Thursday, July 15, 2010

Me “Census” something’s wrong with D2 soccer

Inside Minnesota Soccer is finishing up a fantastic 4 part series on “Rethinking Division-2 Pro Soccer in North America” which you should take time to read, great work from those guys. The article covers a discussion with USL and NASL team owners and associates about what needs to be fixed to make D2 soccer more successful in America. The statistic that blew us away was a 75% failure rate in D2 teams over the last 15 years, amazing that the leagues are able to still exist. However the information that caught our attention was something we have been stressing (at least privately) for the last several years, regionalization. Since we lack the journalistic integrity to go out and get those hard hitting interviews with key staff of the USL and NASL, we are going to do a little something different. We present to you the future D2 soccer landscape in America as drawn by “The Scoring Third”.

We’ll preface the following by stating this is our opinion of the D2 layout based solely on regionalization, ignoring other key factors such as existing teams, existing leagues, etc that would otherwise impact the organization. It’s a clean slate, because honestly, that’s what the USL and NASL need after the last 12 months of fighting over table scraps.

The US Census is being completed currently for 2010, so most of our regionalization information is based off the 2000 census data, but the trends for population growth and relocation during that time shouldn’t impact our plan.

Our guidelines for the selection process:
1. Cities/Counties with populations over 250,000 people
2. 2 divisions, 6 teams per division (Division-only play in the regular season with playoffs of top 2 teams from each division)
3. 20 game season, a pair of home-away series between each team
4. Furthest travel distance 250 driving miles between teams (no air travel, same day bus trips, no hotel costs, overall reduction in O&M costs for the team)
5. Consideration for existing stadiums to host each team
6. Avoid areas with AAA minor league baseball teams (limited spending resources for the viewing public is usually going mean baseball beats soccer in smaller cities)
7. Major cities without MLS Teams

There are some other considerations such as the fact that all of the teams are in the Northeast. Being a resident of Florida, I would love to see professional soccer make a return, but no one wants to sit out in the heat for two hours to watch a match. If the D2 season will continue to parallel the MLS season, you can forget about any team south of the Mason-Dixon line until the business model supports it. However, the idea of a winter league of teams based in Florida, Texas, and Arizona/California would be great for a year-round D2 presence (maybe for another blog).

For this to be successful it’s necessary to tie the D2 teams to MLS teams (or other professional teams). Ask anyone who has attended a minor league baseball game and they will tell you it’s thrilling to know that some of the guys playing on the field in their city might someday play in the major leagues. We’re not saying that the D2 players will actually get up to MLS, but the affiliation alone is worth its weight in gold from a marketing standpoint. Let’s just call it Minor League Soccer and stop messing around with other league names, it is what it is. We suggest calling it “mLS” with a lowercase “m” to tell it apart from the professional league. Creative!

With the help of Webfoot and Google Maps along with the 2000 U.S. Census data here are the maps, let’s plot the future of D2 soccer in America.

mLS - Northeast Division
1. Albany, NY
2. Hartford, CT
3. Bridgeport, CT
4. Providence, RI
5. Cambridge (Boston), MA
6. Worcester, MA

mLS - Atlantic Division
1. Wilmington, DE
2. Lancaster, PA
3. Atlantic City, NJ
4. Baltimore, MD
5. Bethlehem (Allentown), PA
6. Trenton, NJ

What do you think of this whole crazy plan? We want to hear your thoughts. Comment below to this post or email us. You have to love that potential Lancaster vs Atlantic City match-up, talk about a culture clash.


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