They astounded the critics by rising from obscurity to the top leagues of their countries, where promotion and relegation are facts of life.
In Spain, SD Eibar raced up Spain's league's to reach the heights of La Liga. In England, AFC Bournemouth, a team that nearly went into liquidation a few years ago, have been newly promoted to the Premier League. Germany's TSG 1899 Hoffenheim made it to the top flight of the Bundesliga from the German amateur leagues.
“Pro/rel” — as the promotion and relegation concept is short-handed — is an exciting aspect of the sport that American soccer sorely lacks. But if it's not something that's about to be adopted without a major effort.
"I will certainly tell you in the near term, and that near term is a long time from now, that there will not be promotion and relegation. It makes absolutely no sense," Major League Soccer (MLS) Commissioner Don Garber said at an Associated Press Sports Editors Association event last month.
“The other [U.S. sports] leagues … have been doing pretty well without promotion and relegation,” he also said.
But despite his words, the winds of change may be in the air.
A majority of people who follow or who are a part of U.S. soccer would probably love to see promotion and relegation implemented, North American Soccer League (NASL) Commissioner Bill Peterson told Fox News Latino.
"We understand the concerns that certain people have about promotion and relegation, but it feels like it should be part of the game," he said in an interview.
But he added that folks have to make their own choices.
Professional soccer leagues in the U.S. — MLS and the 1970s version of the NASL before that — have always attempted to strike a balance between the way European and other international soccer leagues are run and the expectations of more general sports fans in the United States.
More often than not, MLS has opted to conform to the American way rather than global soccer norms — which is why its season begins shortly before the Euro league are winding down and ends as they begin a new season.
But it may be that MLS pandering to non-soccer U.S. fans is hurting the league.
MLS franchises in places like Seattle and Portland have flourished beyond anybody’s expectations. Who knows what other hotbeds of soccer fanaticism would be uncovered across the country if dozens of communities were tossed into the potential-MLS team mix?
Promotion-relegation is a much more democratic, free-market system than the dictatorial decrees handed out by Commissioner Garber, and something that most people in the largest capitalist economy on Earth should be able to easily get behind.
Ted Westervelt, the editor of Soccerreform.us, is one of those who believe that fans can make a big difference in the matter. He is spearheading a social media campaign to bring promotion and relegation to U.S. soccer — and bust up what he calls a "professional sports trust."
"It's a caste system," Westervelt told FNL. "U.S. sports [are] traditionally run as virtual monopolies" with MLS picking winners and losers "in the marketplace."
The former political consultant is using his Beltway lobbying skills and social media clout — his Twitter reach alone regularly surpasses a million a week (including retweets and mentions) — to try to grab the U.S. soccer world's attention.
"U.S. soccer needs an open league to reach the vast potential of the game." Westervelt said. "Open leagues with promotion and relegation never fail. Closed soccer leagues almost always do."
Westervelt warned that one of the biggest roadblocks to bringing pro/rel to America is "the assumption" that it's an MLS decision, and that they make the calls.
"They don't," he said.
The NASL’s Bill Peterson is obviously open to pro/rel, and there may be other ways around MLS.
"If US Soccer chose not to act on this,” Westervelt said, “I'd love to see a new and complementary federation form, one that sanctions the open system Americans so clearly want, our clubs so richly deserve and our game so clearly needs."
"I always hear club soccer is about money. Let's make it about spreading investment to all clubs, not just a select few."
Westervelt may be onto something, but it would require a massive fan response to force the hand of US Soccer to take control of the issue.
Video of the week
Watch as Austria Vienna’s mascot Super Leo make a fool of himself on the field. Drunk? You can decide for yourself.
From the wires
A Spanish court will decide whether soccer players can go ahead with their planned strike before the final two rounds of the season.
The National Court said Monday it was summoning the Spanish league and the Spanish players' union to "hear arguments" on Wednesday before ruling on the league's request that the strike be temporarily suspended.
The union has the backing of the Spanish soccer federation to begin an "indefinite" strike on Saturday in protest of a proposed government law to regulate broadcast revenues. If the law is approved, it would centralize the sale of TV rights and supposedly give the teams in the top division the vast majority of the revenue.
The strike would affect the last two rounds of the league and the Copa del Rey final on May 30. Barcelona needs one win to clinch the league title and is set to play Athletic Bilbao in the Copa del Rey final.
Representatives from the 42 first- and second-division clubs that make up the competitions run by the Spanish league held an emergency meeting Monday.
The league released a statement afterward repeating its stance that the strike called by the players' union last week, a day after the federation had already announced it was suspending all league and Copa del Rey matches from May 16, was "clearly a strategy of the federation and was just as illegal."
Currently, each team strikes individual TV deals. The government and league argue that the new law would lead to a more equitable split of revenues, thus helping clubs other than Real Madrid and Barcelona earn more money.
The players' union says it supports the general spirit of the law, but is striking because it wants more money to go to lower divisions. The proposed law would send 90 percent of revenues to the first division.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.