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Klinsmann: “I’m a deep believer in promotion-relegation”

Jurgen Klinsmann USMNT 1001

Photo by Mark J. Rebilas/USA TODAY Sports


EAST HARTFORD, Conn. — Count Jurgen Klinsmann among the people firmly in the corner of having a promotion-relegation system in the United States.

Klinsmann made comments that perked up plenty of ears on Thursday during his U.S. Men’s National Team pre-game press conference when asked if he thought that NASL is a lower level than MLS. The U.S. head coach refrained from directly saying that MLS is the top division despite U.S. Soccer categorizing it as such, stating that it was not up to him to give the leagues labels and that he wishes there was a true promotion-relegation system that could identify a superior league.

“I’m a deep believer in promotion-relegation systems,” said Klinsmann a day before the Americans face Ecuador in a friendly at Rentschler Field. “It’s not up to me saying there should be MLS, and there should be second division (that) is NASL, and there should be promotion-relegation.

“I just wish that we would have a system in place where all the young players and all the players in general know that there’s the next higher level and there’s a lower level (and think), ‘If I play a bad season, then that lower level is waiting for me. If I play a very, very good season then there’s the chance to go up and play at whatever you describe then as the highest level.'”

The topic of implementing a promotion-relegation system – which is used in much of the rest of the world – in the United States and Canada has been heavily discussed in recent months and years. There are plenty of people who support both sides. Some believe it is vital to implement the system to further player development in the U.S., while others point to MLS’s increasing success over its first 19 years as proof it is not necessary.

Klinsmann seems to be among the former.

“I’m not there to judge their work,” said Klinsmann. “I’m thrilled where MLS is today and within the last 20 years what’s happened is absolutely amazing. But from a national team perspective, what we’re trying to do is we’re trying to connect the dots. We’re talking to the college coaches, I talk to NASL coaches, I talk to MLS coaches and I talk to all the different coaches overseas and see where all of our guys are.

“If I watch things half-a-year kind of closely – sometimes a bit closely, sometimes a bit more from distance – a little kid called (Miguel) Ibarra or a striker called (Christian) Ramirez, they’re playing in NASL then we watch them. I send the coaches out there – that’s why we have scouts out there – and have a look at that kid.”

Klinsmann did just that recently, calling in the 24-year-old Ibarra of NASL’s Minnesota United. The move was a extremely surprising one given that no U.S.-based professional player plying their trade outside of MLS had been summoned to the national team since 2005.

The 50-year-old manager, however, called up Ibarra in yet another move to leave no stone unturned when it comes to players who can potentially contribute to the American cause.

“Maybe there are a couple of other guys that just didn’t go through that (traditional) pathway. They didn’t go this pathway,” said Klinsmann. “Our job is to identify the talent, figure out how good he really is.

“We’ve got to weed a little bit where could he go (on) his path, what consequences does it have then he’s now with us for him personally, but also sending out that signal to all the other players out there saying, ‘You know what, we understand there are so many different directions because the soccer landscape is what it is. It’s so different to the rest of the world.'”

MLS has maintained recently that promotion-relegation is unlikely to happen in the near future, with one official even going as far as saying that it would never happen. But that has not discouraged some fans in American soccer circles from continuously making the argument that the system should be implemented, and now they have Klinsmann backing their sentiments as he searches for more talent in the U.S. player pool.

“It’s not up to me now saying that MLS is higher level than NASL because I’m not every weekend around either of those stadiums,” said Klinsmann. “What we’re doing more is we look at the players individually, so we’re looking at their path, how they come from their system and where they end up and how they impress then in their respective clubs.”

Will Klinsmann’s statements could have any influence on Don Garber and MLS? Think he sincerely questions whether MLS is the best league in the United States?

Share your thoughts below.


  1. Need more teams with more money. That is all. When that day comes, I don’t think anyone will be against it. This whole argument seems to be people preachng to the choir. It’s not possible now, one day it will be.

  2. While I cannot see automatic pro/rel working in North America as it does in Europe, I can see a situational version of pro/rel working here. In some ways it already is.

    These are not neighborhood club teams that have to prove they can sink or swim to stay in the big leagues; in North America they are franchises that represent a city and are expected to be profitable business ventures. Money talks, and investors are not going to put money into teams that can potentially lose much of their value upon relegation, nor will cities invest in major league infrastructure that can suddenly become minor league. The fortunes of franchises rise and fall over time. Once strong teams can fade due to mismanagement, while perennial doormats can turn things around with some smart decisions. Fans in one place may abandon their teams for whatever reason, while fans in another place may turn out in droves for a smaller side.

    The problem with automatic pro/rel is that it is automatic. Some teams have to go down every year, even if they are good franchises that otherwise just had a bad year. Some teams are promoted every year even if they have no chance of surviving more than a year at the top level. What if instead pro/rel is used as a tool only when it makes sense to?

    For example, and this is only an example, not a real world suggestion, lets say there is a team that has been woefully mismanaged and is in turmoil, like Chivas USA this year, while another team in a smaller league, like Sacramento, has investors and fans willing and ready to make a jump to the big leagues. It could make financial and competitive sense to promote Sac and relegate Chivas as a planned and informed decision.

    In essence, MLS has already “promoted” USL teams like Portland and Seattle that proved themselves in the lower divisions first. Instead of forcing a team like Chivas into hiatus, relegation could give new owners an opportunity to land on their feet and rebrand without having to do it in the competitive environment and the spotlight of a top league.

    Just an idea, but something worth considering.

  3. DId Klinsi ever play for or manage a relegation threatened team?
    Play for or manage in a salary cap league?

    His opinion has little more value than mine

  4. Promotion and regulation are stupid an completely unnecessary. Does the NBA have promotion and regulation? No. Does MLB have promotion and regulation? No. How about the NHL or NFL? See a pattern. Do these leagues not consistently have the very best players in the world in their respective sports on them?

    What Klinsmann is saying is he wants players to be constantly pushing themselves so they never get complacent and are always trying to improve. Pro/Reg is just one system that encourages that. Another system that encourages that is real free agency.

    Regulation and promotion exist in Europe so that fans of lower table teams have something to care about in the later part of the year when the same top teams are competing for the league championship every year. These fans also seem content to live with the occasional draw/upset of a top team at home. Americans want to root for winners. American leagues solve this problem by having playoffs and encouraging parity. Effectively making it so that any team can legitimately believe that if they bring in the right players and coaches within the next 3 years they will be competing for a championship. I can’t imagine a single league in the united states surviving if there was no playoffs and the same 3 teams are competing for the championship every year and the remaining 17 teams are eliminated from contention by the half-way point in a season.

    There is nothing inherently better about the way the rest of the world approaches soccer. The only reason some of the larger/rich countries of the rest of the world are ahead of the US in soccer (Remember we are a top 20 team) is because kids didn’t start playing soccer in this country seriously until the 1990s. How long have kids been playing soccer in Spain, Germany, and Brazil? well over a hundred years. We are a rich large athletic country that soccer has only started to be taken seriously in the last 20 years. If kids keep playing and the game keeps attracting more and more money behind it in this country the US will be competing for WC championships within the next 50 years with or without pro/reg.

  5. If you want to live the fantasy of what a promotion and relegation system would be like right now, this blog keeps up with the standings.

    Really the only thing we need to make it a reality is a much larger fan base for all the teams to the point that a franchise still has financial security even if relegated. Unfortunately, we are not there right now.

  6. This is a very difficult argument…I live in a small market with a major college sports team and 2 top tier minor league teams but without a current professional soccer club/team. The soccer team here failed due to no guaranteed stadium infrastructure though fan attendance was pretty impressive. Just looking at the teams we do have here, pro/rel in America is a tough argument especially considering the size of the country. The teams we do have in my city play against other regional opponents here in the northeast and eastern coast….mostly by bus as the revenues generated cannot support the travel costs of flying across this large country. The fact that the majority of countries where pro/rel exists are within a reasonable bus ride away from city to city makes it more feasable than it is here in America at this point in time. I think Klinsi would certainly like to see more regional teams established–at least in the “minor league” markets we know who we are and are proud of it. Maybe you happen to catch a player or two who has been overlooked in the past–even getting one guy who becomes a national team player would be worth it. MLS doesn’t cut it for me–the closest team is 4 hours away in any direction and it’s tough to be a fan of a league when you have nothing from your particular area tying you to that league. I guess promotion is that dream–we know we are small and likely not as good but if we put it all together maybe we can play against the big boys one day—even if it never happens it’s something that ties you to the league. It’s a hurdle MLS will need to address in order to increase viewership across America–bringing back national team stars is a good step but isn’t it kind of sad that I can watch Jozy (when he plays) and that poor excuse of a Sunderland team play every week for free on my cable subscription and that not once have I seen MB90 in a game for Toronto–thanks for bringing him back I guess–I was able to watch him more at Roma than in MLS. I can hang my hat on rumors of a possible USL Pro team to be reformed here –to be honest if we are to get a stadium built (which is a big if and a first piece to getting any team in my area) I’d hope the NASL would give us a look though I think we’re even too small for that league lol.

  7. I still firmly believe that the MLS and NASL have an agreement to go into promotion/relegation in the future – I guarantee any new owners in MLS have been told about this possibility. MLS plans for 24 teams and NASL currently has plans for 13 by 2016. That would leave openings for 3 more teams to make a total of 40 and split into two leagues of 20 a piece (USL Pro already has 20 currently) My assumption is that the goal is to reach that 40 as soon as possible (obviously money and resources have to be considered) and that within the next ten years we see relegation/promotion. MLS will be set up so the last year the bottom teams are relegated to NASL (so if there are 25 MLS teams at that point and 15 NASL teams that the bottom 5 move down to NASL) then the next year the 3 bottom MLS teams move to the NASL for the following year and the top 3 NASL teams move up.
    This has to happen strictly because with a pure promotion relegation plan the MLS is at risk of having a league equal to itself and US Soccer needs to get a handle on that before that happens. With soccer’s popularity growing major US cities without an MLS team will continue to have NASL or USL teams that grow – maybe more prosperous than MLS teams – I would assume that San Antonio draws more than Chivas USA this year. With only 1 team left to fill the 24 teams that the MSL plans you have to think that the teams that don’t make it in will still continue to grow.

  8. Here’s an idea, and bear with me, bc it involves Liga MX…

    For all of the reasons above, we just can’t incentive investors if they’re gonna drop their first year in the league — and if you don’t understand that point you need to go to and take Econ 101.

    SO, what if instead of implementing pro/rel between MLS, NASL, and USL-PRO, we PROMOTED the top MLS teams to some type of super league, which includes the best Liga MX teams. This solves two problems: 1) CONCACAF Champions League is a miserable experience for all involved, BUT the games between top MLS squads and top Liga MX squads are a blast. Then maybe the first few years there’s just pro/rel between MLS and Super MLS.

    Maybe this doesn’t work, but it certainly allows for a really fun league that Qatari oil tycoons could get behind…

    Bottom line is, the American soccer pyramid is a unique beast and deserves a solution that solves several problems at once — i.e. the future of free agency, the future of the lame Champions League, and the future of the Open Cup.

  9. I agree with people who think that this is something that will happen eventually, but not now. In order for promotion/relegation to work, you have to have two strong leagues. MLS is just now approaching the level of strength where a form of promotion/relegation could work, but NASL is far, far away from a level that would make this whole process worthwhile. NASL needs at least 10 years of strong development before this should be seriously considered.

    In addition, I really think that we need to look at Mexico and how they handle promotion/relegation. I think that what they do is a much, much better fit for us than any European model.

    It is clear that sports owners in this country would invest in franchises with promotion/relegation at stake. Several already have invested in European teams regardless of the promotion/relegation factor. We just need to have a product that is worth investing in. That is always the key. Right now only MLS is just BARELY worth it. NASL is not even close. We will get there, but we need patience.

    • DC should have been relegated. If they win the East this year, get the astrick out, because in any other league in the world, that is not allowed to happen.

      They should have been banned.

      MIckey Mouse league.

  10. Based on the comments it’s good to see that the majority of people do want pro/rel. The arguments against it are similar to those made about free agency. Owners claimed free agency would ruin them, instead it made them even more money.

    • Umm… what? Free agency most certainly didn’t make the owners more money – it caused them to have to spend a lot more to sign or retain good players, who in the past, they could strongarm into under market-value contracts (because they weren’t “free” to go elsewhere).

      The evolution of TV deals and sponsorships, on the other hand, has helped overcome the rise in players salaries for the most part. One only needs to look at the NHL and how they had to reorganize after their lockout a few years ago – which included a pretty substantial concession by players to reduce salaries – because the meteoric rise in those salaries meant a number of franchises were struggling (i.e. owners losing money).

  11. Promotion/relegation is the lifeblood of soccer. With pro/rel, MLS can be the top sports league in the US within 50 years. Without it, it will remain behind the NHL for 5th place.

    • Clubs having second teams in a lower division is far more important then Pro/Rel and should be what MLS focuses on as they are starting to.

  12. One day, this will happen. Don’t know when or how, but it’s going to be a reality. I look forward to seeing it manifest…

  13. Great for Klinsie! Us, non-brainwashed and non-zombified with the NFL/NBA folk, actually agree…heck, the whole world uses promotion-relegation, and it works great!

    Some of my greatest memories as a football fan is growing up and supporting my local team in do-or-die games to stay in the 2nd division back in Bulgaria. The tears, the drama, that’s what football is all about.

    Heck, 70% of the time the relegation battle in the Premier League is more fun than the title chase.

    But, for as long as the Don who just got appointed a dictator for life, is at the helm, it won’t happen. But, someday, and it will be in my lifetime, it will happen! I know it!

  14. THIS IS HOW PRO/REL WILL HAPPEN HERE-a market-driven solution (but is at least 10 years away)

    just like ABA and AFL and WHA became tough competitors to NBA, NFL and NHL, forcing the leagues to merge eventually, USL has to get much stronger, poach players and coach and become as real pain in the @$$ for MLS. Eventually MLS caves and agrees to let USL become the 2nd tier underneath MLS and just like that club soccer in the U.S. goes national and hyper local at the same time-every tier 3 and 4 city in the U.S. needs a home team to root for. Just because dozens of college football teams will never ever have a chance at the title, does not mean they are not strongly supported by local communities-a 3-4 tiered soccer system has the opportunity to give every town that “home team”- it’s a community thing…

    • Actually, I strongly doubt NASL or USL themselves will merge with MLS. NASL is simply too small right now and every time they get a team who grows into something too big for their league, MLS skims them off. US has aligned themselves with MLS and isn’t going to be a competitor when it is going to have a whole bunch of MLS reserves playing in its league.

      I think what happens is that MLS grows, and grows, and grows. The soccer purist will hate it because the league will get to 28, 30, 32 teams by 2025-2030 and Europhiles will scream and rant about how silly the league is for having so many teams who don’t play each other every year. NASL will continue to grow, but much slower and their most successful teams/markets will continue to be poached as MLS expansion teams, one by one. Once MLS is over 30 teams, they will announce the intention of merging with USL (who they have already had an alliance with at that point for 15 years), relegating their worst 12 teams after the season to join the best 8 in USL. NASL will be left out in the cold unless they want to pony up money to be considered. You will then have 20 top level D1 teams, a second division of 12 MLS teams and 8 USL (maybe NASL also if they come to the table with money) and a third division of the rest of USL and whatever else is around at that point that is the 3rd division (ASL? NPSL?) who will merge. Nobody will really care about 3rd division and the teams who bump back and forth 2nd to 3rd will be small time – just like they are in most of the world), some 2nd division teams will have fairly large fan bases (Sounders, etc. ;P ), but most will find it difficult to compete financially to get promoted to D1 because Americans by and large won’t go spend money on minor league sports.

  15. PRO/REL is the best system. This is pretty close to a fact. Just about every country that plays soccer uses pro/rel. We know its a good idea? Why? Good ideas are copied.

  16. Out goes Landon, in comes pro/rel. It might be an understatement to say this is the best week in the history of the national team.

  17. It’s quite simple really, the way the soccer playing world does it. Let’s take the Bundesliga, La Liga, Serie I, for example and also say a rich cooperation, Microsoft for instance, decides they what to own a team based in some city in that country. Could they?

    Now take the USA, if Microsoft wanted to put a team in any city in America. Could they? Of course they could, the only thing to be negotiated would be how much they pay to the existing MLS owners.
    The media will go crazy with glee and say how great it is for MLS and soccer.

    And yes, most every poster here would agree.

  18. To say that pro/rel doesn’t happen because we can’t do it today is severely a severely myopic and overly conservative outlook. Whether it NEEDS to happen is open to debate, and I would love to see an empirical approach to the question.

    Yet Pro/Rel is already happening. Sounders, Timbers, Orlando, and maybe Sacramento are all making the jump. Talk has been going around about sending Chivas USA down for a couple seasons.

    The problem is that it just isn’t in MLS owners’ interests to support Pro/Rel – yet it is in the fans’ interests in terms of putting quality on the field and in the club. MLS owners don’t want to sink any more money into their teams. They don’t want 10 more DPs per team..some don’t even want 3.

    If we continue to let business interests dictate the growth of MLS and not fan interests, then we will see the limits of that approach soon enough. We got to where we are today by diversifying ownership – removing multiple team owners, and splitting ownership of single teams. That can only go so far, and Klinsmann knows it.

  19. Here’s a crazy idea: with so many cities seeking MLS franchises, and many people wondering and worrying about how big the league will (or should) get, could we solve the pro-rel dilemma by splitting a larger MLS into two parts at some point in the future? They need not even be equal in size. For example, you could have a 16-team MLS and a 12-team second tier. Ambitious NASL teams that have sufficient finances and big enough stadiums could seek to join the second tier.

  20. The media call it promotion, advertising. However, the individual who started it on a mass scale, Edward Bernays, a nephew of none other that Sigi Freud no less, properly termed it propaganda at the time. You know, brain washing.

    And it works, big time. Why else would so many commenters here on this very thread be following in lock-step to the media propaganda, sorry, promotional story?

  21. Klinsmann + pro-rel = the perfect SBI storm. If Donovan comes out against pro-rel, this site will cause the Internet to self-combust.

  22. This isn’t what we have in place now for individual players?

    “I just wish that we would have a system in place where all the young players and all the players in general know that there’s the next higher level and there’s a lower level (and think), ‘If I play a bad season, then that lower level is waiting for me. If I play a very, very good season then there’s the chance to go up and play at whatever you describe then as the highest level.’”

    There are lots of players in the USL and NASL who used to be in MLS, and players in MLS who used to be in USL and NASL. The idea that the only way to create that kind of pressure is for entire teams to go up and down is misguided. Putting that sort of pressure on the very best players? Yes, that’s an issue – but guess what happens to the vast majority of top players in the EPL when their clubs go down? They leave for another top tier team.

    • Exactly it was a pretty weak point from Klinsmann. The only thing Pro/Rel really does is give teams at the bottom something they have to keep playing for.

      • He needs to look no further than his NASL player that everyone is reading to much into being in USMNT camp. Ibarra was on the Timbers training camp roster in 2012 (was a supplemental draft pick) but cut before the season started so he moved to a second division side. Partially it was that he didn’t fit (those were the John Spencer Timbers), but he was also believed to be not MLS quality by those who saw him play in pre-season. Clearly he has improved and I am sure he will get looks from MLS teams (if not even foreign teams) if his quality is up.

    • its the idea of complacency – Jurgen’s greatest enemy – he wants players that are continually in an upward trajectory.

      there is no real consequence for teams in the US pyramid for losing (or staying status quo) nor is there any great reward for scraping to the top.

      our current soccer culture is based on limited supply business ideals and “everyone gets a trophy” pee-wee soccer systems not the “survival of the fittest” culture of global soccer.

      i get it, it makes practical sense to establish a league in this country that follows the other established leagues and it is a very sensical approach, one that continues to attract investors and players a like.

      but from a national team perspective; our competition is playing another game. mlb, nfl, nba, nhl, etc don’t live in this world..

  23. If we are looking for something to identify the superior league, I think the USOC pretty well does this. How many NASL teams have made it past the quarterfinals let alone won the cup? How many NASL and USL teams play their reserves in these games? None, they play their first teams against MLS reserve sides. Yes, they pull an occasional upset, but it isn’t as though that doesn’t happen in Germany, Spain, England, etc. too.

    I am fine with pro-rel, but we need serious stability before that. We would probably also need either MLS or US Soccer to have a couple of billion dollars (100 million to each team) to distribute to dissolve MLS to make this happen. What MLS owner in their right mind is going to buy into MLS and lose their investment into the league willingly? None. The alternative would be allowing the promoted teams to pay $100million upon promotion (one time), but that is nearly as ridiculous and they wouldn’t do it – nor would many of them have facilities to even pretend to be on par with MLS teams – we are talking about mostly teams who average 4-5,000 attendance playing in small stadiums – it would be like Seattle going back to Starfire for all league games, Vancouver back to their old USL stadium, etc.

    Again, I am not 100% against pro-rel, but the finances are just not there to relegate Montreal and San Jose (assuming Chivas just folds) at the end of the season and bring up Minnesota United (who play in a 12,000 seat stadium) and San Antonio (who play in an 8300 seat stadium), particularly with San Jose ready to open its brand new park next season. Build the NASL to where they are playing in 20,000 seat stadiums and have the finances to compete and buy in like everyone else. If we jump the gun on this, it just won’t work. If there were only 18-19 viable big clubs in Germany and a bunch of small time operations there also, they wouldn’t have pro-rel either.

  24. No way. Imagine a team that pays $100 mil to join MLS, builds a new stadium…then finishes in the bottom two-three (to be expected, it’s an expansion team) and gets dumped down into NASL, playing in stadiums with 4K fans a night. Not now.

    I mean NYCFC has a bad year and gets stuck going to Hofstra to play the Cosmos? No way.

    • US soccer fans are envious of the depth of clubs in countries who have a 100+ year history of very popular professional soccer, and you are 100% correct.

      There is an odd group of soccer fans who sincerely believe that if we just said “OK, Pro-Rel” that adding 2-3 teams who play in front of 3500 people in stadiums with max capacity of 8,000 and who couldn’t afford to sign better talent, let alone pay the $100million promotion fee (one time) would somehow be better than financially and fan base successful teams who happen to be having a bad year on the field (San Jose, Montreal – probably would be the relegations this season).

      “If you allow it, they will rise to the level” seems to be the very naive mantra. Until NASL and USL-PRO teams can show us they are financially on par with a bad MLS team (Chivas not a good example as they are likely going away) then promoting them is really shortsighted.

      If NASL and USL-PRO teams start filling their own 20,000 seat stadiums and have lots of cash rolling around in large numbers, then the game has changed and pro-rel makes sense. But as of now that hasn’t happened nor do I expect it to happen any time soon.

      • actually most countries have basic requirements such stadium seating capacity, locker rooms quality, pitch quality requirements, abilty to televise that escalate as a clubs move up divisions in addition to winning promotion. recently there was a tiny french club with a set of bleachers that could hold about 3000 people which was denied entry into league 2 even though they won promotion.

  25. If a country had, or would what to have, a pro-soccer set-up, the only way to go is pro/reg. It is not by chance that this is the way it is done in the soccer playing world.

    However, we are talking about the U S of A and no way will any pro-sport league be set up this way.
    It has nothing to do with the fans or the overall interest in the sport, or even the vast money pro/reg pro-soccer would work here. It has only to do with the way it is done in the USA. The owners with their hand-picked commissioner have one job. Protect their investment and total ownership over their assets, the actual players, against all competition. (for instance, why do you think US MLS Soccer has a different league time schedule?)

    Of course, the media is a vital part of it. So, Owners+commissioner+media and that is it sports fans.

    • Clueless, you think it’s this great conspiracy but it comes down to one simple fact, this is the USA. There is no other country in the world that has four major sports leagues more popular than soccer. We suffered 14 years without a D1 league form 1980 to 1994. Clubs could have formed then but didn’t because the investment was to great. Even ten years after MLS started many thought the league was gone to fold. Other people look around and think soccer has made it and it should be just like the EPL. The truth is, it’s just starting to get to the point of not having to worry about it disappearing for another 14 years. They play in the summer because they competed against the NFL & college football , so it made sense. Truthfully, I hope we never get pro/rel, there something about parity and the chance to go from worst to first that I think is truly American.

  26. Thank about it. A MLS owner has millions invested in a franchise. Why would he even consider a promotion/relegation system that could land his team in a lower division and make his investment worth much less? Never going to happen

    • NASL, ASL & NPSL are on the record in favor. Let those clubs, and like minded owners, arrange a pro rel system with a USSF sanctioned first division.

      Money would flow into the whole pyramid because ALL clubs would have a chance to play at top level.

      MLS could continue to do their own thing.

      • Those leagues are in favor because their teams want into MLS without paying an expansion fee. They are not interested in moving clubs around between their own leagues that pretty much nobody would notice except for maybe 20-30,000 soccer fans in those specific markets.

      • Go back and re-read the part of my post that said “with a USSF sanctioned first division”.

        MLS isn’t the commodity everyone values, rather it’s the official D1 status (aka “major league”).

        It would be easier for all those clubs to attract investment if they could play their way into a “major league”. Got it?

  27. I think the only way promotion/relegation makes sense in the US is to do it regionally. If MLS had like 5 regions (NW, SW, SE, NW, midwest or something) then pick one to promote for each region and one to relegate. Then you don’t lose national interest and you encourage local rivalries while also making the best possible top tier league. If they try to do MLS2, you’re going to end up with a whole lot of teams out west in MLS1 and a whole lot of relegated teams everywhere else (except maybe NYC).

  28. God, we need an MLS2 with18 to 20 teams and MLS3 can be USLpro.
    Even though mls fans don’t believe in an MLS2, we sure need one. Look at all the possible teams for MLS2. (without minneapolis, sacramento because they will be in MLS sooner thank later)
    indy, san antonio, las vegas, el paso tx, albuquerque, okc, phoenix, tampa bay, phoenix, NC, louiville, st.louis, tulsa, austin, san diego.

  29. The one factor people don’t discuss enough is the question does Pro/Rel in some cases promote ugly football? Are clubs at the bottom going to more often then not default to a less then attractive style to grind out results? Does not having that threat of relegation perhaps give a club more freedom to try and play the right way? I can see a case for both sides but just playing a bit of the devil’s advocate.

    • Pro/Rel generates millions of fans and billions of revenue immediate, makes younger players more developed automatically and cures most forms of cancer.

      **** But you are right that the ends will justify the means if it means staying up. And sometimes that means ugly games and sometimes that means not giving your younger players a chance.

  30. Am I the only one who thinks Pro-Rel could work in college football?

    Fan bases that will support the team no matter what division they’re in are the cornerstone of any open pyramid

    • absolutely! the vast spectrum of quality across d1 football would definitely lend itself to some interesting pro/rel system. the problem there is you would have to toss conferences and all.. although they are currently doing that to a degree..

      back to soccer…

  31. That’s it. Hands down my favorite national team coach ever.

    I wonder how long now til Kraft tells Gulati to get rid of him?

  32. I used to think Klinsmann was like this friend I had always pushing buttons while saying somehing like, “Just callin’ ’em like I see ’em.” Now I think Klinsmann is like this friend of mine that got into a relationship in which they had little in common but he kept insisting he could change her. Ask me how that worked out.

  33. He’s welcome to his opinion, and what’s he supposed to do if he’s asked the question? He did what he’s supposed to do and answered the question openly and honestly.

    I love relegation and promotion in Europe, but MLS is far away from that. That’s probably MLS 7.0 before they’re ready to have relegation as they need more teams and owners who are willing to take the risk, as I’m sure the current crop of owners aren’t lining up to put their team in a position in which they may lose revenue due to relegation. It just makes no business sense at this time, regardless of when fans may desire.

  34. ‘If I play a bad season, then that lower level is waiting for me. If I play a very, very good season then there’s the chance to go up and play at whatever you describe then as the highest level.’”

    It’s simply not possible right now with ownership groups paying $100 million dollars for an entry fee to MLS, and it’s not possible with the lack of money that currently exists within the league as a whole.

    It’s not as simple as saying: x-number of fans want it, x-number of fans do not or x-number of owners want it or x-number of owners do not. It simply comes down to money. If Pro/Reg creates more revenue, advertising and interest in the league, it’ll eventually happen. If not? We’ll never see it.

    My opinion or your opinion doesn’t matter. If there’s more cheddar, the mice (owners/commissioner/MLS) will follow.

    • I generally agree with you but I’m more certain it will come. As you say (kind of) the revenue stream will dictate it. BTW there was no time frame attributed through JK’s comments.

    • It’s possible, but they would either have to dissolve MLS, or MLS would have to absorb the other independent clubs first.

    • Yes, but a little oversimplified. Saying “more revenue” doesn’t really tell the story in itself, because it leaves out the matter of “who gets the money”. The way most countries with pro/rel operate, most of the year-on-year revenue increase is ending up in the hands of a tiny number of clubs at the top. In the most extreme example, Deloitte estimates that PSG was respsonsible for 100% of the aggregate revenue increase at Ligue I clubs in 2013. Meanwhile, the risk of relegation becomes scarier and scarier each year for the have-nots, wth the same report noting that parachute payments are consistently proving to be inadequate. Until somebody in the current pro/rel world finds a sustainable solution to this, do not expect MLS too touch it.

      Pro/rel would have to increase the expected revenue for all member clubs to be viable, not just the league as a whole. Clubs would rather make $10 certainly, than $12 with the risk of losing their seat at the table.

      • The best way to address that is that all MLS and MLS 2 teams dip out of a common TV pool.

        Yes, the “haves” are going to moan, but it’s not healthy for 3-4 teams to be the only ones, every year, that have any shot whatsoever at the title…and if anybody is any good one year, they get bought to the ground the next offseason.

        There’s never going to be a completely level playing field – Seattle and LA Galaxy are always going to be big dogs – but it’s healthy that some of our best teams are from places like Kansas City and Salt Lake City, just because those organizations are well-run.

  35. have to disagree with him, but i certainly am not surprised to hear him say it.

    “I just wish that we would have a system in place where all the young players and all the players in general know that there’s the next higher level and there’s a lower level (and think) ‘If I play a bad season, then that lower level is waiting for me. If I play a very, very good season then there’s the chance to go up and play at whatever you describe then as the highest level.’”

    i actually think this is pretty off based. players are transferred around various leagues and levels, whether pro/rel is around or not, all the time (in any sport). i also think players are well aware of US soccer’s structure (MLS->NASL->USL Pro->Regional Leagues) and that if they play well in USL Pro or NASL, they could land an MLS contract. it can go the other way around too where an MLS player bombs and they end up in NASL or USL Pro. and the “highest level” he refers to is really with the big clubs, in the big leagues, and the only way to get there is to play well enough to earn a transfer to one (or good enough to come all the way through the academy system).

    • I find it a bit odd that he compares having a good season as an individual to a team getting promoted. Those two things are not connected.

      • Exactly. With the exception of American football, every major American sports set-up has a way of sorting players who play well from players who play less well. They’re called minor leagues. There really isn’t any reason to believe that the U.S. couldn’t achieve good player development through a series of tiered leagues where players move up and down rather than entire teams. It’s worked pretty well in baseball and extraordinarily well in basketball. I’m not really sure what makes soccer so different…

  36. Even though, I really dislike Klinsman for his disrespect to Donovan, I accepted him as coach of the mens national team and what he is trying to accomplish. However comments like this make me dislike him completely.
    America is too large a country to have a true promotion/relegation system. It’s been discussed on end. MLS will be great being an AMERICAN soccer league and not an imitation of a Euro League. Now he is feeding into these Europosers ridiculous desire for promotion/relegation. What good does it do for teams to be promoted when they hardly ever stay up.
    Also, with the USPRO MLS will be able to send players that aren’t performing for some quality games.

    Klinsman stick to coaching, shut your pie hole and educate your kid. Make him apologize like you told national media he would.

    • I’m with you. I think it creates too much division between top teams and bottom teams. There’s not one other league in the world where there is significant parity and top to bottom competitiveness. Premier league and such like to say anyone can beat anyone on any given day, but look at the facts. The top 5-10 teams are always staying near the top, the bottom 10-15 teams are always in the bottom. The longer top teams stay in the top league, the more they have to spend, and the more impossible it is for them to ever get relegated. It’s a stupid system that does not foster competitiveness IMO.

      IF MLS/US tries to implement this they need to do some significant adjustments – I don’t know what – so that they keep the top to bottom competitiveness. Take the DC United for example, that kind of amazing story and turn around is not be possible in any other league.

      • Pro/Rel with a salary cap (and perhaps a salary minimum) would be an interesting way to try to address parity.

      • There would have to be a boatload of rules in place for pro/rel to work in the US; far more than what exists in the English Football League. Basically, if we ever had pro/rel, it’d have to be within the single-entity MLS system where profits and losses are shared.

    • Ya, big countries like Russia, Brazil, Argentina, Mexico, could never have promotion/relegation work… I love the jingoism of it needing to be AMERICAN. Do you want to go back hockey style penalty shootouts too? Or maybe MISL could come back for you to have a truly American form of the game.

      • pro/rel is definitely easier in a larger nation, we have at least 30 cities/fan bases that could support div-1 clubs in time.

        its also inherently American – free market – control your own destiny.

  37. I agree with JK here although I don’t think we’re quite ready for pro/rel because there aren’t enough teams yet. Disagree when he implies MLS is equivalent to NASL. It isn’t.

    Eventually would love to see 2 20 team leagues with pro/rel. You could, and probably should, still have playoffs of course.

    • this could work…make it very hard for the second divisoin team to get promoted….just the league winner, and they need to win a playoff game against the worst MLS team. If nothing else it would provide all the other MLS teams a whipping boy (not unlike Chivas, but with fans that are actually excited) for a year or two until they drop back.

  38. I hope this isn’t a surprise to anyone, It’s the obvious evolution of a soccer league. Not really a question of if but when. For one I’m hoping sooner rather than later.

    • Exactly. The more this countries is exposed to global soccer, the more people who will become aware of pro/rel and will be asking for it. It’s only a matter of time.

    • Ya, there not enough money in the US to make this viable yet.(Even if you discount the way the MLS was formed with a lot of people losing money for a long time.) From JK’s perspective it would, broaden to player pool by letter more team/players into the top tier but from all other angles. It’s not gunna work.

      • Who said this is would happen tomorrow? When we do it, it will take a 10-15 year transition period. At that time, we will be ready. You gotta start getting the ball rolling. Imagine where soccer will be in this country in 10-15 years. We can easily do it then. This also gives MLS owners ample time to get ready for an open pyramid or for them to sell their club. Spare me the “we aren’t ready yet” argument. How about we start getting ready…

      • Well we kinda are. The NASL is alive and doesn’t seem to be dying a slow death. USL pro has decided it wants to be the feeder league and presumably focus on young players.(Nothing wrong with that.) I should point out that I don’t feel don’t think there are enough teams of reasonable to make it work well right now.

        So back to time and money. =/

      • In 2015 there will be 52 teams in 3 divisions with many more joining in following years. Plenty for Pro/rel. Get the wheels in motion!

      • How many of those 52 teams have the money to build a competitive top level stadium and buy into the top league? About 20 – and they are all in MLS.

        I am not against pro-rel, but if we jump the gun on this and start relegating teams with strong finances and good / loyal fan bases who bring out 20,000 a game for the sake of promoting a team with a $300,000 payroll who plays in a 8,000 seat stadium and no hope to build a bigger one nor sign any better players (and I will leave the whole who is going to pay $100M to join MLS when promoted vs MLS / US soccer having the money to buy out all of the owners and return their investments), then I just don’t see the point.

        If those other 32 NASL and USL-PRO teams do take off and start building big stadiums, making money, signing expensive foreign talent … then yeah – they are ready. Until then (which I still think is at least 20 years off, if ever) it just won’t work.

      • Right, that’s why we have that 10-15 year transition period, where teams figure out if they are serious or not. Those who are, find investors and strengthen the club, those who aren’t sell or be content in the third tier.

      • The problem is that every single one of them is going to say they are serious, right up to the time when they have to decide … and it is fairly unlikely most will.

        Truthfully, I think the way to pro-rel is MLS being 32 teams (by which time they will have absorbed most of the strong 2nd and 3rd division teams) and that way you really only need 8 more for a full second division (and even if those 8 really are dramatically weaker, more likely than not the 12 MLS teams who start out in 2nd division will probably keep them suppressed unless they can build a competitive club. If there are not 8 that are ready when the MLS reaches that size, nothing says the second division can’t be 12 teams (except unhappy MLS owners who won’t want to be equal partners in a business with unequal opportunity). That will pain purists greatly who believe in small leagues, but I think that is probably the only way forward to a true 1st and 2nd division with pro-rel.

      • Thank you Eric, its time to talk about the possibilities, we are the only coutnry in the world with a 1 billion $ youth soccer tournament biz, we have 25 million registered players but they only want to protect and not unleash the game here. If real clubs are able to form that would lift the whole profile of soccer in the US. But we need ppl to be brave and set out a plan to include every club not limit them.

      • It’s difficult to find investors when they are offered such little security of top league placement. The current model works, expansions are still attractive. The league is growing slowly. I would love this possibility in the future. But 10-15 years is much too short. We’re talking 32+ teams that only support a 2-5K fanbase. Adding investors may draw fans in big markets like NY and LA. But this cannot be manufactured in small market areas. No matter how many investors you have.

    • Don’t worry, after the thrashing he’s about to recieve from the US Soccer establishment, I am sure we’ll see an awkward, forced-sounding retraction in a few days.

      • In case you’ve missed it, JK pretty much has the keys to the castle. The only thing he’s had to bend on in the last 3 years is a 30 minute cameo tonight.

    • I’m at the point where I’m just going to say it. Anyone who thinks pro/rel is not a superior system doesn’t know the sport of soccer very well.

      • It’s not simply a question of soccer. From a purely competitive perspective, I would agree– this is the fairest and most inclusive system available, and produces the efficient result.

        In the absence of money, that is.

        But from the perspective of finance and growth strategy, it is far from clear that this is the “superior” system. If MLS is to claw its way into the upper echelon of global soccer, it has to find ways to succeed where other leagues are failing, and exploit these competitve advantages. This is a core principle of the league and the reason of the single-entity philosophy, and right now it is the main reasn pro/rel will not and should not happen.

        Investors tripping over themselves and investing big bucks in MLS right now because it offers a better profit model for ALL participants year-upon-year. By contrast, Europe is a far less attractive proposition. Most of the teams lose money, and the fear/cost of relegation is clearly outweighing the upside of competing for the title. The rich are getting richer, and everybody else is drowning. It isn’t sustainable and it’s the reason guys like Randy Lerner are looking to sell their mid-table clubs (at discounted prices). Bad news for Europe, and they are now hoping Financial Fair Play will be the anwer (good luck, fellas). But good news for MLS.

        I am not saying pro/rel isn’t better for the game in a long-term view. I simply think you (and JK, who I typically agree with) have oversimplified the issue. It’s a tough challenge that will play out over many years.

      • JK oversimplifies everything. He’s a blooming idiot. Only knows and wants things one way, his way, europe’s way. He would be in Europe now if he could get a job there but he can’t because everyone knows he’s an idiot. Like his buddy Magath who brought FFC crashing down

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