Stop what you’re doing and read the excellent SocTakes analysis of turnover in the NPSL.

Are you back? OK.

I want this shirt.

If you’ve followed lower division soccer over the years, you know this isn’t a recent phenomenon. Go back and look up the names in the old A-League on Wikipedia, where some kind soul listed each team’s dates of birth and death. For many of the teams, that doesn’t tell the whole story — the Carolina Dynamo existed and thrived for several years before the A-League and USISL merged, and they retrenched as a successful PDL team. But if gives you an idea.

If you wanted to do a spreadsheet akin to the one SocTakes did of NPSL teams, you’d run into a lot of complications along those lines. Teams rebrand, change leagues, go on hiatus, etc. I thought about it and then realized I had other things I really had to do. (I’m doing live curling commentary on Friday. Check it out.)

OK, fine, I did one.

This should cover every team that played in the nominally professional USISL/USL leagues (which launched in 1995) and the NASL. It does not include long-standing teams that have only played amateur soccer in the PDL or elsewhere (apologies, Des Moines Menace). Nor does it include APSL teams (apologies, San Francisco Bay Blackhawks) that didn’t stick around to play past the USISL/A-League merger.

I cross-checked Dave Litterer’s archive, Wikipedia and official team sites until I was blue in the face. If you see any corrections, please let me know. Going back to, say, 1990 or even 1985 would be the next logical step.

I’ve also ignored MLS reserve teams, including MLS Project 40, which existed.

The next step was the toughest. I tried to figure out how many of these teams have or had youth programs. I’d be happy for any crowdsourcing help here. As it stands, it’s not all that easy to figure out if a club named, say, “Dragons” is (A) a youth program that existed when the Jersey Dragons played in the USISL in 1994-95, (B) a youth program named after the Dragons, or (C) just coincidentally using the same name.

Then try to figure out whether the youth program preceded the senior team. I’m not even completely sure whether that’s true for the Richmond Kickers, a gargantuan youth program with a senior team attached. Both have existed since the mid-90s. Which came first?

So I’ll keep plugging my way through it. I’m pretty sure I have all the relevant teams and their histories, though perhaps some of them are still plugging away in amateur leagues. I’ll happily take help on that and youth programs.

But what I’d conclude so far:

Having multiple options is a good thing. Self-relegate if needed — note all the teams that dropped out of the pro ranks and started playing PDL or other amateur leagues.

My hypothesis: Teams are better off if they’re organic outgrowths of a existing club.

Or maybe the whole club is formed at once.

That’s the idea. Input welcome.


One thought on “NPSL turnover and why we need youth clubs to build up, not vice versa

  1. By what metric are you evaluating “better off?” I would say there doesn’t seem to be much correlation between club longevity and having a youth structure (from the admittedly limited data you’ve been able to rustle up so far), though the youth setups tend to have survived past the professional club’s demise (which could actually be a way to measure “better off,” albeit a bit self-selecting).


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