A common retort against pro/rel is that MLS owners, having invested so much in a team, will not like the risk of potentially dropping to division 2.
This assumes that division 2 teams under pro/rel would be just as valuable as they are today, which is <0.
What if, under pro/rel, soccer division 2 teams became just as valuable as people perceive MLS teams to be today and MLS teams became even more valuable?
Then, MLS owners shouldn’t be concerned about dropping to division 2 due to monetary loss.
How could this happen?
An obvious reason is that the value a division 2 team would have the option value of earning its way into division 1. This would make instantly make all division 2 teams more than what they are worth today, without that option value.
Another potential is that division 2 teams could build better fan followings, on par with current MLS teams.
I know this is tough to imagine in the U.S. where college sports plays the role of a profitable second tier in football and basketball, to the NFL and NBA, and no examples of profitable second tier pro sports exists.
But consider, college soccer is nowhere near a profitable second tier to the MLS, as college football is to the NFL. It’s a money loser. The only folks who would miss it if it disappeared are the coaches, players and their parents. It’s an enigma in the soccer world, a strange beast that evolved in the Galapagos Islands of substitutions to favor raw athleticism over purposeful play, that has no meaningful connection to the game played around the world.
What if it were replaced by a 2nd tier pro system that more folks cared about and was connected to the larger the soccer world?
Look elsewhere in the world, like England, where pro club soccer is several divisions deep and you see the second division resembling in talent and income what you see in the MLS.
Like how a U.S. football fan might have his favorite college team and favorite NFL team, football fans in those countries often have their favorite 2nd or 3rd tier team and their favorite top tier team. They might watch their favorite 2nd tier team live and watch their favorite 1st tier team on the telly.
Maybe they are their kid played soccer for the the youth teams at their 2nd tier team, or maybe their kids had friends that worked their way through those teams to top tier teams.
Where markets have been banned by USSF/MLS from participating in the pro levels of the sport because their population doesn’t meet an arbitrary minimum criteria (you know, to protect players from unstable financial situation), perhaps 2nd division teams could find profitable existences in areas unimaginable to the writers of such arbitrary edicts, which could serve to grow the sport, rather than keep it limited.
Consider the club Huddersfield in England. It sits in a town of less than 200,000 between Manchester and Sheffield and it also sits near the bottom of England’s 2nd tier of soccer, currently 18th in the Championship (the misleading name of England’s 2nd tier division), is worth about $200 million and has been in business since 1908.
How can a team in a 2nd tier, in a town the size of which bureaucrats at the USSF think is too small to support a team be doing just as well as, financially, as an MLS team, ‘strategically’ places in much larger markets?
Critics might say, but England is a ‘football country.’
What if it got that way, partially due to to pro/rel? It didn’t wait until football was big to implement. It was like that from the beginning.
If it did contribute to its popularity, then we smother way to grow the game in the U.S. each year we don’t embrace it.