The Sweeper: America’s Lower League Crisis Continues

Team Owners Association

Big Story
In London today, USL founder and president emeritus Francisco Marcos and USL chief executive Alec Papadakis were scheduled to be hobknobbing at the prestigious Leaders in Football conference, “the world’s most exclusive football business event where 1,000 senior executives linked to International Clubs, Leagues, Federations and Brands come together to learn, network and do business.”

Let us hope Marcos and Papadakis are doing a lot of the learning part, as back in the US, the league they run is falling apart as if it were American soccer in the twentieth century. This is a shame, because much of what USL has achieved over the past two decades has been pretty impressive: a structure containing, in 2009, well over 100 professional and amateur clubs critical for the development of American soccer.

But since Papadakis’ Atlanta-based Nu-Rock Holdings controversially purchased USL earlier this summer from Nike, USL’s poor relations with their top flight ownership has come to the fore as we’ve noted here many times, with a number of USL-1 clubs still threatening to break-away. An emergency meeting in New York City this week called by the US Soccer Federation seems to have stabilized tensions for now.

Forgotten in the byzantine details is one simple fact: USL-1 remains the only league in the world where the team owners do not control the league. This is why when the league seems unable to even properly schedule and market its USL-1 Championship final — Away from the Numbers reports that “the date and time of the Championship final second leg remains something of a mystery” — it becomes clearer why some owners believe an overhaul is needed to professionalize and market its elite division.

Worldwide News

  • It’s amazing people are taking Jack Warner’s criticisms of England’s World Cup bids seriously. The man is hardly known as an objective and fair-minded observer of such processes without interests of his own, is he?
  • Alex Ferguson’s big mouth gets a  bashing, as the media complains about getting distracted by his barbs.
  • Strange question marks hang over Kenya’s Football Association, accused of planning to throw their World Cup qualifier against Tunisia this week.
  • England’s World Cup qualifier to be shown exclusively on Ceefax! More seriously, the debate over England’s game only appearing on the internet goes on, with many complaining it “won’t be shown down the pub with my mates.”  The debate is curious — do people really think that the near future of football won’t be HD broadcasts, but will be internet streams?  Surely this mess has more to do with Setanta’s collapse than any technological transformation. Of course, as Paul Doyle points out in the Guardian, at least the fuss is over the broadcast of the game and not the state of the England team, given the match is a dead rubber now anyway.
  • Avram Grant’s return to Portsmouth as Director of Football is seen as simply a step towards the ousting of manager Paul Hart, and Grant’s appointment as manager.
  • Happy birthday to my Chicago FirePeter Wilt’s reminiscence of October 8, 1997 here yesterday was a nice touch.  The club has a lot of problems that frustrate me immensely as a supporter, but without its existence I wouldn’t even have met my wife or had many a great time with friends following the team across the country, so I’ll be toasting to it tonight. I hope to see those of you in Chicago out at Toyota Park to celebrate this evening.

The Sweeper appears daily. For more rambling and links throughout the day every day, follow your editor Tom Dunmore @pitchinvasion on Twitter.

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