Opinion

Football In The US Is Weird

Most of the world is interested in football in the USA, since most of the world thinks of America as one of the top countries in the world.

It goes without saying that football would help that. However, there are many countries in this world that are much better at the game. Many Football Association’s are weird, corrupt, and just plain off, then there is football in the US.

Imagine your FA being run by the top league in the country, and the pyramid for lack of better words not being a proper flow chart. That is how it has been in America as the game bids to find its place among the elite.

Why is that?

When you think of a league system, you think of a top to bottom flow chart, where clubs come up and down. In the US, we don’t have that. We had a division one league that only deals with league three, and a bunch of lower leagues that just exist. Oh and the North American Soccer League (NASL), was trying to be the sanctioned league two, operated separately from the rest of the leagues, and openly challenged Major League Soccer (MLS). To say they have had a contentious relationship is being really nice.

The MLS is a single entity, in other words, the clubs don’t own the players, the league does. This is to protect the league from folding, and money coming into the league. Yes, there has been massive amounts of money added to the league since it’s start, but compared to the rest of the world, not so much. They control costs, have a salary cap, and have rules for players to enter the league. The NASL fought against that, seeing free markets as the better option.

So what happened?

First, an iconic name in the shape of the Fort Lauderdale Strikers ran into money troubles, to the point that the ownership group had to get loans from the league. Then the ownership group just gave up on the club. Staff weren’t being paid, players were sold to cut costs. There are rumors going round that there’s a new owner for the club, however what league will they play in has yet to be confirmed.

At the same time Rayo Oklahoma City went bankrupt, because the league wanted to rush a club into a market that already had a club (USL’s Oklahoma City Energy), so they went to a small club in Spain, and had them come over. Well Rayo Vallecano in Spain were relegated while the NASL season was going on. Rayo OKC had to shed coaching staff, players, even their home. As of the end of the season, Rayo OKC were bankrupt.

Then that left the Tampa Bay Rowdies, and Ottawa Fury decided to leave the league for the United Soccer League (USL). That was decision was made at the end of the season, with Tampa saying that this was a move in order to become an MLS club in the long run. Ottawa moved leagues, and became an affiliate of MLS side Montreal Impact.

Anyone confused yet?

Now it’s going to get even worse!

An iconic name in the sport, New York Cosmos, came out with rumors that they were going to go bust and fold. Early in December, the club let go of staff and players in the hope to eventually find new owner. The Cosmos have won three more titles in their second incarnation, in fact they just finished the season as the winners of the Soccer Bowl. There’s slim hope that they will find another owner after losing almost $30million though.

The key club in all of this is the Indy 11, one of the great lower league clubs in the country. They find themselves like Puerto Rico, North Carolina FC, San Francisco, Miami FC, FC Edmonton, FTL Strikers, and Jacksonville all in limbo. Reportedly, if a club leaves for the USL they have to pay an exit fee of $3.5million dollars, but if enough clubs go bankrupt, the level might be at five clubs, the get out of jail fee is only $25,000. Indy 11 are one of the best run clubs in the lower leagues, with great fans, and with enough upward momentum for them to be a great club.

What fixes this?

Nothing much, because despite America having football on and off since the republic was founded, we are still very new at the sport. The big thing is that fans have to stop comparing the domestic game to Europe. The game has been bigger over there for many more years than it has been here, yet. Grow the game here, go to as many matches as you can here in the States, but still love the game here. European leagues had their problems too, be patient this sport will get bigger in the States.

 

 

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Stephen Brandt

Stephen Brandt

Stephen is a football writer from the States. He has hosted Yellowcard Podcast on Tuesday's for five years. His expertise is in Football History, and has written articles all over the world.

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