An open league is one that allows for promotion and relegation, which means that clubs can move up or down in divisions based on their performance. This provides a system in which teams strive for higher levels of play and where success and progress are rewarded.
A closed league, on the other hand, does not allow for promotion and relegation, and the teams that participate in the league are usually chosen by invitation or based on a predetermined criterion, resulting in a more stable and controlled environment free of the uncertainty and drama of promotion and relegation.
An open league is frequently viewed as one that fosters competitive balance and rewards accomplishment, but it may also generate uncertainty and financial instability for certain teams. A closed league gives stability and control, but it may also limit chances for club and individual growth and development.
This simple concept is one that Twitter is now fighting a war over, and the context for that is almost comical.
Wrexham FC, the fifth-division team that has been making headlines due to their celebrity ownership and incredible FA Cup run, has stirred up a storm in the United States. The team has divided the “soccer” fan base in two, with those who think that the team is getting unnatural and unnecessary attention against those who love the story that Wrexham is providing.
The debate stems from this incident. ESPN US decided to go all-in on their coverage for Wrexham’s FA Cup game, and some fans in the US did not take kindly to that. Their reason? US Football deserves this attention instead.
On the face of it, this argument makes sense. There exist good stories in the States with the existence of their Open Cup, and it is only fair to ask for more attention to be put to it. However, where the debate goes after this is what is confusing.
Most people took this tweet, and other tweets like this, and went along with the narrative of MLS vs Wrexham. This tweet, which mentions an idea about Wrexham playing worse football than Americans, stirred up a riot amongst fans of Wrexham and MLS, some of which called for an MLS All-Stars vs Wrexham FC game, hopefully jokingly.
Some others said that Wrexham’s popularity, which is shown by the fact that it is a more searched term in the US when compared to MLS clubs, is purely because of the docu-series hyping it up alongside owners Ryan Reynolds and Rob McElhenney and not because of the actual emotions attached to the club.
In response to this came the claims that the reason why the fanbase loves Wrexham is that the idea of promotion and relegation that comes with Wrexham and other English clubs is something that simply doesn’t exist in the world of American football.
From here started the open vs closed league debate, which is being argued through a Wrexham vs MLS conversation.
The main argument from those who love the open league concept is that the idea of promotion helps create strong local teams and fanbases, who stay hopeful about playing in the big leagues one day. A closed league ignores local teams, and there is simply no movement. There is corporate ownership of clubs that have little to no meaning for locals and the story around the clubs is nonexistent.
The main argument on the other side is that this hope of promotion is fruitless and that the only thing that open leagues do is bring about bankruptcy, like in the case of Bury FC. They say that with enough time, the MLS teams will also have strong fanbases with stories like Wrexham and that it will be organic unlike the one Wrexham has.
There are, of course, those who understand both sides. There are neutrals who know that Wrexham has an undeniably good talking point because of owners that attract fans, while also agreeing that more focus should be put on US Football at least in the US media.
These supporters know that Wrexham is not MLS quality and that this is not what should be addressed when debating why people connect with Wrexham over MLS teams.
It’s not about quality; it’s about feelings. MLS simply lacks that, and Wrexham brings a lot of it.
The last tweet sums it up pretty well. Loving a club for the story it has does not mean you are betraying your clubs or country. A person supporting Wrexham does not mean he hates the LA Galaxy.
Open league or not, the fans will connect to what they feel the strongest towards. A closed league like the NBA has many stories, and the same can happen with the MLS if the clubs are given time and good ownership that can provide those.