Cosmos’ Savarese: Pro/Rel “needs to exist” in U.S. — just not right now

Last week’s spat between MLS Commissioner Don Garber and U.S. Men’s National Team boss Jurgen Klinsmann unleashed a hornet’s nest of debate on the state of soccer in America.

One of the biggest takeaways, of course, is the Commissioner’s belief that the growth of soccer in this country is inextricably linked to the success MLS. This, just days after Klinsmann declined to define the hierarchy of power within the country’s competing leagues while simultaneously pining for a promotion/relegation system.

New York Cosmos Head Coach and Technical Director Giovanni Savarese brings a unique perspective to the debate. The former Venezuelan striker made his name as an original 96er with Major League Soccer’s Metrostars. In fact, he dedicated over a decade of his life as a player, and then as the head of Red Bulls Academy program, in promoting the league nationwide. Likewise, Savarese joined the Cosmos at the ground level. Much like his jaunt in MLS, he has become a vocal supporter not only for his team, but the NASL as a whole.

While a proponent for the pro/rel system, Savarese issues cautionary support to those who seek immediate change.

“Sometime in the future, a promotion and relegation system needs to exist in order to be able to put a better structure to soccer in the United States,” Savarese asserts. “I know the United States has been used to working in franchises that can move from one city to another city, but soccer is a sport that moves completely different than other sports.”

The NASL has made no bones about their desire to see an eventual promotion/relegation system in this country. Likewise, MLS has fought the idea tooth-and-nail, touting their success within a closed franchise system to eschew the need for such a format.

Despite his support, the Cosmos boss recognizes several practical obstacles that would prevent that change in today’s game, particularly stemming from the structure of MLS.

“I do see that we are reaching a point where [pro/rel] would be a necessity,” Savarese said, adding, “I think as well the time is not yet set at this moment. Teams need to continue growing in order to incorporate in a system like that — especially in the MLS when teams have paid [exorbitant expansion fees]. It would be difficult to see that structure from an MLS standpoint.”

While the debate rages on, Savarese, who has also plied his trade in the lower echelons of the U.S. Soccer ‘pyramid,’ celebrates soccer’s expansion in America as a whole. Like Klinsmann, the Cosmos boss looks at the pro/rel conversation as a healthy extension to the growth narrative surrounding soccer in the United States.

“Personally, I think everything that is happening right now in the United States is positive,” he said. “Having an MLS that is growing, having an NASL that is growing, with USL incorporating entities like Sacramento, with leagues like PDL and NPSL that are expanding, I think everything is channeling right now to a very good direction.

“The future is looking very bright.”

And while touting a message of growth, the Cosmos boss even finds a common thread between both sides in this endless debate.

“It is interesting,” he observes. “All these discussions and opinions of many, many people are just pushing so that soccer grows.”

Now that is a statement everyone can agree with.


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  • LetsGoMos

    Heresy. Pro/Rel now so we can get the Mos’ into MLS. Us Mos’ fans don’t care if it makes sense financiarelly. MLS owners can foot the bill.

  • Mark

    No one is saying this has to happen tomorrow. However some forward thought by the USSF would be nice. Set a date, 10 maybe 15 years down the road and say this is when we will start pro/rel. Let owners use the time to either gear up for earning promotion/staying up or for them to sell. The time would also allow for investment in the lower divisions. I guarantee NASL teams immediately become more sought after. Do you think Saputo would have bought Bologna without pro/rel? No, so it would make sense the lack of it here is hampering investment in our lower divisions.

  • Andrew Bissonette

    I really think with the growth of the lower divisions(NASL and USL) that we need to experiment first with those divisions. In 5-10 years. We’ll have enough teams in those divisions to create 3 divisions in a setup very similar to the Football League in England. Have those divisions institute pro/rel and test it out for a 5+ years and see how it works. If in a decade or so after its instituted it appears to be financially stable, explore including MLS into the pro/rel and go from there.

  • Let’s get some bumper stickers made:

    Klinsmann/Savarese 2016

  • My comment here has nothing to do with Pro/Rel. Dave this is the kind of soccer news that really drives the sport forward, not the drivel that someone like ChavezMLS likes to spew. As you can see the MLS media has a few problems with it currently & i think staying away from that kind of PR journalism is exactly what soccer fans want. Real soccer news with a perspective.

  • Smith

    I agree. This is an actual artice with insights as opposed to a fanboy going on about a team that hasn’t actually played a game yet.

  • The real Stan

    Wouldn’t mind NASL doing pro rel by themselves if they reach 20 -24plus teams, since they don’t have conferences seems easy enough, promotion to MLS won’t happen, not from USL pro or NASL

  • Marco

    Won’t happen, not now, not ever. It’s a legacy in countries where the sport has been played for 100+ years, where today’s clubs started out as actual amateur sporting clubs (think NYAC here in New York) not businesses, and is now just entrenched tradition. Won’t happen here, won’t happen in Australia or in any of the other Asian and Middle Eastern relatively new soccer markets. American leagues with playoff races can be just as exciting as pro-rel battles. It always seems to be the NASL fans clamoring for it. Funny how nobody calls for pro-rel in the NFL, the NBA, MLB or NHL. It’s simply because it’s dominant in Europe…and we must become a ‘proper’ footballing nation. Hogwash.

  • Hey Dumbass

    It’s not dominant in Europe, it’s dominant in 99% of the World ! MLS had it’s chance & it’s failing because the people running it don’t know a soccer ball from pumpkin. If you had soccer people running things it might have a chance but with Garber types around it will never succeed.

  • EL Paso tx

    I don’t know what kind of plans NASL have but pro/reg needs to happen, in a very unique way to begin with.
    What if MLS makes an MLS2, then what happens to NASL.
    I say MLS expands to 28 teams, then MLS reserves ONE spot or TWO spots in each conference making total of 30 teams or 32.
    But no MLS1 team gets relegated , it will be a battle to stay in MLS1 within the promoted teams. Let them play one or two seasons and which ever promoted team does the least points then the team gets relegated.
    Then the champion and runner up of MLS2 gets promoted .

  • drm21892

    Not sure I really understood what the guy above me was saying, but even as a Cosmos fan I don’t think we are ready for pro/rel. Until most of if not all the NASL teams are capable of expanding stadiums in order to draw similar attendance numbers, attract tv contracts etc. it will never happen. Now lets say the Cosmos get their stadium approved, San Antonio can expand to 18K and Indy Eleven has plans for an 20K stadium, along with more lower division teams having aspirations such as Sacramento (even though they aren’t NASL), then the discussion for pro/rel can happen.

  • Here is how I would’ve headlined it:

    Savarese Says US Must Eventually Adopt Promotion-Relegation System

    Great article though…

  • Trayton

    Why does pro/rel “put a better structure to soccer in the United States” ? This article is all about Pro/Rel should happen but here are the obstacles to it happening. It does nothing to advance the discussion about why Pro/Rel is good for US Soccer; it assumes it is good by fiat.

  • Henry

    See Dave’s excellent write-up on Klinsmann’s remarks on pro/rel here: http://www.empireofsoccer.com/finding-meaning-klinsmanns-29336/. It’s a good breakdown of the pros and cons.


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