Special thanks to Jessica Do, the graphic designer for Black Bear FC, for the picture.
Hello again everyone! Thanks for your participation, if you voted, on my Twitter poll to help determine the publishing order for the next series of articles. This article idea won the poll by far. So let's get into it!
I would also like to note that the regional league logos are here to suit the picture, not because I have any beef with these leagues.
As most of you know, soccer in the US is a mess right now. Soccer at the amateur level is a mess, possibly the messiest part of the whole dang thing. Yet this could be the area that is easiest to fix. Why, you ask? Simple.
The United States Soccer Association.
The USASA is the sanctioning body for adult amateur soccer in the United States. They oversee Cup competitions, in some places qualifying for those Cups. They sanction leagues, create standards, advocate for the amateur game to the United States Soccer Federation, and oversee adult state associations.
Yet under their watch, we've seen a proliferation of amateur leagues starting up, shouting that they're national leagues. The US Premiership, CSL, UPSL, NPSL, and I'm sure there are other's I've forgotten about, or never even heard of. Recently introduced standards we're, to say the least, poor, with leagues getting a higher Tier designation based on how many states and time-zones they're member teams are located in.
And yet, despite they're failings and shortcomings, the USASA remains the best hope of ending the conflict in the lower levels of American soccer. How so? They remain the only organization that can call all the players to the same table and make them hash out their differences. How can they do that? Because they have the nuclear option: De-sanctioning leagues. They also have the ultimate prize: US Open Cup spots.
All USASA has to do is tell everyone to get on the same page, or else. Is it harsh? Yes. But arrogance and ego often can't be dealt with gently. And the amount of ego and arrogance in the lower leagues is staggering.
Of course, the leagues can leave USASA and go to USSSA, but they lose direct qualification to the US Open Cup if they do that, and have no access to the National Amateur Cup. And they lose the support of an organization that exists entirely to serve amateur soccer. USSSA started as a organization to run adult softball. Soccer is just one of many sports they support. They certainly aren't specialists at soccer.
What if everyone walks away? Or what if people want to work together, but can't figure out how? USASA already has a built in answer.
Regions 1, 2, 3 and 4
See that? The entire country, split into 4 Regions. All you have to do to structure everything is divide existing teams up into these 4 Regions, then split those regions into East/West or North/South conferences. Because of the abundance of teams across all the USASA sanctioned leagues, you just keep shrinking the conferences into more and more regional setups the lower down you go.
Look at Region 2, the Midwest. West is ND, SD, MN, NE, IA, MO. East is WI, IL, IN, KY, MI, OH. Below that, you'd have ND, SD, MN in the Northwest Conference. NE, KS, MO and IA in the Southwest, IL, IA and MI in the Great Lakes, IN, MI, OH and KY in the Ohio River. And down you go until the State Leagues. You can do this in every Region USASA has.
I could go into more detail. Promotion and relegation, US Open Cup qualifying, playoffs, everything, but I won't do that yet. I know USASA doesn't really want to run it's own league, but what the amateur scene desperately needs is vision and structure from the top, from the people who overseeing and, in some ways, encouraging the chaos that plagues, no, infects, the amateur game in the US.
One of the best parts of this is that leagues already exist in many areas, either locally or regionally, so there's existing leadership, well, good leadership in some of those places, that can run what already exists, possibly with a different name, with more support, functioning in a broader system.
Lay this out. Tell people this is where you're going. Give the leagues a chance to come together and figure out how to make it happen. Let them nominate people to run this new league structure that reports to, and is overseen by, USASA. Now USASA isn't running a league, but they're making sure that the vision and structure they've laid out is being followed. Like soccer governing bodies do everywhere else in the world.
The point of USASA doing something like this isn't to destroy leagues or burn everything down, but to utilize the blocks that are already there, scattered about the country, to build something bigger and better than what we currently have. The sad reality is that that not everyone is going to get on board. People are people, and some people are making great money off the status quo and won't want that boat rocked.
What do you think? Is this possible? Does USASA have the stones or the leadership to pull this off? Would the leagues, if they had to work together, be able to figure things out?
Let me know in the comments, and if you want a more fully fleshed out idea of how all this works with playoffs, promotion and relegation, the US National Amateur Cup and US Open Cup, let me know that, too.