For the second straight year, Manchester United are taking a preseason tour of North America. Their first match takes place tonight at Gillette Stadium against the New England Revolution.
In a press conference a day before, the friendly, legendary Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson discussed the current condition of soccer here in the United States.
Fergie discussed how the league has grown in the past ten years since Man United took their first tour of the country as well as the ways the sport of soccer continues to evolve.
However, Ferguson also gave Major League Soccer and its fans a massive nugget to feed on regarding the future of the league when he said, "you could have four leagues because of the size of the country and the population base."
For those who don't understand exactly how MLS works: MLS is a soccer league that contains 18 clubs in the U.S. and in Canada and is a single table system. In the autumn, there is a playoff between the top eight clubs to determine the MLS Cup champion.
However, as the league continues to grow in popularity, many fans want a table system put into place. As of yet, the MLS uses no table system and shows no signs of instating one anytime soon.
One major argument against a table system is that the MLS doesn't want to foster competitive advantages like that of the NASL in the 1970's and 80's. This is also the reason a draft, a salary cap, and designated player rules are all in effect.
If a table system were put into effect, it would be harder to maintain financial equality between all teams, and it would hurt the league because lower table clubs would have worse finances.
But Ferguson's plan for the league could turn out to be the best overall plan for the future of Major League Soccer.
For starters, having the four separate MLS divisions would allow for the league to split up by geographic region.
Ideally, those regions would create Northeast, Southern, Midwest, and Western divisions, each of which would contain between 15 and 20 clubs who would face each other at least twice during the regular season.
And each year, the divisions would be paired such that each team in a particular division would face each team in the other division once during the season, whether in a home or away setting.
This format would also strengthen the US Open Cup, as teams such as the Red Bulls and Sounders would get a chance to face each other every season rather than have to wait three years to face each other in a MLS match.
At the end of the season, the top two to four clubs would enter a playoff to determine the MLS champion (similar to the UEFA Champions League). Each playoff matchup would be a two-legged affair with the winner advancing on aggregate.
The final would be played at a location chosen by MLS in advance of the final.
Meanwhile, the clubs that do not reach the playoffs will get extra money from the league to help out with their youth academies and build them a stronger fan base.
Such a system would allow the salary cap, the draft, and designated player rules to remain in place just as they are today.
Now, my plan for MLS is extremely ambitious and it would not be able to work for decades, but based on how MLS has handled the situation for a multiple table system, this might just be the best plan for the league's future.
Every team will have a chance to win the MLS Cup every season, and with as many as 80 teams play in MLS, rivalries would be able to take place between each club in a division.
Also, this may be the strongest plan for fully tapping soccer's potential in this nation.
Right now, there is not one MLS club in the southern U.S., and MLS could easily strike gold if they were to expose that market to soccer.
This plan would also allow for the U.S. Mens national team to grow to incredible strengths by expanding the talent pool they could choose from.
Canada would probably get around 10 clubs (counting the three that will exist in the league by the beginning of next season), and the Canadian national team will also grow stronger by expanding the talent pool it could choose from.
I understand that this plan does have many flaws, so I want to hear from you, the reader, what your plans are for the growth of MLS. Please do not hesitate to comment to tell me what your plan would be to have the league grow.
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