Most professional leagues have some kind of promotion-relegation system so as to award teams that have great seasons (promotions) or to punish teams that have terrible seasons (relegation).
The top American league is MLS (of course) with the next lower league being the USL Championship (USLC). Let's say for the sake of argument, that the top team in each conference is automatically promoted. And the winner of the USLC playoffs is the third team promoted.
For the 2020 season, the Eastern Conference winner was Louisville City FC. The Western Conference winner was Reno 1868 FC. And the 2020 playoff championship was not played because of COVID. However, Phoenix Rising FC and the Tampa Bay Rowdies were supposed to play in the final that never happened. So for the tie breaker, I am going to choose which one had the better season. And that team is the Phoenix Rising FC.
MLS (going down)
Eastern Conference -> FC Cincinnati
Western Conference -> Houston Dynamo
3rd worst team -> DC United
USLC (going up)
Eastern Conference -> Louisville City FC
Western Conference -> Reno 1868 FC
Playoff Winner -> Phoenix Rising FC
2021 Eastern Conference
Atlanta United FC
Chicago Fire FC
Inter Miami CF
New England Revolution
New York City FC
New York Red Bulls
Orlando City SC
2021 Western Conference
Phoenix Rising FC
Real Salt Lake
Reno 1868 FC
San Jose Earthquakes
Seattle Sounders FC
Sporting Kansas City
How would I do promotion-relegation right now. Have you ever heard of a Scottish Premier League team named Gretna FC? Founded in 1946, a wealthy supporter basically bank rolled the club beyond its means and beyond its fan support so that it would eventually be promoted to the Scottish Premier League. The club started piling up debt and the fan that basically financed the team from his own pockets fell ill and died.
The team fell into a financial tail spin with players and staff not getting paid. The other problem is that they could not use their own pitch because it did not meet SPL standards. They had to rent another team's stadium which meant that "home fans" had to travel over 70 miles to watch Gretna play.
For promotion-relegation to work:
* A USLC team must be in the top four by points earned for three out of four straight seasons. To be able to do this, ownership must be committed to their team over the long term. This would also allow the team to develop a fan base over time which would carry over to MLS. Ownership would have to invest in good players to be able to finish in the top four for three out of four years. This should be the hardest part but if they eventually do it, then their team would be ready for MLS play.
* Financing A USLC team has to meet certain financial metrics to be allowed to join MLS. We do not want to have a team like Gretna play in the MLS only to see that they can't pay players or their bills.
* Stadiums A USLC team has to have a stadium that meets MLS standards or is planning on building a soccer-only stadium that meets MLS standards
* MLS Entry Fee The team must be able to pay an entry fee to join MLS.
* MLS Reserve Teams are not allowed to play in MLS
* The only player draft is a "young players" draft This is a draft for MLS teams so they can sign players 17 years old to 21 years old. This allows a team to be able to draft college players or players that are in a development league that are in this age range. If a player signs a draft eligible document and does not get drafted, then he is free to sign with any MLS team as an un-drafted player.
Players that are younger than 17 are most likely already playing for a youth club and can be put in a "discovered" status. Then when he turns 17 years old, that MLS team can negotiate with the player's club in signing the player. If the youth player does not sign with the MLS that discovered him, then he is available for the MLS draft.
Are there any current USLC team that might be able to meet these standards?
I can't verify anything except how teams finished the last four years. Here are the top 4 teams for the last four years followed by that year's playoffs winner.
* 2017: Louisville City, San Antonio, Reno 1868, Phoenix Rising; Louisville City
* 2018: Cincinnati, Louisville City, Orange County, Sacramento Republic; Louisville City
* 2019: Phoenix Rising, Pittsburgh Riverhounds, Nashville, Indy Eleven; Louisville City
* 2020: Reno 1868, Phoenix Rising, Louisville City, Hartford Athletic; Phoenix Rising.
What teams in the last four years meet my requirements? Louisville City and Phoenix Rising. Reno 1868 will have to finish in the top four in 2021 to be eligible for MLS promotion for 2022. Louisville City and Phoenix have been in the top 4 at least three of the last four. So they just need to meet the other requirements to be promoted into MLS.
If Louisville City and Phoenix Rising meet all of the requirements to be promoted, then they would take the place of FC Cincinnati and the Houston Dynamo.
Do MLS teams that are demoted have to follow the same rules as USLC teams to get back into the MLS? No. They just need to either win their conference or win the USLC playoffs.
In conclusion I think that this system encourages more people or organizations to invest in the lower leagues because this gives them a chance to see their club in MLS. Just like someone would want to buy Millwall with the desire to get the team promoted to the EPL. The owner of Gretna did just that to see his team play in the SPL but there wasn't enough checks-and-balances to insure his team was solvent enough to stay in the SPL if something happened to the owner. My system should be able to prevent that from happening in MLS.
The final outcome, say 10 or so years from now, should be a healthy MLS and a healthy lower tier system where you see promotion-relegation happening all the time. And it would look something like the first part of this article.
I would like to hear feedback about my idea for promotion-relegation. I know that this is pure speculation but who knows what might happen and who reads these blogs. Stranger things have happened. Thanks.