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USL makes strong statement in CONCACAF Champions League

Admit it, you’re an MLS snob who has never really given the USL much of a though. It’s okay to confess the transgression because fans in MLS markets throughout the country are oblivious to the USL, or worse, some just think the league is terrible and no match for Major League Soccer.

Some folks are going to have to start re-thinking that belief after the most recent results in the CONCACAF Champions League. Not only did the Puerto Rico Islanders and Montreal Impact post wins in their first Champions League group matches. They did so by beating two teams that are fresh from eliminating a pair of MLS teams.

You will recall Joe Public FC of Trinidad & Tobago, the same team that mauled the New England Revolution by an aggregate score of 6-1. The Montreal Impact, which knocked out Toronto FC to qualify for the Champions league, disposed of that same Joe Public team, 2-0, in their opening group match on Wednesday.

As for the Puerto Rico Islanders? They topped Panamanian club Tauro FC, 2-1, on Wednesday. Tauro is the same team that eliminated Chivas USA from the competition.

Does this mean that USL teams could beat MLS teams on a regular basis? I wouldn’t go that far. I think it’s fair to say that Montreal and Puerto Rico would both struggle if they had to play a full season in MLS. What the results do show, however, is that the quality of play in USL is much better than some MLS fans realize or want to give the league credit for.

If you are still skeptical, consider this number: MLS teams are a combined 0-3-2 in five CONCACAF Champions League matches. And USL teams? Try a combined 4-0-2.

You might want to think about that the next time you scoff at an MLS team signing a USL player, or an MLS team falls to a USL opponent in the U.S. Open Cup.

Comments

  1. good to hear JPFC losing! In all fairness, I think NE overlooked JPFC A LOT. After the first leg, they just stopped playing I believe. (this is not a bias opinion since I hate NE in every aspect)

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  2. In the Canadian qualifying for CL Toronto only won a single game in the 4 against Van & Mon(winless at home!). Look at the starters, all the same starters as league games. Toronto did take it serious and couldn’t hold their own against the USL teams. That shows that the top USL team would win more than 4 games, because even Toronto can. And the MLS reserves are a joke, why wouldn’t those youngsters try to make a USL team and get paid more than $500 a month?

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  3. I think the idea brought up was pro/rel between USL1/USL2 and USL2/PDL.

    “Why can’t the USL implement relegation and promotion on their own?”

    I don’t think USL can implement pro/rel to MLS on their own.

    And if it was automatic in USL, it’d lead more to folded franchises than actual pro/rel. Would Traffic Sports continue to subsidize Miami FC if they were sent to USL2? Would Portland continue on in a league with no teams west of Cleveland? And most regular soccer fans in this country have little interest in (or knowledge of) USL2. Richmond is tied for the lead in USL2 based on their regular season. They voluntarily asked to be in USL2 because they couldn’t afford the travel for USL1. And rumor is they’re looking at going PDL only. USL is nowhere near ready to have frequent pro/rel.

    My comment about “transient interest” was about the common US soccer fan who might here about what’s happening. Certainly fans with a local USL team would retain interest. But as stated above, pro/rel wouldn’t work so it’d all be transient anyways.

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  4. @undrafted,

    Please explain your rationale as to why the possibility of promotion or relegation would only attract “transient interest” of soccer fans who don’t follow the league…and I’ll also add that having the games be more meaningful relative to the potential for relegation/promotion might actually attract more “regular” soccer fans, the reason being that if the last game of the season for a team that’s out of the playoff picture still means something in terms of not being demoted, then it would fuel interest the ENTIRE season.

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  5. Beacause USL2 teams can’t afford to be in USL1. Richmond willingly went from USL1 runner-up to USL2 (and possibly PDL next year). Supposedly USL lets USL2 winners move up free of charge though there haven’t been any takers. I’d also guess USL1 temas like Miami & Portland (who are tied for league bottom) would rather fold than be demoted to USL2. USL has no teams west of Cleveland. PDL teams house college players during the summer, and I doubt they’d want to start paying players or travel nationally. Automatic pro/rel in USL would be a disaster for most any team involved and would attract at best momentary, transient interest of soccre fans who don’t follow the league.

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  6. Why can’t the USL implement relegation and promotion on their own? It would attract the interest of more soccer fans, and pique the curiousity of US sports fans unfamiliar with the system.

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  7. USL has single table standings but not single table scheduling. Incredibly unfair and does next to nothing for the competitive level.

    Yes England has a fairly even playing field (I’d say after the top 10) but that’s because they have pro/rel.

    USL teams are competitive. But there’s still only a handful of guys playing in the league that would do anything of signficance if in MLS.

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  8. USL is a competitive league week in and week out. It has a single table format, which adds to the competitive level. A good comaprison to the level of soccer is the difference in the EPL and Coca Cola Championship. Take out the top four from the EPL and you have a fairly level playing field between the next 20-25 teams in England. An MLS v USL tournament would suprise many ‘MLS Snobs’ but would not suprise many of us USL Snobs.

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  9. and I must add that though I don’t see why the typical US soccer fan should follow USL, for some reason I watch the FSC game each week and have seen each team 2-3 times at least. USL is increasingly worth tracking for MLS diehards. Though I think USL has some major reorganizing to do if MLS takes awawy Portland, Vancouver, and Montreal over the next 5 years (not a certainty but possible), it’s definitely worth checking out if you have a local team. As I might in a couple of years.

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  10. USL1 teams are much better than most MLS fans think. I’m sure some MLS fans overrate MLS. Of course, they’re fans.

    Sorry for using the “massive” Crew as an example. Suggest another team and I’ll use them.

    My point was a bit of caution that some USL fans overrate their league too. Well they are “fans” also. So of course. The whole idea that MLS teams are = USL teams + 3/4 players is nonsense.

    USL is increasingly relevant but it’s not a major part of US soccer yet. Until the last year, few players were moving up but for the occasional goalkeeper and central defender. You can list a few others, but consider the totality from 2004 on. PDL plays a big role, but I figured we were talking USL pro leagues here.

    USL is relevant to their own markets, sometimes. PR is big for Caribbean ball. Most US soccer fans have a lot on their plates. UEFA CL, top Euro leagues, international games, MLS. At what point do you sacrifice any of these to watch USL teams, especially if you don’t live in a USL city?

    My main point was that some of you guys vastly overrate USL salaries. Guys who can make a stable 50-100k/yr in MLS usually don’t have similar offers from USL. And while this years CL has been interesting, it’s far from over and has been incredibly overanalyzed by several here. It’s really too many games that aren’t needed yet as Jack Warner moved in on SuperLiga’s profits. I’m not quite convinced MFL teams will really start caring until the knockout rounds (and they like MLS might underestimate and poorly scout the opposition). Let’s calm down and build up a stronger sample size before redefining the structure of US soccer here.

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  11. @Tim: I definitely encourage you to support the Railhawks. They have had a bad season but they are a class act. Their webcast production is some of the best in the USL1. The soccer stadium is really nice, they play friendlies against Mexican First Division Clubs and they try to sign decent players and put out a decent product so that they can beat MLS clubs (Chicago-led Osorio, USOC last year). Besides, the triangle Soccer fanatic folks make a mean Braught and they represent well in the Depot.

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  12. As I said in the Q&A thread, the U.S. Open Cup has shown us every year that USL-1 teams are way better than the credit they are given, not to mention the current CONCACAF Champions League.

    After years of trying to find something/someone to pull for in the MLS, I’m just tired of trying. I like the soccer good enough, but being in North Carolina, it’s hard to get enthusiastic about a league who’s closest team to me, DC United, is a solid 4 hour drive. Here in Raleigh we have the Carolina Railhawks, so I think I’ll “go local” for now. They’re not having a great year, but it just seems to be more in the spirit of the game to support your local club, much like they do in Europe. Hopefully we’ll get a MLS team here someday. We have a great soccer specific facility at WakeMed Soccer Park in Cary, which could easily be expanded should MLS choose to invest here, and a very knowledgeable fan base that would be strong backer of a local franchise.

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  13. ok, so most of MLS and USL are “journeymen”. Compared to top level European leagues that’s probably true. so what? how does that make USL relevant, especially if they have no team in my city?

    MLS is still heavily involved with USMNT player development and regularly sends players to significant European teams (Edu, Altidore, Adu, Dempsey, Guzan, etc). what does USL do?

    Posted by: undrafted | September 19, 2008 at 12:43 AM

    ——————————————–

    Undrafted is legendary. At least most of his arguments make sense, even when we disagree about this subject.

    USL is relevant because it is a part of the pyramid. That makes it relevant. Edu once wore a Crystal Palace Baltimore jersey when we going to launch as PDL and played for our side and actually against the parent North London club. Guzan did some PDL time.

    It’s a pryamid. MLS is at the top. Then there is USL. USL is relevant because it helps provide a player a chance to move up or down as necessary.

    Montreal, Vancouver, hell, even the Toronto Lynx have made contributions to Canada’s Sr men’s team.

    Puerto Rico has in it’s short existence had 4 players on our roster move to or back to MLS (Velez, Boss, Kennedy (after Chilean 2nd), Saunders). Sent Needham to Sweden. Sent Gonzalaz to Alajuela. Sent Marcina on loan to New Zealand of AUS A-League.

    PR has given guys like Caribbean NT players like Noel and Teleseford someplace to play.

    That is not to mention a guy like Herrera who would play for us one game and Panama in GC or WC competition a few days later.

    These are just the examples of the top of my head.

    USL is one piece to the puzzle. That makes it relevant. There are other examples that you could find. Like the FUTSAL guys. US Beach Soccer NT. Relevant is relative.

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  14. Schedule Congestion Excuse as the reason that the second division sides have outperformed MLS clubs in the CCL to date-already debunked.

    Salary Cap Excuse-Just weak. Based on the knowledge of player wages that I have from off the record converstaions with USL1 & USL2 players and clubs management, the MLS Salaries (including full DP salaries, not just the approx. $400K that goes to the cap)–MLS club salary totals–and I’m excluding LA can be as much as 14 times USL1 total payroll. Take away a DP and it is easily 10x.

    Most MLS fans sleep on USL. Some have been drinking too much Kool-Aid. I follow MLS, MLS Reserves, USL1 & USL2 and the jump between the USL1 & USL2 is about the same as USL1 & MLS when you are looking at just the MLS Rank & File. And don’t try and tell me that MLS reserves are better than USL1 or significantly better. We have seen USL2 clubs take out MLS Reserve sides in the last two USOCs and USL sides do it, in the case or Charleston and Seattle a couple of times in a USOC cycle. That Sounders smackdown of Colorado (yes, I understand that it was Colorado)? Please their should have been charges pressed for kickin their tales so mercilessly.

    USL is better than most MLS fans think that it is.

    MLS isn’t quite as good as some MLS fans think that it is.

    I actually had people look at me like I was crazy and ask me with complete bewilderment “Dude, you actually follow the A-League? Are you kidding me”. Like MLS is the English Prem or something… Most of them didn’t mean any harm, they just found it odd. For the ones who where trying to bust on me like USL was beneath them. Hey different strokes for different folks. I ain’t mad at ya. Keep being arrogant. Just don’t cry to me about how people clowning MLS for being inferior to most of the leagues in the world.

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  15. At least 8 of these guys would be dominate players in USL.

    =================================

    I’m sure they would dominate the CL opposition as well. *_*

    undrafted,

    You need to stop drinking the MLS kool aid. Face the fact that MLS teams are creating an extremely bad image of US teams in the region and beyond.

    Thank goodness for USL teams that bring passion and determination. I now have teams to root for in the CL. They might be longshots to getting the invite to Japan, but I’ll cheer for them to the end.

    The pathetic display of MLS teams confirm my belief that my limited time devoted to watching soccer should be directed elsewhere. Unlike the $uperLiga, the CL is a genuine test of how good the league is. The false emperor has no clothes as many has suspected.

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  16. Competition is good. Competition will make everyone better quicker.

    MLS does need to sort out its scheduling if it wants to be taken seriously, though.

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  17. ok, so most of MLS and USL are “journeymen”. Compared to top level European leagues that’s probably true. so what? how does that make USL relevant, especially if they have no team in my city?

    MLS is still heavily involved with USMNT player development and regularly sends players to significant European teams (Edu, Altidore, Adu, Dempsey, Guzan, etc). what does USL do?

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  18. It’s got nothing to do with the equivalency of talent, undrafted. The reality is that journeyman soccer, which is what most of MLS represents, is journeyman soccer.

    There simply isn’t enough talent difference between the average MLS roster player (not one of the two-to-four stars on any team) and the average USL player; couple that with MLS only allowing 18 senior roster players and you have a recipe for roster instability.

    Montreal’s players have, for the most part, played together as a team, with a stable first squad, for close to four years. If you think a team of pros, even journeymen pros, who have played together that long with relative success would only win four games in MLS, you’re deluding yourself.

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  19. It’s got nothing to do with the equivalency of talent, undrafted. The reality is that journeyman soccer, which is what most of MLS represents, is journeyman soccer.

    There simply isn’t enough talent difference between the average MLS roster player (not one of the two-to-four stars on any team) and the average USL player; couple that with MLS only allowing 18 senior roster players and you have a recipe for roster instability.

    Montreal’s players have, for the most part, played together as a team, with a stable first squad, for close to four years. If you think a team of pros, even journeymen pros, who have played together that long with relative success would only win four games in MLS, you’re deluding yourself.

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  20. Ives,

    After closely covering the league for the better part of 5 years (when no one wanted to consider that as soccer journalist experience) it’s nice to see some validation in your blog. Honestly, though, this is not news to me. Thanks for getting this out there especially for those of us who toiled for many years out of sheer love of the game at the localized level that the USL provides who chose/choose to sacrifice many an evening putting serious effort into covering and promoting the “lower echelons” of North American soccer.

    Regards,

    Bill Fetty

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