Since reading a piece on asking Don Garber yet again about a pyramid system in the MLS. Garbers static answer is, "fans don't want that". But Garber is from a time when fans didn't understand the value of a tie and loved the colors teal and purple. Which is why it's funny that the Colorado Rockies stuck with purple because their expansion cousins (the former Florida Marlins) cut teal several years ago. Even the D-backs and Tampa Rays (both born in 1999) have re-branded at least once, losing one or both of the aforementioned colors. I hate the color purple and buy all my Rockies gear with as little as possible. So Garber just says that to get the reporters off of his back while changing the subject. Really no soccer reporter has enough juice to call him out about it either. Or it's not worth getting black-balled for a reporter to bring it up.
What happens when people usually write about solving the answer of making the promotion/relegation system work is they don't look big picture and miss the logistics of business into their arguement. Usually their business plans involve a billionaire to start teams and absorb the huge costs of running a franchise while not having sufficient television exposure and little to no marketing budget. Why should a billionaire just spend all this money for maybe a payoff 15-20 years from now? They don't get to be billionaires by trying to get a profit two decades from now.
What's the most coveted demographic? Males 18-34. Tobacco marketing "guy" will tell you to get a consumer hooked on a product young and you can get them for life. What institution has infra-structure for the young side of the most coveted demographic? What institution has the tv networks already in place for at least regional exposure? Sometimes national? What institution has the local scouting structure already in place? Public and private universities.
What would seem to be the first barrier is the NCAA. They have so many problems right now that the power conference football teams want to disassociate from the group. So it's not out of the realm of possibility that soccer could do this. Even if you have ten strong college based teams you couple that with the already established brands and it sounds like a pretty good first division. The beauty of this idea is that if you scout and coach your players well enough, your team will rise up from the lower divisions.
A perfect world for this idea would be a school starts a youth team and a senior team. Shirt sponsors and generous donors hopefully will pay enough for the expenses. Your brand will already have a long track record. Most colleges are over 100 years old. Most college towns don't have a professional team. Obviously the schools with a gloried past with have less trouble getting fans to the gates. Say the New York Cosmos come to Boulder for the U.S. Open Cup? Think that will be an easy ticket?
Pretty much every school that has a great soccer program play in a decent stadium. With the USL playing on the FIFA schedule, it would be easy for the students to go to a Sunday soccer match. Or the occasional Wednesday night. So the logistical problem of where the new teams will play and who will attend in the beginning is a lot easier.
Another problem for a new league is how to get on television. You're not cool as a conference if you don't have your own network. Right now the USL has a internet feed that will break down if more than ten visiting teams supporters try to log on. The viewing quality of the college teams will be better because the local broadcasters will know the angles to shoot because they work in the stadium all the time and have good light to use. Which is not the case for where some of the USL teams play now. Also the San Jose Earthquakes television watching is a joke. The conference networks are always looking for programming and what about some first division soccer? Better than women's softball. The fact that people will watch playoffs for promotion and relegation games is much more than just MLS playoffs. It will solve a problem all other sports leagues not named the NFL are having. Making a regular season matter.
Youth scouting networks will have a leg up on competition with recruiting already being in place for the college game. The most important thing in recruiting is to build relationships with the youth leagues and that will already exist.
If a university starts a senior program then they already have a feeder program in place. This team will have built in brand recognition. This team has the opportunity to get the most important consumers through the gate and it will have the all-important television advertising money which is the way that every sport that has aspirations to be known world-wide makes money. This plan will depend on generous benefactors starting the teams out with required costs. But when you drive through Lincoln, Nebraska or Laramie, Wyoming or any other college town that the tallest building is the schools stadium then you know that except for baseball the way that a sport grows in popularity is through college. Maybe if universities can get behind soccer in this way it will raise the bar for soccer in the United States.