The other day, Julius and I were having a casual conversation about the state of affairs in the PD. He mentioned to me that there have been very few compelling and competitive games in the PD. The PD today is very top heavy with Potomac, 22Yards, Jamaica and Virginia as the cream of the crop and Titans, Cosmos, Boyds, Tigers, Wolves a few notches below them and Nitro, Sri Lankan, Urbana struggling to be competitive. This led me to think is there a better way to reorganize the top 2 Divisions to make them more competitive and interesting and provide the best players in the league an opportunity to compete at the highest level? The answer is yes. Here is a proposal that I present (The league can brainstorm on it and make adjustments as they see fit).

I believe the league should reduce the number of PD team to 8 (6 would be ideal but difficult to do). The league needs to recognize that each year the level of competition in the PD will only get more fierce. As more and more high caliber outside players come in, the teams that have fewer resources (money) will be at a competitive disadvantage. But that can change without putting restrictions on teams that wish to bring in outside players. Here is my proposal: Allow players from D1 and D2 teams to play in the PD without having to leave their lower Division teams. Here is the formula:

Allow PD teams to have a maximum of 11 lower division players on their roster as “guest” players, on a sliding scale. But first, define what an outside player is. Category 1 outside player should be one that is an overseas player (non-US resident player). Category 2 player should be one that is a US resident but non-local. Then, for each Category 1 player that a team brings, it loses 3 slots for the “guest” (Division 1 or 2) player and 4 slots for any subsequent Category 1 player. For example, if a team brings two Category 1 players, then they lose 7 lower “guest” D1/D2 player slots (3+4=7), and can only have 4 “guest” slots; and if they bring 3 Category 1 players, they cannot have any lower Division “guest” players in the team.

For Category 2 players, the formula should be 2 vacated spots for the 1st player and then plus one for each subsequent Category 2 player added. So for example, if a team adds two Category 2 players, then they lose 2+3=5 lower Division player slots. Teams that combine Category 1 and Category 2 players, lose slots accordingly. For example if a team brings two Cat 1 and one Cat 2 players, then they lose 3+4+2 = 9 slots.

Such a formula serves many purposes:

1. Teams are free to bring in as many outside players as they choose.
2. Teams that bring less or no outside players get a chance to become more competitive by having the opportunity to bolster their roster by leveraging quality lower Division players.
3. Players who are good enough to play for PD teams, but don’t wish to leave their lower Division teams have an opportunity to do both.
4. Teams playing in PD get more competitive and reduces the number of one sided games.

Outside players coming to play in WCL is a reality, and it’s a losing battle for those who are fighting to eliminate this. We live in a free society and this is a recreational league where anybody and everyone is allowed to play. It makes little sense to restrict participation. But what the league can do is increase the competitiveness of the teams that don’t have the resources to bring outside players. Nobody wants to see teams work hard to come up to the higher Division, only to struggle, not enjoy themselves, and subsequently go down after 1 year. PD shouldn’t be a revolving door.

The next question is how do we enforce this? The players playing in their “guest” upper Division teams should only be allowed to play 50% of the games, plus the playoffs. In no regular season game should the number of “guest” players be greater than 6 (i.e. 6 lower Division players playing in the PD team). This ensures that these players will play 50% of the games in their “resident” teams. This helps to ensure that the lower Division teams aren’t at risk of not having their key players available for key games. The management of the “resident” team gets to mark 4 games that their players MUST play, regardless of conflict with their respective players’ “Guest” team.

At the beginning of the year, each PD team must declare who their Category 1, Category 2 and “Guest” players will be and this list cannot change throughout the season (no transfer of “guest” player from one PD team to another, unless they are transferring as a “resident” player to another PD team).

Imagine a game where Urbana, for example, is playing vs 22yards. This will allow Urbana to field up to 6 players (assuming they don’t have Category 1 or Category 2 players) from lower Division teams to bolster their roster for that game. This allows them to be competitive, the opposition gets a good game, and the lower Division players gain valuable experience playing against higher level competition to sharpen their skills, which benefits their “resident” team as well. Another benefit of this approach is that a high quality lower Division player will be less inclined to leave his team to play in a higher Division team since he is already getting that opportunity. We have seen over the past few years that it becomes difficult for lower Division teams to retain good players. Another added benefit is that when a team gets demoted from PD to D1, the team can still retain the core of its players, as they will still have an opportunity to play at the higher Division, if they so choose.

By reducing the number of PD teams to 6 or 8, you are now giving the remaining PD teams a larger pool of quality players to choose from, thus making both D1 and PD more competitive. My recommendation is that D1 also be reduced to 8 or 10 teams. This will increase the quality of D1, along with it’s prestige. In addition, just as PD had the option of playing both D1 and D2 players, provide D1 the option of bringing in D2 players as “guest” players. This allows more players from all Divisions to experience higher level competition without having to leave their current teams in the lower Division.

I think status quo is not an option, and the league should, at a minimum, begin to think about how they can better serve the member teams and players. I propose a committee be formed that looks into various options and this committee reports back to the EC, and then EC brings the short listed proposals to the membership at-large and get their buy-in. Such changes shouldn’t be imposed on the membership. The membership deserves a chance to have their say before a final solution/format is adopted by the league.

Before I end, I want to say that one of the key reasons why I wrote this is because when at the end of last year Vivek Patel left Zolon for Fairfax, I was disappointed. He is a quality player who has the caliber to play in PD. But he also has friends in Fairfax, and it is closer to home. With this option, he can have both and help both teams. Similarly, players like Shahid Munir, Zee, Mohammed Ahmed, and many others have the ability to play at a higher level. They deserve a chance, without having to leave their teams.

This isn’t necessarily the proposal that the league adopts. But I hope this becomes a catalyst to begin the discussion for a much needed change. It’s incumbent upon the league leadership to have a strategic vision to ensure that the league remains a viable and valuable entity.


 

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