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Study calls for promotion/relegation in USA

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A study from Deloitte has backed promotion and relegation in the U.S. Soccer pyramid.

[ MORE: Klinsmann “not afraid” ]

The study — largely backed and organized by owners in the North American Soccer League (NASL) — states that 88 percent of soccer fans in the U.S. want to see promotion and relegation in the USA.

Of course, currently it is a closed system in North America with Major League Soccer the top-tier and no relegation from MLS possible and many would argue that it would be unsustainable to have a pure pyramid system in place in the USA and Canada.

With NASL struggling to challenge the U.S. and Canadian soccer authorities to open up the system, its status as second-tier has come under threat as clubs are losing out financially and with MLS’ growing partnership with the current third-tier United Soccer League (USL), it is difficult to see what the next step for U.S. Soccer is.

Hence why this report was commissioned by a company owned by Miami FC (a newly formed NASL club) owner Riccardo Silva, as NASL clubs are trying to draw attention to their plight with MLS continuing to dominate the North American club soccer scene.

The NASL has lost three teams after the 2016 season with both Tampa Bay Rowdies and Ottawa Fury joining the USL, plus Minnesota United joining MLS. Two other NASL clubs, Rayo OKC and the Fort Lauderdale Strikers, are reportedly having money issues after the 2016 season.

Further issues for NASL include the third-tier USL filing for second-tier status (more on that from the USL president Jake Edwards here) with a decision set to be made shortly by U.S. Soccer on that, and although the report is heavily in favor of promotion and relegation it also states that there is plenty of work to be done for it to become a reality.

Below are the conclusions from Deloitte’s report on the future viability of pro/rel in the USA:


Open leagues may attract more fans to matches – evidence from other leagues demonstrates that the spectacle of promotion and relegation, and the churn of teams between divisions can actually be of net benefit to attendances across the club pyramid as a whole.

Increased attention and audiences will translate into increased revenue – with increased competition at all levels of the club game, and at both ends of a league, matchday and broadcast audiences may be increased. In so doing, this can deliver increase in matchday (e.g. ticket sales), broadcast (e.g. greater viewing figures leading to enhanced broadcast rights deals) and commercial (e.g. more attention delivering greater returns for commercial partners) revenue.

Promotion and relegation will motivate ownership at all levels – by enabling the ambition of owners further down the pyramid (through promotion), as well as by removing the safety net for owners (through relegation), this will motivate ownership to invest and/or develop their club so as to capitalise on the benefits of promotion or avoid the penalties of relegation.

Opening the pyramid will attract investment at all levels of the game – owners looking to develop a long term club project, growing a club from a grassroots organisation to a professional one, may be more motivated to become involved than would be the case with no prospect of promotion or entry to a professional league without a franchise fee payment.

Increased opportunities and competition would assist with player development at all levels – with more competition throughout the pyramid through the prospect of promotion and the threat of relegation, the intensity of competition for players would increase, as would the emphasis for clubs throughout the country to develop their coaching infrastructure.

Opening the leagues can be done in a way so as to mitigate any risks – effective implementation of governance regulations and minimum league standards would ensure that the financial security and sporting integrity of leagues was preserved whilst also allowing the leagues to benefit from the potential identified upsides of promotion and relegation.

As it stands however, US club soccer is not immediately ready for promotion and relegation – for the topic to move forward several key topics needs to be addressed including:
– Decisions made on the optimum number of teams in the existing leagues;
– The continued development and stability of a second tier competition to develop clubs capable in management and football terms of joining the first tier; and
– Consideration of the mechanism by which long term league investors have their “equity” protected, at least in the short term, from relegation.

Preview: Brazil v. Mexico in U-17 World Cup final

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There will be plenty of 2005 U-17 World Cup final shades at Estadio Bezerrão on Sunday.

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On that clear night in Lima, Peru, the likes of Carlos Vela and Giovani dos Santos wrote history for Mexico, as they powered El Tri to its first-ever World Cup title over a favorite Brazilian side, who was composed of Marcelo, Renato Augusto, and Anderson, in a 3-0 win.

14 years and some change later, both youth powerhouses meet again in the same tournament, for the same silverware, and with the same pressure looming over them from entire nations who expect nothing but excellence from their respective teams.

But of course, to the Brazilians, there is a sense of added pressure given the fact that they’re on home soil.

“We’re familiar with Mexico’s quality,” Brazilian forward, Veron, said ahead of the final. We know they are a great team. But we’re Brazil, and we have five stars on our chest. We intend to play our best match and get the result that makes history.”

As it stands, Mexico is the clear-cut underdog, having barely crept into the knockout stages and being composed of players with far less notoriety to its Brazilian counterpart, who boast three players with three goals or more in the tournament.

That said, Mexico pose as a balanced, reliable, and pragmatic team under coach Marco “Chima” Ruiz. Throughout the six games this tournament, El Tri have found the back of the net 14 times and have conceded a mere three goals (two of which came against Italy). With four goals and two assists in only 344 minutes, Los Angeles Galaxy’s Efrain Alvarez has proven to be the team’s most productive player going forward.

Asked who he would rather take between France or Brazil in the final, the Mexican American answered with the same confidence that has made him one of the most exciting players in the tournament.

“It doesn’t matter which of the two it is, we’ll beat them,” he said.

It’s 90 minutes for either team to make history, again. A win for Brazil will raise the number of U-17 stars to four, while Mexico can claim its third with another historic performance. Will Brazil’s high-flying attack crack Mexico’s solid defense? If Alvarez starts, will he rise to the occasion and guide Mexico to another U-17 title?

That has yet to be seen; the second final between two, routine winners awaits the first whistle.

Report: Man City considering Kingsley Coman as Leroy Sane replacement

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Pep Guardiola and Manchester City are considering Bayern Munich’s Kinglsey Coman as a replacement for injured Leroy Sane if he were to leave for the defending German champions over the summer, according to a report from Sky Sports.

[ MORE: Watch full PL match replays ]

Sane, who is projected to be out until February or March with an ACL injury, was the subject of a $176 million move to Bayern Munich over the summer, but a move never came to fruition, largely due to the aforementioned injury. If negotiations between Sane’s camp and the defending Bundesliga champions pick up again this summer, City have a replacement in mind: 23-year-old Coman.

Coman, who has played in 10 league games for the Bavarian club this season, was managed by Guardiola during his time with the club and flourished during the title-winning 2015-2016 season. In 2017, the Frenchman revealed that the Spaniard’s departure was tough on him, saying, “I found life easier at Bayern Munich under Pep Guardiola.”

As expected, Coman is not the only option City are exploring.

Real Sociedad’s Mikel Oyarzabal, who has a reported $82 million release clause, is also on the Premier League giant’s shortlist. Txiki Begiristain, City’s director of football, has strong ties to La Reala that goes back to his first day in the sport.

At the Etihad, the general feeling from Guardiola’s players is that the German winger is one foot out of England, and is instead focused on a move to Bayern and a return back home. With his contract in the final 12 months this summer, it is expected that the release clause for Sane will not be as lucrative as before. 

In 134 appearances for City, Sane has scored 39 goals, while Coman has scored on 28 different occasions in 139 appearances.

Abidal: Barcelona, Messi negotiating a new deal

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Lionel Messi and his representatives are in talks with Barcelona over a new contract, the defending champion’s sporting director Eric Abidal confirmed  to Mundo Deportivo in an exclusive interview.

“They are already talking,” Abidal, the former Barcelona defender, said. “I do not know if we will have news soon because the decision will depend on the player, but for us as a club I hope it is sorted as soon as possible.”

Messi – a five-time Ballon d’Or winner and Barcelona’s all-time leading goalscorer – joined the club’s well-known academy, La Masia, at the age of 13 and is under contract until 2021 but was recently questioned about his future after Barcelona president Josep Maria Bartomeu revealed that the Argentine can leave Camp Nou on a free transfer due to a clause in his contract.

Asked when he expects an announcement to be made on a new and improved contract, Abidal made it clear he’s unsure but hopes it happens: “It will be known when it is known, but I am positive.”

Throughout seven games in La Liga this season, Messi has scored eight goals and assisted in four occasions. In his latest appearance for the Catalonian side – a 4-1 win over Celta Vigo – the No. 10 scored a first-half hat-trick.

Abidal also confirmed that Barcelona are in talks with breakout teenage starlet Ansu Fati and his camp on a new deal.

“We are also talking to him,” Abidal said. “He is a young player that we have to protect. We have to talk to his family and representatives.”

Earlier this year, the 17-year-old became the youngest player in the league’s history to score and assist in the same game.

EURO qualifying wrap: Germany, Austria, Croatia join Netherlands in qualifying

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Like the Netherlands, Germany, Austria, and Croatia qualified for EURO 2020 after wins on Saturday.

[ READ: Netherlands qualify to first EURO since 2012 ]


Germany 4-0 Belarus

With goals from Matthias Ginter, Leon Goretska, and a second-half brace from Real Madrid’s Toni Kroos, Germany routed an uncompetitive Belarus side 4-0 at Borussia-Park. The scoreline, however, should have been more lopsided, as the home side easily won the possession battle and outshot the visitor’s with a total of 31 shots (10 on target). Leaders of Group C, Germany is an early favorite for next summer’s tournament. Not hard to believe that, right? 

Austria 2-1 North Macedonia

Qualifying for Europe’s main tournament is becoming a norm for Austria.

Bayern Munich’s David Alaba scored early while Stefan Lainer added his own three minutes into the second half, as Austria edged North Macedonia 2-1 at Ernst Happel Stadion. Das Team, who stand second in Group G with 19 points after nine games, have now clinched a berth for the EURO on back-to-back occasions.

Croatia 3-1 Slovakia

When all was said and done, Croatia was too much for a 10-man Slovakia, who, initially, broke the deadlock in the 32nd minute.

Bayern Munich’s Ivan Perisic scored the home side’s third and final goal of the match, which punched Croatia’s ticket in next summer’s tournament. Nikola Vlasic and Bruno Petkovic also contributed goals in the second half for Croatia.

Elsewhere

Russia 1-4 Belgium

Azerbaijan 0-2 Wales

Cyprus 1-2 Scotland

Israel 1-2 Poland

Armenia 0-1 Greec