Gulati To Supporters: It’s Not You, It’s US

NOTE: The following is absolutely not a response from US Soccer President Sunil Gulati to supporters of the North American Soccer League after the letter they sent him yesterday, but it could be. If Gulati were inclined to respond. And exceedingly sarcastic. Read the faux-response after the jump.

Dear NASL Supporters:

I apologize for not getting back to you sooner, but Chicago is in the process of being transformed into Ice Planet Hoth. I wanted to respond to your letter of yesterday, though, before the power goes out and we end up having to burn a stack of Paul Gardner books.

Rest assured we hear you and appreciate your passion for the game. It’s our job at US Soccer to not only be passionate about the game, but to think of its best long-term interests, sometimes at the expense of short-term goals. The recent decision to de-sanction the NASL for 2011 was not one we took lightly.

I’m happy to hear that you feel a stronger connection to the NASL than you ever did to USL. It’s wonderful that you’ve found someone – and so soon! – who likes you for you and who you can grow old with. I will warn you, though, that you might want to talk to some friends of mine in St. Louis who used to be in a relationship with the NASL, as well as some others in North Carolina who feel they were lied to (it’s a pretty bad breakup – they even sold all their stuff. I know, right?).

Last year we had to act as intermediary in the divorce between USL and the NASL (which was tough for us, because we like them both and were caught in the middle and they’d call us at all hours of the night, crying over their Swiss Almond Mocha ice cream, and who needs that?). We had to use some tough love in hopes that this year they’d both be strong enough to live on their own and not share our guest bedroom.

Well, the USL went and moved into a small one-bedroom apartment, got some new friends (though we’re not sure about all of them) and new clothes and started rebuilding themselves by living within their means. The NASL went out and bought a house they couldn’t possibly afford (some of their friends were supposed to chip in for the down payment and expenses, but bailed and left them paying almost half the mortgage) and have been maxing out their credit cards, buying things they might not even use. We told them, “Here’s what you’re going to have to do for us to take you back,” and they just haven’t shown a willingness to change.

Some of you have floated the theory that we here at Soccer House are denying sanctioning to the NASL to protect MLS. It’s no secret I’ve we’ve been in bed with MLS for years now, but let’s be honest here: right now MLS is the guy at the bar who’s gaining more confidence by the minute, chatting up some reasonably attractive women but still being dismissed by the really, really hot ones (hey, we can relate). The NASL, meanwhile, is the drunk in the corner who wants to fight the guy at the bar, but who can’t stand up or throw a punch just yet. The only people the NASL is a danger to are themselves and you, the fans.

To be honest, my eyes glazed over as I read more of your letter. Blah blah blah children need pro players to emulate blah blah blah national team blah blah blah end of the world as we know it. The fact is, you just want a team and a league for it and the only requirement you seem to have is that it not be the USL. Well, that’s all well and good, but I’m not sure you really grasp what the people you’re sleeping with are all about.

Maybe the NASL really has changed and has a better idea. They keep sending us notes and leaving us messages, but we aren’t sure they’re sincere. We’ll give them a chance to explain everything, though, before we make a final decision about whether or not they’ll be sanctioned as a Division II league for 2011.

So, don’t consider this a repudiation; consider it an intervention. We not only have a stake in seeing second division soccer succeed, we have a fiduciary responsibility to make sure you have a team in 2012 and 2013 and beyond. You’re worried about 2011, and that’s okay. That’s what fans do.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to resume my search for the tapes of the 1998 USA World Cup team. We need some kindling around here.

All the best,

Sunil Gulati
President, US Soccer

13 comments on “Gulati To Supporters: It’s Not You, It’s US

  1. bevo says:

    Well done, sir. +1

  2. WSW says:

    NASL will get sanctioned and you will have to eat those words.

    server error 404…..

  3. admin says:

    Man, you really are reading challenged, aren’t you?

    I wouldn’t be at all surprised if they got sanctioned.

    I also wouldn’t be at all surprised if they were as big a train wreck as second division soccer has been for the last several years.

    But, no, you’re convinced they’ve got it all figured out.

    You’re the guy who said there were thousands upon thousands of soccer fans in the Tampa Bay area just starved for the return of pro soccer and they’d pack Steinbrenner every night. You were wrong.

    You’re wrong about everything. You have no idea what you’re talking about. And you’re backing the wrong horse in this race.

  4. Kel says:

    Are WhiteStar Warriors and soccerreform the same guy? I mean there can’t be two complete idiots running around trolling soccer blogs and forums to fanboy for the NASL.

    I don’t think the NASL will get sanctioned. The USSF basically made their decision a couple weeks ago. I beleive the USSF was trying hard to get the NASL to realize they can only make D3 this year. I don’t think they expected Traffic to still seek D2. So now the USSF has no choice but to put them out of their misery.

  5. John says:

    With all due respect to both the article and the snark contained within, considering four of the top five markets in minor league soccer have been siphoned off into MLS, you do realize there are more words in your faux letter than there are people who now care about this? (Oh wait, I guess 1100 people signed the letter. That’s what, an English Blue Square Premier game, but spread over three time zones.)

    To succeed in minor league US Soccer you either have to somehow afford to build the infrastructure (Charleston, but the stadium is adjacent to its corporate sponsor’s office!) or somehow get yourself a fanbase (which worked for the three newest MLS expansion teams and perhaps Rochester) and looking at Rochester this isn’t even enough to guarantee your survival.

    The only conceivable way to change the minor league soccer landscape is to get a bunch of investors together and run the D2 as a single entity-traditional model “hybrid” while ignoring the idiotic rules USSF has set out with regard to time zones and city sizes. That’s not exactly what USL has done but it’s set itself up to continue what it’s been doing, and perhaps do it better than they have been – provide a stable yet erratic league. But even then you may be looking at something which has an absolutely zero percent chance of ever turning a profit, at least as a whole. And that doesn’t really work too well in America.

  6. admin says:

    Kel:

    No, they’re not the same guy. One lives in Florida, one lives in Denver. The one in Denver is a prole whose life’s work is to bring down MLS. Advocating on behalf of the NASL is just a tool in his struggle.

    And I don’t necessarily believe they’ll deny sanctioning. They might, but I’d take the over. I think USSF just wanted to put the fear of God in them. I think they realize the importance of having a league in place.

    And no offense taken, John. I write about niche stuff. It is strange that there are so many people so vehemently opinionated about a level of the game they barely knew existed 18 months ago. Now because there’s drama, everybody has to choose a side and argue its cause ’til the death.

    I think USSF’s rules have overreached a bit. I don’t believe D2 in our country can – or necessarily should – have national designs, stretching across time zones.

    The thing about profits is this: USL, Inc. I figure DOES make a profit. The money is made at the lower levels (PDL and especially youth). This is a vertically integrated business model. It’s the higher you go that the numbers don’t work. They didn’t work in the A-League, they didn’t work in USL-1 and they absolutely won’t work in the NASL. They work a little better in D3 (look at the number of teams USL-PRO has that have been around for 10+ years), but it’s still touch and go.

    To run your hybrid model, though, you’d have to (a) find the investors and ( b) get them to agree. Getting people to agree on anything in our game is dicey, historically. That’s one reason we’re in the mess we’re in today.

  7. smatthew says:

    Loved it but was reminded of the 3-6-1 and Four@theBack size hole in my heart.

  8. admin says:

    Here’s the thing….I presume (because it was last year) it’ll be the Board of Directors who vote on sanctioning. That appears to be 16 people:

    http://www.ussoccer.com/About/Governance/Board-of-Directors.aspx

    Garber is there, yes, but so is Richard Groff, who used to run the A-League. Last year they were unanimous in denying sanctioning to both the NASL and USL.

    Unfortunately, we don’t have the minutes of their meetings or details on their deliberations.

  9. John says:

    Well, you’d need a lot of money to set everything up. You’d also need franchises to be able to run their own local marketing campaigns. Part of the reason it’s so damn hard to make money in minor league soccer is because not a lot of people care and there is little no infrastructure, which gives the appearance the team doesn’t care either.

    To be fair, a second division wholly owned and operated by Traffic may actually be the best option at this point. Almost all of the stable franchises have fled to USL. Not that it’s a good option, but if this is about “stable franchises” that’s your best bet.

  10. admin says:

    It’s incredibly expensive to do this no matter how you go about it, and there is a limit to the amount of revenue you can reasonably hope to generate (and it’s not at all equally distributed, not even close – I’m sure Rochester will generate a lot more revenue in D3 than, say, Atlanta will in D2, but even in D2 there will be – and have been – haves and have-nots.

    I’d say a second division wholly owned and operated by somebody could be a decent option, but saying that particular company is the best option is, I think, unrealistic.

    And I don’t for a minute believe that Traffic brings stability. I don’t believe anyone has that formula.

    Lastly, I don’t know how much stock to put in it, but I have heard that NASL sanctioning doesn’t look good, and that it’s because of reasons that aren’t even really related to their finances or stability.

  11. Mikey says:

    I just cant believe NASL doesnt have a front office. To even get the league of the ground I would have thought a solid foundation of people working hard BEFORE it was a league would have been in order. Davidson has been doing most of this as a one-man show so far and with is wife about to drop their second kid, he sounds like he is getting more and more stressed on recent interviews.

  12. admin says:

    Wouldn’t you be?

  13. Mikey says:

    yeah I would. I imagine he was pretty nervous a few months ago but he seemed to be pretty solid speaking to podcast and blogs and the like. Recently he seems to be getting more desperate, pointing fingers and deflecting blame instead of answering question directly.

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