Monday, November 22, 2010

MLS Playoffs 2011

Last night at the MLS Cup Final, MLS commisioner Don Garber addressed the public with a few ideas/tweeks the league will make/want to make for the next season onward. The one he spoke about that confuses me is the expansion of the MLS playoffs for 2011. I am utterly confused to why the league would want 10 teams in the playoffs instead of the current eight teams. Next season MLS will have 18 teams in the league with Vancouver and Portland joining, and each team will play a total of 34 regular season games. However, with the news that the playoffs will be expanding it only devalues the MLS playoffs more. There is no point in having more than half the teams in the leauge make the playoffs. This allows undeserving teams to play for what is suppose to be the most prized trophy in the league. I feel this is yet another instance where MLS has made a decision without thinking it through. It seems as of late they make decisions and then try to figure it out later, like the rules of the re-entry draft, for example. It's the shoot first and ask questions later model.
I know last night's Final was a very good game between two attacking teams. However, the champion of the league should not have been Colorado. I do not feel a team that did just enough to get into the playoffs should be reward with a cup trophy. I know MLS loves to spout off that LA Galaxy were the best regular season team and they get the Supporters' Shield; and thus they are champions of the regular season. But that trophy is absolutely meaningless. The casual fan, and lets be honest 90% of people who follow MLS are casual fans, don't understand the Supporters' Shield or respect what it's meaning is. Hell, most people couldn't tell you past Support Shield winners, but could tell you who has won the MLS Cup. Therefore, I don't feel MLS is truely rewarding it's regular season winner. For the past three seasons there has been an undeserving team either win the final or appear in the final. In 2008, Columbus was the best team that season and played a highly undeserving NY Red Bulls; who made the postseason on the last day of the regular season. In 2009, the LA Galaxy was the best team during the regular season, but  lost on penalties to Salt Lake; whom made the playoffs on the last day of the season. Finally, in 2010 Dallas arguably the third or fourth best team all season lost to Colorado arguably the fifth or sixth best team in the regular season. Not since '07 with Houston vs. New England has MLS Cup showcased the best of MLS.
I'm not calling for a single table or the abolishment of playoffs. I just want them to be more fair for the teams who take the regular season seriously. For LA's troubles all they receive is a badge on their shirts and Champions League football next season that they most likely won't take seriously. If Garber and MLS want the league taken seriously around the world you can't have your marquee teams not competing in the cup final. More importantly if MLS wants to be taken seriously in North America they can't have the seventh best team during the regular season win the top prize in the league. It's suppose to be a showcase of the two best teams over the season and I'm sorry, but the past three MLS Cup Finals have not been those teams.
If Garber wants more teams in the MLS Cup why not allow all MLS teams into the tournament, withdraw every MLS team from the US Open Cup, like they want to be. Then have a knockout cup competition ala the English FA Cup. This way the regular season can be taken seriously and the cup can be taken seriously. Then the two winners of each competition can play for the MLS Supercup or something along those lines. But for Christsakes stop devaluing the MLS regular season like Major League Baseball devalues its regular season.

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