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How to do promotion & relegation in MLS

So Jurgen Klinsmann, US Men’s National team coach is back at it again. In a German publication, he’s saying that MLS should adopt promotion and relegation because it would make the league more exciting.

Status quo says this will never happen in America. The reason isn’t what you think. Conventional wisdom says US owners would never allow their franchises to lose value in a promotion and relegation system, but what needs to happen isn’t a system where teams exist and have to be relegated to a lower tier if they get relegated.

Instead, dream of a scenario where MLS has several tiers, but only one tier is championship eligible.

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This could work in any sport. So for instance, in a 48-team league, only the top 24 teams are title eligible. The rest are technically still in MLS and play games against other teams. TV money for relegated teams could be somehow less or instead, the lower level teams would have a separate TV deal that would allow them to buffer their losses from being relegated and only being eligible for the entire tv deal. Rather than teams getting a fixed amount from league TV deals each year, TV revenues would be pooled into a separate fund that would then pay teams annually based on the composition of the league.

The beauty of this model is, leagues could continue to grow. You can charge expansion fees as needed and have teams that are major league exist in cities that would otherwise never get a chance to play in the big leagues. But only the champions of the respective “tiers” would get promoted to the major level.

So it’ll never happen. But by sectioning off the leagues, you get to create a big-tent major league without truly creating a “separate” league. So less Premier League separating from The Football League and more like a world where MLB and its minor leagues were coexisting in one uniform league structure.

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