King for a Day

My blog title is an XTC lyric so why not use one here?

So, we are in the middle of the off-season. There’s plenty going on in MLS and Europe but I thought it would be fun to have a think about what I’d recommend if I were Don Garber about the structure of MLS–hence the “King for a Day” title.

Probably the biggest complaint I hear about MLS is the post season…or at least the format of it. It really doesn’t produce as much incentive as it could to force winning soccer all season long. Just look at my boys (LA) in 2005 for your classic example of this.

Thing is, the playoffs aren’t going away. I don’t care how much the SnobMob speak out for a more “traditional” format. MLS needs some kind of post season.

I’ve done a little thinking and have come up with a structure that, while still not completely worked out makes sense to me. The biggest problem with it is that it’s a little more complicated than what we have now.

Right now, the playoff prize is the MLS Cup. Places in the Champions Cup and SuperLiga are somehow sorted out from there. Why not change things around a bit so that the places in the Champions Cup and SuperLiga are won in the playoffs.

Now, I’m making some assumptions here which may or may not shoot this whole thing down…but hear me out. I’m going to assume that the top four teams will be in the Champions Cup and the next four in the SuperLiga (UEFA Cupish). I’m not sure it’s the right thing to do to have the same teams play in both the Champions Cup and the SuperLiga. If a team does well in both, that would mean–by my rough estimation–12 possible Champions Cup matches and 5 more in the SuperLiga….that is if they make it to the finals in both. So for now, I’m going to assume that teams can only play in one regional competition.

So, first we have the Open Cup winner. They should automatically qualify for the SuperLiga and a chance at the Champions Cup if they fail to finish high enough in the regular season.

The MLS Cup should be played between the winners of the Eastern and Western Conferences. They both automatically qualify for the Champions Cup.

The Open Cup winner and the next three best finishing teams in the regular season will play off for the other two Champions Cup spots….losers of the match-ups will go into the SuperLiga.

Then, the next four best finishes will play off for the final two SuperLiga spots.

Yeah, I can see you doing the math there. It would mean that ten teams make the playoffs. However, a team finishing fourth in their conference is playing off for a spot in regional competition, not the MLS Cup.

How would this have looked based on the way things finished in 2007?

MLS Cup

DC vs Chivas

Champions Cup Playoff

Houston vs NY

NE vs Dallas

SuperLiga Playoff

Chicago vs Colorado

KC vs Columbus

DC and Chivas would be with the winners of the Houston/NY and NE/Dallas series in the Champions Cup. The loser of the Houston/NY and NE/Dallas series and the winners of the Chicago/Colorado and KC/Columbus series make the SuperLiga. The Chicago/Colorado and KC/Columbus series get to try again next season.

Scheduling makes sense as well. The playoff series for spots in the Regional competition could start the weekend after the season finishes (home and home with first leg at lower ranked team) and be finished up the second Saturday. The MLS Cup would then be played the following day on Sunday. As it’s at a neutral site, this gives the fans of each team a chance to organize things (unlike I had to do sorting out a trip to Columbus from LA with less than a week before the 2001 MLS Cup Final)

Of course, this puts Toronto at a disadvantage because they don’t play in the Open Cup…but there’s going to be a problem with any playoff format.

Anyway, I know it’s not perfect but something like this would be a big step in the right direction. Of course, I’d wake up the next day and all my hard work would have been shot down by the money men….but still, ya gotta dream.

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