It’s just not right is it? Somehow you look at this situation in the MLS Eastern Conference Final that Real Salt Lake, a club from the West came to Chicago and defeated them in a penalty kick shootout to take the Eastern Conference crown and will face fellow western club Los Angeles Galaxy at Qwest Field in Seattle for the League crown. Gee where have I seen this before? Oh that’s right last years playoffs when Red Bull NY took on both Houston Dynamo and Real Salt Lake for their first Western Conference title.
Then two time defending champion Houston Dynamo came to the Meadowlands last year in the first leg of the goal aggregate West Semi-final playoffs and were very lucky to leave the swamp with a late goal to tie the aggregate, but RBNY traveled down to Houston with confidence and took out the Dynamo with three goals and won the aggregate four to one. Then the one goal victory over Real Salt Lake in the West Final that sent the club to the Home Depot Center to face eventual MLS Cup Champions Columbus Crew.
Now look at Real Salt Lake in this years playoffs. They are doing the same thing that RBNY did last year. They faced defending champion Columbus Crew and defeated them three goals to two on aggregate in the east semis & a thrilling 5-4 penalty kick shootout win for RSL to advance to the finals when there were no goals scored in regulation and overtime.
My former colleague from Champions Soccer Radio Network Peter Brown told me that the Columbus Crew had to beat RBNY for the good of the league, on an episode of Around the Playoffs. I guess we have to say the same thing about the Los Angeles Galaxy that they have to win the title for the good of the league and to make sure things end up the right way. This doesn’t mean I am picking the Galaxy to defeat Real Salt Lake, it just means that if we want this cup to be handed to a proper champion then the current structure should mean the Galaxy’s opponents has to come from a club in the east, not a guest who made it in the last minute and happened to be in the eastern playoffs.
But wait one minute that would be the pot calling the kettle black wouldn’t it? I mean if Red Bull NY did win the cup last year and if RSL does upset the Los Angeles Galaxy in MLS Cup Final next Sunday, should we say this wasn’t good for the league? In all honest it really shouldn’t matter as a champion was crowned and we should all give either RSL or the Galaxy the proper respect they deserve for winning the cup.
What would be the easiest solution to fix this mess? I believe next season Major League Soccer should go to a single table and scrap the East & West Conference standings all together. Now if you saw the interview with Don Garber on the Fox Football Fone-In, you saw the argument being made that single table that works in Europe won’t work here. Well in a certain way that’s not true. Single table can still work if you use it for playoff positioning.
You can have all matches mean something till the bitter end and still fight for that 8th position to clinch that last playoff spot. Of course the regular season would mean something when a club wins top of the table can still advance to the group stages of the CONCACAF Champions League. It would solve some of the problems when supporters of the league feel that something isn’t right to crown a champion. Then you can have 1 Vs 8, 2 Vs 7, 3 Vs 6 & 4 Vs 5.
But right now it’s Real Salt Lake’s turn to be ridiculed for winning the East since they are members of the West. Time for everyone to point the finger of blame at RSL and tell them they didn’t deserve to win the East. But you know what, tough. MLS made up the rules and we all have to live by them. When they hammer out a new C.B.A. with the players union hopefully the league will change the playoff rules. Till then enjoy the final folks.