More Or Less Live-Blogging The USSF/USL/NASL Conference Call

Waiting for the conference call to begin. Keep it here for almost-live coverage.

Call has begun. Sunil Gulati goes first. (I’ll be paraphrasing here throughout.)

EDIT: Call is now over, the notes as I took them while listening are after the jump.

Gulati: Thanks for participating on short notice. For us, 2010 is an extraordinary year because of the national team, ESPN’s unprecedented support, bid for 2018/2022, number of other things. Another MLS season, WPS, we think it’s a very exciting time for the sport.

We have, for the last couple of months, been trying to reach an agreement and examining proposals for DII for 2010. Eight days ago the board told them we wouldn’t sanction either of them. In the last 7 days, we’ve been able to get them to agree. Thanks to Papadakis and Cooper for getting a number of issues resolved in a short time period.

12-team league. Two divisions of six teams (see press release). USSF will take a much more active role in scheduling, officiating, some of the marketing issues, disciplinary issues. Will rely quite heavily on existing resources – the NASL has some additional resources, but the USL will take the lead on it.

Board of Directors for the league – one rep from each team. Executive Committee of five, including someone from USSF. Sort of an “office of the commissioner” without a real commissioner.

Agreement will end dispute between USL and certain member teams. That dispute is dropped.

Quite excited to get this done. Looking forward, starting today. Goal is to have a stable, professional soccer environment in the US. There’s been steady growth in terms of interest and so on.

In the next few months, we’ll be laying out standards with more specifics of what a second and third division league should be like. Everyone has agreed that that’s important. Long-term stability is most important, and what we have today is a short-term solution but we want to work with a number of people and those at the DII level to find a long-term solution.

(Oooh, he mentioned pro/rel and then said “I don’t want to light up any bloggers out there, as if that’s right around the corner or anything, but who knows down the road?”)

Questions. I may not catch all their names.

Ron Blum: Given financial difficulties, what are the financial issues about a nationwide 2nd division?
Gulati: Same as in any startup venture. This is unique, this conglomeration of teams, some of which exist, some expansion teams. Any startup is challenged in this economy. MLS is now very much on stable footing and it’s been growing. WPS did perhaps better than they thought out of the blocks. There are going to be some challenges. What our goal is that the people who are going to be investing are realistic about what it takes. They need to understand you’re not going to be in the black in the first year. Investors have to understand this is a long-term deal. These groups understand that, and we’re going to take actions to raise the bar to make sure it doesn’t happen.

Beau Dure: What were the biggest issues, and what happened with Atlanta and New York?
Gulati: Hardest part is getting an agreement on every point. 12 people plus league representatives around the country/world. Add to that the holiday season made it very hard. What this would look like was important, who would be in charge of the structure was important, and the status of certain teams who were part of arbitration/litigation were important. Those are not easy issues. In terms of Atlanta and New York, those are both cities that are looking toward the future, but in the short-term we weren’t of the opinion that they could play this year. It was pretty clear to us that Atlanta was never going to play this year, and New York it became obvious early on.
Papadakis: New York has requested we delay their participation until 2011. They were not ready.
Cooper: Atlanta had made clear from very early stages that they intended to start in 2011.
Gulati: Eight team minimum – we made it very clear to all the groups and the teams that just to get to the magic number of eight with people who weren’t ready to start up didn’t make sense. (EDITOR’S NOTE: THIS IS WHAT THE HELL I’VE BEEN SAYING.)

Going over teams in each conference now. How are you setting up the logistics? How did you get teams to buy into agreement?
Gulati: Two leagues with possible interplay or championship game. Not it. What we have is one league, under USSF auspices. All these teams will play each other, 28-34 games. How did we get people who were reluctant? Everyone was willing to compromise. Are we going to have any hiccups along the way? Sure. We have that in our leagues now. We’ll play the mediator and regulator.

Q. From USL side, what is good about this deal?
Papadakis: Most important is that we get on it and allow the Division II soccer to play in 2010. Our goal is to make sure the teams have a place to play in 2010 so that we can move forward with the USL business plan for down the road.
Q. Does this change your business plan down the road?
Gulati: We want to focus today on 2010. Beyond that next week or after this call.

Ian Walker: How did the talks go?
Gulati: We tried to be very open, and the two sides did, too. In the last 7 days, we talked every day. Everybody’s been pretty honest. They had to compromise, pretty clearly. In the process, everybody understood the regulatory role of US Soccer and put aside their short-term interests to make sure 2010 happened.
Cooper: I would describe the meetings as cordial. We were able to work through some of the issues. At the end of the day, we all had the same goal. Huge thanks to USSF. A fair resolution for USSF, for the teams, the players and most of all for the fans.

(NOTE: They don’t sound sincere.)

Q. Are you confident about Tampa Bay?
Gulati: New York and Atlanta was less about us deciding than them deciding. We weren’t forcing anybody to try to get to eight. In those cases, we didn’t say no. The person putting up the money has to be willing to put up the money and then we had to make the judgment after that. Tampa was announced some time ago, I think they’ll have a lot of things to say over the weeks to come. It’s January 7 and until today we didn’t have a league. We have a number of teams that already have players under contract, over the next few days and weeks, you’ll see a number of announcements.

(Jeff DiVeronica, Rochester): Name of league? TBA?
Gulati: For right now, we’re referring to it as “USSF D2″ but if we get a corporate partner, we’d be happy to rename it. In the next few days, if we come up with something…we’re not trying to come up with a brand, what we’re looking for is an organization. A holding situation to allow us to have a league next year and get things stabilized.
Q. Do you see USSF staying active past 2010 and could this be a partner with MLS?
Gulati: No, not at this level going beyond this year. We’ve had discussions with MLS. Some of the teams have had their own independent discussions with MLS. You’ve already seen some of this integration already.

(Michelle Kaufman, Miami Herald)
Q. When will season be played? Will there be a World Cup break?
Gulati: Always a tough question. I think the season would start roughly when D2 seasons have started in the past. Late March to mid-April. Still trying to work out schedule. Championship October/November. Still Open Cup dates to be determined. At this time, I don’t see a complete break during the World Cup, but it might be lighter during the World Cup, certainly not a five-week break. Might be a lighter schedule. Not something we’ve discussed yet.
Q. You want to raise the bar early (D2 standards) are there specific things you want to be able to see from the teams?
A. Gulati:Yes. Some targets in our regulations. We intend to put in more of those, financial stability, staffing levels, and so on. Minimum standards on size of stadiums, PR directors…we need to put more meat behind those.

The most important thing is stability, growth will happen after that.

(Brian Quarstad, Inside Minnesota Soccer)
Q. Thanks Sunil and Dan Flynn for getting this done. Sunil, you said you were kind of surprised by the number of people on this conference call. This story has picked up steam. Are you surprised by the amount of attention that second division soccer has gotten lately?
Gulati: I’m less surprised about that – the overall interest – because we’ve had teams in many important markets in the US for a number of years. Many players that have played over the years for national teams. The interest is not so surprising, the fact it has continued to build is a plus. The sport is getting better. We prefer not to get the level of interest heightened by things like this. (More than 100 people on the call.)

(Mike Blake, Cary News)
Q. Sunil, what were the ramifications you saw with the whole “breakaway” thing and how they changed over time? Was it getting worse as we went along?
Gulati: There was a difference in some structural questions. At some point they decided they would like to approach things differently. There was a dispute about that. And we’re past that. Everyone wanted to have a Division II league. What we were absolutely desperate to do – and we got done – was to make sure we had a Division II in place to start this season, in a World Cup year. We’d have been crazy not to get that done. There was a lot of impetus to try to get that done. It was just a matter of how. We’ve got a solution for the year, and past that, we’ll see how it goes.

(Simon Evans, English apparently)
Q. As far as television, are we starting fresh or is anything left over from Fox Soccer Channel. And what is the purpose of a second division without promotion/relegation? Development? Just putting soccer where it isn’t, to fill in gaps?
Gulati: All of the above. There will continue to be a mix of things. Teams like Vancouver – which has had a great setup and will join MLS has also had a very viable youth program, and women’s program. It’s going to be a mix, the US is 320 million people, plus Canada. MLS is in 15 markets with two in Los Angeles and one in Toronto, so there are a lot of very big American and Canadian cities that could host a viable Division II setup. Whatever relationship with MLS is up to them. In the absence of a promotion/relegation system it’s hard to pinpoint that. Television discussions have been taking place between USL and….a potential TV partner. I think there will be some very quick discussions. It’s hard to have those discussions until you know there’s a league. All of that will be known very shortly with the exception of the schedule. I think there will be quick discussions with one – and potentially another – about a game of the week or month, but I don’t want to speculate about that.

Jim Morris, Canadian Press. (FYI – Andrea Canales is next, that should be fun.)
Q. Did teams have to pay a fee?
Gulati: Pay fee and bond to US Soccer because we’re going to be the umbrella. Also to the CSA. There is a regular setup of fees and dues, escalated from higher up the spectrum. There will also be a bond that will be paid by all teams and any unused portion of that will be returned. Some of that will be used to offset certain costs that USSF would incur that we might not normally incur.

Andrea Canales:
Q. In the past MLS has had a Pro-40 team in USL, no more reserve league. Any plans to integrate some sort of reserve league element for MLS?
Gulati: In the short term no, because this is a 2010 situation. Long term you’re going to see things happen. As has happened in the past, resulting from the changing landscape. (EDITOR’S NOTE: You advanced the theory that USSF didn’t sanction the NASL to protect MLS, and then you didn’t ask him about it?) All of that is possible, it’s up to the investors. We are critically involved in player development. There will be a developmental element to this D2 structure going forward. We may have a rule that says you have to have four Under-23 players or Under-27 players. We think that’s a huge step forward.

(Transcript later on ussoccer.com, they say, go ahead and compare it to what notes I took extemporaneously.)

Quick thoughts:

  • They couldn’t have made it more clear that this is a stopgap situation. We may be back in a bad place in eight months (just a guess).
  • Gulati did most of the talking, and the USL and NASL reps didn’t sound pleased. If there’s such a thing as verbal body language, theirs wasn’t good.
  • USSF deserves credit for getting this done. You can say they deserve a rap on the knuckles for having it come to this, and that’s fair, too.
  • The important thing is there will be Division II soccer in the US and Canada in 2010. So those of you who were losing your minds and going straight to the worst-case scenario can go away now. And those of you who didn’t give a rat’s ass about Division II soccer until this story came to light, you can go on about your business, too.

17 comments on “More Or Less Live-Blogging The USSF/USL/NASL Conference Call

  1. Richard says:

    Thanks for taking the time, putting forth the effort to do this.

  2. Tom says:

    Kenn, just wanted to say thanks for doing this. I couldn’t get on the call and this was very valuable to follow along with. Along with the enjoyable occasional acerbic commentary.

  3. admin says:

    You’re welcome.

  4. culeeero says:

    Yeah, this was great. Thanks, Kenn!

  5. Ryan says:

    USSF deserves credit for getting this done. You can say they deserve a rap on the knuckles for having it come to this, and that’s fair, too.

    Exactly. They essentially bailed themselves out. Hope to see some of these guys next week at NSCAA and see reactions then.

  6. culeeero says:

    Okay, so here’s the bigger question (in my mind): isn’t this exactly what the NASL clubs wanted, but with supportive backing from USSF? Is NuRock getting the buy-in money that they expect from the USL clubs? Are they dictating the ‘board of governors’ votes for the USL clubs? If not, it would seem to me that NuRock is just being pulled along because to do otherwise means they simply lose their investment in buying USL in the first place.

  7. chuck says:

    I’m pleased enough with the resolution. A couple points looking ahead:

    1) Charleston looked smart to sit out the whole fracas. But now I think they are getting screwed. At least their fans are. The level of play in Div. II will be far inferior; the 2011 NASL/USL has good teams and (now) plenty of drama; and finding games broadcast will be more difficult than ever. Should NASL/USL invite Charleston in? Would Charleston accept?

    2) The Timbers’ jump to MLS after the 2011 season, leaving NuRock with only Austin and Puerto Rico as allies. Not good. Further, if the three defendant teams of the NuRock suit ever were in breach of contract, they will be less likely to be in breach next year (contractual terms will expire, material changes have likely happened, etc.), facilitating their exit. Cooper and the rest of the secessionist are going to grit their teeth and tolerate NuRock for a year all the while using 2011 to springboard interest in their own new league. All the burden is on NuRock to demonstrate why clubs should remain faithful. If they have any reasons, they should start showing them (because I haven’t noted any yet).

    3) Side note: Simon Evans is right. Second division sans promotion/relegation is near useless. That is, it is not being used for the two things it could be useful for: developing players and growing interest in the sport. People often argue that MLS owners will never allow pro/rel. Its not a bad argument; especially for smaller-market owners. But MLS owners are part of a single entity – a very centralized league. The league has far more to gain by adopting pro/rel than it has to lose.

  8. Chris Doran says:

    Nice work Kenn – I found this to be very interesting!

  9. KT says:

    That’s what I was doing when you called me the other day with breaking news. That was two days old. :)

  10. admin says:

    Chuck –

    1 – There is not a lot of evidence that fans can tell the difference in the level of play between USL-1 and USL-2 – at least not in attendance figures of teams that have gone up and down. Charleston’s situation is, I would guess, temporary. But they, as an organization, will be in a better position than most, having gotten a couple months’ head start that they would not have normally had.

    2 – Exactly. The NASL teams are making no secret of the fact that they’re a league-in-waiting and that this temporary situation is just something they’re tolerating. I’ve made the analogy before of living under the same roof with your spouse while you’re legally separated and are getting divorced. Only now, your spouse is openly dating someone else and is planning to marry them the minute your divorce becomes final. USL/NuRock has a lot of work to do between now and April 2011 to put together something approaching a league that’s sanctionable.

    3- No, they don’t have far more to gain from pro/rel than they have to lose. YOU have more to gain. Someone who’s actually invested jillions of dollars in the sport does not. And, as I said in the other thread, there’s more to the second/third divisions than just pro/rel or player development. Those divisions haven’t been used for player development…well, ever, really. Lip service was paid to that a while back. But if the people in Charleston or Charlotte or Minnesota want a team and someone is willing to pay the freight, more power to them. What you want in that scenario is immaterial. Likewise, if the people in Wilmington either won’t support or won’t bankroll a team, there won’t be a team. Simple as that.

    You may as well ask why the Aegon West Lancashire Football League exists or why Matlock Town has a team in the Unibond League. Not everything has to lead to something.

  11. chuck says:

    I know. You are right. Leagues don’t have to lead to anything. And even if they did, US Open Cup might be enough. I mean, a USL teams will probably make it to the World Club Cup before Portsmouth does.

    And, true, I do have something to gain from pro/rel. But I also have something to gain from Southwest selling cheap tickets, not charging for baggage and eliminating first class. It sounds insane for its owners, but they are making millions off it. If there are enough people like me, what we want isn’t immaterial.

    An of course there are hundreds of thousands (nay, tens of millions!) of Americans like me – who are huge fans of the game, live in unserved soccer markets, have no more than a casual interest in MLS, and would rally around our local team and help “push” it into the top tier – if that were possible. There is a possibility that this is overly optimistic thinking.

    It is very interesting to me that the most passionate soccer fans in this country do not follow this country’s professional league (Seattle (maybe) aside). I believe the reasons are: 1) Ethnic – my futsal Mexican buddies follow Cruz Azul and my buddy from England is a Newcastle fan. 2) Newness – I only really follow the USMNT because, I think, it is the only team I’ve watched, or could watch, since I was a kid. 3) Quality and pace – which is the reason my American friends give for watching Premier League. And 4) Geography – that is, no local connection to a team. To me these all seem like they would take decades to change (certainly 1 and 2, and probably 3). 4 seems like the best opening – MLS could develop a system with broader geographic reach.

    If there were millions of people like me (or maybe even just tens of thousands), it would be good for the sinlge-entity. And, if this truly is a single entity, don’t the shareholders have a fiduciary duty to act in the best interest of the entity and not in the best interest of any individual club or club owner? (This NFL suit has me pretty excited right now).

  12. admin says:

    And my contention is that pro/rel would have, at best, a marginal impact on what you describe.

    What good is the possibility of being promoted if you’re not ready for it, in an infrastructure and financial sense? It’s like giving Marissa Miller to a 12-year old boy. He’s not ready for that.

    I believe some of your reasons have merit, but I would add these:
    5 – A deep-seated belief by some (even Americans) that Americans cannot compete in soccer and anything created by Americans isn’t soccer worth watching or caring about.
    6 – That the “American style” of soccer is unattractive.

    Your 4th point above…what do the people in a given market do when an MLS team replaces their lower-level team? They support it quite a bit more strongly, yes? That tells me it’s not geography…it’s either the level of play or snobbery. That even if they HAD a lower-division team with the CHANCE to MAYBE, one day POSSIBLY move up, they wouldn’t support it until it actually GOT to the top flight.

    And, as I’ve said a jillion times before…let’s say Charleston gets promoted. Then what? Blackbaud isn’t adequate for MLS. So then what? Expand it? With what money? The process will take long enough that the Battery would very likely be back down in the second division before the construction could be completed. And if it’s not the next year, what do you do with that stadium (and its debt service) when you ARE (almost inevitably) back down?

    We need a much, much stronger infrastructure before lower division teams can approach, organizationally, Division I neighborhoods. And, despite what some may think or it may seem, there aren’t 32 places in this country you could put a Division I team so that you could split into two 16-team leagues of roughly equal quality just so the Eurosnobs can have their precious Looks Like Europe system of promotion and relegation.

    It doesn’t work here and wouldn’t work here for very valid reasons that the pro/rel brigade refuses to acknowledge. I don’t know why that is.

    American soccer’s setup isn’t going to coalesce overnight or in the next 15 years. That’s too long for some people to wait. And that sucks, but that’s life. Get a helmet. You and I might be dead before it makes sense for American soccer to resemble English soccer. And that might just be the way it is.

  13. chuck says:

    Thanks, Kenn. I’ve taken up more than enough of your time and you’ve been more than kind to respond. If you are ever back in Indy drop me a line and I’d be happy to buy you lunch.

    Success in the model I prefer really does depend an there being a lot more people like me in a lot of cities in America. There aren’t. There are 6 of us.

    I think it has more to do with fans than infrastructure. We have more than enough sports stadiums in nearly every city in this country to host an MLS team. Sure there would be date congestion and field modifications, but it would be workable IF there was demand.

    And sure attendance would drop off if a team went to Div. II. But would the Sounders or Galaxy or Fire die off because they got relegated? I don’t think they would – assuming there was a stable Div. II, which clearly is an unrealistic assumption right now. But I’m hopeful. I think MLS involvement could very well stabilize Div. II in not too many years and is a pretty good way to expand MLS into markets it may otherwise never reach. That is not unreasonable, is very workable, and is the reason the brigade keeps harping on it.

    Of course, MLS could just keep poaching top markets and get large like other American league. This seems unwieldy but is probably doable. But I don’t think adopting pro/rel is mere formalism, it is a way to expand influence into every interested market (which might even reach 32, depending on expectations. I mean, how high are they? Seattle high? Because I think I also remember a 2009 playoff game with only 7k or so in attendance).

    I’ve known people like your #5, fortunately not many. The #6 people are everywhere and I sympathize with them. Though I think it is about quality and not style. I’ve watched tons of MLS games and don’t know what the “American style” is. After watching Champions League, MLS teams just look unpolished rather than polished at their particular style. Sure, not everyone can be Barcelona, but everyone can watch them, and that is what MLS must compete with. I have limited time (debatable considering these posts), why should I spend it watching Chicago or Columbus instead of Barcelona? Because Chicago is closer? Because it is in America? That isn’t snobbery (it is with some I’ve met, no doubt), its thoughtful allocation of limited resources.

  14. admin says:

    Let me put it to you this way, Chuck: I have a Matisse, and I have a painting my kid did at school when she was 9.

    What’s worth more? What’s “better?” And, yet, what would I rather have on my wall?

    There seems to be a choice that (too) many American soccer fans seem to make. They seem to say, “Well, I can watch MLS and actually HELP things get better, or I can just watch Barcelona, call it a ‘thoughtful allocation of limited resources,’ and say that MLS won’t GET better until they have promotion and relegation.”

  15. chuck says:

    I have actually paid for MLSLive for the last 2 years. If there was a team in Indy – MLS, USL, NASL, whatever – I’d be the first to buy tickets.

    But there isn’t a team in Indy. And I’m no more inclined to support a team in Chicago or Columbus than one in Buenos Aires or Madrid. Chicago isn’t my kid. There is no affection. Barcelona isn’t either, but they have Messi. Stick Messi in Chicago and I’ll hang a Fire poster on my wall.

    I do actually like the Fire a bit since they got Blanco. I love to watch him play – he entertains; and I just want to be entertained, otherwise I have no interest in sport. I’m not motivated by altruism – that somehow if I spend more time and money on MLS products in a generation or two the MLS will be better. Who cares; I can watch “better” now.

    But I would spend money on a local team, because it would be entertaining: I could go to games with my son (soccer – like hockey – is infinitely better live), I could talk about it at work with others who knew what I was talking about, I could chant with the crowd, AND I would be helping the team get better, which only makes it more entertaining for me. That would be my kid, and I would look past the roughness of the drawing and hang that picture on my wall.

    I agree that MLS doesn’t NEED pro/rel to get better. But it could use pro/rel to reach me and pull money out of my pocket. Me, and the 6 others like me. Untill then, my son wears a Messi jersey that happens to have a Barcelona crest on it.

    (But maybe for his birthday I’ll get him a Blanco Fire jersey . . . or Veracruz).

  16. admin says:

    “Stick Messi in Chicago and I’ll hang a Fire poster on my wall. ”

    So it’s not about proximity, then?

    You just said “Chicago isn’t my kid.” But if they had Messi, they would be?

    That’s like me saying, “If only my kid was more talented, or taller, or good looking, I’d love him/her more.”

    But that good-looking kid in Barcelona, to whom I have no connection whatsoever? I’ll claim HIM and his family as mine? That’s insane.

    And pro/rel would be no guarantee you’d have a team in Indianapolis. I worked for the team in Indianapolis. The reason you don’t have a team – any team – in Indianapolis is because nobody has the combination of money they’re willing to invest/throw away combined with the savvy and smarts to make it either work or not be a complete failure.

    We’ve never had pro/rel, yet they have a team in Charleston, South Carolina. And a nice stadium, too, I’m told. We’ve never had pro/rel, yet they had a team in Minnesota from 1990-just now. We’ve never had pro/rel, yet they have a team in Portland. We’ve never had pro/rel, yet there’s been a team in Richmond, Virginia since 1994. We’ve never had pro/rel, yet they’ve had a team in Rochester since 1996.

    And if you DID have a team and DID have pro/rel, there’s STILL no guarantee you’d ever have an MLS team, or, I would submit, even the guarantee that just the PROMISE that one day if EVERYTHING broke right, you might get lucky and get to MLS would bring fans out in droves.

    If they instituted pro/rel tomorrow, that’s not (despite what crazy tinfoil hat wearing people say) going to instantly open up the floodgates and get people to invest in lower-division teams where they have not before. It’s not going to get people jazzed and excited about a sport they don’t care about because they think it’s boring. It might get you and your son and the people at work to talk about it, but it’s NOT GOING TO GET YOU TO MLS.

    And until and unless people who AREN’T currently supporting their domestic league get off their asses and high horses and stop waiting for everything to be goddamn perfect before they deign to do so, we’re going nowhere.

    Barring that, we’re going to have an annual infusion of people like Seattleites who’ve just noticed that we have a league and oh, aren’t we the greatest ever, and did you know we’re responsible for all this? And those of us who’ve been at this going back to the 1970s hate those people.

    And here’s another news flash for you, Chuck: Barcelona doesn’t give a rat’s ass about you.

  17. chuck says:

    I was not familiar with the phrase “tin foil hat.” There’s a wikipedia article on it (of course). Pretty funny.

    The strongest factor for me is proximity – supporting the local team. I went to BYU games in college and to Timbers games in Portland. But I’ve moved a bunch and don’t have a “hometown” team to stick with. So, absent that or a local team, when its just my son and me watching on TV at home, I’m much more entertained by Messi. I don’t feel that need to support the ‘domestic league,’ unless I felt it was reaching out to me (to Indy; even things like preseason tournaments might be enough to hook me). If they want interest in the unserved markets, they’ve got to show interest in the unserved markets and not just ‘be domestic.’

    Now, for any team that I can’t watch live, I don’t want them to care about me. I want them to deliver an excellent product. Barcelona does. But I would wholeheartedly support a less excellent product (like your child’s painting, or a local MLS or USL/NASL team) if they were in my town. Not every soccer fan would. This frustrates me, too.

    You’re absolutely right about pro/rel not guaranteeing a team in Indy or any community and that what is really needed is good owners with cash. And should MLS keep growing, I can’t see investors choosing pro/rel over a large, American style league (something like 4 conferences of 8 teams – play conference teams twice and everyone else once). I prefer pro/rel and prefer its advantages, but, as you know, I don’t have the cash. And if I was an owner, I’d probably only prefer pro/rel if I was one of the richer owners. So you’ve definitely turned my thinking on that.

    I’ve known some real soccer snobs – who grew up in Berkley and trash MLS whenever its brought up. I agree they are insufferable.

    Thanks, Kenn. I’ve enjoyed your writings for years.

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