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Ancelotti: No relegation 'demotivates' MLS clubs

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Carlo Ancelotti, current Bayern Munich manager, says the lack of relegation in Major League Soccer is hurting the league.

Speaking to ESPN FC, Ancelotti says he has accepted the differences of the league after spending time in Canada following the Vancouver Whitecaps. However, while the current system does level the playing field, Ancelotti says he believes in a system where top-flight status isn’t assured.

“I think the fact that there is no relegation hurts, because it is demotivating,” Ancelotti said. “I’d watch Vancouver and they weren’t doing well but, hey, what changes if they finish last? They don’t get relegated, they still get paid… But that’s the structure of U.S. sports and you have to respect it.

“I spent a lot of time in Canada last year and watched a lot of MLS,” he added. “It’s different, it’s a different approach, the way everything is structured is geared towards a spectacle, towards parity, rather than flat-out dog-eat-dog competition.”

The Bayern Munich boss has spent his whole career in Europe. He has managed some of the top clubs in the world.

The debate between whether or not MLS should use the relegation system has gone on for some time. In December, Don Garber mentioned that the league has found success by using the same format as other U.S. sports leagues. 

Ancelotti also said that he would inform top European players not to leave Europe while still in their primes.

“I think as long as you can stay at or near the top of the football world,that’s what you do.” Ancelotti said. “And right now, the pinnacle is right here in Europe.”

54 comments
  • BW

    An awful playoff format that makes the regular season worthless is what demotivates MLS clubs.

    Like

    • don Lamb

      There is some truth to this, but it is the same in leagues with promotion/relegation. What motivation does an EPL team that sits in third with no chance of 1st or 5th have? What motivation do the five teams that are 10th-14th that have no chance of finishing 7th or 18th have?

      Like

      • Anthony

        I see what you are saying,but it typically a little off. Usually a team in top 3 has a shot for the title. Top 6 or 7 have a shot at a Champions League place. Typically top 8/9/10 have a shot at Europa League. However 10-15 are playing for nothing except avoid getting pulled into the relegation battle. 16 – 20 are in a relegation battle.

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      • Quit Whining About Soccer in the US

        You realize Anthony that BM will be 13 out of last 19 championships here soon.
        So shot? Ok sure. I will still go with favorite next year.

        Like

      • Anthony

        But Don mentioned EPL. Every league is different. Bundesliga is the most one sided of the top 5 leagues in Europe. Maybe Italy.

        Like

    • UclaBruinGreat

      The playoff format right now is bad because too many teams make the playoffs, and MLS right now still doesn’t have as many teams as the other American leagues. But having playoffs is absolutely the way to go. It’s how we do it here in North America and it’s awesome. Supporters Shield winner gets a trophy and auto Champions League spot. So they are rewarded. Playoffs should be just 4 teams per conference. Mexico has a good system (or had?) where instead of away goals rule for a tiebreaker, the higher seed automatically wins the tiebreaker if aggregate score is tied in the playoffs.

      Like

    • Javier

      Since there is no promotion/relegation I would prefer a championship game with top team in the west versus the the top team in the east. If MLS insists on having a playoff I would prefer at most it should the top 4 teams at the end of the season. Either the top 4 in points total or the top two teams in the west versus the top two in the east.

      Like

    • Tut

      I think this Is correct:

      Leeg/teams/#tmsinplayoff/%teamsinply
      Mlb 30 10 33% of teams make playoffs
      Nfl 32 12 36%
      Nhl 30 18 27%
      Nba 30 16 53%
      Mls 22/(24) 55%/50%

      This Must be considered.

      Like

      • wsmithers

        So if you fix the math on the NHL (16/30=53%, like the NBA), then MLS is right there with those 2 leagues. Yeah, I’d rather see it be more like 8 of 24 (and can understand an argument for still fewer), but it’s not outrageous.

        Like

  • The TX 2 Stepper

    1. He is right on all points BUT

    2. His right thinking and speech will not be intelligible in the echo chamber that is the American Soccer cartel

    unfortunate …

    As an alternative US Soccer should take control of the whole system and find a competitive and truly sporting solution

    MLS >>> ML2 >>> MLS “Pro-Dev” and etc.

    Like

    • don Lamb

      That could very well be where we are heading, but these nut jobs that expect that to take place immediately are way out of touch with reality.

      Like

    • BrianK

      I have a very elegant solution that would solve this problem without actual pro/rel but would motivate the players to win every point they can during the regular season. Teams would be scratching each other’s eyes out for points. Even the very well paid DPs would be motivated,…if not by themselves,…by others.

      Like

  • Adam M.

    “What changes if they finish last” is that poorly paid players get relegated out of jobs with the team and maybe the only league in the country that could pay them decently. This is where the “lack of motivation” argument falls apart for me, at least for MLS where salaries remain low — players want to perform well to keep their jobs! As for team owners, they get to stay up, sure, but they risk losing revenue in an already fraught environment if they put on a bad product. Why would they do that? Pro/rel works in other places because there are mechanisms in place to protect players and owners from financial collapse if their team goes down. There is no such system in the US, and there won’t be until the sport is saturated here — and that’s a long way off.

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    • Beto

      “Pro/rel works in other places because there are mechanisms in place to protect players and owners from financial collapse if their team goes down. There is no such system in the US”
      The single entity/centralized management system in MLS is the most incredible form of owner protection possible! The owners of MLS designed this system so it did not matter if their team won the league, finished in last place or even got relegated to a second division as long as the league was healthy everyone is a winner. Imo pro/rel between a MLS & MLS2 would be the easiest league system to implement. And as a fan of team that is almost always near the bottom of the league I would be much more interested in regular season games if there was something to fight for

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      • Gary Page

        Soccer was a delicate organism when MLS started and the first women’s league has since folded and the prior league folded despite often getting huge crowds. The system developed by MLS has gotten the league through 20 years with a slow, but steadily growing fan base. It has worked for MLS. What works for European leagues that have been around for 75 years or more isn’t necessarily what’s best here. I think MLS was smart to copy the format of other professional US sports league since it has worked for them and now it’s working for MLS.

        Like

    • JCC

      I’ve always seen the last place teams in North American sports get rewarded because they get first dibs on the better players in the draft. It’s not unheard of for bad teams in American sports leagues to tank a season halfway through knowing that they’ll get a shot at a good draft pick in the off-season.

      Like

      • johnnyrazor

        Academies and home grown players have tempered the chances of that as many of the better players aren’t available, like Jordan Morris. Also, with foreign leagues much more viable as options top players don’t necessarily go into the draft.

        Like

  • Old School

    Demotivates me as a fan too.

    As mentioned above, our playoff format (which they’re pushing to expand the field) renders the regular season largely irrelevant.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Anthony

      How do you figure? Usually in the top 3/4/5 leagues, the Top 8-10 play for titles or European places (Champions League or Europa League). That is between top 6 to top 7. The bottom 5 or so are in year long relegation battle. The middle 5 just play to avoid relegation and maybe a perk.

      Like

  • Quit Whining About Soccer in the US

    Argument is beyond stupid, so then half of the major Euro leagues have nothing to play for and they are unmotivated? No mention of that….

    So MLS is still better off this way. Couple of teams stink like DC did a few years ago, realize fans won’t show up and they get good, in fact great, they won the conference the next year.

    The more people whine, the more your realize that MLS has it right for success and is succeeding because of it. They don’t want that to be true, so they whine. That holds true for Bayern Munich manager where they are about to win their 5th straight title….and the motivation to get better is enormous!

    Like

    • don Lamb

      Colorado is another prime example. Chicago and Houston this off-season. The pressure and motivation to succeed is there. On the flip side, given the lack of infrastructure and culture down lower on the pyramid, if these teams were relegated out of the first division, it would likely be the start of a downward spiral that would end that franchise altogether. That would a. completely screw up the market footprint that has been diligently planned (for extremely good reasons), and b. most likely create an instability league wide that would bring the whole thing down.

      Like

      • johnnyrazor

        How long has it taken Houston (8th or worse last three seasons) and Chicago (one playoff game in seven years a 2-1 loss to Houston) to figure it out though?

        The other thing is if say Chicago was relegated and then folded, there would be owners in Detroit, St. Louis or Indianapolis ready to buy up that spot and probably some rich people who would jump at the chance to buy a franchise on the cheap and keep it in Chicago.

        For the most part MLS owners seem more insulated than in other sports, they depend less on fan support in tickets and attendance than other sports owners. For the most part owners and organizations are trying to win they just sometimes don’t do a very good job of hiring the right people to get that done.

        Like

    • Anthony

      How do you figure? Usually in the top 3/4/5 leagues, the Top 8-10 play for titles or European places (Champions League or Europa League). That is between top 6 to top 7. The bottom 5 or so are in year long relegation battle. The middle 5 just play to avoid relegation and maybe a perk.

      Like

      • Quit Whining About Soccer in the US

        Yeah, like MLS, you expand the playoffs big enough, everyone is playing for something. We made the playoffs. If I had a dime for every time making the playoffs were brought up as a reason to keep Sigi on as coach.
        Little participation trophies.

        This guy is the head of the team that will win its fifth straight with no end in sight. The reason it is an issue is that RBL came in from nowhere and went right to the top Man City style, while everyone else wallows, hoping to make Europa or not get relegated. Which is where they will be when their current fans die, more or less.

        Meanwhile my team won it all a few years ago, or this year depending on if you care for the playoffs or not. It took them 8 years, and it may take another decade or two, but I know they can. They just did.

        Like

      • Anthony

        The playoffs SHOULD NOT expand. It weakens the regular season. The post season should take less than half the teams in each conference.

        Like

  • Quit Whining About Soccer in the US

    Many more teams in the Bundesliga every year until recently, and they can add and subtract every year……soooooooo

    Since MLS started 11 teams have won the supporters shield with DC and LA winning 4 times each mostly when there weren’t many teams.
    Bundesliga, BM winning 12 times with 6 different winners in the same time frame.

    Not really his argument, but come on. MLS teams aren’t motivated? Give me a break, exactly opposite by any measure of logic.
    I calculated this very quickly, don’t beat me up for being off slightly, my point stands.

    Like

  • Rob

    Considering the lack of player development and the below mediocre level of football I don’t think anybody can argue when I say MLS is not really a football league. It’s just a company that organizes soccer games and overcomes the lack of entertainment value by fooling the fans desperate enough for some legitimacy with marketing.

    Like

    • Adam M.

      What is the Brazilian league? They have pro/rel and ship their best players out of the country usually before they make a long-term impact on the league. Do we want a league that develops players who don’t play in it much?

      Like

      • whammmm

        Not a chance. Gets dumber as we go. BUT with Rob being such a loser he can only become self aware and go up from here. Pulling for you Bob.

        Like

  • Mikebsiu

    This happend with my fire last year. They just stopped trying, and didn’t care. Both the front office and players.

    Like

    • Quit Whining About Soccer in the US

      Well I don’t complete disagree, but it should be noted in 18 years they have won 4 US Open Cups, a supporters shield and MLS Cup ( you can count those last two as one if you correctly don’t want to count playoffs and regular season )

      Without looking it up….I am going to guess no team in the Bundesliga outside of BM has that success since 1998. A little misleading as MLS was smaller at the start.

      Like

      • Anthony

        I agree that Bundesliga is the most one sided league amongst the top 5 leagues in Europe over the last 20 seasons. That being said, since 1998:
        Bundesliga Champions
        – FC Kaiserslautern: ’98
        – Bayern Munich: ’99, ’00(D), ’01, 03(D), ’05(D), ’06(D), ’08(D), ’10(D), ’13(D), ’14(D), ’15, ’16(D)
        – Borussia Dortmund: ‘ 02, ’11, ’12(D)
        – Werder Bremen: ’04(D)
        – VfB Stuttgart: ’07
        – VfL Wolfsburg: ’09
        (D = Double [League and DFB-Pokal])

        DFB-Pokal
        – Bayern Munich: ’98, ’00(D), 03(D), ’05(D), ’06(D), ’08(D), ’10(D), ’13(D)’14(D), ’15, ’16(D)
        – Schalke:’01, ’02, ’11
        – Werder Bremen: ’99, ’09, ’04(D)
        – 1. FC Nürnberg: ’07
        – Borussia Dortmund: ’12 (D)
        – VfL Wolfsburg: ’15

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      • Beto

        QWASintheUS,

        Yes MLS has much more parity than the Bundesliga, way more! That is not the point of the debate or the article’s quote. Its that MLS is less focused on competition and more on entertainment. The only repercusions for loosing or stagnating are being labled a poor performing asset by the league office and getting more draft picks/garber bucks. Ancelloti is saying its different and not the all out competion that players and fans get see around the world.

        Like

      • johnnyrazor

        You have to also note that the last hardware came ten years ago, and that was the Open Cup which virtually no one cared about in 2006. Since 2010 they have won 70 lost 92 and drawn 72. Since 2003 (their last title) they have 140 wins 156 losses and 120 draws. On average 10.8W, 12 L, 9.2D. Six pieces of hardware in their first nine seasons (5 in 6 years) and none in their last ten.

        (Not to QWASITU, but in response to other posters)
        Not sure we should compare to Bayern either he’s only been the coach their for seven months, he’s managed in Italy, England, Spain, and France so its not like he only is comparing MLS to just the Bundesliga. Since 1998 Ancelotti has won 3 league titles and 3 Champions Leagues plus 12 cup titles. That being said Big Sam would probably be a better person to ask about pro/rel than the guy that always manages teams at the top.

        Like

  • don Lamb

    Look at the turnover in Chicago and Houston and tell me those franchises aren’t motivated. Same can be said for Colorado. The motivation might not manifest itself within the season, but from season to season, there is lots of pressure on teams. Meanwhile there are a good six teams in the EPL who have no shot at a top 7 spot and have no real threat of being relegated. What pressure are they facing?

    Like

    • Quit Whining About Soccer in the US

      Similar to what we both said up above. In my opinion, and I believe the facts bare this out, there is much less motivation in the Euro leagues where it is all but predetermined.

      I am happy if they like their leagues, but I don’t believe it is a coincidence that the top team’s manager, the team that will win 5 straight, the team that will be heavy favorite next year too is the one saying our way is better. Let’s stay the course type language would be expected.

      Let’s ask the “middle of the pack for 20 years straight” fan. They are still buying tickets, but what other option do they have? My prediction is they are starting to think what the heck, we need to do something at this point.

      I have long wondered what it would take. If Bayern M wins 20 straight? 13 out off 19 getting close?

      Like

      • Concorde

        Well they have the option not to go to the games anymore. But they love their team too much, and would follow them to the lower divisions, on the condition the club loves its fans back. That is how things work here, in Europe. It’s nice, we have a connection to the club’s past. Relegation works because there is always next year, and it reflects, in a way, real life. Pick oneself up and fight on. Here, history is always being written.

        You should take a longer view of things. That Real Madrid has always been dominant doesn’t diminish one bit the interest of the the game in La Liga, rather the opposite. Barcelona, once, wasn’t very good, a provincial club. Then Cruyff and Michels came, and that story is still playing out today. Though, someday, it may change. Every single club has a story, a lengthy one, and committed fans that make every game important. The game in Europe doesn’t need artificial rules meant to excite impartial fans and therefore fill seats; it hardly even needs marketing.

        Bayern Munich will someday get punched out. Nice is leading Ligue 1 this year. Juventus was in Serie B only a few years ago, due to scandal. Leicester won it all last year. Ajax and the dutch league have fallen in stature over the course of not many years. Things are always changing, if you look at a span of 10-20 years. A generation, roughly.

        These are very rich leagues, thanks mostly to the history assembled by the rise, and fall, of clubs. The ironic thing to me is that many American clubs have interesting stories, and pasts – including ones of failure, which is part of any good tale – and some still exist to compete against each other. This is potential gold, for the marketeers of MLS and US soccer. But this history, and the pyramid itself, is de-emphasized (US open cup, no promotion, lack of good journalists), and remains mostly untold. Preference, from the start and still, was given to attracting a mild interest, or curiosity, from the general public, by trying to enhance the spectacle of the match. Video boards, live opta stats, “fan participation” gimmicks, the longest bar ever in a stadium or something.

        When I go to Parc des Princes, I see none of these things. Just 40,000 soccer fans watching a ball for some reason, silent in unison.

        Like

      • don Lamb

        Concorde – You can’t compare the history, infrastructure, and culture of Europe to the US. If professional soccer had been around consistently for 100 years, we would no doubt be able to have this discussion. But the fact is that the US is much much different, and MLS started in 1996, not 1896. Not only that, but MLS has to compete with a lot more in terms of sports and entertainment options in the US than European clubs do across Europe. The history that you speak of in European clubs is building here, but the most important thing has been stability so that this building process can actually take place. The league still is not even settled where it needs to be in terms of its size and competitive structure, so how could it possibly implement something like promotion and relegation? It could come in due time, but it just is not possible until we have at least 60 organizations that are set up as legitimately professional before we can even really discuss it.

        Like

      • Concorde

        Sure I can compare histories. Soccer has existed in the US for over 100 years. Many clubs pre-dating MLS still exist in the lower or amateur divisions. By ignoring them, your comment proves my point.

        Like

      • don Lamb

        Comparing the tradition of soccer in the US to any other country in the world with a top tier professional league is laughable. Sure you can do it, but it pretty much asinine to pretend like they are similar. How many other countries went decades without a first division? How many other countries went decades without their national team qualifying for the World Cup? How many other countries experienced the volatility of a league that folded after such a brilliant flash? In how many other countries is soccer competing to be the fourth most popular sport? You simply cannot make the comparison with a straight face.

        Like

  • two cents / lowercase letters guy

    I agree with don lamb and adam m. there is plenty of motivation for losing teams to rediscover their winning ways. players, coaches and front office people get fired. owners lose profits. fans become angry/unhappy. so I agree with them and I disagree with ancelloti.

    Like

    • two cents / lowercase letters guy

      excuse me? relegation isn’t silly. I would like to retract that remark. and since johnny reminds us that mikebisu’s fire haven’t added any hardware in ten years, and since guys like texas 2 stepper talk about creating mls2, and since recovered amishman suggests why not have both playoffs and relegation, both; so this is what I say: mls has so many teams now. if mls wants to split into a maybe ten team premier league and the rest stay in regular mls, with playoffs and pro/rel between them, that’s fine with me. then when teams like (no disrespect intended) chicago go through slumps and need to get back on track, they can figure that out in regular mls. and after they rediscover their winning touch, they can rejoin the more elite mls premier league.

      I try to have an open mind.

      Like

  • johnnyrazor

    Over the last five years thirteen German clubs have qualified for European play, so there is something to play for, in the middle of the pack.
    Bayern
    Dortmund
    Leverkuesen
    Mochengladbach
    Schalke
    Mainz
    Hertha Berlin
    Wolfsburg
    Augsburg
    Freiburg
    Frankfurt
    Stuttgart
    Hannover
    Last season you had five teams battling down the stretch to avoid relegation and you had Mainz, Koln and Wolfsburg trying to chase down Hertha who was floundering at the end for a Europa spot.

    In the Premier League yes those teams from 8 to 15 don’t have as much pressure, but often times the distances between 10th and 18th aren’t that great until late in the season. You also often times see the teams in these spots make surprise runs at the League and FA Cup so there is plenty to keep fans involved.

    All that being said I don’t see it happening anytime soon if ever.

    Like

  • Ivan

    Ancelotti must be a clueless Eurosnob…surely…either that or he is calling out the Garber/MLS owners’ cartel…cue in the fanboys to tell us that Ancelloti doesn’t know what he is talking about.

    All bow to the Garber, the Omni-powerful, the one who tell us who gets selected to play as a new ‘franchise’ in this super exciting top 10 league…mickey mouse stuff, keep fooling yourselves…

    Like

  • onlyagame

    as long as MLS. continues to deny promotion& relegation it will continue ti be a Minor League Backwater. which is fine. its fine to be a big fish in a small pond. its the only show around so its easy for execs to rationalize and say this is the best way for USA. fine. no problem. second best is first loser.

    Like

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