When Steven Cohen of World Soccer Daily goes on his almost daily rant about MLS’ Regular Season meaning nothing he has a point: The Colorado Rapids who went almost three whole months without winning match are now within two points of a playoff spot after a convincing three-nill victory over New England Thursday Night. This game was supposed to be broadcast on ESPN2, but the network dropped the match to show LA-Toronto two weeks ago.
If you listened to World Soccer Daily you’d think MLS was the only league in the world with playoffs. While that is not true, it is probably the only league in the world that rewards poor play with a high draft choice, a possible playoff spot and the possibility of future allocations. No doubt that the league will continue to be taken as a bit of a joke in football loving circles until it finds a way to fix its playoff system, and put mediocrity in its place. The fact that the MLS clubs competing in Superliga have shown much more effort in that event than they have in the recent MLS fixtures also speaks loudly as to how long the regular season is and how broken the playoff system is.
Last season, FC Dallas who had the second most points in the league lost a two leg playoff series with Colorado who lost more game than they won. How fair is that, and how reflective of MLS’ quality is an upset like that? MLS needs to seriously revisit the whole playoff system, probably by only allowing four teams, two from each conference into the competition. This will also force the poorer sides to put some emphasis and focus on the US Open Cup. Besides how fair is it for a club like Red Bull NY or Columbus Crew who didn’t even qualify for the US Open Cup to play in the same playoffs against DC United who has or will participate in five major knock out competitions this year when you include the playoffs? Clubs like DC United and Houston have already wilted at times this season due to major fixture congestion. While fixture congestion occurs all over the globe, the imbalance for MLS clubs is worse than in Europe. This fact is complicated by when MLS’ holds its season, in the hottest months of the year.
I acknowledge that MLS’ cannot move to a August-May schedule. In fact many leagues in Northern Europe have moved towards MLS’ model of holding the season over the Summer. However, these leagues don’t have several different competitions they participate in jamming the calendar and then having a playoff system which seemingly favors clubs not entered in those competitions. The league’s decsion to hold Superliga in a short period to take advantage of a certain former Real Madrid and Manchester United midfielder’s arrival stateside has further complicated the situation. Hopefully in the future MLS can come up with both a playoff system and a calender that is fairer to all parties.