As the dust settles on US Soccer’s decision to elevate USL from division three to division two status, the average FC Cincinnati supporter is asking “why should I care?”
When the season kicks off in March, it’s true that not much will look different (except for the recently widened Nippert field…nice!). FCC will play in USL, a lower tier of American soccer. NASL remains an independent league at the same division two level, so there will be no consolidation of leagues. Because of that, it’s likely that the USL will be structured the same with an Eastern and Western Conference. A few teams have come, a few have gone, but the names on the opposite side of the scoreboard will largely look the same. Not much different right?
From the USL’s perspective and the club’s perspective, this decision is clearly significant. The decision is a recognition by US Soccer of the success of the USL’s business and recent aggressive expansion. It’s a validation of their business model and a league structure that combines independent clubs, like FC Cincinnati, with MLS2 teams and affiliates. The elevated division status will make it easier for USL clubs to strike better advertising, sponsorship, TV, and radio deals. D2 status should equal increased revenue.
Although it means much more to many of its supporters, professional soccer is by definition a business. If FC Cincinnati and other USL clubs can capitalize financially on their elevated status and increase revenue, they will have more money to invest in the club, spend on players, improve training facilities, develop academy programs, build/improve stadiums, etc. Increased revenue, assuming that it is balanced with effective cost management, will also produce better year end statements validating USL clubs as a businesses. Owners make money, justifying their initial investment, clubs are worth more and can better attract additional investment if necessary. Soccer grows, from a business perspective.
So no, we won’t see a big difference at this year’s home opener at Nippert, but division two status should impact the product on display and the financial health of the club in the long term. How much more revenue will there be at division two than division three? That’s debatable.
Disagree? Good, it’s all about dialogue. Tell us why in the comments section.
It’s important to note that US Soccer’s decision is provisional. USL has work to do to secure this status going forward. It should also be mentioned that both USL and NASL have had their fair share of up and downs. The lower divisions of American soccer continue to be very dynamic, and sometimes not in a good way. Good business needs to continue and supporters need to support, or a lot can change very quickly.
Sympathy for NASL Supporters
It’s likely that very few NASL supporters want sympathy from FC Cincinnati fans, but they deserve it. US Soccer’s decision gives the NASL a life line, but a lot has to be done to restore that league to full health. Many dedicated fans in those cities are looking on with uncertainty as their club’s future hangs in the balance. These supporters are the fabric of American soccer culture and are the same as you and me in everything but geography.
Well all that crap was quite serious right, how about something lighter?
The best part of this mess was Friday’s social media meltdown as reporters, supporters, and the clubs themselves waited well into the evening for the repeatedly delayed decision. The announcement was expected in the afternoon but didn’t come until 9:10pm Eastern.
Fortunately, the soccer community entertained each other with four jokes on repeat for about six hours. Here’s a statistically accurate breakdown of that humor.
59% Comparing US Soccer’s decision making process to a soccer game going to penalty kicks
22% Comparing US Soccer’s decision making process to a papal election ceremony (white smoke, etc.)
11% A Russian hacking attack has the meeting in disarray. Systems down!
6% Jill Stein requested a recount
2% Sunil Gulati dick jokes
Stay tuned to Orange and Blue Press for more color leading up to the 2017 season. With this decision out of the way, a USL season schedule should be forthcoming.