The MLS Cup playoffs are unique to the soccer world. MLS is the only league to my knowledge that crowns its champion with an end of season tournament. Other than the official FIFA calendar, it's the only idea left from the founders of MLS that's truly an "American" ideal and that people in this country wouldn't understand if the league were to switch to that way of deciding a champion. MLS threw out the shoot-out a long time ago, but this end of season tournament is absolutely vital to the survival of the league. Even though we could change the format a little.
Here's why I'm excited for the playoffs this year:
The main reason I'm hopeful for the Colorado Rapids is that D.C. United won the U.S. Open Cup this year. The 100th anniversary of that tournament. They also finished in last place in the Eastern Conference. The tournament is a different animal than the season format. I've always said former Rapids coach Gary Smith should coach a national team because they exclusively play tournaments and with the Rapids and Stevenage in the U.K. that was where he did his best work.
Knowing sports the way I do and watching Norv Turner and Marty Schottenheimer blow winnable playoff games for their teams year after year I know it's hard to find a coach that can win in the playoffs. That's why I have hope going into the playoffs with the Rapids this year. All the debate about the Rapids line-up in Vancouver last Sunday night was probably a mind-set of a 3 match week for Oscar Pareja. SIgi Schmid is probably the best coach in MLS history, who has a proven track record in the MLS playoffs. Taking two clubs to MLS Cups and winning the U.S. Open Cup five times, he is a bit of a legend in MLS. But Seattle's recent form has me hopeful of a Rapids victory.
Whether or not the Rapids win I will watch the rest of the MLS playoffs, and especially the semi-finals, just as I would the NCAA basketball tournament or the Wildcard weekend of the NFL, because it's do-or-die soccer. The best part of sports to me is the close game adrenaline rush a fan gets when they are watching a game that means more than just 3 points or a win or loss. That's the part that's addicting. The adrenaline you get from missing a penalty kick. The building of anticipation when a contest is still in doubt. When it's not your team it's actually easier to watch because the outcome does not have meaning to you. That's why I'll be watching the Rapids match versus the Sounders tonight in the darkness of my living room. Only my dog sitting near me being disturbed when I either scream with joy or take him out for a walk to digest the end of a season. I generally switch off social media and the outside world for the duration. I wouldn't do that for a regular season game.