The amateur scene is a hot mess right now. NPSL going after GCPL teams. USL going after NPSL teams. UPSL teams leaving to start their own league. UPSL expanding like crazy. It's getting legitimately ridiculous at this point.
What are all these leagues and clubs to do?
I believe there a few simple things clubs can do to help better connect with their communities to ensure longevity and connection.
But first, college.
College fans are a rabid, invested lot who will put up with a surprising amount of losing because it's their local school and local players. There is a real connection there between the fans and community and the team itself.
1. Allow fan ownership. We all take something we own more seriously and passionately than something we don't, right? So let fans buy into the team! Don't be crazy with it. Start small and simple. 25 people can buy in at $50 a year. The next season, another 25 can buy in, but at $75, and etc, etc. Get your community to invest in the club itself!
2. Use as many local players as possible. Sure, it's great to win games. But winning games as a team in, say, Iowa, with players from Tennessee, Florida, and Ohio, isn't the same as a team fighting every game through thick and thin with players from your city and state.
This is an easy thing for clubs to do. Just give yourself limits. If you plan on having 25 players on your roster, decided to only use a maximum of 3 from outside your USASA Region. Then 5 to 10 from within your USASA Region, and 5 to 15 from within your city and state. Obviously, these are guidelines, not set rules, because every situation is different, but do not underestimate the power of connection and investment from your local community.
3. Stop with the stupid names. Don't be Force FC. Don't call yourself Dallas if you play in Flower Mound. If you're playing in an established neighborhood, like Hyde Park in Kansas City, you don't want to call yourself Kansas City, you need to call yourself Hyde Park! Start thinking far more local with your naming, and remember: this isn't Backyard Soccer for the PC. Clip art logos and dumb nicknames like Swerve, Synergy, or Power scream 'I really don't know what I'm doing or who I'm trying to market to.' It's looking for the soccer mom crowd in an age when the kids are savvy and smart enough to spot something phony and say no.
Also, do you see any colleges using nicknames like Storm, Force, Synergy, Legends, Premier, or Elite? No? Then don't make that part of your teams name either.
As for leagues, I think the easiest thing to do is....affiliation. Let existing leagues affiliate with you for a small fee per team. NPSL, work with them to give your teams a home for spring and fall play. Put their standings on your site, and give their champions a spot in your playoffs.
I've long thought this is what UPSL should do. Build leagues where there are none, and work with the existing ones to create a solid structure. Work with the Cosmopolitan Soccer League. Charge them $50 per team in the top flight, put their standings on your site, promote the champion to your regional league, and allow them to decline it if needed. Let the leagues keep running and doing their thing at the local level, focus on overseeing things at the national level.
Anyway, those are just a few ideas for what clubs and leagues could do to help stabilize the amateur scene, before it all burns to the ground.