"I totally believe it," he said. "But this is my take on it: Major League Soccer at this point, we not going to go in those castle
walls and interrupt that sandbox with promotion and relegation because there's lot of business associated and tagged to this process."
Lapointe suggested that a test program with promotion and relegation be instituted with teams from the NPSL, PDL, UPSL and state association teams with similar business models. He said he'll define the process.
Paul Caligiuri's first playing time in Germany was with Meppen in 1988 after it won promotion to the 2. Bundesliga, and he later played with St. Pauli in 1995-96 after it won promotion to the top level of German soccer.
"I understand the excitement it brings fans, what it does for players in terms of healthy competition," he said. "Each and every practice, you can't become complacent. We have to build that culture and can start it at the grassroots level."
Michael Winograd said it is not a practical reality at the pro level at this point, given MLS's franchise rights and contractual relationships and agreements between the teams and the league.
"To make it a reality, we must immediately start focusing on building the strength, stability and profitability of the lower leagues," he said. "Close the gap between the lower leagues and MLS and bring that possibility into the nearer term."
Winograd also cautioned that it must be determined just what is U.S. Soccer's power.
"I don't think," he added, "U.S. Soccer should be in the business of ramming things down people's throats."
Like Caligiuri, Eric Wynalda knows the culture of promotion and relegation first hand from his career in Germany. He was on clubs relegated from the Bundesliga -- Saarbruecken in 1993 and Bochum in 1995 -- and was on Bochum in the second division until the start of MLS in 1996 when Bochum was promoted.
"I think this country is ready," said Wynalda, "and there are reasons why it is ready, and one of them is we don't understand how exactly a flourishing league operates."
He says there are promotion-relegation mechanisms that allow clubs to be compensated -- parachute payments -- and that system allows them to assess the bad practices that got them relegated.
"Teams in Germany go up and down, up and down," Wynalda added, "and made more money in the end because of the mechanisms in place."
Steve Gans, who has consulted for EPL clubs and networks, says the year-end interest in promotion and relegation is one of the things that makes soccer inherently great but it has other benefits, too.
"The passionate promotion-relegation people have made a really good point that has not been lost on me in the last four weeks since the U.S. got knocked," he said. "The player who plays week in and week out knowing he or she is playing for survival develops more of a cutting edge. That said, you can't divorce promotion-relegation from the reality of sports in this country."
He noted the "wasteland" that was pro soccer for outdoor players and fans in 1985-96 and doesn't want to return there. He cautioned that it remains a very complex issue and can't be imposed on MLS given the current economic structure.