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What’s next for growing American would-be pro soccer clubs like Detroit City?

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As our attention switches from international football back to the club game, a new article coming out of Michigan recalls where American soccer was when the American soccer world hit pause for the World Cup in June.

That’s when the United States Soccer Federation rejected billionaire businessman Rocco Commisso’s plea for a 10-year runway to bring the North American Soccer League to Division 1 league status by virtue of a $500 million investment proposal.

As if on cue, a John Niyo article in The Detroit News drags the so-called “closed system” back to the forefront, and his writing on National Premier Soccer League side Detroit City FC makes an interesting case.

[ MORE: Atlanta 1-1 Seattle ]

DISCLAIMER: Before we go any further, it’s important to note I operate a club in the same league as Detroit City, and very much admire how they’ve built what they’ve built there. That said, my opinions may be buttressed by that fact but are not birthed by bias.

The would-be Cliffs Notes go something like this: Detroit City FC wants to move from the short-season, semi-pro National Premier Soccer League to a fully professional league with a longer season. The rub is that DCFC currently only has one path and it’s one neither they nor the lion’s share of their supporters would support at the given time.

That’s largely because the U.S. Soccer Federation has only sanctioned two options above the NPSL: The United Soccer League and Major League Soccer. If DCFC doesn’t want to play a part in either of those organizations, it has no other current option. And while Detroit City has continued to bring huge crowds to its restored Keyworth Stadium whether NPSL matches or friendlies against the likes of FC St. Pauli, Necaxa, or Venezia, its next step is currently stuck in a holding pattern despite the club’s achievements.

And — and this is where Commisso’s offer comes back into play — the USSF has no reason to sanction any league that doesn’t go by its current divisional guidelines, which demand a very wealthy owner and specific stadium requirements amongst other things. Infrastructure and fan support can be built, but asking these clubs to hand themselves over to someone with deeper pockets simply to meet a standard is a real 2×4 to the gut.

“What you’re doing is awesome, but imagine if instead of you owning all of your success, you found a wealthier person to help you meet our standards?”

As we saw when MLS had its Detroit press conference without DCFC, there is no longer the ability to pretend soccer wasn’t already in town. DCFC may seem like an outlier, and may well be one, having had massive success with big crowds in a stadium they renovated themselves. Yet there’s little doubt there are myriad markets in this giant country that wouldn’t mind trying their hands with something new.

Put plainly, there are 172 clubs in the NPSL and Premier Development League alone, few of whom are in markets with MLS teams. Even eliminating the PDL teams with close relationships to MLS and the USL (The USL owns the PDL), and there are still well over 100 teams in play. Sure, some of those may not have the ambition to grow higher, but they are also currently also shackled by having to compete against the former NASL teams who had no alternative outside of the USL once their Division 2 league shut down last winter.

So Niyo’s article asks a question many have posited in the realms of social media: Why not go outside the structure of FIFA?

From The Detroit News:

Building a league outside the constraints of U.S. Soccer’s “Professional League Standards” could be one option for remaining NASL owners — New York, Miami and Jacksonville — and NPSL teams that are looking to grow pro. Detroit City FC was one of at least a half-dozen NPSL teams — clubs from Boston, Phoenix, Virginia Beach and Boca Raton, Fla. among them — poised to join the NASL with letters of intent last fall. But whatever path a new league pursues, it’ll require strength in numbers — at least 10 or 12 teams — and a geography that makes sense.

It’s a major risk, one that certainly is lined with the hopes that the influencers and money people behind the USSF might blink at significant competition.

But it still requires significant salesmanship: Getting top-notch players to commit to a league which severely hampers their international aspirations is a hard sell (The NASL had capped players from 27 countries heading into the 2016 season).

[ MORE: LAFC 0-0 Portland ]

So, too, is convincing deep-pocketed investors that they are capable of slaying, or at least denting, a big machine which has grown in a dramatic way in the last two decades. If a guy like Commisso, who has since went deep into discussions for a takeover of AC-freaking-Milan, sees the value and necessity of USSF sanctioning, lawsuits or not, certainly most would have the same questions.

Are there enough of the renegade rich to self-sustain a league outside of the MLS-USL set-up, and even get to sanctioning? Probably, as evidenced by Commisso’s belief that he’d be able to go from multi-club ownership of a D-1 NASL to 10 owners within a decade.

And there’s no denying the allure of safety for new markets. NISA founder Peter Wilt left his nascent D-3 league to helm USL soccer in Madison, and it’s easy to envision his safer new venture an almost automatic success.

So would that same group of risk takers be willing to do it outside of USSF sanctioning, without name players?

That’s where DCFC’s status as an outlier might really come into play. For everyone tooting the proverbial horn of MLS’ rapid and impressive evolution in quality — academies and foreign recruitment alike have made the league very entertaining — there’s no doubt that players with the name quality of Wayne Rooney, Zlatan Ibrahimovic, or Carlos Vela still puts butts in seats.

Consider this: For all its growth, MLS’ top performing players remain almost overwhelmingly foreign-developed. Using an advanced rating site like WhoScored, the Top 20 finds only two players with any sort of U.S. or Canadian development in their lockers (and that’s being gracious with Kei Kamara, who came to U.S. for college at the age of 20).

You get to No. 23 before another U.S. developed player, Sean Davis, hits the list. It only gets to seven by No. 40 if you allow foreign-born players who largely grew their games in college soccer (including Mark-Anthony Kaye from TFC’s Academy and York University in Ontario).

Suffice it to say, there’s plenty of quality American and foreign talent which would benefit from more jobs.

As DCFC CEO Sean Mann says in The Detroit News piece: “It was frustrating: Why are there so many obstacles? We’re not zealots. We’re not crusaders to reform American soccer. We just want to play at a higher level. We want to naturally grow. And U.S. soccer doesn’t allow that.”

This nation is gigantic, and there are few fans out there who genuinely believe MLS will stop expanding any time soon. In fact, it’s a safe bet that the long play is to one day announce a knockoff of promotion and relegation within the confines of the Major League Soccer umbrella.

The question isn’t who’s right and who’s wrong. Let’s face it: the answers seem likely to fall along the lines of one’s political alliances. Those who fear the risks of the new and unusual will worry about short-circuiting the current path, while the other side will beg to give ideals and theories a chance at practice in the name of something better.

But something does have to change. Soon, more and more major success stories are going to be held short of their goals because of the current structure. Whether that’s Detroit City or Chattanooga seeking a next level and not finding it, or the Sacramento Republic not getting its shot at MLS, or a fan base and market like Columbus getting waylaid by a slimy contract and inaction from on high, they will keep coming into your news feed.

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And if we keep making the mistake of letting these conversations regress to simple “pro-rel” banter, then we’re all going to lose. And it’s going to take a bunch of risk takers who put aside their egos to find common ground.

Here’s a quick way to put the American soccer landscape in perspective: Look at a map. As this sport continues to grow, and the country’s young players are coached and encouraged by generations of fans who were coached and encouraged by fans themselves, the markets for summer sporting entertainment will continue to explode in the United States (with only baseball to compete with them thanks to the given calendar implemented by the USSF).

Are there more than 26 markets fit to host a top-tier side? Yep. Are there more than the 60-plus when tossing in USL (but subtracting MLS reserve sides)? Yep.

And if Commisso’s offer tells us anything, anything at all, it’s that there are figures out there who love the game and have an appetite for something not currently satisfied by the current structure. So either MLS or the USSF is going to announce its plan for a much bigger league with more than a couple dozen markets, or someone is going to challenge from the outside (Of course, both could happen and that would be very intriguing).

Either way, let’s hope it happens before the next guys who want to take up Detroit City’s example decide they’d rather not rattle their skulls against an unnecessary ceiling.

What’s the solution given the current power and success of the USSF? Your takes are welcome.

WATCH: Messi scores, assists, injuries arm in first 16 minutes

AP Photo/Manu Fernandez
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Lionel Messi lasted just 16 minutes of Barcelona’s La Liga clash with Sevilla on Saturday, but fans got their money’s worth as it was an eventful 16-minute shift from the indisputable greatest player of all time.

[ MORE: What did we learn in the Premier League, Week 9? ]

In the end, though, it could prove an incredibly costly outing for the Argentine superstar — but even more so, for his club.

Minute no. 2: Messi sets up the game’s opening goal, scored by Philippe Coutinho, with a delightful first-time pass to play his Brazilian teammate into acres of space.

Minute no. 12: Messi scores the games second goal, a not-so-easy finish made to look incredibly easy from outside the penalty area.

Minute no. 16: Messi falls to the ground, injuring his right arm (perhaps severely) in the process (WATCH HERE).

It certainly doesn’t look good for the 31-year-old, as the lower portion of his arm appeared to go one direction while the upper portion appeared to go the complete opposite.

Bundesliga wrap: Alcacer, BVB stays hot; Lewandowski feasts again

Sebastian Gollnow/dpa via AP
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Borussia Dortmund moved to a league-best 20 points on Saturday, ensuring that we’ll have a table leader not named Bayern Munich when the calendar turns to November.

[ VIDEO: Mourinho reacts to taunting, skirmish ]


Stuttgart 0-4 Borussia Dortmund

It’s been a very good time to be a supporter or member of Borussia Dortmund, who leads the table after another convincing win.

Red-hot Paco Alcacer now has seven goals in four Bundesliga matches after scoring the third goal on Saturday, while Jadon Sancho, Marco Reus, and Marvin Philipp also scored for the visitors.

USMNT winger Christian Pulisic returned to the fold for BVB, subbing into the match and providing an assist on Philipp’s 85th minute marker.

Schalke 0-2 Werder Bremen

Josh Sargent wasn’t on the bench for the visitors, but American teammate Weston McKennie did start for the hosts. McKennie covered the second-most ground in the contest, winning 14 tackles. He converted 19 of 24 passes and did not register a shot.

Unfortunately, the match wasn’t much to write home about for his side. Bremen got goals from Maximilian Egglestein on each side of halftime to grab another win on the young season.

Wolfsburg 1-3 Bayern Munich

Niko Kovac will be happy to get a decisive win after the international break, with James Rodriguez and Robert Lewandowski scoring in the win. Lewandowski’s brace included an absolute gift.

For Wolfsburg, USMNT center back John Brooks won tackles and completed 48 of his 53 passes, while Wout Weghorst scored its lone goal.

Elsewhere
Eintracht Frankfurt 7-1 Fortuna Dusseldorf — RECAP
Augsburg 0-0 RB Leipzig
Nurmberg 1-3 Hoffenheim
Bayer Leverkusen 2-2 Hannover 96
Hertha Berlin vs. Freiburg — 9:30 a.m. ET Sunday
Borussia Monchengladbach vs. Mainz — Noon ET Sunday

STANDINGS

Team GP W D L GF GA GD Home Away PTS
 Borussia Dortmund 8 6 2 0 27 8 19 4-0-0 2-2-0 20
 Werder Bremen 8 5 2 1 15 8 7 2-2-0 3-0-1 17
 Bayern Munich 8 5 1 2 15 9 6 2-1-1 3-0-1 16
 RB Leipzig 8 4 3 1 16 9 7 3-1-0 1-2-1 15
 Mönchengladbach 7 4 2 1 15 9 6 3-0-0 1-2-1 14
 Hertha BSC Berlin 7 4 2 1 12 7 5 3-0-0 1-2-1 14
 Eintracht Frankfurt 8 4 1 3 19 12 7 2-1-1 2-0-2 13
 1899 Hoffenheim 8 3 1 4 14 13 1 1-1-2 2-0-2 10
 FC Augsburg 8 2 3 3 14 13 1 1-2-1 1-1-2 9
 FSV Mainz 05 7 2 3 2 4 4 0 2-2-0 0-1-2 9
 VfL Wolfsburg 8 2 3 3 11 14 -3 1-2-2 1-1-1 9
 SC Freiburg 7 2 2 3 9 13 -4 1-2-1 1-0-2 8
 Bayer Leverkusen 8 2 2 4 9 15 -6 1-1-2 1-1-2 8
 1. FC Nürnberg 8 2 2 4 8 19 -11 2-1-1 0-1-3 8
 Hannover 96 8 1 3 4 10 16 -6 1-1-1 0-2-3 6
 FC Schalke 04 8 2 0 6 5 11 -6 1-0-3 1-0-3 6
 VfB Stuttgart 8 1 2 5 6 17 -11 1-1-2 0-1-3 5
 Fortuna Düsseldorf 8 1 2 5 6 18 -12 1-0-3 0-2-2 5

What we learned from Saturday’s Premier League games

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Eight games took place in the Premier League on Saturday as Manchester City, Tottenham and Liverpool secured wins, while a dramatic draw between Chelsea and Manchester United took center stage.

[ MORE: Watch full PL match replays

All of that means that Man City, Liverpool and Chelsea remain unbeaten and this is just the third time in history that three teams are without a defeat throughout the opening nine weeks of a season.

Below is a look at the key takeaways from another frantic day across the PL.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights


Mourinho should loosen Man United’s shackles

Manchester United have been at their best this season when they’re in desperation mode. That was the case at Chelsea on Saturday, as Jose Mourinho’s men fought their way back into the game in the second half and Anthony Martial finished superbly twice to put them 2-1 up. Of course, United conceded twice from set piece situations as Paul Pogba lost his man Antonio Rudiger for the first and a lofted second ball into the box in the 96th minute eventually saw Ross Barkley equalize. That will annoy Mourinho but what will please him is that he was rewarded for starting with an attacking lineup with Pogba, Martial, Romelu Lukaku, Juan Mata and Marcus Rashford all in the starting XI. United pinned Chelsea back in the second half and the hard-working displays of Rashford and Martial out wide stopped Chelsea’s full backs from joining the attack.

[ MORE: 4 things we learned | Mourinho reacts to draw ]

The main takeaway from this draw at Chelsea is that perhaps things aren’t as bad as they seem at United. Mourinho was set to be sacked two weeks ago and we will never know if that dramatic 3-2 comeback win against Newcastle saved his job. What we do know is that the fact United were disappointed to not grab all three points at Chelsea shows they’re moving in the right direction. Will Mourinho now set up his team in a more attacking system from here on out? Let’s not push it now, but the signs are promising that they can get back on track.


Tottenham win ugly once again

Spurs have been far from scintillating this season but after their 1-0 win at West Ham, Mauricio Pochettino‘s men have ground out four wins on the spin and have now won seven of their opening nine games of the campaign. For a team missing Christian Eriksen, Dele Alli, Jan Vertonghen and Danny Rose from their starting lineup at West Ham, that’s not bad. Hugo Lloris denied Marko Arnautovic on three occasions in the second half in a feisty London derby as two squad players delivered on the key moment. Moussa Sissoko did well on the right and crossed for Erik Lamela to nod home what turned out to be the game-winner. Harry Kane wasn’t at his best but he didn’t need to be as Spurs dug deep to grab another ugly win. It hasn’t been pretty from Tottenham so far but they’re two points behind leaders Man City and given the issues surrounding their stadium delay and not strengthening the squad this summer, this is probably the best start to the season Spurs could have put together. With Eriksen back fit and Dele Alli close behind him, Tottenham need two big wins in the UEFA Champions League against PSV Eindhoven to keep their season on track.


Man City’s embarrassment of riches runs riot

Riyad Mahrez, Leroy Sane, Sergio Aguero, Bernardo Silva and Fernandinho were all on target on Saturday as Pep Guardiola‘s Man City smashed Burnley 5-0. Yes, Burnley were poor. But this was like watching vintage City from last season, as shellackings of minnows happened time and time again. Mahrez and Fernandinho scored sublime goals, while Sane and Silva finished off flowing City moves. With Kevin De Bruyne making his long-awaited return from injury as a second half sub, plus Raheem Sterling was left on the bench and Guardiola had the luxury of giving David Silva and Aguero rests in the second half.

Atop the Premier League table with 23 points from their opening nine games of the season there’s a sense that the best is still to come from City. That is a scary thought for not only the rest of the Premier League but also for Europe.


Delight for Cardiff; misery for Fulham, Newcastle

Cardiff City are off and running back in the Premier League as Neil Warnock‘s men beat Fulham 4-2 in the Welsh Capital. A six-goal thriller explains the defensive issues both teams have but Cardiff scored as many goals on Saturday as they had in their previous eight games back in the top-flight. As for Fulham, they have the leakiest defense in the PL with 25 conceded and Slavia Jokanovic’s seat just got a little hotter with the Cottagers having just one win on the board so far this season.

Newcastle would love to have a win on the board so far but that’s not the case for Rafael Benitez’s team who have become just the fourth team in English top-flight history to lose their first five home league games of the season. Newcastle sit bottom of the PL and were booed off by their fans after losing 1-0 against Brighton at St James’ Park. With owner Mike Ashley watching on, tensions are high on Tyneside with the home fans enraged that more money wasn’t spent in the summer after Benitez guided the Magpies to a tenth place finish last season. Right now, Newcastle and Fulham look likely to battle it out with Cardiff and Huddersfield to stay out of the three relegation places. That is a desperate situation for a massive club in Newcastle and a newly-promoted club in Fulham who spent a record amount on new players over the summer.


Trouble is never too far away from Mourinho

To be fair to Mourinho he wasn’t the instigator here at all. Seriously.

Marco Ianni, Chelsea’s second assistant coach, will be lucky to not escape a touchline ban as he celebrated in front of Mourinho and Man United’s bench, punched the air in delight and let Barkley’s last-gasp equalizer get the better of him.

Speaking after the game, Mourinho revealed that Maurizio Sarri and Ianni had apologized and he accepted it.

“Bad education,” Mourinho said of Ianni’s actions. “But I also made mistakes in football matches and I will make more. So when after the game he came to me to apologize, I accepted his apology and nothing more to say.”

For once, Mourinho was in the right as Sarri admitted his assistant had made “a big mistake” and the matter would be dealt with internally. Of course, the emotion of a late equalizer has got to us all but the melee around the tunnel at Stamford Bridge could have been even uglier than it already was.

Salah helps off-kilter Liverpool snap skid

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  • Terriers outshoot Reds 12-11
  • Liverpool moves second
  • Terriers 19th with three points

Xherdan Shaqiri set up Mohamed Salah for the match’s lone goal as Liverpool beat Huddersfield Town 1-0 at the John Smith’s Stadium on Saturday.

The Reds stay level on points with leaders Man City, while Huddersfield Town is ahead of only Newcastle United on the table.

Liverpool was winless in its last four matches, with draws against Man City and Chelsea and losses to Napoli and Chelsea.

[ STREAM: Watch every PL match live ]

A sleepy match snapped to life off the boot of Salah, who scored a trademark goal by dragging a shot across goal and inside the far post.

Joe Gomez picked out Xherdan Shaqiri, who played Salah down the right side for a finish beyond the reach of Jonas Lossl.

And that got Huddersfield moving, and the match moved up-and-down the pitch in fitting David Wagner vs. Jurgen Klopp fashion.

Jonathan Hogg hit the bar with a shot, and Phillip Billing nearly whipped a deep free kick on target, though Alisson Becker may’ve had his post covered well anyway.

Michael Oliver somehow resisted shouts for a seemingly clear handball on James Milner.

The first half stated without much danger, but Laurent Depoitre headed a ball for Alisson to save in the 55th.

The Terriers were actually pretty wasteful, with Steve Mounie missing a point blank chance in the 82nd.

Salah forced a save out of Lossl following a slick turn two minutes from time.

[ MORE: Latest Premier League standings ]

[ MORE: Full lineups, stats, box score ]