Institution of a Promotion and Relegation System in North American Football



In this topic we are discussing the reform of the professional North American football (or soccer). The current Major League Soccer is a young league created in 1993 (first season in 1996) and one of the major professional sport leagues in the USA and Canada. It is based on a closed system just as the other leagues where MLS is a single entity and where franchising pay a membership to MLS owners. It has therefore financial requirements rather than sport criteria as it is happening in most of the professional football leagues worldwide.

The sport uncertainty and competitiveness are lacking in this league built to entertain.

Last week we held a FanPower Session with the Promotion and Relegation Supporters Association that you can listen Here which is looking to raise awareness about the need of a Pro/Rel system in the North American football pyramid.

Any ideas about how to help them to pressurize the football institutions in North America to establish such a system?


Modern Football is seeking to create cartels of powerful teams dictating the rules around business. The Stillitano’s proposed European Super League aims at replicating a closed model of football league (same as the North American Model). This goes against the usual merit system of Promotion/Relegation in football, an essential element of the beautiful game.

Take a look at the article on FanVox’s Copa 90 Collective here by the Pro/Rel Supporters’ Association.

What does this tell us as supporters?


Quick summary of the situation in the USA. Brilliant text, credits to

Interesting analysis of how, in the end, the US Football Pyramid System (with its special status provided by FIFA) is a business consequence of a monopoly in ‘soccer’. Ergo, no Promotion/Relegation, because the model discourages the open system.

Any thoughts?


As in other #FanPower challenge, the strategy must be delivered through both top down and bottom-up actions.

The creation of a grass roots movement like the #ProRelForUSA that brings together different supporters groups towards a common objective is a great initiative. A clear agenda and collective action are crucial for quick wins.

Nonetheless, this should be accompanied by top down/ regulatory changes so that the ultimate goal could be achieved. Usually this is the hardest challenge.

Where to start?


What about the unique structure of the US Soccer Pyramid. Since there is no Promotion/Relegation, one could argue that the different leagues compete against each other. One expert look at this topic:


What an excellent chat with Jay Kirkman from Supporters for Promotion/Relegation Association for our Fan Power Sessions


And for some clubs it’s a hard situation…

Listen to our interesting chat with Paul Scanling from Atlanta Silverbacks on their particular situation of the club, and a general overview on the US Football Pyramid.


And now the MLS is planning to expand to 28 teams?? Don Garber just confirmed their corporate plans:

Any thoughts?


Open it and enter the octahedron.

READ: by


Where does your club play?

  • MLS
  • NASL
  • USL
  • NPSL
  • Other

0 voters


As a grass roots movement, who would you be interested to connect to so that the #ProRelForUSA can go from raising awareness to delivering collective action? We’re happy to faciiltate that!


Very interesting article by soccerreform. I am quoting below one sentence which, in my opinion gives a great hint on where to start the US Soccer professional league system reform.

In effect, we are limiting quality, access, opportunity and investment in US club soccer – in an otherwise open global market – so that a tiny few US pro sports owners can get their way. It is no coincidence that our national teams stagnate alongside that system.

QUALITY is the component that differentiates the MLS soccer from many others top tier professional football leagues in the world whose teams are pushed forward by the competitiveness that an open league system allows.
It would be crazy though to state that a 300 million inhabitants country cannot grow players of quality. I’m sure that quality in US soccer exists, it is just not developed enough, fostered enough.

That’s why I think that a good point of start would be to emphasize, develop and give visibility to players and clubs that have the potential to represent the US excellence in soccer. It would be great to create a tool/structure that will show that teams of the lower divisions have potential to play in a higher division, to get promoted.


I’d like to hear everyone’s opinion on the latest news of MLS expanding to 28 teams (!) by 2020.


It’s insane, they’ll just keep adding new clubs and growing the business? What kind of excitement will it bring? Looks like the 40-National Teams-World-Cup. Not so far away from it @GMorty


From the 8th to the 14th May will take place the ProRelWeek with the aim to raise awarness of the need of a Pro/Rel system.

Let’s help them on the social network by sharing posts and using the #ProRelWeek hashtag!


Today is the first day of the #ProRelWeek and will run until the 14th of May. The campaign aims to rise awareness about the need of a Promotion and Relegation system in the North American Soccer pyramid and we will use this space to talk and provide solutions and concrete actions to help in reaching this goal.

We currently have a situation with three closed leagues, each of them with a defined level of quality, and more than everything, a defined amount of money that is being invested in each league as a whole. The result is that football is entertainment with very little competitiveness (in fact teams and players have very little sporting goals) and where as a result local talented players struggle to emerge and the US national team ( or Canadian) doesn’t take advantage of the leagues to improve its level for international tournaments.

Furthermore, the amount of money invested in each of the league is proportional to its status and so the gap between the leagues is constantly raising while less importance is given to the competitive aspect, due to the draft and salary cap system.

A promotion and relegation system will bring competitiveness in all parts of the football pyramid and will help teams form minor leagues to get visibility which will trigger the growth of talented players and a major investment in clubs and territories from lower divisions.

Let’s share our ideas to raise awareness about the need of Pro/Rel and to make it happen as soon as possible!


On Day 2 of the #ProRelWeek we are glad to share the below tweet from Jerome de Bontin, former General Manager of New York Red Bulls.

For US Soccer to ever be successful, PRO/REL are a necessity both at professional & academy levels. We cannot succeed without competition.

— Jerome de Bontin (@JdeBontin) May 9, 2016


For Day 3 of #ProRelWeek let’s focus on a new franchise of the US Soccer to highlight the potential of Soccer in North America. FC Cincinnati started playing in the USL (3rd tier) this season and for their first game broke the record of attendance of the league. The 20,497 people crowd for FC Cincinnati vs Louisville City clearly showed that the market is ready for soccer. This looks even more serious when you compare it with the MLS average attendance - 21,546.
Add to this, their 15.7k followers on twitter 22.3k on facebook and 9k on Instagram after only a few months of activity to get a picture of the impact of FC Cincinnati.

Needless to say that the enthusiasm around the team is huge and it is going to increase, with local businesses claiming they benefit from the matchday activities. The whole community benefits from it. Obviously attention is high and the expectations are therefore higher on and out the pitch.
Sadly for them the right to compete at a higher level, whenever they will demonstrate to be good enough on the pitch, will happen off the pitch. They will need to buy it.

A closed system leagues slows down the development of the sport from any point of view, from the growth of talented players to bigger commercial deals that could have been reached with more visibility.


It’s Day 4 of Pro/Rel Week and we would like to take the opportunity to come back on a podcast that with held one month ago with Supp Groups for Pro/Rel. Click HERE to listen to it.

The interview with Jay gave us great insights about the movement in the US. First of these, is a remainder of the current model of the US Soccer pyramid with the four first tiers competing between each other as four distinct commercial entities. MLS acts as the first division, NASL as the second, USL as the third and two other leagues PDL and NPSL act as a fourth division. It’s important to understand that they are not connected. In this way, NASL has the ambition to become a division 1, USL partners itself with MLS and acts as a reserve league for the MLS and the MLS has a strong relationship with the United States Soccer Federation. So every league is competing against each other as businesses and they have no interest at all to introduce a Pro/Rel system. This is crucial to understand the issues that the Pro/Rel movement is facing.

Supp Groups for Pro/Rel is born as people got concerned about the US Soccer pyramid model as a way that it was preventing soccer clubs to grow and to make the investment for promoting its own club. As a result your local club is stuck in its league. SGS started networking with other like-minded groups to add content to the conversation.
The plan for the future is to get supporters groups work together, get their voice united and turn it into action. The issue that US Soccer system is facing is affecting every club in America. Every club/stakeholder that would like to get higher visibility should get together.

There are two ways to make the institution of a Pro/Rel system happen. 1. Make pressure on FIFA so it withdraws the exemption of USSF to play in international competitions.
The second way is by creating a strong grassroots movement to build a strong voice, a desire from American audience to raise the issue. For this to happen there is a need to show that there is demand in US Soccer. Fans are to understand that a Pro/Rel system would benefit all clubs in North America allowing growth at all levels.

Supp Groups for Pro/Rel USA is looking to any chance to showcase the movement just as promoting activities during the games by displaying banners, tifos, etc. And by taking advantage of events like the opening of the US Open Cup to held this #ProRelWeek and more will certainly come during the Copa America Centenario held in the US about one month.

So let’s support them in any way we can!