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Saucedo: MLS would benefit from promotion, relegation

The latest competition between MLS and Liga MX teams will get underway on Tuesday night with the start of the Leagues Cup. Naturally, with it will come plenty of discussion as to the differences between the two leagues and why MLS continues to trail behind its Mexican counterpart in the sporting aspect.

One American with firsthand experience in both leagues that will competing in the tournament has a theory as to why.

Despite being just 22-years old, Real Salt Lake midfielder Sebastian Saucedo has spent time playing professionally in both the United States and Mexico. The midfielder that is likely to feature in this inaugural edition of the Leagues Cup, has seen what MLS and Liga MX each have to offer after previously spending part of 2016 on-loan at Veracruz, and believes MLS could do with having promotion and relegation implemented.

“It was crazy because seeing that we would fight relegation, that the club was fighting relegation, and every game was a final,” Saucedo, who is likely to feature in the inaugural Leagues Cup, told SBI earlier this season. “I would see teammates crying, teammates fighting. It was an atmosphere where if I didn’t win a game, you’d get paid but it would take some time. For me to experience that at such a young age made me realize that here in the MLS us players, or at least I feel like some of us, take things for granted because we have everything to be successful.

“When a team gets last in the standing, they’re like, ‘Okay, well we still have next year.’ I think that’s something that’s a difference between the leagues where if we had that, that kind of second division type of thing and relegation, then there’d be more heart, there’d be more fighting for things. It means a lot.”

The absence of promotion and relegation is a hot topic in American, and Canadian, soccer circles, but the conversation is a complex one. That said, most leagues around the world implement the system or a variation of it. MLS, meanwhile, does not.

Many fans and members of the media believe that is part of what is holding the league back from really taking off and increasing in quality, with the argument being that matches over the course of the season do not matter as much to clubs, players, and supporters.

“After (winning Copa MX), what I only remember is getting food with my family — because I flew out my family — and I couldn’t eat comfortably because there were fans and they wouldn’t leave me alone,” said Saucedo. “It’s not a bad thing. I loved it and it was just crazy. I was only a 16-, 17-, 18-year-old and I was like, ‘Wow, this is crazy.’ I was just eating and taking picture after picture. It was just crazy.”

Saucedo is a candidate to see the field on Wednesday night when RSL welcomes Tigres UANL to Rio Tinto Stadium for their Leagues Cup quarterfinals bout. Whether he does so depends on the approach the MLS side takes with its lineup.

Regardless of if he suits up or not, Saucedo is sure to have flashbacks of his time south of the border when the ball gets rolling between teams from two of the professional leagues he has played in.

“I won the first cup in (Veracruz’s) history and you don’t understand how much it meant to the fans, to the club,” Saucedo said. “It was incredible. I felt like at the end of this loan, I was remembered forever because this was history. I kind of took the difficult moments, the worst moments and brought them here.”

“This is the year that has made me realize what I have and I can’t give up because I have my paycheck every 15 days. (Some players in Mexico) don’t. It went by games. It was a crazy experience.”


  1. Its click bait. This debate is dead.
    You can put all your crazy ideas on how to do a hybrid Pro/Rel in the drawer where you keep your signed picture of the NASL NY Cosmos 1978 team.
    There is nothing to solve here.
    MLS IS CRUSHING IT. Let me know when Mexico starts improving like MLS is.
    I counted 7, SEVEN, SIETE, teams that have won MLS championships, that are not in the playoff zone. ( Houston getting the San Jose titles, and a few weeks ago, so might be slightly off )…SEVEN!!!!
    There is no problem to solve. Stay the course.
    The problem to solve? EASY. Everyone of the biggest soccer leagues in Europe that you want to mimic….has had WAY too many repeat champions for WAY too long.

    • What’s Houston done since….NADA! The Dynamo suck and don’t really give a damn, because there’s no reason for them to worry.

  2. So, you pay $ 200 millions and then the next couple of years You’ll send to the second division? hum , the most stupid idea i heard off.

    • Agreed. This is a very strange article. Why on earth are we looking to a 22 year old midfielder at RSL to discuss the pro/rel issue?

      If this article is about the bigger picture “differences between MLS and Liga MX,” then say so. Make that the title of the piece and the focus of the piece. But if it’s about pro/rel, then find a better angle than “oh there’s this kid in Utah who has an opinion.”

      By the way? THIS kid has an opinion! If you insist that somehow Liga MX is way better than MLS (debatable), and you need to know why, and how to fix this perceived imbalance, Pro/rel is NOT the answer, at least not yet.

      The reason Mexican soccer is better than American soccer is simple: they’ve been playing the game longer, and more to the point, IT IS THEIR ONLY SPORT. If, lets say, Mike Trout, Tom Brady, and LeBron were all told from the day they were born “here is the only game. Let’s see if you’re good at it,” we’d probably be a bit further along in the sport. IMHO! HOT TAKE!

  3. No, much more important is the salary cap and the crazy quilt of TAM, General Allocation Money, and DP. In other leagues, if a team sees a player it likes and can afford, it goes out and gets him if he is receptive. Then layer on top of this the ridiculous player allocation rules where some players don’t count against the cap, players are tied to a team with limited free agency, and if a player is sold, it’s not consistent who gets the money and how much they get. Also, a player can go to Europe and then come back to MLS and still be the property of his original team, except when MLS decides that doesn’t apply. Not only is this way over complicated, it is extremely restrictive, limiting what teams can do to acquire players and , the big problem with MLS, quality depth. They should set a reasonable salary cap (maybe $20 to $25 million) since they want equality and do away with the Mickey Mouse rules.

  4. And what owner would ever support this? Watch the multi-million dollar investment become worth next to nothing if their team was sent down? Never going to happen and the owners run the league

  5. Bottom line: Want to make MLS better in the long run, and improve American player development? Then you must move toward promotion/relegation. We all understand business viability and we want teams to make money. But, the ultimate goal should be to improve US soccer. I would do a phased approach that gives MLS maximal control. Considering that MLS plans to expand to 28 teams by 2022. Keep that plan. Then allow the 29th and 30th teams to be USL promoted teams, and allow 2 more MLS handpicked new franchises after that (max at 32 team league (16 West, 16 East). You could even set a time period where for 5 years or whatever, the 28 MLS teams are guaranteed spots (or make it 26 teams), and the relegation only exists between the newer group of teams added and USL. There are many ways to implement this in a way that protects the MLS investors and pre-existing business model, but still brings in new competition and shifts the system. The point is we shouldn’t make “protect the investor at all costs and maximize profits” the end goal. Anyways, we want investors who are soccer people that are committed to making a great team and have some ability to do that.


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