Writing for Burgundy Wave is a fun endeavor where we get to talk about our Colorado Rapids and the greater Colorado soccer community as a whole. We mostly try to keep it light as we talk about the Rapids and Colorado soccer, but on occasion we provide hard hitting journalism that you have come to expect from the Wave.
But..........this series will not be one of those...
However, it will be a fun and whimsical look at what we think can be improved in Major League Soccer. For the first in the soccer dreaming series, I will tackle a pet peeve of mine: the MLS table.
First off, I do get why the league is split into the Western and Eastern conferences. The United States and Canada are impossibly huge places and travel is absolutely crazy. For example, look how the Rapids end their April:
Friday, April 24 vs FC Dallas
Wednesday, April 29 at New York Red Bulls
Saturday, May 2 at LA Galaxy
If you are keeping score at home that is 4,910 air miles in a fairly short period. So, yes, for travel reasons (and a litany of others) having two conferences is important.
And for scheduling, it is easier to schedule with the current conference make-up.
But why not have a single table for everything else? Sure you can schedule based on Western and Eastern conferences as they are now, but why not have that single table for standings and playoff places. If there was a single table, this is how the league would look after week six:
|San Jose Earthquakes||9||6||3||3||0||0||Western|
|Real Salt Lake||9||5||2||0||3||2||Western|
|Sporting Kansas City||9||6||2||1||3||0||Western|
|New York Red Bulls||8||4||2||0||2||3||Eastern|
|New England Revolution||8||6||2||2||2||-2||Eastern|
|Columbus Crew SC||5||5||1||2||2||0||Eastern|
|New York City FC||5||5||1||2||2||0||Eastern|
GP: Games Played. GD: Goal Difference. Teams in italics: current playoff teams based on current format
So you would have playoff match-ups (based on this single table) of:
Wild Card Games:
Seattle at Real Salt Lake
New England at Sporting
LA Galaxy at New York Red Bulls
Orlando City at Houston
SEA/RSL vs Vancouver
NER/SKC vs D.C. United
LAG/NYRB vs FC Dallas
HOU/ORL vs San Jose
I look at those possible match-ups and I think, wow. Those would be some fantastic games and possible semifinals series.
With a single table however, there will be winners and losers:
1) LA Galaxy and Seattle Sounders: Without a doubt, the Galaxy and Sounders have the most to benefit from this. In the current conference set-up neither team makes the playoffs.
2) The Supporters: There will be no debate as to whether or not the best 12 teams have made the playoffs. It completely eliminates a team from the West saying they got hosed because they had more points and missed then a team in the East did and made the playoffs. Supporters (in general) would enjoy this more.
3) Major League Soccer: The best teams make the playoffs, regardless of conference affiliation. And this is good for MLS.
1) Chicago and Columbus: With the current format, these teams make the playoffs, but if you go single table, this does not happen. There certainly would be frustration from these supporters.
So after all of this discussion is a single table a reality? Probably not. The American sports landscape likes its conferences with every major sport having them, let alone the college sports scene and their ever evolving conference structure. In many ways soccer in America is doing its best to assimilate and be like the other sports here.
However, I think there is a flaw in this. Yes, it is important to remember that this is MLS and in America and Canada we have conferences for everything. But I think this should change in soccer. Most other leagues world wide have a single table with the team at the top at the end of the season being crowned champion. And whereas this (the champion being the team with the most points at the end of a season) will never happen in MLS, a single table is something that could quite easily. It would be a (very slight) nod to how soccer is done most other places and would ensure a quality MLS Cup tournament.
This year there are likely to be many good teams from the West that will not make it because the West is so strong. And if it ends up that teams from the East that make the playoffs and have less points then teams from the West who do not (make the playoffs), there will be justifiable complaints. And if you are MLS do you want the best 12 teams competing for the final, or would you like to have good teams left at home just for the sake of conference symmetry?