Picking a winner

I’ve started a couple of posts the last week or so to basically bash the playoffs and the fact that MLS doesn’t reward the best team over the course of the season.

Fortunately, I never finished them. I’m not as hostile as I was. However, after today’s announcement from Don Garber, I’m more confused and concerned about the direct the “Competition Committee” is going with this.

First of all, I have to agree that the playoffs have been entertaining. There have been some great match ups and the fans in DC and Houston have don’t what we usually don’t see from MLS fans this time of year…they showed up. Well done to them. Oh, and Smurf fans should take note next time they whine about their team moving (I’ve still got to get my digs in) 😉

What I’m having a problem with is referring to the winner on Sunday as the best team in MLS this season. Sorry, but over the course of the season, neither NE or Houston can claim that title. Those two teams are just the best at the end of the season. I’m not knocking either team. They are taking advantage of the structure of the league. I’ll be watching on Sunday and I’m looking forward to an entertaining match.

As much as I complain about the structure, at least I’m not Colin Clark. The Dallas coach, in my opinion, was screwed by the structure of the league. I have a problem with the unbalanced scheduling of the league. Last season, LA was able to sneak into the playoffs only because the Western Conference was so weak. This season the Eastern Conference was weaker.

The other day, I played with some numbers. I took the results of every team but doubled the points for games against teams outside their conference. It’s not a fool proof method, but it would give a better representation of what a balanced schedule would produce. What I found was that DC and Dallas were level on points. Yeah, DC had the better goal difference (the best tie-breaker) but that’s before you play with the numbers the unbalanced schedule produced. I’m not sure if I used the same formula it would have changed.

Anyway, if the champion was based on a balanced regular season, we may have seen an interesting race to the wire…but we’ll never really know because both teams took their foot off the pedal once they qualified and…we’ll we saw what happened in the playoffs. Clark was fired even though his team could have tied for the best this season. Heck, sounds almost like LA when Schmid was fired.

So, now Mr. Garber announced the most confusing schedule structure they could have created for next season. It will be even more unbalanced than we’ve seen–even in the days of three conferences. To soften the blow, only the top two from each conference go straight through…then it’s the next best four. But with an unbalanced schedule, does this result in the best next four going through? I doubt it.

Next season we’ll have 30 mostly meaningless games (down from 32 because of the Copa America…wow, what a concession to the fact that the best players will miss as much as two months of the season) to decide which eight teams get to playoff for the crown.

Sorry, I will continue to disagree with the structure of the league until they find a way to make the regular season more meaningful. Yeah, when the league expands to 18 teams and only eight go through, it will be more meaningful. But why should fans have to wait another 10 years?

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