Rangers interested in promotion/delegation
A team that competes in the National Premier Soccer League filed a claim Thursday with an international sports arbitration court to require the U.S. Soccer Federation to adopt promotion and relegation across all three of its professional divisions.
If such a system were adopted in the U.S., an NPSL team like the Little Rock Rangers could eventually ascend to Major League Soccer if they won enough games.
The claim — made by the NPSL’s Kingston Stockade FC and Miami FC of the North American Soccer League — contends that U.S. soccer is failing to follow Article 9 of the FIFA rulebook, which states that its members define professional divisions based on performance.
FIFA is the international governing body for soccer.
Every country other than the U.S. and Australia practices promotion and relegation, including in the English Premier League, which in 2016 sent three teams at the bottom of its league standings to its second-division Football League Championship in exchange for three teams at the top of that league’s standings.
In the U.S., the 2016 NPSL and NASL champions remained in their lower-tier leagues while the teams at the bottom of superior leagues remained in theirs.
If a promotion and relegation system were implemented in the U.S., teams that belong to lower-tier leagues like the Little Rock Rangers can ascend to higher-tier leagues without having to pay expensive expansion fees or be approved by expansion committees.
“We’re taking this action,” Miami FC CEO Sean Flynn said in a statement, “because we believe that the benefits of soccer should be shared by the many, not the few, and that soccer’s top division should include the best teams, not the teams that pay certain sums of money.”
The claim will be heard by the Switzerland-based Court of
Arbitration for Sport, which has resolved disputes in the Olympics, Tour de France and FIFA.
Arkansas was without a high-level soccer team for 20 years before local businessman Jonathan Wardlaw helped found the Little Rock Rangers in the amateur NPSL for $22,500 in October of 2015.
Wardlaw said in May that the team is “just not there financially” to make a jump to the professional Division III level, which would require a buy-in that ranges from $300,000 to $500,000 and an owner worth $10 million to own 35 percent of the team.
A promotion and relegation system could allow the Rangers to ascend without such an investment.
“Who knows what could happen?”
Wardlaw said. “I’m just interested to see how this all shakes out.”
A switch to a promotion and relegation system in America would disrupt a current structure that relies on financial viability.
The current buy-in rate for an MLS franchise is over $140 million, and the success of the league, according to Wardlaw, is dependent on the stability of each team and how well each team cultivates their individual markets for ticket sales and commercial deals.
“They’re driven by their huge markets,” Wardlaw said. “The New Yorks, the LA’s — that’s where they’re getting their fan bases. What the other leagues are seeking: Why don’t we just get a ton of Little Rock sized cities, get them together and take that approach.”