What MLS Can Learn from Indios Story
Many critics of the American game, most with European orientations demonstrate nothing but disdain for the playoff system in football.
For these critics the story of Indios needs to be told. Six short weeks ago the Mexican Club which is only four years old was flirting with relegation from the Mexican Primera Division. Based in Juarez, Indios draws a lot of its support from across the border in Southwest Texas and New Mexico.
Indios put together an amazing late run in the Mexican Clausura and now are in the semifinals of the playoffs after qualifying with a 3-1 win over Guadalajara (Chivas) on the final weekend of the regular season and defeating Toluca in a two leg Quarterfinal season.
The run by Indios has become so compelling that they are winning fans across the United States where television access to Mexican Football is unmatched by any European League. On Sunday afternoon my twitter feed lit up as fans and bloggers tweeted that they had found their team in Mexico after Indios held off Toluca.
The fact that Indios is a border team with no history fits the US psyche. We are used to expansion teams in our sports, including football and embrace Cinderella stories.
Translate this to MLS, USL and the NCAA College Cup. The season is always active and with hope. Teams can disappoint for much of the season but bounce back in a big way later in the campaign and contend for a title. Much of the MLS season features matches that lack intensity and appeal. But nobody in their right mind is going to claim that MLS in October lacks excitement, flair and meaning.
Can you imagine the excitement in a football league with BOTH playoff tournaments and relegation? The FMF offers both in a non traditional manner. They relegate one team based on the cumulative points over two seasons each May, while eight teams in the 18 team league make the playoffs.
With MLS rapidly headed towards 20 teams in 2012 and hitting what is almost sure to be a level of clubs that FIFA is going to request to cap, the idea of MLS 2 and a single team being relegated after the first 5 seasons of this new system needs to be thought through.
For me the Mexican League is one of the most compelling products on the planet because they have both relegation which makes European leagues so interesting late in the year and the playoffs which we love in MLS. Here in the states we’d be wise to replicate the FMF formula. After all, the FMF and MLS are close enough business partners anyhow.