NASL Commissioner’s pro-rel comments don’t mean “going up, going down” happening anytime soon By Steven Sandor Posted on August 10, 2015 2 0 553 Share on Facebook Share on Twitter Bill Peterson PHOTO: NASL OK, promotion-relegation evangelists, breathe. Try it. OK. Now, do it again. Through the nose, out the mouth. (Or is that the other way around? You can tell my yoga experience comes entirely through my wife coming home and telling me how her session went, while I nod “uh-huh.”) By now, you may have heard that NASL Commissioner Bill Peterson gave an interview to the Telegraph’s Bob Williams (CLICK HERE), in which the interview subject reiterated his staunch support of promotion and relegation. He was quoted as being ready to “take action” on promoting and relegating teams. OK, breathe again. You can do it. Now, Peterson has never been shy about sharing his personal visions for the game of soccer in North America. In April, in what a lot of my readers thought was an April Fool’s joke, he said that, if he had his way, roster quotas would be eliminated — and that NASL teams could sign the players they so wished, no minimum number of Americans and/or Canadians required. (CLICK HERE for that story). When he spoke in April, the commissioner was speaking of what amounted to a Christmas wish; it wasn’t something he could make a reality on his own. Why? Because the roster rules aren’t entirely up to him. The roster limits are defined by the United States Soccer Federation and, to a lesser extent, the Canadian Soccer Association. (“Lesser extent” because the rules allow Americans to be domestics on Canadian teams, but don’t reciprocate that courtesy to Canadians on American teams.) How does that relate to what he said today? Well, much like his comments on the import rule, promotion-relegation isn’t something he can do on his own. In fact, on Monday the league office confirmed to me today that it’s not something that’s been discussed internally. Basically, what the commissioner was saying is that it would be nice to have discussion about promotion and relegation — which is a lot different than having promotion and relegation. And the league confirmed that no one has even begun the discussions about the logistics that would come with promotion and relegation in NASL. The league understands that it’s not cut and dried, because — as of 2016 — it will have teams from three separate federations on board. There will be American teams, Canadian teams and a new team from Puerto Rico. Yes, PR is an American territory, but it has its own national team and soccer federation; so, in the soccer world, it’s as separate from the United States as Wales, England, Northern Ireland and Scotland are from each other. So, that’s the question. If, let’s say, FC Edmonton and Puerto Rico were to finish in the bottom two NASL spots, where would they be relegated to? To the NPSL, which isn’t sanctioned in Canada, for example? Would NPSL teams be delighted to get the joy of road trips to Edmonton and Puerto Rico? (Heck, the CSA only sanctioned the three Canadian MLS-affiliated USL teams after some real hand wringing, and pledges to not allow any unaffiliated USL teams.) How could a Canadian team be promoted into NASL? What if an American team finished in last and a Canadian team was poised to take its place? Would it make American sponsors happy if the Cosmos or Tampa Bay Rowdies were to be replaced by a team from Winnipeg? If only Canadian teams could replace Canadian teams, could either Ottawa Fury or FC Edmonton be relegated — even if the teams finished 1-2 in the NASL combined standings? This is not nearly as easy as promotion or relegation where a national division one and national lower divisions exist. In those cases, it’s straightforward. A German team is replaced by a German team. A French team by another team from France. Et cetera. And we’re not even getting into the logistics of the Canadian Professional League, who we’re waiting on to confirm that they’re on board to play. (For the record, FC Edmonton has reiterated its allegiance to the NASL; there’s no discussions of the team leaving NASL for the CPL. And league officials reiterated to me Monday that the league still sees plenty of growth potential in Canada for NASL, and that the Canadian market is very important to the league.) In the end, what we have is three federations, multiple international leagues (stress on “international”) and various sanctioning bodies. Until these questions are answered with something a bit more substantial than the normal slogans from the promotion-relegation set, all we have is the commissioner of the league’s personal opinion on the business of soccer. For sure, Peterson wants to end protectionism and wants to give teams the rights to win promotion. Whether those things actually happen is entirely another discussion. And it’s not one the NASL has had, yet.