Home NASL & USL More NASL & USL NASL Commissioner’s pro-rel comments don’t mean “going up, going down” happening anytime soon

NASL Commissioner’s pro-rel comments don’t mean “going up, going down” happening anytime soon


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.


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  1. Kahkakew Yawassaay

    August 10, 2015 at 4:02 pm

    As far as any creation of any future Canadian league(s), divisions or clubs outside of MLS can only be seen as a good thing if the best case scenario is that the following occurs;
    To further develop the beautiful game here would see separate Canuck divisions within the NASL and possibly also in the USL and a new national div 3 league instead of this proposed fantasy of a standalone national div 1 league.
    Perhaps such a system could accommodate pro/rel from the lowest national div 3 to the Canuck divisions in the USL and NASL.
    MLS wll never agree to pro/rel unless they decide to create or purchase a MLS2 where all teams are still owned by the league and operated by investors so as to guarantee their status quo where profits are the only priority…that could mean the USL is purchased outright by MLS who already have their hooks deep into this alleged independent league….if that ever happens, then maybe the NASL has in the perfect world, two Canuck divisions where pro/rel can exist…
    The creation of a stand alone Div 1 Canuck league is a laughable idea at this point in time…the resulting dilution of an already inferior and marginal product aka MLS, NASL and USL would hurt the bottom line of profits, development and creation of awareness as a viable alternative. The overall ability and quantity of players skilled enough to play in a national div one league does not exist above the 49th parallel now in in the foreseeable future…until such a time appropriate investors come forward and develop the required infrastructure instead of one reporter stating such a league will begin to operate as of 2017, expansion of the current system is the best bet to develop the beautiful game at a regional and national basis.

    • Kent

      August 11, 2015 at 10:50 am

      In my opinion, the Canadian league is now(ish) or never. It’s a given that the Canadian MLS teams would never join the Canadian league, but I think at this point the NASL teams could potentially move. It’s not like FC Edmonton or Ottawa are bringing in the big bucks in NASL, and if the Canadian league is able to get a national TV deal then that would probably bring more awareness to the league than the NASL has. If we wait until this magical time of there being half a dozen Canadian NASL teams (which would mean something like 28 total teams in the NASL due to the American team quota that the USSF demands of 2nd tier leagues it sanctions) that are all thriving, then why would they want to jump to a new, unproven league?

      No doubt there will be player quality issues for a while, but that will be true if the new league were to start now, or 30 years from now. Arguably the longer we wait, the worse the problem would become. Start the league now(ish) and 5 years down the road we could start to see some growth on both the business side, and on the competitive side (especially if all the teams are able to run good academies, and 3rd tier leagues like PLSQ and L1O continue to improve, and grow in number).

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