UPSL Announce Promotion Relegation System for 2017 Season
The 2017 UPSL season will mark the beginning of its Promotion-Relegation system that will help restructure this growing league.
Related Article: The Rising UPSL & Its Footprint in U.S. Soccer
UPSL Soccer News: The United Premier Soccer League (UPSL) is a soccer league run by Yan Skwara — a man always interested in taking the initiative and one not afraid of change. Skwara would love nothing more than to help shift soccer in the United States and align the sport on a more global perspective.
Can promotion and relegation work at any level in American soccer?
While the rest of the planet flourishes with a promotion / relegation system where soccer teams move up or down in a tiered league system based upon performance — America is different.
The MLS franchise system was built to allow teams to thrive in a safer universe — a closed, protected world with no fear of being demoted into a lower league after spending nine-figure expansion fees. It makes sense that the MLS business model excludes promotion and relegation. Instead of being penalized by being relegated, the team with the worst record receives the bonus of first pick in the next year’s Draft. In fact, the order of selection allows the worst performing teams to pick first — this serves to balance out the teams and strengthen the league — giving new hope to fans all across the country.
Will the MLS ever go for promotion and relegation? Mark Abbott, MLS President and Deputy Commissioner, has been quoted as saying relegation will never happen.
American sports fans — in general — are not like their European counterparts. Although Americans may consider themselves die-hard sports fans, they are obsessed with winning championship. Many lose the passion for their team the when they start losing. American sports fans are fickle and a team is lucky if their fan devotion lasts through a losing season. If an MLS team was relegated after one bad season, it could lead to the club’s demise. And, could a team from the lower league afford to step up and afford to be in the MLS if they were promoted?
Across the Atlantic, soccer fans can be intensely connected to the teams they support. A great example are the Rangers FC in Scotland — their fans continued to support them even when they were relegated down multiple divisions and had to work their way back to the Scottish Premiership, the first tier of the Scottish Professional Football League.
Could that really happen in America? Would fans remain loyal if their team was relegated?
The fear of relegation might stop the growth of professional soccer.
Newcomers to soccer are usually unfamiliar with promotion and relegation — only die-hard soccer fans voice their displeasure and concern over our system. Is the American sports culture really ready for this shift which polarizes so many?
The UPSL is on the bottom of the soccer pyramid — MLS, NASL, USL, NPSL, UPSL so creating a promotion-relegation system within its own ranks is a novel and forward thinking idea — and easier.
Don Garber, the commissioner of the MLS discussed the use of a modified system within the MLS earlier this year, yet there is no glimmer that the major professional soccer leagues in America could working together like they do elsewhere.
Other leagues, including NASL and NPSL are perhaps more open to the idea than the MLS, but no one else proposed to actually start.
The UPSL has taken the bold step to start Promotion-Relegation next season.
The UPSL West Coast Division will consist of two divisions in 2017 — The UPSL Pro Premier Division and UPSL Championship Division and teams will be promoted or relegated upon performance.
“The UPSL is excited to be a part of soccer history in America as we embark on instituting the Promotion-Relegation system into our existing league,” said UPSL Commissioner Skwara. “We are emulating a Promotion-Relegation tradition in soccer that is embedded throughout the rest of the world that for decades has been bypassed by all the top tier soccer leagues in America.”
With prominent talent making its way into the UPSL, February 2017 will mark the beginning of the league’s Promotion-Relegation system that will include two divisions – UPSL Pro Premier Division and UPSL Championship Division.
The UPSL is set to operate 50+ teams in 2017 — all based in California, Nevada, Idaho, Colorado and Arizona.
“We look forward to the continued support from the soccer community and look forward to the launch of our Promotion-Relegation model,” said Skwara. “I believe the fans, players and clubs deserve this traditional model and while other people talk about it, the UPSL is actually going to implement it.”
The UPSL’s initiative to embark on what was once a taboo system is fairly remarkable. Promotion and relegation may be the dominant soccer model in the planet — in our country, the idea was originally deemed barbaric.
Soccer is big business and the financial difference between teams in the English Premier League (EPL) and those who are in the second-tier Championship is tremendous, especially when you count in the millions of dollars coming from the TV rights.
Professional soccer teams in England fight for their share of these massive TV funds and relegation can spell financial disaster. If a team is out of contention for winning the championship and is threatened with relegation, there is an enhanced level of competitiveness — with the team desperately fighting being demoted to the lower league. The fans win because every game is a fight to the end.
Obviously, the promotion and relegation system creates an environment with incredible incentive.
Sports broadcasting contracts in the USA are big money — ESPN has an estimated 97M households, NBCSN 80M, Fox Sports 88M and beIN Sports 17M and the advertising revenue alone is tremendous. With record-breaking TV viewership of the FIFA Women’s World Cup topping 750 million — the MLS is waiting for its breakout season and does not plan on doing anything that could be threatening to its franchise owners. But why not have promotion and relegation in the other leagues?
Maybe the UPSL could be the start of something big.
“It’s a great time to begin to create one umbrella,” Skwara said. “We know it’s not overnight process, but now that we’ve initiated it it’s our hope that other clubs will see that vision.”
Perhaps the UPSL is kicking this off at the right time. The UPSL has been innovative and consistently expanding — catching the wave of the sport’s increased popularity coupled with being an affordable and well run organization.
The UPSL’s organizational restructuring during the winter offseason will develop new conferences from its pool of more than 50 member clubs. Each conference will consist of both Pro Premier and Championship Divisions starting with the 2017 Spring Season.
For the inaugural season of the league structure, clubs applying for the Pro Premier Division will be approved in compliance with UPSL Pro Premier Division rules and regulations.
In the second year, Championship Division clubs will be required to qualify for postseason playoffs in order to be eligible to apply for promotion. Those clubs must also then meet UPSL Pro Premier Division rules and regulations.
Relegation from the Pro Premier Division will occur for the bottom two teams.
America is a land of opportunity — but driven by a capitalistic culture of greed. Football, the biggest money sport has no promotion and relegation — so many wonder why American soccer should. Only time will tell whether the financial risks are worth it or if American soccer is just determined to pave its own path.
Photo Credit: UPSL