Philly Soccer News published a brief story yesterday about a new professional soccer league reportedly kicking off in 2014 under the name American Professional Soccer (APS). So far teams are planned in Boston, Philadelphia, New Jersey, Maryland, Rhode Island, New Hampshire and an unknown location in the Midwest. According to the Philly Soccer News report the league plans on operating regionally at first before expanding its national footprint.
At this point, there are more questions than answers about this new league. It seems that any professional league seeking credibility would seek sanctioning from the Unites States Football Federation (USSF), and assuming APS does seek sanctioning, will they look to supplant the NPSL and PDL as a ‘professional’ fourth division? Or will they attempt to go head to head with USL Pro or NASL for second or third division status? Any way you slice this, the last thing we need is another regional ‘pro’ league with national ambitions. As it stands USL Pro and NASL don’t even have true nationwide footprints – and they are far more established than any new upstart pro league can hope to be.
USSF needs to step in and create true league standards for sanctioned leagues all the way down the pyramid. And this doesn’t just hold true for the APS. It stands for the American National Soccer League (which appears to be an offshoot founded by clubs from the defunct National Stars Soccer League) and members of the more recently defunct Southern Premier Soccer League (some of the SPSL clubs have since joined the NPSL). I’m sure these club and league owners have a great dream and a lot of heart for the beautiful game, but further fracturing the professional landscape in this country only sets back its development. As it stands there are good options at all levels of the pyramid for aspiring club owners. There are a host of USASA sanctioned leagues operating at local levels where clubs can be run on extremely small budgets. The NPSL represents another affordable option with a truly national footprint. United Soccer Leagues offers several quality leagues on both the men’s and women’s side of the game from the youth level, up to fourth division PDL, through third division USL Pro. For owners with even more ambition and financial clout there is second division NASL.
I will readily admit each of these leagues has their own set of issues. But they are all reasonably established and offer a wide variety of options to cater to club owners particular desires. In fact, there are professional clubs operating in both the NPSL and PDL. By starting yet another league all we are doing is diluting the upper ends of the pyramid and perpetuating the instability that already plagues our second, third, and fourth divisions.