I recently read the third installment of a fascinating and meticulously-compiled look into the plausible near-future of pro soccer in North America. This being one of my favorite subjects, I enjoyed it greatly, and I think you will too.
At the very end, though, the author implies rather heavily that doing what is right for scocer in America is at odds solely with money-obsessed cronyism, wielded by obdurate, corrupt Blazerites. While that is certainly a factor, and I'd love to hear the alternative, the fact remains that in any endeavor with costs, there must be revenues to offset them, commensurate with the level of risk that can be tolerated by the individuals or businesses engaged.
Immaterial of their relative quality as people, fans, or otherwise - and judging is a lot of fun, I know - the people who launched Major League Soccer did so at an immense financial loss. The fact is that money was spent, and largely has not been recouped yet. We can only have the conversation about what is "right for the game" today in 2016 because "top tier" soccer in this country has been artificially propped up for the better part of 25 years by people who were willing to do it.
Simply, there is not nearly the market demand for pro soccer that some imagine to exist.
People who buy into MLS/NASL/USL today do so with the knowledge that only over years is there likely to be a return on the investment. Certainly, that return is much more likely today than it was 25 years ago, but risk remains.
That being said, if what you or anyone else wants is the growth of our national team and player pool, etc., then it is imperative that "top tier" soccer succeed in some form or other. Full stop. That means doing whatever is necessary to acknowledge the market forces in play at any given time, and making decisions that encourage people to invest in the game at whatever level they can.
Rearranging our structure so as to best supply the national team is a worthy target, but it should be only one of many. Focusing entirely on implementing promotion and relegation, or whatever is imagined to be the road to the World Cup trophy, will surely damage what has already been built, and underscore the inescapable fact that 61 sanctioned professional teams exist in North America only because someone took the risk of running them, under a particular set of variables. Change the rules, and some players will leave the game.
The cry from NASL owners, so I read, is that the D2 status is holding them back from the best markets, best sponsors, best media, etc., etc. They are absolutely correct. But make no mistake: they signed up for a D2 league, and if they were sold on joining NASL under the promise of anything else, then they have no one to blame but themselves. I digress.
In sum, we don't have pro soccer without investors willing to take at least some sort of risk. Fortunately, there are accessible grassroots avenues popping up, which give me hope for the kind of organic growth and stability that most of us crave so deeply. So, in the meantime, with the future of the game being debated this weekend by some of its biggest supporters, let's not pretend that we've gained nothing from their efforts.