The Fall Classic……and Classic Falls

We’ve started the second season of two-leg playoffs in MLS and the complaining about lack of home field advantage has returned. The primary argument is that the new format doesn’t give the team with the better regular season record a real advantage. True, that the way it was designed. Yes, it does make the fact that teams have played 30 matches to weed out 2 teams only to play a two-leg playoff with no advantage for the team who’d preformed better. Columbus who hasn’t lost a match in over half a season lost to New England who only seems to start playing in September each season.

But I’m guessing that’s what the league wants.

After all, if they hadn’t chanced the playoff format prior to the 2003 season, we would not have had that second leg at Spartan Stadium last year between San Jose and LA. LA had backed their way into the playoffs without winning a single road game. They then won the first leg 2-0 at the HDC. In San Jose, LA quickly upped the aggregate score to 4-0 with 70 minutes left. The Earthquakes then pulled off a great comeback leveling the aggregate score at the death before clinching the match-up in Overtime. You wouldn’t have had that drama with a best of 3 series.

No one asked, but here’s my solution. MLS tinkers with the format of the playoffs every couple of years, so here’s my solution.

  1. Give the regular season’s best record a CONCACAF Champions Cup berth and give it a mention or three in press releases.
  2. Only 2 teams from each conference should make the playoffs even if the league has 16 teams. Yeah, teams well out of the running like Dallas the last couple of season, won’t have much to play for but pride. So what? Maybe the entire organization will try a little harder next season. Mediocrity shouldn’t be rewarded with a 4th seed playoff slot.
  3. Single 2 leg playoff between 1 and 2 in each conference. Winner in the Cup Final.
  4. ….or better yet, dump the playoffs, give the MLS Cup to the regular season winner and play the Open Cup final the weekend after the season ends. (but that would make me a EuroSnob)

Anyway, I like the current playoff format and hope it brings more excited footie to this country. Personally, it’ll be interesting to watch Kansas City actually try some attacking for a change next week when they have to overcome a 2-0 deficit.

One last thought for those who watched the Man Utd-Arsenal match yesterday. Who’s the biggest diver: Carlos Ruiz, Landon Donovan or Wayne Rooney?

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