At this point, any dissection of the miserable loss to Chivas is just a broken record being played over and over. For those of you old enough to remember vinyl, the Rapids needle is just stuck in an endless loop of bad defending, missed opportunities, and momentary lapses of concentration. In media circles, it is being insinuated that Hinchey and Bravo will finally stop this album during the off season and hopefully smash the record that was 2014!
In past articles, I have concentrated on what I believe will be a major shift in the economics of how MLS will work. With the addition of Orlando and NYCFC next year, the expansion draft, labor negotiations, and realignment, one has to wonder if the indecisions on the part of the Rapids during this swoon is simply that any changes at this point just aren't worth it due to the unknowns of what the league dynamics will be like. The Rapids have a nice corps of inexpensive talent. The most likely change to the labor agreement is that the minimum salaries will increase. With next year being the 20th year of the MLS, what other changes might we see? Maybe additional designated player slots? How will the economics effect the Rapids moving forward? With a shirt sponsor, are the once cash strapped Rapids finally able to bring talent in that will succeed in the new sphere of MLS? One likely change is the addition of two new teams to the Western Conference with Houston and Sporting KC most likely making the crossover with Orlando and NYCFC taking spots in the East (and the disappearance of Chivas). This tweet suggested a possible alignment like this.
Four divisions of five teams each, with the Rapids sharing a group with Salt Lake, Dallas, Houston, and KC. This would be a fairly stout grouping. Assuming MLS continues the playoff trend one would assume each division winner will earn a spot. I would assume they will throw in some wild cards as well to keep teams hungry (pending promotion/relegation, see below). Perhaps it will be similar to the NHL setup, where all the Western teams will simply be racked and stacked but division winners automatically receive 1 and 2 seeds regardless of point totals?
With a possible 32 game season in the works and playing 12 matches against teams within your own division (10 against other Western foes [home/away] and 10 against Eastern foes), the Rapids would have their work cut out for them. In addition to these unknowns, Jurgen Klinsman, in his address to the media before the Ecuador game, dropped a hornet's nest into his discussion suggesting the American soccer approach of not having a promotion/relegation system was hurting the growth of soccer. Deadspin made a point in their tweet that said,
the present system...is designed principally to ensure no one can fail, and so ensures that no one can be truly great. - @deadspin— Ted Westervelt (@soccerreform) October 10, 2014
Looking in the rear view mirror at the Rapids late season swoon, one has to wonder if the notion of relegation would have stopped this slide months ago. With 20 years in the books can MLS legitimately be a cartel of shared ownership now that 20 teams (with widely different income streams) exist and with second division teams with strong fan bases clamoring for the spotlight. Also, is the apparent lack of any consistent policy in regards to player movement leading to certain team supporters throwing up their hands in dismay about the lack of fairness? How fair of a playing field is the MLS?
Opponents of the promotion/relegation system suggest that teams losing their MLS spot would lose viewership due to playing at a lower level. They also suggest that these lower level teams would be poached of their better players and thus never be able to regain promotion. They also suggest the promotion/relegation system is a thing of the past and that it isn't necessary and that MLS would prefer to have multiple teams versus tiered leagues. Fans of Sacramento might look to the Rapids sometimes empty stadium and losing streak and suggest they could do better. An attitude of must win soccer might make Rapids fans and management stop taking comfort in the "always next year" attitude.
For relegation would the West and East each lose 1 to 2 teams a year? Could this then set up a second tier of teams based on East/West groupings playing for these spots? It is an interesting thought and unfortunately with the current system never going to happen! As Clint Irwin tweeted,
If I had to rank Promotion/Rel on the priority list to improve MLS, it'd be well below things like getting guys out of affordable housing.— Clint Irwin (@ClintIrwin) October 15, 2014
It's fun to talk about though because the product on the field lately hasn't been too much fun! It will be interesting to see how things change over the next season with the Rapids and MLS.