A Deloitte Study Commissioned By An NASL Team Has Re-Ignited The Pro/Rel Debate

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Because apparently we don’t have enough to argue over these days, Soccer Twitter is once again lit up in the latest chapter of the ongoing debate over promotion and relegation in American soccer

Riccardo Silva, the owner of NASL outfit Miami FC, commissioned British professional services firm Deloitte to compile a report
-soccer-in-the-usa.html# on the feasibility of implementing a system of promotion and relegation in the American soccer pyramid. The report draws from, among other data points, a poll of 1,000 American soccer fans conducted in September of this year.

While the report tries to provide a balanced analysis, it doesn’t mince words about its conclusion— the benefits of pro/rel would outweigh the costs and risks. Deloitte cites increased fan interest and consumer engagement, increased buy-in from broadcast media, and more investment in infrastructure and youth development programs as benefits of implementing promotion and relegation in the US. Of course, the report also states that “as it stands” American club soccer isn’t ready for a pro/rel system, and that even a gradual implementation would require a significant commitment in capital investment and bureaucratic resources for developing the regulations necessary to make it all work.

Of course, there’s some reason for skepticism here. Silva didn’t commission the report as a purely fact-finding exercise. Not only is he the owner of a soccer club that would presumably benefit from a lower barrier-of-entry into MLS, but he has financial interests in soccer broadcasting and is actively trying to grow his business. One can debate whether business interests are more or less compromised than ideological zealotry, but it’s still worth keeping in mind when evaluating how much weight this report should carry. After all, business consultants will tell you any number of things as long as you’re picking up the tab.

Unsurprisingly, Soccer Twitter isn’t entirely convinced.

Given that Deloitte’s own conclusions state that pro/rel isn’t coming to American club soccer any time soon— a fact concurred by nearly every major stakeholder in the domestic game— it’s not clear what releasing this report now is supposed to do. It won’t change many minds among consumers fans, and it definitely won’t sway a plurality of decision-makers. Given that the NASL is in talks with US Soccer in a desperate bid to stay afloat, it’s possible that the report was released in order to establish some leverage in whatever negotiations are happening right now. For the moment, however, the only thing this report is likely to do is instigate more Twitter fights.

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