An Overview of the Mountain Premier League

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The news in lower division soccer recently seems to be saturated with news of new national leagues and organizations, but there has been a different undercurrent in certain areas. Regional Leagues. The newest regional league to reveal itself is the Mountain Premier League in Colorado. Following behind the Gulf Coast Premier League and it’s partner the Great Plains Premier League, the Mountain Premier League (MPL) is looking to build this regional league for a specific and unique purpose: building a league that is able to fit into an open system. “Soccer needs lower divisions with FIFA open system compliance,” said Don Harmon, the Chairman of FC Boulder and a member of the Board of Directors of the MPL.

US Soccer’s persistence with a closed league model is well documented and this model was challenged quite comprehensively when Daniel Workman released his “Soccer Works” podcast series. This series discussed in detail what would be required for the United States to follow the world’s model for national pyramids and when five teams from Colorado set out to start their own league, Mr. Workman was one of their first calls. “After playing in multiple soccer leagues throughout the years, and looking into joining national leagues, the group consulted with Daniel Workman and it became clear what the soccer landscape needed,” adds Harmon. This “open system compliance” that Harmon and Workman allude to is boiled down to the fact that the League is a “container” that is owned by the clubs that participate in it. This is reflected in the legal ownership filings of the league with the state it operates in. In wanting to implement this system accurately, the league went to the source and announced that Workman would be the first Commissioner of the MPL.

The five clubs in the MPL are FC Boulder, Colorado Springs FC, GAM United FC, and FC Colorado. The owners of each club sit on the Board of Directors of the League, with Workman as the Commissioner. Each club pays a $2000 league fee annually which covers registration and referee costs, keeping the financial barriers to participation fairly low. So the MPL will differentiate itself by being able to easily enter into an open system, but practically what does that mean for the clubs and the league over the next few years?

With five clubs set to play a shortened 2019 season, the league has growth, and a full year schedule, on its mind. “Ideally the Colorado/Southern Wyoming market would top out at 10 teams. Currently we believe there aren’t 10 clubs with first teams in existence in Colorado and Southern Wyoming who aspire to the opportunities MPL provides,” Harmon continued, “We target a maximum of 10 teams because our year long fall to spring home and away balanced schedule would provide an 18 week season.” The league is not the only competition the MPL hopes it’s member clubs will participate in. Harmon insisted other competitions would be included, “Fitting US Open Cup and US National Amateur Cup around an 18 week season schedule could potentially bring 28 weeks of soccer per year or more depending how far teams advance.” This amount of soccer for amateur/semi-pro clubs is extremely high and the level and amount of training provided to players and managers would be far beyond what most are able to offer. The opportunities do not stop with the players and managers however.

“We have a director of officials who can advocate for our teams and help protect our players and maintain a standard of officiating and rule enforcement,” Harmon continued, “We actively advocate for referee protection and advancement opportunities through education and experience. Referees are able to receive assessments when doing our games to aid them in advancing their experience and levels.” The Director of Officials, Neal Fausset, is an MLS VAR official and will review referee performances and decisions and assist in the assessment of MPL referees. “His expertise in reviewing video to assess ref decisions and enforce the laws of the game comes in handy for our teams and officials. He also tracks match reports, card accumulation, and advises on suspensions for our leagues independent disciplinary committee,” explains Harmon, which would certainly provide a new angle to the officiating in an amateur league.

So now that MPL will function as a league, with all of the unique characteristics that separate this regional league from the National Leagues currently operating in the US, how does the board see their league continuing to grow over the coming years? “We see it following the Rocky Mountains from Idaho and Montana down to New Mexico and Arizona. As far west as Utah and Nevada and as east as Colorado and Wyoming,” Harmon asserts. These regions would be localized into separate conferences under the MPL umbrella, fitting into their commissioner’s vision for an open system in the US under the United States Association of Soccer Leagues, a reformed federation that would govern soccer leagues in his ideal world. “We believe it can fit the 16 region tier 4 under...USASL. Or maybe the MPL would fit in the 32 region tier 5 of USASL. The MPL fully intends to apply when the association is accepting applications.” Time will tell if clubs in Colorado and Wyoming are “open” to giving the MPL a shot.

- Phil Baki