Originally Posted by Yachtzee
While it may sound cool that a team like, say the Dayton Dutch Lions, could work their way up through the pyramid to play in the MLS, it would probably be catastrophic financially to do so. Even jumping up one level can be a heavy burden for a team.
I'd say the only way any kind of promotion-relegation comes about is if it's done within a limited scope, with some sort of financial security for owners to ensure their investment doesn't go in the toilet when they get relegated. First, it would probably just be pro/rel between say an MLS Premier League and an MLS first division. No pro/rel to lower levels (NASL, USL Pro, etc.) All teams within the top two tiers have to be part of the MLS with regard to salary structure and cap rules. I don't think anyone wants to see some outrageously wealthy guy buy some team like the Rochester Rhinos, fill the roster with stars for a few years to get promoted up to try and win the MLS, then let the team go bankrupt and at risk of folding.
I think the bigger issue is the mythical rich guy who buys the Rochester Rhinos or the Toledo Express and turns the team into a powerhouse that gets promoted and stays in the top division -- it does MLS no good to have teams in minor media markets as powerhouses while top media markets get relegated.
As bad as the Houston Astros were last year, you can bet your bottom dollar there would be uproarious laughter in the MLB league office if the suggestion was made that Houston (#5 Metro Area in the US) be relegated to the International League and Pawtuckett (#38 Metro Area in US) replace them.
It's also going to require Eurosnob soccer fans to spend less time following Man U or Real Madrid and start supporting existing MLS, NASL, and USL teams in spite of the summer schedule and lack of pro/rel they complain about.
Alexi Lalas touched on this the other day, and there was a big writeup on ESPN.com about the idea that US Soccer fans need to support MLS (even if it is an inferior product to the EPL) if the sport is ever going to take the next step in America.
That's a stickier issue because Americans, as a whole, gravitate towards superior sports products at the expense of local inferior offerings. It's why football fans in MAC schools stay at home to watch Big 10 games. I don't know how you convince people to change that behavior.