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Pro/Rel in MLS: How it could work.


May 21, 2011
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My concept:

First, MLS grows to a 26 club MLS First Division. Afterwards, MLS opens up opportunities to enter the MLS Second Division (MLS-2).

Any club can apply, but in order to enter MLS-2, clubs must meet certain “Initial Entrance” (IE) criteria:

Stadium size (18k-22k)
Attendance (70% minimum)
Expansion Fee Payment of $20M

Expansion opportunities opens every 4 years, after the World Cup. The first expansion will bring in 8 clubs meeting IE criteria. Second expansion and each expansion thereafter will bring in a maximum of 6 clubs. MLS-2 caps at 26 clubs.

With the MLS crest, name, and brand behind them, MLS-2 clubs should experience increases in revenue and profitability. New MLS-2 clubs remain in the second division for a two-year probationary period. During this time, these clubs, regardless of success on the pitch, are ineligible for promotion.

After probation is complete, MLS-2 clubs will become eligible for promotion into the First Division provided that MLS First Division Fitness (FDF) standards are met. FDF standards include:

MLS Profitability Standard
Robust Commercial and Marketing Development
Sponsorship, including Stadium Sponsorship
Local TV Contract
Creation of a Reserve Team
Complete Academy system (u-13, u-16, u-18, u-20)
MLS Standard Front Office, Technical, and Medical staffs


MLS relegates its bottom 2 clubs each year to MLS-2 and promotes two MLS-2 clubs provided the MLS-2 clubs are eligible for promotion.
Relegated clubs are immediately eligible for promotion the following season.
The two clubs promoted from MLS-2 will be the club with the best record and a playoff winner.
The top four clubs in MLS-2 will compete in an annual playoff.
If the Playoff Winner also has the best record, then the Runner Up in the playoff promotes.
If the Playoff Winner/Best Record/Runner Up is not eligible for promotion, no club from MLS or MLS-2 promotes/relegates.
If the Runner Up is the only eligible club for promotion, it does not promote.
The Runner Up only promotes if the Playoff Winner is also eligible.
The "Back-to-Back" Rule: If a club wins two consecutive MLS-2 championships, this club is hereby eligible for promotion in the following MLS season regardless of their current FDF standards position.


Due to pro/rel, the Eastern Conferences shall be re-named the American Conference and the Western Conference renamed the National Conference. To keep with existing rivalries, no current MLS clubs will change conferences, and MLS-2 clubs will be promoted within the conference that suits them geographically


MLS works out a TV deal for the MLS-2. This is included within the framework of the new TV deal that begins in 2022. MLS-2 receives 33 nationally televised matches a year, including the MLS-2 Championship and playoffs games. Also, each MLS-2 club works out a local TV contract.

Revenue sharing:

Revenue sharing is handled on a 70-30 formula. MLS First division receives 70% of all total MLS revenues and MLS-2 clubs receive 30%.

USL relegation

If an ineligible club is unable to attain FDF standards for a period of 8 consecutive years, it re-enters a probationary period whereby the club must achieve and maintain FDF standards for two years. If after four years, the standards have not been maintained for two years, the club shall be relegated to the USL Third Division. The club shall be eligible immediately the next season for promotion into MLS-2. Footnote: USL Clubs are not eligible for promotion into MLS-2 unless they have met the IE criteria for MLS-2 or if they are an MLS-Reserve club.


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