MLS Playoff Thursday & More

MLS Melodrama: Playoff Formats

Ah, it’s that time of year again.

No, I don’t mean that the first MLS playoff series of the opening round between D.C. United and the Chicago Fire concludes at 4:30 p.m. today on ESPN2, although there’s that, too. (The Fire leads 1-0 in the total goals two-game series, by the way).

I meant that as predicted here with lower seeds holding 1-0 leads in three of the four series over opponents who finished higher in the regular season standings (as United did over the Fire), cue the annual angst over the MLS playoff format.

The New York Times weighs in here, while Yahoo’s Martin Rogers has his say here.

Sorry, NYT but one table is never going to work in MLS because 13 teams is too many already (and MLS, of course, wants to add more franchises) to create meaningful games for those occupying the bottom rungs of the table. (At least until we have more than one division with tense relegation battles).

Meanwhile, Rogers’ solution is novel, but will never happen (try explaining that one even to soccer fans).

As I have opined before, there are simpler solutions.

Break the long season into two with an Apertura and Clausura, as occurs in many Latin American countries, which also has the added benefit of giving a sense of familiarity to the season to those Mexican-Americans the league covets.

The two winners of the pair of shortened 15 to 16 game seasons meet at the MLS Cup to decide the grand champion. No playoff games, which are often more poorly attended than regular season games anyway because of the lack of time needed to promote them, should be held at all.

If not having playoffs is unAmerican then have the top two teams (or top four if you must) in each season playoff for the “title.” That format reduces the likelihood of upsets and gives more consistent teams more opportunities to advance to MLS Cup (you would of course eliminate the Apertura winner from the second season playoffs).

It’s a topic MLS has long wrestled with. Alternate ideas welcomed.

The Next U.S. Women’s National Team Coach?

Earlier this week I found myself chasing down a rumor from youth soccer circles on the Palos Verdes Peninsula that Jim Gabarra of the W-League’s Washington Freedom will be the next coach of the USWNT.

With his wife, former national team star Carin Gabarra (Jennings) coming from the area, there was an element of truth to that one (as there is to any good rumor).

The only problem: U.S. Soccer hasn’t even conducted any job interviews yet.

Which leaves us free to continue to speculate over potential candidates.

The Daily Bruin talks up Jill Ellis, coach of top-ranked UCLA.

UCLA (12-1-2; 5-0 Pac-10), which has yet to concede a goal in five Pac-10 games so far, can all but wrap up the conference title this weekend with a pair of home games at Drake Stadium.

UCLA plays at 7 p.m. Friday against Arizona State (9-7-1; 3-2-1 Pac-10) and 1 p.m. Sunday against Arizona (1-4-1; 6-10-1 Pac-10).

Matador Update

Meanwhile, the Cal State Northridge men tied Cal Poly 0-0 Wednesday, leaving the Big West standings looking like this.

Youth Soccer

As expected former Real Salt Lake Coach John Ellinger has landed a job with the U.S. Youth Soccer Association, in a newly-created technical director role.

From the press release:

The new position will head the US Youth Soccer Technical and Coaching Education Department and will be responsible for designing and systematically implementing player development and coaching education programs to improve the overall standard of play within the United States.

Ellinger will be responsible for all aspects of the association’s coaching initiatives, including a renewed focus on player development with consistent themes and coaching education.

Before joining MLS, Ellinger was coach of the U.S. Under-17 Men’s National Team for seven years.

Finally, the two Chivas USA players Coach Thomas Rongen took to the Limoges Tournament in France where the U.S. Men’s Under-18 National Team is playing saw limited action Tuesday in the opening game against host France.

Forward Mario Ledezma of Sylmar played the final seven minutes in the 3-1 loss; defender Omar Elmasri of Arcadia never made it off the bench.

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About Nick Green

South Bay-based Los Angeles News Group soccer columnist and blogger Nick Green writes at the 100 Percent Soccer blog at and craft beer at the Beer Goggles blog at Cheers!