The National Amateur Cup. Legitimately one of the oldest and most prestigious Cup competitions in the world, in existence since 1923. And yet, no one really knows it's happening. Why is this?
Easy. The Dark Ages of American Soccer plunged it into near irrelevance. But the advent of the internet and amateur leagues like the PDL, NPSL, and UPSL should have drawn more attention and teams to the competition. Yet it didn't. Why?
Because the Cup competition itself is not being treated like a proper Cup competition, especially one for amateur teams. Midweek games requiring multiple hours of travel. Weekend long qualifying tournaments with dozens of teams participating. Convoluted qualification processes that are supposed to be handled by Adult Soccer State Associations that have no websites, no phone numbers, and people leading them who still use AOL email addresses.
So how do we fix this? How do we make this The Greatest Show In American Soccer? Let me propose two paths. One in which the power is primarily in the hands of the States, and one in which the power is primarily in the hands of the United States Adult Soccer Association.
1. The States Rise Up
Currently, there are 55 Adult Soccer State Associations. There are 50 State Cup Champions (Well, there should be). One of the easiest ways to fix the National Amateur Cup is to utilize what's already there, and elevate it at the same time. The State Cups.
Just imagine. Every State Cup now has serious potential. You want to win it. Not only is there a trophy and a prize, but you're moving into the National Amateur Cup. Now, you'll be playing other State Cup winners from within your region to determine who makes the NAC Semifinals.
Now, the USASA Regions, 1, 2, 3, and 4, cover a lot of geographic space. Travel can be a brutal killer for amateur teams operating on a shoe string. How do we mitigate this cost? Aside from USASA itself and the Regions chipping in a little to help with travel costs, you break each Region down into semi-regions to keep travel low as long as possible.
I'll use my own Region, 2, as an example. You would break it down as follows for the First Round of the NAC.
South Dakota v North Dakota
Minnesota v Wisconsin
Nebraska v Iowa
Kansas v Missouri
Indiana v Michigan
Illinois v Kentucky
(N.Ohio and S.Ohio get a Bye)
The Second Round would be as follows.
SD/ND v MN/WI
NE/IA v KS/MO
IL/KY v IN/MI
S.OH v N.OH
SD/ND/MN/WI v NE/IA/KS/MO
IL/IN/KY/MI v N.OH/S.OH
SD/ND/MN/WI/NE/IA/KS/MO winner v IL/IN/KY/MI/N.OH/S.OH winner
This helps keep travel reasonable until the Third and Final rounds for the teams involved. The Regional Final would be played in central location, as much as possible, based on the winners of the East and West Semi Regions.
Now you have your Regional Champions preparing to face off over 4 days for the National Amateur Cup, with the Final being played on a long weekend, on Labor Day. Some of the more practical things, like roster sizes, scheduling and live streaming, will be addressed in potential fix #2.
2. The USASA Takes Control
This might be the easiest way for the National Amateur Cup to fully flourish into what it could be. Right now, in Region 2, you register directly with USASA. All Regions could do this. Now, the door is open to more teams from more places. No more 9 games in 3 days Region 3 Qualifying Tournaments. No more even being able to enter because you have no State Cup in Region 4. Everything goes through USASA itself.
Now, here are the things USASA needs to do, once they take control, to help this Cup grow and flourish.
1. Mandatory Live Streaming: Don't know how? USASA will provide you with a handy how to guide. Can't do it? Well, guess you can't enter or you just got disqualified. Seem harsh? Read the next point.
2. Naming Rights Sponsor. Don't tell me some of the existing USASA sponsors wouldn't throw a few thousand extra dollars to make this the Allstate National Amateur Cup. But that really only works out for them if all the teams involved are live streaming and promoting their Cup games.
3. Naming Rights Money To The Prize Pool. Allstate just paid $10K for naming rights? Well now you add that to prize money at the end. Now it's $20K to the champion.
4. Drop the Steinbrecher Cup. You don't need this glorified Amateur Champions League in a weekend long cup format. Drop it. Don't half ass two things, whole ass one thing.
5. Expand Roster Sizes. 22 players is way too few for an amateur side, and seriously limits the number of teams that enter. NPSL and USL Two sides don't enter because most of them don't have players this early in the year. Expanding rosters would allow them to field a team so they can actually enter, and add to it as needed. Is it perfect, letting a team get stronger as the Cup goes on? Not really, but getting these teams involved immediately raises the profile of the entire competition.
6. Schedule All April/May Games On Weekends, June/July Games Midweek. Most leagues don't start until summer, so doing this makes trips and preparation easier. And when summer starts and teams start playing more college age kids who can travel midweek, it's the same thing.
7. Have A Scheduled Final Weekend. 4th of July would be great, but not really realistic. But picking a weekend that's always the Final helps teams plan better.
8. Rotate Host Cities. Really, Region 2, being the heartland, is the Region that should most consistently host, not discounting centrally located major metro areas in the other Regions, like Atlanta, Nashville, Philadelphia, New York, Phoenix, or Las Vegas. An easy 8 year rotation would see you go Kansas City, Atlanta, St Louis, Las Vegas, Chicago, New York, Minneapolis, Nashville.
Well there you go. The Greatest Potential Show in American Soccer. What do you think? What do you like, what do you dislike? What would you do differently? Let me know in the comments!
Yesterday I posted a thread on Twitter about an idea for a league built around making sure teams have a low cost and prize money. It was not meant to be in anyway a comprehensive, detailed idea, just the bones of one.
But the nitpicking! My goodness, the nitpicking!
So, since it's Friday the week before Christmas and I have nothing else to do, here is a more detailed breakdown of the Cash Money Prize League.
16 Teams, 2 divisions, 8 teams per division, promotion and relegation, 14 games per season.
$1,500 per year. $500 to the league for operations, support, website, etc. $1,000 into league play prize pool.
League Play Prize Pool: $16,000.
First Division Champion: $10,000.
First Division Runner Up: $3,000.
Second Division Champion: $3,000.
All teams would live stream, so you could actually sell league naming rights because you could guarantee your sponsor consistent advertising. It wouldn't be a ton of money, but who knows? Maybe you can throw another $1,000 or $2,000 into the prize money pot? That could even turn into a little extra for the third place team, you never know.
Yes, I'm aware there are other costs related to running a team like field rental and referee costs. I do work for a club after all, so I'm very aware of that.
The more league grows, the bigger the prize pot gets. By the time you reach 3 Divisions, you're looking at $22,000 in the prize pot.
Now, one argument I got was that teams would drop out after one year if all they had to play for was prize money. Teams drop out of leagues without it all the time, so the combination of promotion for second division teams and prize money for division champions would hopefully be enough to combat that kind of turnover. Maybe there's eventually a league, and a prize for winning that to give all the teams something to aim for?
One other thing: This league would automatically cover the costs of it's champion entering the US Open Cup and National Amateur Cup, which is $1,100 in entry fees and bonds, I believe, plus an extra $1,500 that the team can use as needed for each competition.
This mean you are looking at....
First Division Champion: $10,000 + covered entry cost for USOC & NAC, + $1,500 for expenses
First Division Runner Up: $3,000.
Second Division Champion: $3,000.
Now, there's big incentive to stick it out, bring your A game, and work to rise to the top, isn't there?
My only question now is, who wants to help me build this thing?
Tell me a little about yourself. Who you are, where you're from, and what your role is with the Atlanta District Adult Soccer League.
My name is Matt Laczko, I'm currently living in Kennesaw, but I'm originally from South Florida. My current role is more of a communications/marketing director role. It ranges from taking photos to live-streaming games to being the marketer for the league on a freelance basis.
What can you tell me about the ADASL? What's the league's origin story?
The ADASL is a 52 year old Promotion-Relegation league that started due to the Atlanta Chiefs want to grow the game of soccer in Atlanta. Since then, the league has been an active member of the Georgia State Soccer Association.
The League started with 9 teams in 1967. In that first year, the league played two seasons, split between the fall and spring. The final was played before an Atlanta Chiefs home game in the old Atlanta Fulton County Stadium. The Lockheed Tornado overcame the UGA club team by a score of 1-0 to win the inaugural league championship! Current membership averages between 25 to 30 teams for the Major Season in two divisions. The Major Season is the main competitive season starting the third Sunday in September and running through late spring.
How many teams are currently in the league, and how is it structure?
Currently we have 10 Division 1 teams that compete all over the Atlanta area and 16 Division 2 teams that are competing for promotion this season with the newest addition to our Pro/Rel league with the inclusion of a Top 5 playoff that includes the teams that finish 2nd through 5th being in a playoff for the final promotion spot in Division 1. The team that finishes 1st will be an automatic promoted team. The teams in the bottom 2 of Division 1 will be relegated at the end of the season.
We also have an intra-league tournament called the Perrin Cup which was named after a former ADASL player, manager, and league officer that lost their life to cancer in the 80s. Chris Perrin optimized a ADASL lifer and we are glad to honor him with the tournament now named after him being an automatic qualifier to the USASA Region 3 Tournament via the Georgia State Soccer Association and ours partnership! The biggest part of this tournament is that it is a single-elimination tournament so that means anything can and will happen due to the stakes!
What can you tell me about the Perrin Cup? When did it start, and how do the teams respond to a knockout competition?
The Perrin Cup started two weeks ago (October 27th) and will go on throughout the season. Last year it ended following the end of the season in the Spring. This year it will probably have the same timing. It’s basically the EFL’s Carabao Cup but in our league it leaves more room for teams in D2 to get the chance for upsets! Teams either are all in, like Fury FC last season who went to the semi-finals as a D2 team last year, or can be all our before the tournament. All of our players love it because they get to test their mettle against Division 1 teams and see if they’re ready to take that leap.
How did the opportunity come about for the Perrin Cup to become the qualifier for the USASA Region 3 tournament? I'm sure there will be a lot of teams competing in Cups like this who would love to know how they could get something like this going for their Cup competition.
The Perrin Cup is more where rivalries are made, with Majestic SC and Fury FC became more of a rivalry when Fury had an early upset against the team that had won four titles previous that season.
The Opportunity came for the Perrin Cup to become a region 3 Qualifier via the Georgia State Soccer Association and our leagues close affiliation and the fact that the Georgia Amateur Cup was not bringing enough competition. So the GSSA decided on letting our intraleague cup become a Qualifier since it brings more parity and ensures the quality of play from Georgia is top-tier.
This really began from the ground up with our leagues board, players, and managers all bringing out the best in each other and allowing for the GSSA to see our league as a viable state independent league that enables more competition between amateur teams.
Are there any rivalries that really stand out to you in the league, either in League play, or when teams meet in the Perrin Cup?
Rivalries are really found more in league play with teams such as Revily FC, Majestic SC, Wings SC, and Club ATLetic being more of older rivalries since they have been in the league longer than most other clubs. The Georgia Revolution FC and ATLetic rivalry seems real and they also have a rivalry with Terminus FC now since they lost to them in the Summer League.
How you describe the level of play in your league, and in Atlanta and Georgia as a whole?
I would personally describe the level of play being slightly lower level of play you see on the NPSL or USL2 level for our Division 1 teams. Games are very tight or very wide open with a lot of the players being former collegiate, professional, or semi-professional players. In Division 1, we have teams like the Georgia Revolution FC who use their club as a development team for their NPSL season and teams like Club ATLetic, Majestic SC, and Revily FC who all have veteran players and players who currently coach at the youth level playing either still in their prime or slightly past their prime. You can’t really tell that part of their game because the pace is still breathtaking and the tactics are there.
Where does the league hope to see itself in the next 3 to 5 years?
The league hopes to continue to grow in the next 3-5 years and build out our divisions as we have had in the past. Introducing more opportunities for amateur teams across the Metro Atlanta area. In the long term that means having up to three divisions, introducing more high level competition across the board, having our leagues players being recognized as the talent they are and possibly signing for professional teams (I.e. Clayton Adams of Austin Bold FC and Jordan McCreary of the Sacramento Revolution), and the best part of all of this is ensuring that we continue to reward teams for their play with paying for travel and entry fees into US Open Cup, USASA Regionals, etc.
What's the best for people to find out more about the league and the Perrin Cup?
The best way to find out more about our league is our website www.adasl.com, follow us on social media (Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter), watch our games of the week on MyCujooTV, and of course come out to any of our games during the season because they are free to the public! We host games across metro Atlanta from September to May and we can be anywhere from Peachtree City to Marietta to Alpharetta to Downtown Atlanta!
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.