Gary Kleiban of 3four3.com contends that structuring a pyramid of soccer leagues in the U.S. and opening the leagues to clubs, will encourage club formation as investors seek to start clubs that might be able to win their way into the top league for the financial gain.
This is the bottom-up way soccer is organized in many soccer-loving nations. England has about 10 levels in its league pyramid, with the top 4 levels being pro.
I think Gary’s argument has merit.
I think there are two barriers.
First, the lower levels the pyramid would likely need to wipe out high school and college soccer. I don’t see how the pyramid co-exists with serious scholastic soccer.
Check out the highlights from the NCAA National Soccer Championship. Note the empty seats in the stadium. The only people who will miss college soccer are those who play it and the parents who like to brag that their kid is a college athlete.
Second, even the money on the top level currently in the U.S. isn’t that great, so it may not be as big of a motivator as Gary thinks.
Soccer-loving nations had an advantage to creating a bottom-up system…the bottom was already in place. The bottom is kids teaching themselves how to play soccer at ages 5 and 6 in schoolyards and sports clubs that give kids a convenient, consistent and inexpensive avenue to get even better.
Federations in those countries just needed to organize competition among the grassroots.
US Soccer has a disadvantage. The grassroots is weak. School teams fragment the sport and 2nd graders aren’t chomping at the bit to play ‘monkey-in-the-middle’ 15 hours a week on their own.
But, that’s not to say that US Soccer shouldn’t recognize that some bottom-up thinking could help and that competition is good.