Dick’s Sporting Goods Park AND United Premier Soccer League stadiums in Colorado, southern California, Arizona, Nevada, and Idaho — Like two huge snowstorms for ski season, Colorado soccer will receive short-term and long-term bounty from California.
Short-term: On Sunday, Leg Two of the Rapids/gaLAxy MLS Western Conference semifinal series kicks off at noon in Commerce City. The Los Angeles Galaxy currently lead with a 1–0 advantage from the first game in California last week. Devout Rapids fans squirreled away warm clothes for all the home games through December 10, 2016.
Long-term: Also coming from California, promotion/relegation returns to Colorado and the United States. Read the United Premier Soccer League press release here, but return to Current of Colorado here throughout the seasons and playoffs to see how your top-flight semi-amateur squads rise and fall on the national scale. (Hint: Even in land-locked Colorado, the marina is overflowing. All boats are rising.)
The UPSL will begin the pro/rel shuffle process by introducing two tiers in February 2017: UPSL Pro Premier Division and UPSL Championship Division. With more than 60 teams in UPSL, each conference will include clubs from both divisions. By the end of the second season, Championship playoffs will determine promotion for two teams. The bottom two Premier Division members automatically drop, echoing like a dead squirrel thrown into an empty dumpster before the ex-girlfriend adds gasoline, newspaper, and a match.
Pro/rel was the norm in Colorado for the equivalent strata of hungry players during the 1980s. In the immediate wake of the NASL, top players fought among the top 60 teams in the Colorado Amateur Soccer League in the Denver area, rising and falling through three divisions. A smattering of other excellent teams spread across the state like oversized whales in shrinking ponds. It was all amateur, and it was all they had at the time.
Today’s teams invest significantly more money, time, and effort, and their quality deserves professional recognition. They have performed at a high standard for many years, but the only way to get noticed before joining the UPSL was to make a long-shot investment in the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup. The amateur team that advances farthest receives a kickback from U.S. Soccer, although it’s a fraction of the money required to travel that far in the tournament. In Colorado, our top eight teams arguably have a shot at the tiny piece of pie within reach via the LHUSOC. Within the current soccer pyramid, teams heading toward the pro pinnacle have a tough climb.
Instead, the initial group of Colorado teams will play their first UPSL games in 2017, opening the door for other top-tier teams in Colorado to join them on the promotion to professionalism. Stay tuned as details unfold and discussions continue.