for MLS media rights if the league adopted promotion-relegation. The league’s current deal runs through 2023, with existing rights-holders controlling the first rights on a new deal.
Image courtesy Miami FC.