To be honest, I’m pretty under whelmed about the MLS season this year. And it looks like I’m not alone. Granted, the fact that my boys have not really played great and will miss the playoffs for the first time in their history doesn’t help. But it’s more than that. I haven’t been able to put my finger on exactly why this season more than any other MLS season; I’m just really not too bothered.
OK, so events in my personal life (moving cross-country, baby, job change etc.) may have a lot to do with this. But I’ve always been one of the leagues biggest proponents. I still want a successful professional league in this country, but why should I bother?
How many times have we heard the “every time can still qualify for the playoffs” line the last few weeks? Great, we are focusing on a bunch of teams having difficulty playing .500 ball. The fact that LA can manhandle DC like they did in RFK a few weeks ago yet are still not able to put together a string of results to get them into the playoffs shows.
So, DC is way ahead of the rest of MLS right now and a shoe in for the Supporters Shield. Well, they haven’t played well lately and Dallas sure isn’t mounting much of a challenge. I wonder if DC would be so far ahead right now if the league played a balanced schedule? The East sure seems weak this season…like the West was last season.
All we hear is the good news about new stadiums. Don’t get me wrong, it’ll be great having almost every team in the league not have to share a stadium…but were those football lines on the pitch in Frisco last weekend? Things like that lead me to believe stadium scheduling will always be a problem for teams in MLS.
I was bumping around Wikipedia last night and came across something interesting about the early NHL years. (Yes, I know Wikipedia isn’t the most reliable source…but this is worth the read)
Some criticize the era as having a playoff system which was too easy (only two teams were eliminated after the regular season), for featuring too many dominant teams (Montreal never missed the playoffs between 1949 and 1967 and Detroit and Toronto only missed three times each, while the other three teams usually competed for the one remaining berth). The league was also criticized at that time for tolerating autocratic and monopolistic practices by the owners. At one point, for instance, the Norris family owned the Blackhawks and Red Wings outright and had a significant stake in the Rangers. They also owned two of the four U.S. arenas (the Detroit Olympia and Chicago Stadium) and had a significant stake in the other two (Boston Garden and Madison Square Garden).
Sound familiar? Did MLS not do any research? Let’s just hope they don’t expand too quickly.
Basically, I’m not sure the structure of the league is going to help things even if it grows. There was a huge outcry when my Padres made the post season last year…and they got what they deserved in the playoffs.
Now, there’s also the timing of the season. I will never agree that on any level it’s acceptable for league matches to be played during the World Cup…unless all the US players are playing in leagues that do have a break during the Cup. But I don’t see that happening either. Fernando Clavijo had some interesting comments the other day. For the most part, I agree with these comments. The thing is, changes do need to be made. The league has come a long way since ’96, but there is still a long way to go and more changes need to be made.
So, what does MLS need to do to get PZ’s attention back? Probably nothing. That Open Cup Final is a great example of how entertaining MLS teams can be if given the right setting. So, what is MLS going to do to make the matches in mid-season as entertaining? I’m guessing nothing for now. So we’ll be stuck where we are for a while. The playoffs are around the corner and I’ll catch a few of the matches and the final. By April, I’ll be anxious for the new season to start…I’ll be back.
In the meantime, if Adu had gone to Reading, would they have become the most popular EPL team in this country? I know I’m paying a lot more attention to them (and Fulham) than I would if Convey and Hannaman weren’t on the team.
Some smaller countries used to stack one team with all their best players (kinda like the parent Chivas does) so the foundation of their national team play together all the time. What if some American with deep pockets was to buy an EPL (or Championship) side and stock it with Americans? You’d have the national team playing together a large portion of the time and they’d be available for FIFA International dates. Yeah, it’s a silly idea. But it’s no sillier than expecting MLS fans to take games played while the best players are in Germany representing their country (and league) seriously.