Soccer Twitter is much like political Twitter in that it reveals a huge divide – with a healthy dose of infighting.
Some are all-in with Major League Soccer – the golden child of the United States Soccer Federation – and believe the closed professional pyramid that includes the United Soccer League and its three branches is all well and good.
Then again, there are those among the USL faithful who have issues with MLS and wouldn’t mind a hostile takeover.
People who like to see their clubs grow from a community sprout have little use for franchise soccer, and find themselves at odds with the “bought not built” model.
And many of us want America to follow the world’s lead and adopt a system of promotion and relegation.
Throw in the National Women’s Soccer League, the fledgling National Independent Soccer Association and amateur loops such as the National Premier Soccer League, United Premier Soccer League and Women’s Premier Soccer League, and you have thousands of different voices screaming in hundreds of different directions and making an incredible amount of noise.
If you think soccer Twitter is lively now, though, imagine what it would’ve been like had it existed back in 1993. In case you’ve forgotten, are too young remember or never cared to begin with, that was a huge year for American soccer.
With the first World Cup coming to the United States in 1994, the country had a mandate from FIFA to establish a Division 1 league.
Originally such a league was supposed to be in place by 1992, so FIFA was already getting antsy about the delay. But officials from the USSF promised one would be established no later than 1995, and soccer’s mad dash for a major league was on.
The primary candidates were the Super League proposed by the USSF and something known as League One America.
The existing American Professional Soccer League waited in the wings, with its officials thinking the APSL could be in the mix if given a fair shake.
League One America had the wildest aspirations – by far.
The brainchild of Chicago businessman Jim Paglia, League One would be a single entity model with 12 teams playing in 20,000-seat stadiums constructed specifically for the league. There would also be “adjacent entertainment complexes and exhibit halls” so the matches would be part of events.
Players would make an average of $65,000 per season with individual and team performance incentives.
But League One America was all about the Americanization of the game, and its proposed rule changes turned association football into a whole new sport.
There would be tiered points depending on where the ball was kicked (the pitch would be divided into sections) and which player kicked it. According to a retrospective written for The Guardian back in 2016, points ranged from “one for a striker to three for a defender, and a team could earn an extra half point if their player scored between the posts of the traditional-sized goal and a new, larger outer goal that was being proposed.”
“Admittedly our proposal is more radical, but it is also more workable,” Paglia told the Orlando Sentinel in a December, 1993, story. “You combine all of our elements and you lower the risk factor.”
Such a league would’ve been interesting, but it wouldn’t have been soccer as anyone knew it.
The USSF eyed 12 teams in major U.S. markets playing in a league with USSF president and World Cup Organizing Committee head Alan Rothenberg serving as commissioner.
It would function as a single entity for three years before stadium owners could buy “licensing rights” from the league.
“There are elements in the World Cup organization, people in the venues, in operations and marketing who are among the best and the brightest,” Rothenberg told the Hartford Courant for a July, 1993, story. “They could be the core of the management group for a new league.”
As for the APSL, which had existing teams in Denver, Fort Lauderdale, Los Angeles, Montreal, Tampa Bay, Toronto and Vancouver, it hoped to formulate a business plan that would allow it to attain Division 1 status and possibly merge with any other “major” league that might be formed following the World Cup.
Los Angeles Salsa president William De La Peña, who was also a member of the USSF board of directors, told the Tampa Tribune in November, 1993, he wanted a fair process.
“I don’t believe the (USSF) is in any position to approve only one plan to control soccer in this country,” he said. “We would have some reservations about anti-trust violations. We could have the three leagues all coordinate together and let the market determine which system works best.”
Of course in the end, the USSF idea won.
The Super League plan morphed into Major League Soccer, which was founded in 1995 and started play with 10 franchises in 1996.
The APSL was rebranded as the A-League in 1995 (and its remnants ultimately became part of the USL), and League One America never got beyond the drawing board.
One can only imagine the cussing and discussing on Twitter while these organizations were making their plays.
Fortunately for the argumentative types, domestic soccer is as dysfunctional as ever, and remains tasty fodder for Twitter fights.
Oh, I almost forgot to mention this tidbit. Shortly after the World Cup was awarded to the United States in 1988, the USSF drew up a development plan for the sport. One of its key features was promotion/relegation.
Feel free to Tweet among yourselves …
* This story was updated to clarify information about the APSL.