MLS: And Now Back To Your Irregularly Scheduled Programming

This is the second guest post by Atlanta’s Jacob Chambliss

Who knows, maybe in 2012 all of these teams here will make it?

It’s almost that time of year again, when we as American soccer fans get to observe our own professional league arrive late on the scene (yes, MLS calendar, I’m looking at you). Along with its arrival come several changes: homegrown players look to play a bigger role for their respective teams, the reserve league is on the up and up, and the new Generation Adidas class looks stronger than ever.

But the hotly contested issue coming into the season won’t rear its ugly head until the season’s conclusion. The monster in the closet is the MLS playoffs, of course, and it was highlighted last week when MLS announced the revamped format. The point of contention—for me, at least—concerns the number of teams involved; ten out of the now eighteen teams will participate in the playoffs—six spots for the top three teams in each division, as well as four wildcard spots allocated to teams regardless of division.

Garber himself has said that the change was an anticipatory one. MLS intends to have 20 teams by 2014, with suitors for more expansions in addition to these. The addition of two more playoff spots gives added incentive for teams to perform well during the regular season—teams will fight harder to make those last available spots, so the argument goes.

The antithesis can also be true, however—what is to prevent mediocre play during the regular season if there are more opportunities for mediocre teams to win the MLS Cup? The cup’s history has proved this point—higher seeded teams are not typically winners of the tournament, so simply making the tournament provides a team with more than a glimmer of hope.

This is where the soccer fan in me conflicts with the American in me—to what extent, if any, should playoffs serve as the culmination of a professional soccer league? Garber’s point in the interview mentioned above was that the middle teams in the league now have more incentive to play as more playoff spots are available. Even if I allow Garber’s position on the expanded playoff format for the sake of argument—and that’s allowing a good bit—the problem remains of how one rewards consistently good play on the pitch.

(The MLS Post-Season now resembles the USMNT midfield in some ways and thus our video analogy is….renewed)


The most recent season serves as a good example—the L.A. Galaxy, as Supporter’s Shield winners, played their first playoff game at Qwest field (also the location of their first home game this season). They were eliminated by FC Dallas in the second round (a well-deserved win from Dallas, to be sure).

Colorado, the seventh seed, went on to hoist the cup, with Butterball Casey being named the MVP. For this reason alone, Garber’s explanation that the expanded playoff format will make for a better season isn’t good enough for me. Even if the top seeded team plays a wildcard team, the tourney’s history doesn’t offer adequate evidence that this is in fact a bonus to winning the season.

I won’t offer extended details on how the MLS tourney stacks up (unfavorably) with other American sports—as that topic has been thoroughly explored.

What concerns me is that the soccer season is much more saturated with tournaments than are other American sports.

In a typical season, you’ll have the U.S. Open Cup in addition to the CONCACAF Champions’ League and possibly the SuperLiga. AND, there are the various international tournaments that occur during the summer months—the Gold Cup, Olympics, Confederations Cup, World Cup, and the various other competitions  (Euro, African Cup of Nations, etc) in which MLS players will be involved. Add all this up, and you have a hefty set of them during a given year. Thus the playoffs only seem to highlight what is lacking in MLS versus the top five leagues in the world; the promotion/relegation battle ensures constant drama at all levels of the top flight teams in these leagues, and the current infrastructure in the States simply can’t support this type of format yet, if indeed such a system is in the works.

One year, everyone will make it!

This is not to say that playoffs have no place in MLS. To be fair to Garber and the rest of the MLS execs, their inclusion is one of the things that make the league distinctly American. Another qualification that should be reiterated is that the current playoff format is temporary—come 2012 a more permanent format will be established. Moving forward, then, MLS must determine to what extent playoffs should serve a role in the league’s season, and how to award consistent performance during the season while (perhaps in the future) discouraging poor performance. Before I accept the playoffs as a wonderfully “American” touch to the beautiful game, then, Garber and friends ought to give the league a good hard look before deciding that MLS will go the way of other American sports rather than that of the world’s sport.

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41 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by Jake C. on 2011/02/28 at 10:28 PM

    Ps that video makes me incredibly claustrophobic.

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  2. Posted by Erik the Orange on 2011/03/01 at 6:36 AM

    This has got to be the best response to the new playoff format, coming from NY Red Bulls coach Hans Backe…maybe you guys have already seen:

    “I’m not sure I care about the MLS Cup, (but) we need to be No. 1 after 34 games; then you’ve proved you’re the best team in the U.S. Then of course you can see with a Cup what you can do. But that, for me, is more like a mini-tournament for five games. Being No. 1 after 34, that’s the target for me and the team.’’

    There’s your answer to how to revamp the playoff system. Ignore it. Maybe if the community of MLS fans, players, etc. embrace the Supporters Shield rather than the cup, the cup will be about as important as the Carling Cup in the Premiership?

    Reply

    • Posted by Jake C. on 2011/03/01 at 7:03 AM

      Haha this statement confused Garber when he was interviewed about it. Not sure he’s too open to criticism of the institution itself. Of course, maybe he should be…

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    • Posted by John Henry on 2011/03/01 at 7:44 AM

      Yeah, to me that’s a big thing, namely what the players, fans, and coaches embrace. MLS lacks legitimacy and organic growth in a serious way. Everything from the team names and logos to the way in which clubs enter the league and contract is tacky and done “from the top” as opposed to naturally. remember how MLS used to have its own rules to make soccer more “american”? How dumb do they think Americans are? They can’t understand a sport where the clock goes forward without stopping?

      Playoffs aren’t necessarily the “American” way either. Take the national pastime: for a long time, there were no baseball playoffs. The winners of the American League (single table) were champions, and they played the National League champions (also single table – both separate leagues) in the World Series, which was originally an exhibition match. Over time that developed into the full MLB playoffs. It wasn’t until 1969 or something that there was an extended baseball postseason.

      I’m rambling, but the more I try to follow MLS, the less I care for it. It has little to do with the quality of play either, which is often pretty darn good. It has more to do with the fact that every game feels more like an exhibition than a meaningful contest.

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      • Posted by Erik the Orange on 2011/03/01 at 8:10 AM

        It’s all about the money, right? Owners and the MLS may be interested in promoting a professional league, but first and foremost, they want to make a buck. I’m fine with that, they take risk, they should be rewarded if there is some kind of return on investment.

        However, I think the MLS and owners are employing a “push” vs. “pull” marketing strategy. They’re pushing their product at us, rather than asking what we want (demand). If we as consumers decide not to buy what they’re trying to sell, we dictate how the product (playoffs) is made. Playoffs generate ticket sales, TV revenue, blah blah blah…however, if we as consumers decide that that product isn’t valued by embracing the Supporters Shield winners, then we can change that product.

        Uhhh, all of this is of course, in theory. Unfortunately, it’s kinda tough to organize a few million people.

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        • Posted by John Henry on 2011/03/01 at 8:32 AM

          Have operating revenues gone up significantly for MLS clubs in the last decade? Attendance numbers are pretty much flat. There haven’t been any blockbuster TV deals. Aside from a couple of clubs, I doubt merchandise sales have increased significantly, if at all.

          If revenues are going up, I wonder how much of that is attributable to expansion fees, player sales, and Soccer United Marketing. In other words, the owners are making bucks on everything except their soccer teams, and their taking very little risk, since they don’t have to invest anything in those teams in order to bring in these real revenues.

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        • Posted by John on 2011/03/01 at 8:54 AM

          Attendance numbers are not flat. As with anything it depends on where you look.

          Seattle was up 17 %
          LA was up 5 %
          Red Bulls were up 47%
          Colorado was up 8%

          The league as a total was up 4% with San Jose and Dallas dragging down the percentage the most.

          You had a new team in the Union drawing 19,252 on average
          This year you will have Portland and Vancouver almost selling out each game.

          Every team was up with the exception of Chivas, DC, NE Revolution, Dallas and San Jose.

          DC has Davies now and a new oomph so my bet is we will see an increase on their 2010 numbers. I also bet Dallas sees an uptick on their numbers a bit.

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    • Posted by dikranovich on 2011/03/02 at 7:56 AM

      lets see what hans backke says when his team does not have the most points from the league, yet he goes on and lifts the cup. then we can hear what his opinions are. this guy must not know the story of the undefeated new england patriots from 07/08, and he does not understand the american sports scene. his comments obviously derive from the fact that his team got booted from the playoffs last year.

      this article, right from the get go struck the wrong cord with me. it is not to long ago that articles were out there about how sepp blotter, the frenchman platini, and fifa were in discussion about a feb/nov schedule and season. this just so happens to be the schedule that MLS is already using. yet some guy from georgia wants to switch to a schedule that could very well soon be defunct. maybe MLS is just a little more proctive than people give it credit for.

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      • Posted by Jake C. on 2011/03/02 at 4:09 PM

        You’ve managed to attack my credentials, but I don’t think you’ve addressed the point of the piece I think. My problem with the MLS calendar is that it isn’t on par with the FIFA one, so it’s liable to roster problems when international tourneys come up, for instance. Whether it’s proactive or not we’ll see I guess.

        Your point about Backe is fair enough. Obviously he’s not too keen on playing the system as it now stands, it’ll be interesting to see if he sings a different tune come the end of the season.

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      • Posted by matthewsf on 2011/03/02 at 4:29 PM

        @Dikranovich – Now I’m warning you publicly. Please do not make comments personal on this site. Make your point without being personal and TSG and your comment will be better for it.

        I’d like to reiterate, in the now over 25,000 comment in TSG’s history only one commenter has been banned ever. I’d like to keep in that way for the good of TSG and all the people, including yourself, that comment on it.

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        • Posted by dikranovich on 2011/03/02 at 11:28 PM

          hold on for a second. im not sure how i attacked anyone. really. i mean this is a guest post by someone from georgia and they play good soccer in georgia. clint mathis, jack mac, thats some good talent. i am not in agreement with the first paragraph of the post and i am a us soccer fan.

          having the mls schedule the way it is, is good for us soccer. american players from mls are fresher for interntional summer events, than their counterparts in europe. maybe becuse i just read that fifa is considering the switch to an MLS schedule i do take exception to jacobs first paragraph. if that is too personal for tsg, please let me know, because if you dont want any descenting opinion, then you dont have to kick me off, you just have to tell me. i did also make a houllier jibe on another post, and it was because someone on here was so high on houllier a couple of months back. i dont know, i love my usa team and i dont think houllier is the right man for the job. i cant just agree with someone who thinks houllier should be the coach of the mens team. heck, i guess when you get right down to it, the beautiful game is pretty personal.
          ill miss posting on tsg if im ever kicked off.

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  3. Posted by GeorgeCross on 2011/03/01 at 7:31 AM

    There is a good section in Soccernomics about American sports and play-offs. Basically it implies the best team wins in the ‘European’ model, whereas in the ‘American’ model, that’s not necessarily the case.

    Although, one could argue that you know the system at the beginning of the season, and finishing first in the conference shouldn’t be the objective – making sure you get into the play-offs should be.

    Personally, I think if you must have play-offs, have the top two. Make it more meaningful. Rewarding mediocracy with a playoff spot is shameful.

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    • Posted by Jake C. on 2011/03/01 at 10:34 AM

      My problem is that playing for a playoff spot doesn’t make it “soccery” enough. Of course, that comes from my observation of the European model. Either way I agree that 10 is a bit much in the current format.

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    • Posted by dikranovich on 2011/03/02 at 8:29 AM

      cross, it seems like you are picking and choosing your points. one might say the best team wins, but another way to say it would be that the team with the most money wins in the european model. the steelers have never been the team with the most money, yet the yankees have. so in america you can look at mlb and nfl and see the different formats. baseball is more in line with the “europen model” and football is the other. of course football is much more popular in this country than baseball.

      Reply

  4. Posted by Jake on 2011/03/01 at 8:03 AM

    What if we added the “League Cup” to the end of the regular season? The season champs are recognized and then all teams are entered into a one leg knock-out tournament, First round matchups determined by regular season standings, subsequent rounds subject to draw.

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  5. It is all about revenue.
    I see the logic in the MLS execs decision. If we accept that relegation would implode the league (currently) then the question is (as you stated) to have playoffs or not.

    I do not exactly buy Garber’s stance about improving the competitiveness of games but I don’t think the competitiveness goes down either. The playoffs do spread the wealth of prestige though, just like other MLS decisions to revenue share, contracts, etc. Big market teams like LA, are not going to suddenly become dominate like “the big four” even without the playoffs, but other teams and (MLS in general) keep in the news with the playoffs. They are competing with other domestic and international sports for viewership.

    I get the beauty and fairness of a table format sans playoffs, but the playoffs are an extra revenue booster. If the playoff games didn’t exist then MLS would not be adding games to replace them. That would screw-up the double round robin format.

    Also who really says “Colorado was the best team last year.” Supporters of teams know which teams are the best and know that the Galaxy won the Supporter’s Shield. If we view the season as the real competition and the playoffs as the extra competition it makes sense.

    The playoffs give the chance for an ESPN clip so the viral soundbite of “MLS champion” in an American context can be put out there for the masses. Also the playoffs are a chance for international leagues to evaluate possible prospects. How would Owen Coyle have seen Stuart Holden? He wasn’t watching every league game but he tuned into the playoffs.

    For now it may be the best way to go. The new (temporary) playoff system is also ok. I actually like the idea of taking wildcards irrespective of conference. It gets the best teams in there. Hopefully they stick with 10 teams (from each conference) when there are 20 teams.

    Reply

    • Posted by John Henry on 2011/03/01 at 8:26 AM

      The problem with the MLS cup brings ESPN TV money and marketing argument is that the MLS Cup Final had a lower rating than women’s collegiate volleyball on ESPN2. There isn’t any excitement with the MLS Cup, and there isn’t any excitement with the regular season either. So… where’s the excitement?

      Reply

      • Fair point. I wouldn’t mind the MLS Cup going away. I just think there is still a “which comes first…” or “demand and supply” phenomenon with the MLS.
        The two options are as someone pointed out public demand grows to see regular-season MLS games at a higher rate and not watch the playoffs. Or the playoffs are nixed in order to shift focus on a more influential robust regular season, assuming that this will increase public interest. Not sure which way is better. Right now MLS is not very profitable playoffs or sans playoffs.

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      • Posted by John on 2011/03/01 at 8:44 AM

        I’ve seen this argument made before but this only works within a vacuum. As though somehow the MLS Cup and Volleyball are somehow comparable. The date that the Womens Volleyball final fell upon was December 18th. The only sports ON December 18th were a spate of NBA games and Hockey.

        The MLS cup fell on November 21, 2010 and went directly head to head against the NFL schedule with the pumped up night game of the Giants and the Eagles. The bar that we watched the end of the cup game at here played both and switched all the big screens after the NFL game was done.

        That is just poor scheduling by the MLS.

        As an aside, I watched both. Womens college volleyball (and volleyball in general) is dynamic interesting and absolutely amazing to play/watch.

        However you can’t quite compare Volleyball going against regional hockey broadcasts and some NBA games to the MLS cup going against Marquee NFL matchups.

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        • Posted by John Henry on 2011/03/01 at 8:57 AM

          Yeah, thanks for pointing this out. It’s definitely a bit of a misleading argument, but I think the force of it is (aside from the plain fact of minuscule ratings) that MLS is in the women’s volleyball range. I can’t say for sure, but I doubt the Stanley Cup or the World Series or the Finals would get only 500,000 viewers even going head to head with the NFL.

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        • Posted by John on 2011/03/01 at 9:00 AM

          None of those commissioners would be stupid enough to program opposite the NFL. The NFL is a juggernaut of enormous proportions. Take in mind that there was a full slate of games on Sunday which means that some of the MLS target demographic had been watching sports in their areas since 10:00 AM. What sense does it make to extend the sporting fatigue and make them chose between seeing an Electric Michael Vick one week after an outstanding performance under the lights against the giants… or the MLS cup.

          Also, I live within the circle of Volleyball and I can tell you that Womens D1 Volleyball has a support group that the MLS does not have yet. Every single person (male and female) that I play with or talked to were going to watch the final. People fail to understand the built in fan base of all the Women and Girls that play/played in D1, D2, NAIA, D3, High School and Professionally.

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        • Posted by John Henry on 2011/03/01 at 9:05 AM

          “Also, I live within the circle of Volleyball and I can tell you that Womens D1 Volleyball has a support group that the MLS does not have yet.”

          Isn’t that the problem? Come on, there are tens of millions more people playing/played soccer than volleyball in America. So the real question is: if volleyball has such a devoted fan base, why isn’t the MLS fan base ten times greater? I would say the owners of MLS fail to understand the potential fan base for soccer in this country.

          The problem is the passion and fan base for MLS does not in anyway correspond to the passion and fan base of soccer in America.

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        • Posted by John on 2011/03/01 at 9:17 AM

          Er, no.

          This is not seeing the Forest for the Trees.

          Volleyball has been around in the US for 110 years. The NCAA tournament has been around since 1970. Primarily played in high school by girls and then in College by Women, it has a built in fan base for many reasons that the MLS doesn’t. Gender, exclusivity, opportunity are things that resonate even now to many of the young women who tune in.

          The MLS started in 1993. Even if you were to extrapolate out further and talk about the USL, you have to remember that soccer has been marginalized and flogged by reporters/parents/idiots the US for quite a long time.

          For the league to start in 1993 and then manage to expand, gain following and traction in todays society is an unbridled success.

          The MLS (to a certain extent) had no roots. The fact that they have made an impact and have a following in less than 20 years is (to me) impressive regardless of TV numbers. The key here is to continue, and not always fall into the mode of the mindless bashing of a product that isn’t even old enough to buy a beer yet.

          We can’t compare the MLS to the NFL, NHL or MLB, or especially the premiership in terms of social impact of following because most of us have been on this earth longer than it has been around. Let’s check back with it when the MLS is 40 or 50 or even 110.

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        • Posted by John Henry on 2011/03/01 at 9:31 AM

          Well, I don’t want to hijack TSG for a personal peeve, but I’ll add at least this:

          First, you don’t have to insult me and others who criticize MLS (“mindless bashing”) because we disagree with you.

          As for the argument: soccer has been around in America for a very long time. (I’m sure you’re aware of the ASL and the Fall River Marksmen.) And granted, MLS is young, that still doesn’t address the disconnect between MLS and the enormous, underground, passionate fan base for soccer in this country. Do you think MLS hasn’t tapped the full potential of this fan base merely because it’s young? I think it’s because MLS is an inferior product that doesn’t promise to get substantially better, even with age.

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        • Posted by John on 2011/03/01 at 9:45 AM

          I do apologize as I don’t mean to insult any who have a passion for the beautiful game.

          However, I DO tend to think that the MLS will get better… because… well.. it already HAS.

          I mean you look at the difference in the players, the attendance, the style has even gotten better in the last 20 years. Certainly there is quite a bit to work on, but the problem that I have (and the reason I get passionate about this) is that I dislike seeing soccer/football/futbol fans in the US complain about PROFESSIONAL SOCCER in the US.

          We are cutting of our noses to spite our face when this happens. If you don’t have a local team to root for, or one that you support in general I can kinda understand. Then again, many of you didn’t grow up in Barcelona, Madrid, Milan, Manchester and Liverpool either. Those teams wouldn’t have been anything without their local fan support.

          Every time someone talks about the MLS having an inferior product it makes my skin crawl, because you are subscribing to some kind of theory that in 20 years we can do what the English have been doing in a professional organized way since 1888.

          Certainly we have had leagues here in the US, but never organized on the same level as the Football League. And we have had crowds here, but crowds are only good if they have a team to follow and the Fall River Marksmen aren’t packing them in the MLS these days. This is why the MLS is important, because they allow us and future generations of Americans to potentially have a local team or even a bi-coastal team to follow.

          I don’t mean to derail this either, but I think it is worth noting that… you can’t have a league sprout up and be the best in the world overnight, just as you can’t wake up overnight and know how to speak French or work on a computer. This takes time, at least we HAVE a league with a National (albeit not great) TV contract. At least we HAVE an MLS cup.

          I remember being a kid and there was nothing, absolutely nothing unless you lived in a city that had a team. There was no national TV schedule, there wasn’t an mls cup game to talk about (even criticize), there wasn’t a promising US National Team. It was a wasteland of soccer (at least in the midwest). Now, a kid that lived in my hometown could drive 1 hr and watch a game televised on ESPN. That is a pretty big impact.

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        • Posted by John Henry on 2011/03/01 at 9:57 AM

          good and fair points all around. I think I like MLS more than I’ve let on., and a lot of my criticism derives not from snobbery but from a passionate desire for professional soccer in the US to reach its potential. And while I admit MLS is slowly tapping that potential and slowly getting better, I also think that there are inherent and fundamental errors in the league, primarily the “one-league one-team” franchise structure and no promotion/relegation.

          See, my point about the inferior product, though, isn’t in regard to the quality of play, which I’ve already admitted is sometimes “pretty darn good”. (There were times last year when I thought RBNY were exquisite.) I think the inferiority of the league is precisely in its structure. I don’t think the MLS ever needs to be anywhere near the EPL or La Liga in talent and quality. I don’t expect that. (Though in 100 years, maybe MLB, NFL, and NBA will all be dead and America will love soccer more than the rest of the world, then we’ll have the best league, ha.). What I expect is that MLS follow the rules of soccer that work so well everywhere they’ve been instituted, and not bastardize the sport for the sake of a little less risk.

          cheers

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        • Posted by John on 2011/03/01 at 10:01 AM

          I agree with quite a bit of what you are saying John and enjoyed the debate. I agree that one can only hope that the organizational issues get ironed out and stand less in the way of the good product on the field and in the stands. Cheers to you as well.

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    • Posted by John Henry on 2011/03/01 at 8:36 AM

      “It’s all about revenue.”

      Right, and the MLS business model is to ensure equal distribution of small revenues at little risk that ensure mediocre competition and arbitrary parity.

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  6. In the distant future: Would there ever be a chance that the MLS Cup become morphed into more of a domestic FA Cup format?

    Just thinking if there is a point at which MLS is supported enough and profitable enough to go to just a table format, but not supported quite enough to have relegation. Maybe this would be a way to work on building support up for NASL teams before a possible relegation format.

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  7. Posted by chazcar2 on 2011/03/01 at 8:43 AM

    This is similar to what I posted over at TYAC, sorry its so long.

    I have thought about the MLS team number, schedule and playoffs for a while. I think that conferences and playoffs are needed if you expand to more than 20 teams. There would just be too many games otherwise. I think you need more than 20 teams because of the size and population of the US.

    This is what I propose: 28 teams, in 4 divisions of 7 teams. 28 teams gives you an nice coverage in a country as big this (especially counting Canadian teams). No promotion/relegation. MLS will not be as big of a money maker as the EPL/Bundesliga. So I think a promotion/relegation will cause a lot of teams to go bankrupt and not be able to build a team over the years. Look at the EPL teams, some are constantly having spend over their means to stay up in the top flight. I just think that isn’t very sustainable. I also think that is what keeps the top teams at the top and the bottom teams down.

    Expansion Teams: Montreal, Raleigh, St louis, Cosmos, San Antonio, New Orleans, Tampa, Phoenix, Atlanta, Pittsburg(or Cleveland/Detroit) (just suggestions based on comments I have scene and a map of the country)

    Schedule: You play a home and home with every team in your division and 1 other division (this other division rotates every year). This schedule works out to 26 regular season games. I would also add a june break in the schedule. Every year take a break for the national team contests. The Euro, World Cup and CONCACAF events are usually june/july time frame. I would break so that you always had the opening for the group stages of those events. Gives a bit better alignment with the international schedule, but still keeps the MLS playable in the northern states. This would help with recruiting players from various national teams.

    Postseason: Top two teams from each division make the post season, For 8/28= 29%. Division winners play the runners up in the other division that they played that season (IE if West played East in the regular season, West #1 plays East #2 in post season). The first round could be a best of three games (higher seed gets the home field advantage, no goal aggregate), the second round a home and home with aggregate, and the final neutral site.

    I do see some problems with this plan (Support for clubs, Talent dilution, potential for the “best” team to lose, etc.) but I think it aligns with a lot of what is great about soccer tournaments. The MLS doesn’t have the support that European leagues do with the multiple tournaments during the season to give every fan something to route for. The Champions league spots, the Europa League, and Relegation danger keep all the teams fighting every game. The playoff could do the same for the MLS.

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    • Posted by John Henry on 2011/03/01 at 9:01 AM

      Why couldn’t we have a 20 team 1st division, and then make real, viable, 2nd and 3rd divisions? That’s the best way to have enough teams scattered around the country.

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      • Posted by chazcar2 on 2011/03/01 at 10:17 AM

        I am honestly on the edge of supporting promotion/relegation. It is a close call for me, with a lot of reasons to like it. I would be a fan of it for some teams: I mean the pittsburg pirates, KC royals, Detroit Lions, etc. have been non-factors for so long I think they need to be replaced. But those teams do still have loyal fan bases and make money every year. I look at the Champions League and you are seeing that almost all the teams lose money year after year (I know that UEFA is trying to fix that, but still).

        For me , the differences between the US and other countries running domestic soccer leagues is quite large. I think a detailed review of what works well in sports in general, and then in American and soccer in specific would be the best way to plan the league.

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      • Posted by Tux on 2011/03/01 at 10:35 AM

        Because we simply don’t have the interest. We’re saying that a fairly young soccer league which drew 17K/game last year has enough of a fan base to support a second tier.

        Go look at baseball. The lowest attendance average in the MLB was 29 more than the overage average attendance for the MLS. Now go take a look at the minor league affiliates for MLB…not many teams are drawing more than what, 5,000 people per game? Those clubs stay afloat, at least in part, because of their parent organization’s money. I don’t know if MLS has the money to support that second league, because I can’t see it staying in the black.

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        • Posted by Jake C. on 2011/03/01 at 10:40 AM

          Not a perfect analogy though, as there’s no promotion/relegation in baseball. Fan support for those teams would be akin to support for an academy or reserve league in soccer.
          Regardless, I share your sentiment about the money problem. Funding another tier is no small task.

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  8. Posted by Dennis Justice on 2011/03/01 at 12:01 PM

    The point about college volleyball ratings exceeding MLS Cup Final can’t be excused. MLS Cup had a ton of promotion behind it, college volleyball did not and volleyball was on espn2 for crying out loud. There are too many teams in the playoffs and it’s now much worse.

    On top of that, look at all the top media markets who have no major pro team due to MLS’ “single-entity,” no pro-rel, FIFA’s 20-team for top flight rule, and MLS’ lapdog Gulati making it impossible for any real competitor to challenge MLS. Also note MLS is not even talking about a serious minor league for those untapped markets.

    No wonder nobody cared about the MLS Cup. Who won again?

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    • Posted by John on 2011/03/01 at 12:52 PM

      Dennis it took two seconds of using google to find that you (or your screen name) have talked abut this on other blogs.

      Let me be succinct. If people persist in attempting to make this comparison they marginalize how important the NCAA Womens Volleyball final is to a relatively untapped demographic of sports fans. IE Young women and girls.

      The MLS had everything against it in schedule (blame the front office if you will). They played against football on a saturated sports Sunday against a heavily marketed and nationwide NFL audience. Against a game with playoff implications that featured two of the most heavily marketed teams in the NFL with rabid fanbases and iconic/controversial characters. One of whom was recently released from jail and was competing in the ultimate “lots of people hate him, lots of people love him” fan showdown.

      The Womens final was scheduled against regional hockey broadcasts on a obscure channel (NHLTV), basketball and one local/lower level NCAA football bowl game. It has a passionate demographic (in young women). It had the three time repeating (and last year undefeated champions) full of Olympic and all american talent going against a plucky Cal team trying to get revenge after being knocked out by penn state before.

      This is what the womens final competed against: College mens basketball on regional channels, Hockey on NHLTV, Ohio vs Troy (NCAAFB).

      So tell me how that is remotely the same in terms of comparison.

      Reply

  9. Posted by Dennis Justice on 2011/03/01 at 12:04 PM

    The quick solution is have the US Open Cup Final right after the MLS regular season, hell, give top seed left the home field. Pretty much like EPL and FA Cup. Two champions in a legitimate fashion.

    Reply

    • Posted by Joe on 2011/03/01 at 2:38 PM

      Dennis we can’t use the US Open Cup because Toronto, Vancouver, and (soon to join the league) Montreal would not be allowed to compete.

      Reply

  10. Posted by Kevin O' on 2011/03/01 at 2:46 PM

    Let’s all agree that the MLS has at least moved beyond the shootout, it’s a SHOOTOUT! days.

    Reply

  11. Posted by Wachhz on 2011/03/02 at 2:42 PM

    This has been a really interesting read with regards to MLS Cup, Open Cup, and CCL.

    I have to say though, as supporters, our power lies in the sleeping beast that is the matchday ticket. If you want to show MLS what the priorities should be, we need to pack every Open Cup match, every CONCACAF Champions League match. Let the bandwagoners, scouts, and celebrities have the MLS Cup tickets. No CEO or administrator with his own agenda can argue with a sold out crowd.

    Reply

  12. Posted by Tyler on 2011/03/04 at 7:01 AM

    TV…switch to a August to May schedule and put some MLS on right after weekend EPL or La Liga games. Epic Win.

    Reply

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