Opinion: MLS Promotion/Relegation, how I think it could work

Let me start off firstly by saying this is just my opinion and an idea. I understand that American Sports just don’t do this, but let me put it to you that it’s something that could happen and could be revolutionary. Here is my opinion/idea.

There has been a lot of talk around this concept. Something that happens in the majority of leagues around the globe. But why has it cropped up more and more recently for our American Cousins, and how would it affect the league? I’m a fan of promotion and relegation, one reason for the fact it adds something for the teams to fight for the entire season, you have the joy of staying/going up, you have the heartache of going down or missing out on promotion. There are arguments against this, one I can agree with too, which is the buy-in fee for MLS, why would a team owner want to pay the buy-in fee if they aren’t going to reap the rewards? Because at the end of the day, these clubs are franchises and are required to make money. And maybe that’s part of the problem, it’s the bottom line, but as fans, aren’t we wanting to be entertained? For me, being entertained will bring fans, which will bring money. With the entertainment in mind, how would I do promotion/relegation?

League Setup

Well I would keep it as it is right now, having the Eastern/Western Conferences. I love that, I think it’s a great way of building the league. And I love the MLS Cup. I love what it stands for and what it means to the club’s & fans. I would stick with playing your conference teams home & away, and then the opposing conference team once, however the home/away should alternate year on year. One thing I love about being a supporter of an MLS club is the road trips. It’s what makes the league unique. I would never scrap that.

For the league below, let’s call it “MLS II”, it would be the exact same setup, 2 conferences, home & away for same conference and once for the opposite conference. I’d want both MLS & MLS II to have the same amount of sides too.

But how would that leave the USL? As I understand it’s classed as a separate entity but have got the “B” teams of some MLS sides. This is similar to how it is in Spain. I do like that, but it’s not entirely correct, for me that’s punishing other sides who don’t have that luxury. I’d like to see a reserve league for the “B” teams.

Promotion/Relegation Battle

I would have it as 2 teams promoted and relegated from each conference. This means that 4 teams in total will be changing each year. This means that under the current playoff scenarios for 2019, only 3 teams at the end of the season would be dead rubbers. Let’s take a look at what would happen right now.

Under my idea, FC Cincinnati & Columbus Crew would be going down from the Eastern Conference, and Colorado Rapids would be going down alongside Vancouver Whitecaps. In both conferences there are two sides that are clearly the worst. Right now, there is nothing to punish them, in fact, they get the 1st round picks in the SuperDraft. Surely, not only would it incentivise the team to not get relegated, but also add a bit of spectacle to the league.

In MLS II, for promotion, I would have the top team in each conference guaranteed promotion. Then, I’d have the next 4 sides battle it off in true Playoff style. 2nd vs 6th, 3rd vs 4th, and then the winners from the Semi’s to play each other for that final promotion spot. It works great elsewhere in the world, it would be great for American Sports fans as they get yet another conference playoff, and for the many fans across the globe who love promotion.

That is how I see Promotion & Relegation working in MLS. Let me know your thoughts, have I missed anything, or do you not agree, let’s get a healthy debate going if so.

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