The Daily Wave: And Now We Wait

Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Spor

The whole idea of games in hand is annoying. This is the most intense, important part of the MLS regular season, and the Rapids get to sit for an extra week.

The Rapids have two weeks off for the other teams in the playoff race to catch up on games played. I'm not sure a bye week benefits the team right now, especially in light of how flat they were after the last bye week, as well as the oft-stated importance of finishing the MLS season with good momentum. But at least we'll have a better idea of where the Rapids really stand in the western conference when they take the field against Seattle in two weeks. Because the MLS schedule-makers are unnecessarily thickheaded, we've had to wait until October to have that equal footing in the standings and get rid of annoying 'games in hand.'

English Premier League and German Bundesliga teams all play on the same weekends, so barring a rare postponed game, all the teams are on equal footing throughout the season. Therefore standings mean something, and it's easier for fans to track their team's placement in the table. I don't even necessarily mind the American idea of bye weeks, even once the league is back to an even number of teams (and having an odd number of teams is the only excuse for the occasional game in hand, but MLS takes that excuse to a ridiculous extreme). A bye week is a fine time to schedule friendlies or give players a break. The NFL has bye weeks, but they all come in the first part of the season, so by midseason everyone is back on equal footing. Now that almost every MLS team has its own stadium, there's no good reason to make the Rapids sit out a week during the most intense part of the season.

Also, scheduling back to backs against the same team causes a competitive imbalance, and is simply unnecessary. One bad run of games, or a spate of injuries or suspensions can have a disproportionate impact on two teams' relative place in the standings (and depending on a particular year's rules, on playoff tiebreakers as well). In Germany, teams play every other team once in the fall, and once in the spring. This limits the impact of the schedule on the overall standings. So, for example, if either Colorado or Vancouver is missing key players (suspensions or injuries) for both their upcoming games, that will have a disproportionate part to play in the standings gap between those two teams, and in this case, very real playoff positioning possibilities. The league needs to do better.

Whether or not MLS moves to a 28 game season as they've apparently discussed, the schedule-makers need to stop trying to show off their creativity and just keep it simple. This time of year, teams should be on equal footing and every weekend should matter.

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