“Sustainability and Responsible Growth”
The Midwest Premier League is gaining traction as more and more relatively big name lower league clubs are announced as members. The league is a member-ran league looking to give teams a solid regional option. I had the chance to talk to Cliff Conrad, who was recently voted as the first President of the league.
The primary goal of the league, according to Conrad, is "to be a cooperating association of like-minded clubs who want to excel on and off the field, with a focus on sustainability and responsible growth.”
At the time of writing this, three teams have been announced: Union Dubuque FC, RWB Adria, and DeKalb County United [this morning Cedar Rapids Inferno was announced as the fourth club to join the MPL]. Conrad says that these three teams have been apart of discussions the whole time and emphasizes that the Midwest Premier League “will remain to be a league that does not ‘recruit' or ‘poach’ from other leagues” and will “only communicate with teams who want to be a part of what we're doing.”
This is a breath of fresh air, especially with some of the rumors of an upcoming “Soccer Warz” starting amongst the lower leagues once again. It is so refreshing to hear a league official say that they “have no intentions to start probing other teams who are happy with their league if they're interested in moving.”
The league was founded by clubs frustrated with how things were going in their current league. “We (the clubs) weren't entirely happy with where we were league-wise,” says Conrad, “Decisions being made without the input of the clubs that would have a drastic impact on how we were to operate created some disillusionment, which led to conversations about doing our own thing. Now that we're actually doing it, we've opened it up to other teams to join.”
Discussions started between “10-12 teams.” Once it got to the point of making commitments, a handful of clubs decided to wait and see what happened, while the three mentioned above have led the way in committing to the new league. “Here still exists this sort of catch-22, where some clubs won't commit until everyone else has,” says Conrad.
A big factor for these teams returning to a regional league after playing in a national league is costs. “The hope is that we can offer support and control similar to how the NPSL does, but at a much more affordable cost, closer to what the UPSL costs for clubs,” says Conrad, “Also, our hope is that through sponsorship and limiting league expenses, we'll be able to engage in some kind of revenue-sharing with our member clubs.” Conrad also pointed to the fact that “often the decisions that make the most sense for other areas of the country don't make sense in others,” specifically the way the calendar works with soccer seasons. In the Midwest, July is one of the best months of the year weather-wise. However, with the UPSL schedule, the regular season had to be finished by June. This doesn’t make a whole lot of sense.
“Another big advantage is the ability to work closely together as clubs,” says Conrad, “We’re aiming for 16 teams in year one, and the 16 of us will form a tight group who want to work together and help each other out. None of us succeed at the expense of another club, so there's no reason we shouldn't be willing to help each other out with ideas, planning, etc.” The league also has no direct affiliation with the Gulf Coast Premier League, who also runs the Great Plains Premier League.
“We aren't affiliated with them in the way that the GPPL is,” says Conrad, “It would be great to work together, but I don't think our vision or theirs includes any kind of crossover or merging into another national league. We've all decided that regional play is good enough, and I hope to see more regional leagues popping up to fill in the gaps where the national leagues aren't strong yet.”
All in all, the Midwest Premier League looks to be a great option for teams in Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Michigan, Ohio, Wisconsin, and the surrounding area. They have the support of a national league with the affordability of being in a regional league, which will be huge for some of the clubs in that area. The league will kick off in Spring of 2020 adding to an array of new and current leagues to keep an eye on.
- Aarik Long