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The “Relegation Bowl” is set for kickoff: D.C. United vs. Toronto FC

Aug 24, 2013, 6:50 PM EDT

Luis Silva AP

This is “naughty me” at work, stirring up a stink among the set convinced that Major League Soccer will only be taken seriously once the concept of relegation-promotion is put to good and proper use.

Believe me, MLS has many laps to go before finishing this race – but relegation-promotion is not the rocket fuel that will propel things substantially faster.

It is simply unlikely to ever happen here; TV contracts being what they are, modern ownership being what it is, the domestic sports world simply may not allow it. At the very least, we are a decade-plus from anything that looks like relegation promotion.

But …

The match kicking off shortly at RFK Stadium in Washington, D.C., certainly is a case where relegation would pay off. Because if there was ever to be a “relegation six-pointer” in Major League Soccer, this bad boy would surely be it.

Toronto is 9th in the Eastern Conference standings; D.C. United is 10th. These are the only team in the East currently not relevant in playoff talk – a darn shame considering how tightly packed things are among the eight that are relevant.

As it is, there is no compelling reason for many folks beyond these two markets to care about what happens tonight at RFK, other perhaps than the subplot of United’s attack being led by two for Reds, Dwayne De Rosario and Luis Silva (pictured). Silva’s bright performance at RFK surely has Toronto fans wondering, “Uh, remind us why we let that guy go?”

There’s also Ryan Nelson, TFC’s coach, returning to the stadium where he made his MLS bones.

Otherwise, just hold out for better games tonight. Of course, that would be a little different if top-flight survival was on the line. See … me being naughty again. Consider yourself agitated.

FYI, the “Relegation Bowl” headline was inspired by my friends at Black and Red United and Waking the Red. (And apologies for getting the TFC blog’s name wrong last week.)

The lineups are here.

  1. footballer4ever - Aug 24, 2013 at 7:32 PM


    “This is “naughty me” at work, stirring up a stink ”

    Yes, Steve….you sure like to stir things up…..

    First, before relegation and promotion might have a chance, football,must be loved and supported by most in this country more like other stablished sports are to even brinf that up. However, there are still day-dreamers who swear this will be the solution to anything ailing football is the land of the British rebels. (Stirring my own pot here). Let’s make sure our current and soon to arrive football clubs not only fill their own stadiums to capacity, but that at least us football fans are able to put up tv ratings expected to be a success.

    The other thing, please stay away from using terminology from the other adulterated football, American style, to relate to ours (U.S. and world style). It does not do anything to the story and instead it dumbs it down. My humble opinion as a respectful reader and commenter. Thank you.

  2. talgrath - Aug 25, 2013 at 4:35 AM

    There are two big problems with relegation and promotion in MLS.

    1. Franchise: Each team is not wholly owned by the owners. MLS sells the owners a “franchise”, much like a McDonald’s franchise you can’t just do whatever you want with it. Just as your local McDonald’s franchise can’t start serving french bread, MLS owners have to follow a set of restrictions. MLS owners can’t move their team at a whim, it has to be approved by the board (made up of the other MLS owners), the same goes for re-branding your team or even changing the logo. In exchange for all of those restrictions, you get this guarantee: you will get a portion of MLS revenue and you will play the same number of games in MLS as every other team, competing for the MLS cup. In order for MLS to cut a team out of MLS, they have to buy back the franchise or prove the owner violated the terms of said franchise contract, a relegated team, since the relegated owner knows they are relegated, they can set whatever price they want, not gonna happen.

    2. Geography: America is a rather unique nation, it is both large in terms of landmass and has a surprisingly dispersed population. Most large nations have a few dense areas of population, nearly half of Russia is inhospitable to humans, most of Russia’s population is in the southern areas of the country or along the coasts. Similarly, Brazil’s thick rain forests mean that most of the population live along the coast. Relegating a team in MLS may mean plunging an entire area into a lack of professional, first tier soccer in a way other, more established leagues with relegation simply don’t have. Relegating a team in the Premier League means that, at worst, you face a two hour drive to see first tier soccer, most of Russia and Brazil’s major cities have multiple teams that can be relegated due to population density by comparison. If you relegate say, Columbus for example, the nearest 1st tier soccer team is in Chicago, over 5 hours away; by comparison when Wigan was relegated last season, the nearest 1st tier is just over an hour and a half away (yes yes, Wigan fans may not have stopped going to see Wigan, but the option is there if they want to root for a 1st tier team in person). Relegation could plunge an entire region in to a realm where MLS doesn’t exist.

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