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One of the arguments I hear about the MLS is that it's not a 'real' First division because there's too many teams and no pro/rel. One of the arguments against CPL I hear in various forums is that it won't be a 'real' First division because of the so much better top divisions worldwide. It got me to thinking what makes a typical first division so I thought I'd do some digging to determine what the average first division looks like I've been spending some of my spare time reviewing the professional structures of the various countries around the world from First to Third division to see what we could learn and implement for Canada. I reviewed the top 5 ranked countries of CAF, AFC, and CONEMBOL; the top ten ranked countries of UEFA; and most of the major CONCACAF countries. In my analysis I gathered data on stadium sizes, number of teams at each level, season length and format, and Promotion/Relegation formats. I then ranked those nations based on how similar they were to Canada's population (as an indicator of talent potential), Land area (as an indicator of increased operational costs), and Human Development Index (as an indicator of how much money a nation has to throw at a problem and discretionary income). I weighted Land area a little greater than the other two factors and came up with a score out of 10, with the results shown in the attached chart. There were some interesting conclusions I drew from the data: The majority of leagues in Europe, Asia, and Africa play a single season, while CONCACAF is almost completely Apertura/Clausura format. South American leagues are an even mix of the two styles. The average number of clubs in top flight is 15, with the majority holding between 12 and 20 clubs depending on how robust the structure of the national league is. Smaller leagues tend to use the Apertura/Clausura system to give the seasons some meaning. Almost all the Div 1 leagues are single table, except for the US and Cuba. Even all the Second Divisions in Europe and South America are single table. However, in Africa and Asia (and almost all of CONCACAF) you start to see second Divisions broken down into 2 or 3 regional groups, with playoffs to determine who gets promoted. By the time you get down to the Third division, most of the leagues are split into several regional groups that have playoffs for the right to join the second division, but then they have to meet the financial and logistical standards to be approved for promotion. Some of these leagues still have a problem with the financial dissolution of clubs at the end of a season, which can mess up the Pro/Rel expectations. Season lengths vary from a low of 18 (India) to a high of 44 (Costa Rica). 80% of the leagues I reviewed have a season of average between 26 and 38 games. Of those leagues, the winner is usually the team that stands at the top of the table after all the games are complete, but there are a couple of leagues (and most of CONCACAF) that hold playoffs to determine the league winner. A small proportion of leagues have a Championship round to determine the league winner. There are a handful of leagues that don't have any pro/rel from their first division, the majority relegate between 12% to 20% of their clubs every season, with a slightly higher proportion of pro/rel between second and third divisions. Most of the relegations are automatic, but promotions often involve some sort of playoffs. Most of the top clubs in each league play in stadiums of over 50,000, with poorer countries having at least a capacity of 15,000. But on the low end of the scale, some teams have stadium capacities of less than 5,000 - even in the richer nations. So how does this relate to the CPL? Well, we have a cold climate without room for a long season, but it doesn't look like a league has to play a lot of games to still develop national-level players. Playoffs aren't necessarily an anathema to the world soccer order, either. So if you guys were to dream, what would you envision as being the ultimate form of the Canadian Soccer leagues structure? For myself, I would like to see a 10-team First Division playing a 27-game season, with the top of the table being declared champion and the top 3 places winning CCL spots (the fourth spot would go the the Voyageurs Cup winner). The bottom two clubs would be relegated to their respective regional Division 2 Conference. The 18-team, 2-Conference, Division 2 league would also play a 27-game season, playing one game against each team in the opposing Conference and the remaining games in their home conference. The opposing conference games would be half at home and half away, to keep operating costs down, but show that they can handle the additional costs in Division 1 if promoted. The Conferences themselves would be fluid, with one possibly having more than the other depending on the location of the promoted/relegated teams each season. Regardless, the bottom Div 2 team at the end of each season would be in danger of being relegated to it's respective Division 3, if that Div 3 Champion team meets the fiscal and logistical requirements of promotion. I forsee L1O, LPSQ and a yet-to be formed Western league being the Div 3 incubators for new teams that want to climb the Pyramid, with size and format limitations set by each individual league. The Voyageurs Cup would be open to all teams at the three levels of the Pyramid and would provide additional games to bring the total number of competitive games played each season to 30 or more. I think 28 pro clubs and any number of semi-pro/amateur clubs is sustainable in a nation like Canada. What do you think?
Being the main story is hardly a new feeling for the official, as he was indefinitely suspended in the 2014 season after being charged with two counts of felony fraud for collecting over $14,000 in insurance payout while working. In Colorado, Jose Carlos Rivero only added to questions about his judgement as he appeared to be guessing when interpreting the laws of the game throughout the 90 minutes. Officiating is a tough task, and there is not a league in the world where fans would be unanimous in singing the praises of their referees, but all you can ask is for the official to be consistent and not affect the outcome of a game. Neither was completed on Saturday in Commerce City. The Professional Referee Organization was created in 2012 to address concerns over a lack of consistency in the application of the laws of the game, and while they’ve continued to push education and stability among the wardens of game, there continues to be a serious lack of dependability week in and week out. Integrity is likely not the problem, as it'd be giving too much credit to the officials. Instead, ineptitude is the most likely answer in yet another week in which officiating decisions change the outlook on the standings. This time, it is the Whitecaps on the wrong end of an official causing a critical three point swing, meaning the Whitecaps now only have one more match at home to try and build a buffer before setting out on a difficult five games on the road which could prove to have a massive impact on the Whitecaps positioning by the end of the season. And while the Whitecaps should feel that they are owed three points by the officials, the reality is they, too, have to be better to prove themselves to be a table topper. Going into half time, it appeared as though the Whitecaps would be the most likely to walk away from Commerce City with any points, but after an excellently taken goal by Lucas Pittinari, Vancouver again appeared clueless in how to break down a team who seemed happy to sit on a one goal advantage. Despite having little competition in the matter, Carl Robinson has shown he’s been the best manager in the Whitecaps short MLS history, but he again showed a reluctance to change the approach of a team who is struggling to break down defences. Like for like substitutions of Cristian Techera for Kianz Froese and Darren Mattocks for Kekuta Manneh were more hopeful than they were inspiring, and it took until the 77th minute before a defensive midfielder was taken out to try and change the dynamic of the game by adding another creative influence to try and expose the Rapids' defence. There were some bright spots. Mauro Rosales had a promising re-entry to the side, showing an ability to shrug off players and push the play forward that the Whitecaps have lacked of late. And Techera again looked lively when he came on and has likely earned himself another start as a wide attacker. The defensive spine of the team again shone, as Kendall Waston and Pa Modou Kah had good outings and David Ousted returned to his usual stellar form, despite conceding on what was an excellently taken goal. There is, unfortunately, no column in the standings for good efforts or moral victories, and while their performance wasn’t as poor as the officials in Colorado, they both have something in common; they need to be better.