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View From The Booth: The MPL

Greetings, United fans!


Today, the club made a very special announcement ... the team will be joining the new Midwest Premier League for the 2020 season!!


At present, the other two charter members of the MPL are our old friends at Union Dubuque, and our older friends, RWB Adria Chicago. The MPL will announce a fourth team next Wednesday, October 9, and will continue announcing new teams each Wednesday until the league's final roster of clubs is complete. Personally, I don't know who the other teams are or will be, but I'm sure our Board and President are fully aware of teams that have signed on or will be signing on. That being said, I believe we should allow the MPL to make those announcements as scheduled ... so please, don't ask them to spill the beans.


How does moving to the MPL affect you, our terrific fans? Well, from the outside, not much will change for you ... the club recently announced that we will once again be playing our home matches at NIU, so your gameday experience shouldn't change much ... though our crack staff is always looking for ways to improve your experience.


On the inside, the change is huge. As you may know, we played in two completely different divisions in our first two seasons, with the only constant being that Union Dubuque were partners in crime in both divisions. For a broadcaster, having to re-learn about brand new teams, and their players every year makes my job harder, but not impossible. But, if you're trying to grow a club, one of the things you hope to rely on are consistent opponents each and every year so that rivalries grow.


Imagine being a Chicago Fire fan, and having to face 17 brand new opponents every year. How could you learn to hate the Columbus Crew if they were in MLS one year, then out for a couple, then maybe back in, then maybe not?? Now, I understand that in European promotion/relegation leagues, there will always be 2-3 new teams each year ... but that means that 16-17 of the teams you played last year will be teams you play this year; you can't have a North London derby (Tottenham v Arsenal) or a Merseyside derby (Liverpool v Everton) if those teams are never in the same league year over year.


So, MPL will achieve some greater measure of stability. Why? Because it's a single league, and because the charter members will have a say in expansion or in replacing clubs that drop out (though, if the MPL is successful, teams won't want to drop out). Scheduling is easier, because, year after year, you know exactly which teams will be in the league, and which trips you'll be taking. In the UPSL, teams and divisions were fluid right up to nearly the beginning of the season. Heck, in 2019, Madison 56ers dropped out two days before the season started!!


Expansion will be controlled, as well. The UPSL is well-meaning, but this outsider's view is, and was, that UPSL would admit anyone with an entry fee to their league structure, and then put them someplace where teams were needed to fill out a division. The UPSL, in my opinion, is more interested in maximizing revenues, and not about helping local clubs like ours grow.


The MPL will be interested in stable team structures, stable membership, stable scheduling. And because all MPL members are part of that process, and have a vested interest in surviving as a league, the rising tide should lift all boats.


Gameday standards were absolutely non-existent in the UPSL. Some days, when I arrived at the stadium, we had lineups for both teams waiting. Other days, we'd have to wait and prod the visiting team to provide a roster just in time for Nik to announce the starting lineups. That's just not the way to run a league. There should be standards set: lineups to the press box no later than 30 minutes prior to kickoff, referees must signal stoppage time to both benches and the press box, lineup cards shouldn't be the team roster page from their website with no numbers and the players' pictures circled if they were starting, pronunciation guides for PA and live stream, PA announcers, live stream commentary, etc.


Lord knows I love the fact that we're the only team that does a real, live broadcast of our matches on MyCujoo.tv ... and I've enjoyed bringing you all the action. But it's tough when no other team is doing it. Knowing that you can't e-mail the live stream guy from Cedar Rapids to get a scouting report for when they come to town, or to talk about issues you're having with tech, or whatever. It's tough when you wonder why other teams don't want to promote their clubs via live stream.


I do this because I love soccer, and I love that United are doing something positive for the community, and I love being a small part of it. And if the MPL improves standards so that we can have not only a community of coaches, players, and fans but a community of PA announcers and live stream broadcasters, that allows the entire MPL to grow and thrive together.


I look forward to our new partnership with the MPL, and I hope you will, too. Because I cannot wait for the 2020 season when I can say to you all: "Good evening, ladies and gentlemen, and welcome to the action and excitement of Midwest Premier League soccer as YOUR DeKalb County United take on ..."


Until next time, goodnight, and good soccer!