Feeder Leagues Vs. Minor Leagues

Tonight with having a rain storm ruin your outside plans for the evening I decided instead to run some errands and clear up some of the podcasts that are in my queue. Listening to Virginia’s own ‘Total Soccer Show’ –which is awesome if for no other than they have a ska band open the show every episode–they interviewed Richmond Kickers head coach Leigh Cowlishaw.

The interview was pretty standard. I listened specifically from the perspective of that I wanted to hear as much about what the USL PRO/MLS co-venture. And while there wasn’t anything exactly new that was brought to the table Coach Cowlishaw did seem very satisfied if not all together excited about the idea of becoming a what they called an MLS feeder team.

This got me thinking about the difference between becoming a feeder league, such as MLS’ current state and being a minor league which is what some insist is happening with USL PRO.

I think that it’s interesting that people become so excited about the rising status of MLS when we see big names such as Brek Shea and Andy Najar move onto bigger leagues and being respected for their talents and the leagues that helped develop them.

But yet we see people whine and complain that all that is happening with USL PRO is it’s becoming a minor league system. Instead of the longed for promotion/relegation system, we get a major league/minor league system. And people whine and complain.

Personally, I don’t see it necessarily in that capacity.

As the interview concluded I kind of wondered if it was possible for the USL PRO and NASL to grow into leagues that could push MLS for competition. Maybe, rather than having a tiered system with divisions among the leagues, each organization would instead use one another to help develop the American game.

We’re so caught up in trying to do what other countries do that we lose as semblance of the point. That being this is to help grow the US National team and give American players a place to develop and grow to become better players.

If they stay, great. If they leave and compete among the rest of the world, that’s really cool too. But why are we so stuck in trying to be like everyone else?

It’s going to be years before MLS ever competes with the European game and ultimately I question, even 100 years from now, if we ever truly will. You look at Mexico and despite it’s rise in dominance among world teams, the league isn’t given much love outside of North America, and if it is, it’s usually by a South American club.

Instead of getting caught up with where things are at here in the states and where you would like them to be, let’s just appreciate where this league was 20 years ago. It was no where. I as a 10 year-old had no opportunity to watch soccer on the weekends outside of trying to talk my Dad into driving up to watch an indoor soccer game. 10 years ago it was on the verge of folding.

Now, a decade later we have a thriving American sport that is growing in popularity and we are seeing younger players identified and a U-20 club that has a roster of more Academy players than College.

I have zero beef with college, really I see it’s relevancy within the professional ranks–to include soccer- for years, it’s just I enjoy seeing the talent being identified by a local professional club and trained in a specific system. The ceiling on talent is rising across the board and that’s only a good thing. Regardless of how you feel about the USL PRO-MLS relationship.

I rambled a bit, my apologies. If you have any feedback, I’d certainly welcome it.

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