Tuesday’s column: MLS Cup, playoff revamp needed (again)

To avoid a repeat of the overly empty stadium and less than passionate atmosphere we saw at MLS Cup Sunday night on ESPN.

Read the column here.

Note: I did not write the headline on the column; I would not use the adjective “troubled” to describe MLS.

Oh, and I forgot to mention in the column: let’s get rid of those two pointless geographic conferences that just make figuring out who is in the playoffs more difficult at a glance. When the league’s own website publishes special “playoff standings” for clarity, you know something is wrong.


Need further proof MLS has an issue with its structuring of MLS Cup (and the playoffs in general)?

Sunday’s MLS Cup was the lowest-rated – ever.

Meanwhile, “NBC scored (Sunday) with the most-watched November NFL prime-time game since 1996, City News Service observed:

“NBC’s “Sunday Night Football” game between (Michael) Vick’s Philadelphia Eagles and the New York Giants … averaged 23.2 million viewers to be the week’s most-watched program.”

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  • Inigo Montoya

    Hard to imagine a championship game played under worse conditions. It was a pretty sad display, especially after the first half.

    Two so-so teams playing to exhaustion almost guaranteed that it would be settled by a flukey play. (I kept thinking of the exhausted Edson Buddle and Landon Donovan missing PKs last year.)

    I don’t mind seeing the final played on a neutral field. But Seattle and Toronto (and half the parks in the league) are too far north for a November game, and no final should ever be played on artificial turf. Ever.

    The Supporter’s Shield winner should get some byes, at least to the semi if not the final. Otherwise the MLS risks becoming the NBA or the NHL, where teams hold back their best players and best play once they’ve qualified for the playoffs. Cynical play drives away fans.


    Having an eight team playoff, while the regular season champs sit back and watch and then get to play the exhausted winner at home doesn’t seem like a really good solution. You are pretty much guaranteeing the regular season champs are “the Champions”.

    A home-away series doesn’t seem very final like. Playing at the home venue of the team with the best record means people will have to be scrambling at the last minute if they want to see the finals live.

    The problems with a neutral site are temporary if you buy into the belief that soccer is growing into a mainstream sport in the US. The Superbowl can be held anywhere in the US and it will sell-out to a fanatical crowd. I think we just need to bridge that gap. Site selection seems most important. In terms of crowd turn out Seattle and Columbus seem like good neutral sites (albeit maybe not the best sites for a November game). Once the MLS final becomes sufficiently popular, you could open it up to any venue. Perhaps, restrict cold venues without a dome like the NFL does

    Speaking of cold weather issues, the number of northern teams means the US couldn’t follow the EPL schedule. If we were to follow FIFA’s desire, we would have to take a pretty extended winter break like the Scandinavians do. I guess the season would be chopped in half, perhaps like the Aperatura and Clousura (SP?) in Mexico?

  • 1. You’re right – I want to give a sizable edge to the regular season champ.

    2. Is it better to inconvenience ALL fans or just the fans of the team that failed to be the higher-seeded team that hosts the final.

    3. See Sunday’s TV ratings for an illustration of the growth of (MLS) socer into a “mainstream sport” after 15 years.

    4. I didn’t have the space in the column, but I would like to see an apertura and clausura -a 17 game split season would also increase the interest in the regular season. Then in a perfect world we would do away with playoffs altogether and the top place team in each season (or second if it’s the same one) would face off in MLS Cup.

  • Inigo Montoya

    I like the Apertura and Clausura idea. It would make regular season games matter, and would wipe the slate clean after one time through the league. The G’s would have won the Apertura handily this year, and Seattle (Dallas?) the Clausura. Would have been a good final.

    The split season could work in the US with the weather, as you say: they have viable leagues in Scandanavia and Russia, where winters are worse than in Toronto or Boston. Scarves would make a heck of a lot more sense than in LA in July…

    I don’t think we should worry about competing with football/NBA versus baseball. Building a fan base is a tough slog either way. Gotta face it.