Playoffs Are Dead, MLS Just Doesn’t Know It Yet

TORONTO, ON - NOVEMBER 21: MLS Commissioner Don Garber (R) hands the Philip F. Anschutz Trophy to Captain Pablo Mastroeni  (L) of the Colorado Rapids who accepts it on behalf of the team in honor of their 2-1 overtime victory against FC Dallas during the 2010 MLS Cup match at BMO Field on November 21, 2010 in Toronto, Canada. (Photo by Abelimages/Getty Images)

Now that 48 hours have passed since the 2010 MLS Cup, it’s time to face reality and that is that the MLS Playoff system is broken and dead. It’s a joke. Absolutely meaningless. And needs to be completely revamped so it isn’t the way of crowning the MLS champion. Or the playoffs need to be eliminated entirely.

In the most successful year for soccer in the United States in the history of the sport, more people than ever watched the sport on US television. Yet, in the same year, MLS TV ratings dropped 12% for the regular season on ESPN. And the final was one of the lowest overnight TV ratings for more than ten years. Something is absolutely wrong with Major League Soccer and there needs to be massive changes to overhaul this league and turn it into a winning formula. The league and the sport in this country cannot afford for MLS to sink any lower. However based on MLS Commissioner Don Garber’s comments during half-time of the MLS Cup Final, he’s digging a deeper hole by deciding that the playoff system will be expanded next season from eight teams to ten.

In August, Garber’s contract was extended to 2014. According to an article in Sports Business Journal, the MLS owners expect Garber to improve the league in the following three areas:

  1. TV ratings,
  2. New media business,
  3. Quality of play.

These are three areas that are definitely in much need of improvement by Garber. To make a positive difference with the TV ratings, even if some of the TV rights are acquired by Versus, will require significant changes to the way the league operates. Having a MLS Cup Final on a Sunday night with an 8:55pm ET kick-off is going to be a ratings disaster even if it would have been LA Galaxy and New York Red Bulls in the final. But the biggest difference needed of all is to blow up the current idea of a playoff system. To improve TV ratings during the regular season, games need to be more meaningful. If you, as a soccer fan, know that only the team that finishes on top of the single-table league is crowned MLS champion, you’re going to want to see your team fighting for that spot throughout the season. Every game matters.

Taken by itself, I’m not a hater of the playoff system. It’s exciting. And it’s intriguing, especially when teams upset bigger teams in the rounds of games. But it should not be used as a system to crown a champion. It should be used as an end-of-the-season qualification tournament to determine who gets a spot in the CONCACAF Champion’s League group stage. The winner of the single-table regular season can be crowned MLS Champion, while the winner of the playoffs can be crowned MLS Cup Champion.

Fixing the playoffs will greatly improve the TV ratings, but that’s just a start. The times and days when the games are played needs to be revisited so they’re more consistent (so people know when to expect to see a game on TV). Plus they need to consider more Saturday night games at a time that works for both the east coast and west coast of the United States.

As for new media business, most of us remember that the launch of was a complete and utter disaster. Garber doesn’t fill me with a lot of confidence that MLS will be able to succeed in new media business, but hopefully he’ll prove me wrong.

As for quality of play, most of us know that it needs to be vastly improved especially when the TV viewing audience has a choice of picking any major soccer league from around the world to watch on their TV set or computer. There definitely has been a wave of shining stars who are coming through the ranks. There are a lot of youth players who are very promising. And the MLS teams are doing better in the CONCACAF Champions League. There is a light at the end of the tunnel, but still a lot of hard work is required.

Major League Soccer finds itself at a critical crossroads for the future of the sport in this country. It’s coming off a MLS Cup Final that few people on television or even in Toronto cared about. The number of teams are growing, but TV ratings are dropping through the roof. It’s time for change and it’s time for Major League Soccer to make some significant changes which will win over the soccer fans in this country. For far too long MLS has tried to appease the casual American sports fan with a system of playoffs that is comfortable and palatable to them. At the same time that they do that, MLS upsets the traditional soccer fans who see the majority of the world adopting a different system to crown their champions which seems more fair and balanced. By playing it down the middle, MLS upsets people on both sides of the fence. And that’s where we are today.

So instead of seeing a continuing decline in TV ratings for the next few years, MLS needs to act now and change to survive and grow.

I was disheartened Sunday night when I heard Garber mention that they will take the next 1-2 years to research and investigate more significant changes to MLS such as adopting an international calendar. It was a cop-out answer. Something to satisfy both the critics and FIFA at the same time. But it was completely against everything MLS has ever said in the past. Instead of white lies and focus groups, MLS needs to embrace the hardcore soccer fan in the United States by making changes, killing the current playoff system and moving forward with changes that will reinvigorate the game in this country.

Whether they will or not, we’ll have to wait and see. Don Garber’s contract has another four years left on it, so all we can do is live and hope.

148 thoughts on “Playoffs Are Dead, MLS Just Doesn’t Know It Yet”

    1. The playoffs are just a start. The current system obviously isn’t working, but changing or removing the playoffs would be a good way to begin.

      The Gaffer

      1. Changing the playoff structure as a first step to changing the entire system is like changing the diet of a smoker to help them stop smoking. That’s the kind of change Garber loves. He wants to simulate pro/rel, but is more than willing to expose Montreal to real winter play. You can bet he’d agree to ditch playoffs before agreeing to the unlimited clubs we’ll need to push the level of play.

        There is nothing MLS owners fear more than a free market that forces them to concentrate on quality of play – and changing the playoffs gets us nowhere near that goal. MLS, unlike NBA, NFL, MLB, and NHL, cannot set the agenda for the sport. The failure rate for closed soccer leagues far surpasses their open cousins – and US leagues account for half of those failures. This never stops them from trying.

        MLS has assembled the finances to survive in a vegetative state. That doesn’t make them a success. Changing the playoff structure won’t pull them out of that coma.

        On the other side of the coin, all you supporters of NFL wannabe soccer, we can have independent clubs, pro/rel, and your beloved playoffs…

        We just can’t have independent clubs pushing envelope of play without pro/rel, and until we get rid of MLS’s Pizza Hut business model, we can’t have either.

        Garber would change the urinal cakes in every MLS stadium, by hand, before he’d agree to the promotion, relegation and independent clubs we need to push quality of play at every level, raise the global interest in our club game, and improve the final product. You can bet he’ll bail on playoffs – if that’s what supporters want.

        I think that probly just leaves us the same MLS – without playoffs.

  1. I want the playoffs revamped as much as anyone but I’m tired of the Europhile answer to just eliminate them. This is America we like playoffs. If you don’t like it go have fun rooting for 2 teams in la liga to win or 4-5 teams in England win every year.
    Expanding playoffs IS a terrible idea. As league expands 8 will get better and better. Should implement 2 game series in every round except perhaps final. More games equal more money.
    The playoffs will never be eliminated, focus on change not destruction.

    1. Thanks Matthew for the comment. But the article says we should keep the playoffs but use it instead for picking a team to qualify for CONCACAF Champions League group stage.

      The Gaffer

      1. What exactly do you think the playoffs do now? They pick two teams to qualify for CONCACAF Champions League group stage.

        So, all this e-ink spilled is over the fact that you want the playoffs to be responsible for one less Champions League spot?

        If your argument is over who is “considered” the champion…honestly, who gives a shit? Consider Galaxy champions if you want.

        1. In-correct Joe. The winner goes to the Group Stage, while the runner up goes to the Qualifying Round.

          CONCACAF Champions League Group Stage Winners
          MLS Cup Champion & Supporters Shield Winner

          CONCACAF Champions League Qualifying Round Winners
          MLS Cup Runner-Up
          US Open Cup Champion

          1. So then the issue is when the teams enter the CONCACAF tournament.

            I guess it would’ve been nice for Galaxy fans to breeze through to the group stage instead of being knocked out by the Puerto Rico Islanders.

            Are we still trying to defend a system that would call a team that couldn’t beat a lower-level side in the Champions League and lost 3-0 in the playoffs at home “champions”?

          2. I would do this change instead:

            Have the second-place team in the regular season qualify for the preliminary round of the CCL. If said team also wins MLS Cup, third-placed team in regular season takes over the slot.

            Bam. Problem solved.

        2. But the Galaxy were not! The MLS must recognize the top of the table as the true Champions or yet again we won’t give a crap about regular season matches.

          1. Maybe you won’t. I happen to like watching soccer for the sake of watching soccer. If the only reason you’re watching is to find out who is going to be champion in the end, then save yourself some time and just read about it at the end of the season.

            And the Galaxy were “not” what? Champions? Correct, because they lost a do-or-die game at home 3-0. Doesn’t sound very champion-like, does it?

    2. I agree. The playoffs – especially the MLS Cup game – are here to stay. Playoffs are an American sporting traditional and are used for everything EXCEPT the damn BCS – but seemingly everybody from Obama down wants the NCAA to change that. Playoffs offer a fairly simple and straightforward system with which to narrow down teams and identify a single champion. They also allow for a “big event” game like the Super Bowl, MLS Cup, Steinfeld Cup, etc. around which parties and marketing can be easily arranged and money can be made.
      In response to an earlier article (and a post by The Gaffer), somebody recommended changing this site’s name to “Anti-MLS Talk.” To which The Gaffer responded something along the lines of presenting both good and bad facts. Having read this post, I am having trouble seeing facts for the elimination of the playoffs – good or bad. All I see are the opinions of the Gaffer in light of the least successful MLS Cup of the past decade.
      I agree that this Cup pretty much sucked. From the moment they announced Toronto as the host I knew it was screwed. Why play your championship in the league’s coldest city just as fall is giving way to winter? It’s almost as asinine as playing your July All Star game in the league’s hottest city… Wait a sec!
      In all seriousness though, the venue was the only thing 100% under the league’s control. Placing the game in Toronto was a mistake from Day 1 and pretty much everybody knew it. Even the die hards in Toronto knew it, even if they did not want to admit it. They demonstrated that enough by not attending and/or leaving the game.
      Perhaps the venue should not be neutral. Most of the teams now control their own stadiums, so hosting is not the problem it was 10 years ago. At this point, wouldn’t it make more sense for the high seed to host the championship? At least then the attendance should get a bump which results in a better atmosphere that should translate to the TV.
      As far as the playoffs go – I am not sure if 8 or 10 is a better number, honestly. But I do think the whole switching conferences thing is retarded. Either we have two conferences or a single table. If it is a single table, then seed the teams 1-8(10). If it is two conferences, then keep the damn teams in their respective conferences! No Colorado winning the East or NY winning the West. So stupid! Also, make it more like a knockout Cup and only have one game for each leg at the higher seed’s home venue. It is not that difficult.

  2. So are you in favor of a “first past the post” system? I can’t wait to see fan reactions (not to mention the media you’re interested in) when a champion is crowned in September, for example. A champion crowned without winning some kind of title game will please the vocal minority of Europhiles (who still won’t come to games because we don’t have pro/rel- and then won’t come when we do because of the teams names, and then…well you get the idea) and turn off just about everyone else.

  3. The every game matter is the biggest load of crap ever.
    My Sounders were out of Supporter Shield contention on July 4th….

    How did every game matter in the second half of the season ?

    The every game matters people never answer this. Ever.

    Usually it is followed up by, well we should have a secondary contest for the losing teams to make their season “exciting” too.

      1. And again the question goes unanswered.

        Stay tuned when another regular season guy states that EVERY GAME MATTERS…even when completely and utterly untrue.

        1. A grown man refers to a team as “my sounders”. Charles, Sounders operate in a system exactly the same as your previous Seattle Sonics. Owners can take that team away from you just as fast and they gave you division I status.

          1. Agreed Charles. The every regular season game matters argument is only true when you have relegation and promotion. Then there is intrigue at the top and bottom of the league at the end of the season. Without pro/rel the regular season winner may be decided early and then nobody cares about the rest of the season. It would effectively be over weeks before it really is. Heck, there is even intrigue in the mid table in some Euro leagues because of Europa league.

            The point is, here in America we are years( decades) away from a Div II and Div III that are big and stable enough to even consider pro/rel. Without the excitement that pro/rel generates playoffs are here to stay. And I don’t have a problem with that. I just don’t like the current playoff format and agree it needs to be fixed.

            Oh, yeah, and for all you haters out there, MLS isn’t doing so bad. In fact, the soccer business isn’t doing so well with all the excess spending going on in other leagues. I remember before MLS was around. I spent my life bouncing back and forth between America and Europe ( England and Germany). I was miserable when I came back to America and had ZERO soccer to support.

    1. They could still be fighting for a chance at the post season tournament to qualify for CCL! /sarcasm.

      I agree and I think the author completely ignores the negative aspects of crowning the champions based on the regular season.

      1. Would the Sounders have been out of the competition that early if the Supporters’ Shield mattered? Sure, they were out of the running according to you by July 4th, but that is under a system that devalues the regular season and promotes the playoffs (despite the fact that they are a money loser).

        The regular season does matter in every single game, whether or not you are still in the running. Part of what makes international soccer great is that you may not win your league but you can still qualify for Champions’ League, other leagues (in UEFA it’d be the Europa League), and compete in other competitions. If you stop cheering for your team if they’re eliminated from winning the league championship, you’re what we Americans like to call a “band wagon jumper.”

        In regards to above claims (in the comments) about Americans loving playoffs: MLS should not have playoffs. NFL? Yes. NBA? Yes. MLS? No. MLS is a whole different animal and if the league continues to operate in the fashion it is, I will no longer be following the league at all because I’m getting a better product, more exciting league, and more reasons to watch a league run correctly overseas.

        1. We don’t exactly have high profile “other leagues” to qualify for here in America. CCL is fine and needs to be taken more seriously, but really? Really? It ain’t the UEFA CL, that is for sure. It ain’t even Europa League. I love the US Open Cup, and CONCACAF CL, but they aren’t that great a thing to aspire to. Playoffs are here to stay, love em or hate em.

  4. Color me skeptical. The European system works well because their are numerous other slots worth playing for besides top of the table–European spots, and the fight against relegation. And a long cultural tradition of leagues that operate in this style.

    Not sure I’d care much about the playoffs if they were just for the CONCACAF spots. In any case, doesn’t the playoff system work well in Mexico?

    I think their needs to be a strict West/East division: 4 from each half, period. This year the Colorado/Seattle/San Jose fight for 4th would’ve been one for the ages, every game critical. I doubt Colorado would’ve coasted with just 2 points from their last 4 matches and fallen down to 5th if it was 4th or out.

    The problem with the 2010 system is it doesn’t even fit in the North American playoff tradition. That’s why it’s infuriating–5th and 6th aren’t supposed to be a better deal than 3rd or 4th, as they were in the West.

    That said, I agree re: Garber. Doesn’t fill me with confidence either.

    1. A solid 4/4 split between East and West for playoffs? That is a HORRIBLE idea. The very existence of the divisions is a horrible idea. With your requirements, the Chicago Fire would have replaced the Colorado Rapids in the playoffs (including a team far inferior and who wouldn’t qualify under any other circumstances this season).

      Single table. Best teams playing in the tournament. Regional requirements cheapen the experience.

      1. 4/4 split is only a horrible idea for soccer if divisions are a horrible idea for every other sport. Guess who’s going to be in the NFL playoffs this year? Seattle or St. Louis. Neither will be even remotely close to being one of the top 12 NFL teams.

        If 4/4 is a bad idea for MLS, then why is a division playoff format OK for every other sport, and why soccer is so completely unique in American sport that we need a European format?

        And can someone explain why Mexican soccer does just fine with playoffs, but they don’t work for us? We have playoffs and divisions in North America, it’s part of our cultural tradition. The Euro model doesn’t work here because the USA, Canada and Mexico are just too big for the single table. European countries are tiny! France is the biggest except Russia, and it’s smaller than Texas. England is smaller than Washington state.

        1. I agree with most of what you say, but I don’t buy the idea that the US is too big for a single table. The only way that argument would hold water is if MLS did not have a balanced schedule, but it does, so travel is the same as if it was a single table. Add in the fact that the conferences seem to mean nothing when it comes to playoff seeding, and I think you have a pretty good argument for why a single table would simplify and improve things.

        2. Divisions are cultural more than geographical. That is why the N. Y. Jets and Giants are not in the same division, yet the Giants and the Dallas Cowboys are.

        3. The only way that strict divisions makes sense is if the league played an unbalanced schedule. PERIOD.

          That’s the real reason that they exist in other American sports. We shouldn’t have Conferences at all until MLS is a league that is large enough to need an unbalanced schedule. The only purpose that they serve, as it is, is to save the league money on travel expenses during the playoffs. Going to a strict 4/4 or 5/5 playoff representation while still playing a balanced schedule is idiocy.

          1. +1

            Garber has defended the east/west conferences by saying he wants to create rivalries and make things more exciting. But it’s not working. The playoffs should be decided by a single table until we’re too big to have every team play every other team in a balanced way.

  5. Here is the problem. Who is the Champion of the league? Galaxy or Rapids? I have been playing soccer, watching soccer, reading soccer and this league is so confusing I have no idea where the prestige lies. Sounders Franchise Club won the US Open Cup but accordinng to this setup holds little prestige but still gains access to CCL. WHAT?!!!!!!!!!!! If you gain access to an international competition I would say its a must win tournament but we can’t have two cup competitions especially if one is not attracting a TV audicence (MLS CUP)

    MLS needs to keep it simple. Garber refuses to admit that the playoffs are a failure and hardcore fans are taking a shit on the system. If we are obsessed with playoffs thats why MLS should focus on just the US Open Cup. MLS must focus on other matters like improving level of play, tv ratings and attracting back the fans it has lost. Is MLS even holding focus groups to see why its failing?


    1. Galaxy are champions of the regular season and earned a CONCACAF Champions League spot.

      Rapids are champions of the MLS Cup and earned a CONCACAF Champions League spot.

      How is this hard to understand?

      And we can’t have two cup competitions? Yea, because that never happens anywhere else. What are the Carling Cup and FA Cup again?

      1. Joe in your response below you tell say british poser but than in this post you say

        And we can’t have two cup competitions? Yea, because that never happens anywhere else. What are the Carling Cup and FA Cup again?

        MORON! contradiction of the year!

        1. Uh, Robert? Simply knowing about how they handle cup competitions in England doesn’t make me a fan of those systems. Frankly I agree that two cup competitions is kind of confusing and silly. But for you to be in favor of going to a British-style system on the one hand but then also be baffled by our use of two cups when they do the EXACT SAME THING…do you not see how that’s a contradiction on your part?

          Also, maybe you should learn English before talking about England or anything else. “you tell say british poser but than in…”. Right.

  6. Those who want MLS Cup because that would mean most teams would be eliminated midway season….maybe soccer isn’t for you. We have a ton of sports in this country with playoffs so go watch those sports. This way Garber will stop marketing to you nimrods.

    Ditch MLS Cup and back 100% US Open Cup!

    1. Yes, because clearly the league should be trying to appeal to faux-Brit poser douche bags who stay up till 3 am watching highlights on footytube. They’ll definitely wipe the crud out of their eyes and grace an MLS game with their presence, never once complaining about the quality of play (none of these lads are top drawer!) or lack of classy team names (San Jose Earthquakes? Oh how pedestrian!).

      Do all MLS fans a favor: insert your Arsenal scarf in your mouth and stick to your own league. Hey maybe some of the top three will change places this year! What a thrill!

  7. Every game matters.

    I would just like to point that’s a lie, unless you refer ONLY those games played by the teams that are actually fighting for the title. In the 33rd round, the game between the 9th and the 13th places, for instance, is ABSOLUTELY MEANINGLESS.

    1. Sancho,

      Noone will answer you, I have been trying to get this answered for two years.
      Insults will follow however.

      good luck.

      1. @Charles and Sancho

        I’ll give it a go.

        Prize Money for the 2009/2010 Premier League Season.

        1. Chelsea – £16,000,000
        2. Manchester United – £15,200,000
        3. Arsenal – £14,400,000
        4. Totenham Hotspur – £13,600,000
        5. Manchester City – £12,800,000
        6. Aston Villa – £12,000,000
        7. Liverpool – £11,200,000
        8. Everton – £10,400,000
        9. Birmingham – £9,600,000
        10. Blackburn – £8,800,000
        11. Stoke – £8,000,000
        12. Fulham – £7,200,000
        13. Sunderland – £6,400,000
        14. Bolton – £5,600,000
        15. Wolves – £4,800,000
        16. Wigan – £4,000,000
        17. West Ham – £3,200,000
        18. Burnley – £2,400,000
        19. Hull – £1,600,000
        20. Portsmouth – £800,000

        If the difference between 9th and 13th place is well over 4 million dollars (not pounds) in cash, then it’s a bit of a stretch to say they’re playing for nothing. And don’t forget about the European competitions, the price of finishing out of the top 6 can be huge.

        And when you consider the fact that no club’s place in the league is guaranteed, teams who aren’t playing in Europe are going to need that cash if they want to have a shot at staying competitive, or simply surviving relegation (for teams lower on the totem pole). I’m not sure if you’ve taken a look at the table lately, but there’s about 7 clubs within 3pts of relegation right now, the top 4 are within 3 pts of 1st, and the middle of the table is still super tight. Every point is going to make a difference.

        Of course, most clubs might not have a shot at the title, but a league championship isn’t the only measure of success in that kind of system (even more so if you add the domestic cups). You might not find it interesting, but the matches are far from meaningless.

        1. Thank you CoconutMonkey.

          I will disregard the loser’s competition because we will NEVER have that in the US.

          YOU GAVE AN ANSWER. Plus educated me on how some of those franchises stay in business.

          thanks again, you are now my favorite blog poster I disagree with 😉

          1. Charles, those are not franchises those are Clubs. What MLS has are franchises, just like the McDonalds that all you Fat Sounders Franchise Clubs enjoy so much.

          2. i agree with coconutmonkey. to most casual american fan (ahem…..charles) a single table like in EPL is exciting when you look at it that way. there is competition all over the table, “parity” if you will. you have the top 3 duking it out (albeit its the same top 3 and the 4th closing in) the you have the middle CLUBS (franchises are what mcdonalds and MLS teams are, their mobile, cheap and are not rooted where as clubs are part of the community, all for one and one for all. franchises are all for one and none for the fans. eg TFC.) playing for the better position for the cash money and the bottom feeders who obviously fight to save their butts. and its not like the same promoted clubs are the ones struggling look at west bromwich albion, new castle, and liverpool has the shoe on the other foot.

            now i find it interesting, we have to people WAY on the oppostie of the football fanatical scale. Robert the “too” proper football fan and Charles the “lets americanize the hell out of football” fan. i side with both. as i said time and time again football isnt a american sport. we have to learn to be one with the worlds standard (and by world i dont just mean europe). obviously with a balanced schedule a conference is just too silly and kiddie. its making us a laughing stock (as if we arent already). then again we cant just euro-nize MLS. there are certain elements that wont work…..yet (eg pro/rel, abolishing single entity etc etc). i think we should really look to model the bundesliga instead of EPL. why? because they seem to manage to achieve everything mls wants to, yet in a way that adheres to the international standards. most clubs in the bundesliga are not in debt, they are all financially sound, they play a fall/spring calander, even though they have the staple “superclubs” there is still parity in the league where other teams can compete with them instead of just two clubs (la liga) or four clubs duking it out and the rest just tagging along. and they are single table. plus they are pro/rel with a interesting relegation system (relegated teams have a mini tournament with promoted clubs to see who stays and who goes). plus they manage to draw a average of 42k fans per game which according to wiki is only beaten by the indian cricket league and NFL. so i say we look to Bundesliga to model ourselves after and not EPL.

            1. The interesting thing is that the Bundesliga and Major League Soccer announced a deal a few years ago that they would share best practices and meet with each other to learn how to improve. However, I have yet to see any of the wisdom of the Bundesliga applied to MLS. Unless I’m missing something?

              The Gaffer

    2. In the 33rd round, the game between the 9th and 13th place teams should be meaningless. That’s why they are in 9th and 13th place. That’s when they should start figuring out what’s wrong and start working toward fixing it for the next year.

      I don’t see how this is any different than baseball, for example. You know only a handful of the top teams will compete for a championship.

      1. Actually Clampdown,

        I did an analysis of baseball and the regular season for 2000-2010. You can look at the World Series winners easily enough, only one repeat winner I believe.
        The regular season would shock you however. I believe it was 16 teams had the best record in baseball over the 10 years ( ties ). Even MY Mariners had the best record in baseball in 2001.

        As much as we all complain about the lack of parity, it is amazing how diverse it is. It is something the non-salary cap guys should be presenting as evidence against MLS ways.

        1. Charles,

          Don’t get me wrong. I’m all in favor of parity, in favor the league controlling costs, and in favor of retaining a playoff system. My only point is that we shouldn’t be looking to give a prize to teams for mediocrity. It really makes me think of AYSO, where everyone gets a medal, and makes me cringe.

          I remember that Mariners team. They were awesome. I wish they had won the World Series that year. Though they didn’t, at least they weren’t eliminated by a team that finished in 10th place.

          1. Well dont get me wrong either.
            I hated when baseball expanded the playoffs.

            Then next thing I know the Mariners are in the playoff series that was voted the greatest moment in Seattle sports history against a Wild Card team.

            I guess my point is that it is not black and white and then add on the fact that the owners want to maximize revenues….

            That being said 10 teams is too many and it is very black and white to EVERYONE. i can’t imagine someone that said 10 wasn’t too many.

        2. Huh? Why do people hate dynasties? There are dynasties in college football/basketball and those sports are wildly popular in the US. Quick, will Alabama, LSU, Va Tech, Oregon, and OSU be in 2011’s football top 10? Will Duke, MSU, UNC, KU and UK be in basketball’s 2013 preseason top 10? Of course they will, and ESPN/CBS are having biding wars for them…Oh, and ESPN has gone all in on covering “boring” EPL. MLS needs super teams.

          1. You do realize that Oregon is having an unexpectedly good year and is almost never in the top ten, right?

            Other than that small point, here is my larger problem with your argument: college football and basketball “dynasties” have the added challenge of constantly reassembling new teams because of the maximum of four years they can have any player, only 2 of which will probably be productive. There’s a reason it’s considered so impressive when a college team wins two in a row, or even two in a decade.

            Now if you want to talk pro sports in the US there’s two problems facing potential dynasties – salary cap and draft. Every year they have to make tough calls about who they can afford to keep and can’t. in addition to watching all the best prospects go to the teams beneath them. Is it really that impressive when Manchester United wins three in a row in a system where they can sign whoever they want for however much they want year after year?

            Finally, if you think that ESPN going “all in” is showing one match a week at 7:30 in the morning (4:30 am west coast time), then you probably don’t know ESPN very well. Ever heard of the “Heat Index”?

      2. I did’t say it shouldn’t. I’ve just point that you cannot affirm that this game matters. And that’s precisely what the article is trying to sell.

        I’m on this debate at home for at least 15 years. Brazilian Eurocentrics had actually won the fight in 2003 (not completelly, but the damage is already high), although traditionalists -as myself- keep pointing that the soccer nirnava was not achieved as promised.

        I’m just shocked that on MLS the same argument is going on. And people don’t bother to look at MEXICO for crying out loud! It’s like soccer is only played in Europe…

    3. About the playoffs, Mexico has them for ages (with TWO tournaments per season) and they are OK with that. And they have the possibility to have 10 teams playing the finals.

      By the way, a 10-team playoff would be consistent to what happens on NHL and NBA. Those leagues have a 16-team playoff system for a 30-team league. A 10 to 18 ratio is quite similar (55,6% to 53,3%).

      The solution for the regular season, as I’ve written before, is go divisional. Split the teams into smaller “leagues”, and make them play against each other; work on the rivalries that already exist, and build some new ones.

      Keep the playoffs (they are the actual MLS “relegation” system). But stop the home-and-away series that doens’t give a better-record team any advantage. It must be either a three game or one game series. Give the divisional champions a “bye”. That’s how you can make the regular season games to be meaningful.

      Go European is not a solution. It would increase the problem. Between an European MLS or the EPL or Bundesliga, what one would chose? To the original or to the copy? Soccer is a WORLD game, it has many faces. It’s not Eurocentric at all. MLS must find its own face: AMERICAN. And that mean to bring influences from Europe, Asia, Africa, Mexico, South America and mix them with US spices.

      Truly, they have not found it completely yet. But the league, with 15 seasons, is a success nevertheless.

      1. “By the way, a 10-team playoff would be consistent to what happens on NHL and NBA. Those leagues have a 16-team playoff system for a 30-team league. A 10 to 18 ratio is quite similar (55,6% to 53,3%)”.


        True. But to counter that though, the tournament itself is grueling (and properly seeded as well). A team will have to play anywhere from 12-21 games just to make it to the final. And then they have to win a 7 game series on top of that. Baseball is the same length, but even more strict as only 8 out of 30 teams qualify for the post season.

        Football playoffs are comparatively short (and properly seeded), but so is the season itself due to the nature of the game. So 3 (or 2 for the bye teams) games is still quite a test. And if the NFL playoffs were 2-legged, that would be up to 6 games on the road to the SuperBowl. That’s nearly half the regular season (and half the starters might not be walking by SuperBowl Sunday).

        MLS on the other hand, has/had a 30 match season in which it only takes 3 matches to make it to the final (and aren’t properly seeded). If you compare our playoffs to the Big4’s, MLS playoffs aren’t nearly as much of a test as the big boys.

        Did I mention they’re not properly seeded? 😉

  8. Don’t you get tired of making the same stale points article after article and reading the same pro- and anti- comments? How many times will you say that you don’t like the MLS playoffs?

  9. I agree with Joe. I am all but done with this site. Robert Hay and Take me out to the Ballgame being the big exceptions.

    Too anti MLS by the actual bloggers, I don’ t mind guys like me spouting their opinions, even if they are dumb ones like Roberts 😉
    But doesn’t Gaffer run the site ?
    I can’t think of one thing he has stated that he likes about MLS.

    Seriously Gaffer:

    -MLS has the best two classes coming out of college ever in the last two years. This one even deeper…and some say the best yet.
    -MLS has Seattle crushing it in attendance, jersey sales etc
    -Vancouver will follow suit.
    -Portland will be close behind.
    -Philly was phenominal this year as an expension team.
    -Money is begging to come into the league.
    -The play over all is moving towards great.
    -Guys like Zakuani, who isn’t even MLS best XI have legit shots of playing for average EPL teams….and there are better players coming out of college this year.
    -Very exciting league play.
    -CCL play by MLS teams looked very competitive.

    I can understand the average Euridiot upset that it is not going the way they hoped and it is starting to get more and more concrete…but you are running the site stay a little more neutral….or lose people.

      1. Let me be clear. I want MLS to grow. I want it to succeed. But I believe the league needs to make some significant improvements in order to grow in this country. It’s come a long way but it still has a long way to go. And it’s not because I was born in the UK (I’ve actually lived most of my life here and I’m an American citizen). I’m trying to create an intelligent debate on what things need to be changed to make the game succeed.

        The Gaffer

      2. Yes I remember that positive article well

        Started off, I didn’t expect much and finished with….
        “but the level of soccer played was far below what I remember seeing nine years ago when there were far more talented players and better soccer played on the field.”

        Well you have my $0.02. I am going to read articles on the expansion draft and the college draft coming up.

        1. MLS players on World Cup Rosters.

          ’98: 22
          ’10: 5

          MLS ratings on ESPN2 down 16%

          MLS Cup ratings: 2% of US v Ghana.

          MLS average attendance record set in ’96

          DC United won the Interamerican Cup in ’98

          Americans bought more World Cup tickets than citizens of any other nation – twice.

          Can you see the trend lines?

          1. It is a very misleading stat to say 22 MLS players in ’98 vs. 5 in ’10 because many of the players from ’10 used MLS to get noticed by Euro teams and moved on to bigger leagues. Some players to stand out in MLS and move on to bigger things before WC ’10 are Howard, Hahnemann, Guzan, Boca, Dempsey, Clark, Beasley, Edu, Altidore, and Goodson are just off the top of my mind. Not to mention that the USA SUCKED in ’98, and came in dead last. In ’98 nobody from the US/MLS was moving on to bigger leagues, hence the inflated 22 players.

          2. So you’re saying the league was better in 90’s when we had no tie games, golden goal overtime, 3 subs plus 1 gk sub, count down clock with no injury time? It’s been downhill since we switched to standard soccer rules (*sarcasm*)

          3. one explanation (excuse?) is MLS has helped create better players and more are going to Europe. Hence more Europeans based players getting picked for Cup. My team, revs, has lost, Dempsey, parkhurst, dorman amongst others all to Europe.

        2. Hey Charles,
          Wanna start our own MLS blog? You know, one that actually talks about what’s happening in the actual teams and league instead of whining about the playoffs or how it’s not the EPL. Let me know.

    1. Charles:

      Will you stop supporting D1 US club soccer when it isn’t run like Taco Bell?
      Does mediocrity really need to be imposed in the name of parity to keep it exciting for you? Are you not excited by promotion battles, Open Cup matchups, relegation fights, and unlimited clubs pushing the level of play, or do you think they are beyond the comprehension of the average US supporter?

      Many fine soccer supporters have lost interest in MLS. Shouldn’t we give them credit for being able to tell club soccer in the rest of the world from an awful simulation?

      1. What are these “unlimited” clubs pushing the level of play of which you speak? Four or five clubs in England have any legitimate shot at the title (and that’s being generous). Is that what you mean by unlimited?

        Yes, nothing gets the heart pumping like a good relegation battle. I cannot WAIT to watch West Ham vs. Wolves. Now THAT’S what I call pushing the level of play!

        1. Ha, you might laugh at the idea of West Ham vs Wolves, but you have to admit they’re certainly “pushing the level of play” higher than it is in MLS.

      2. For all the promotion/relegation fans out there, please tell me who we are going to promote? As a former season ticket holder of the now defunct Austin Aztex, I ask who? Most Div II clubs last a couple years and then fold. We just don’t have a hundred years of history. Our Div I teams are just now getting their own stadiums. NASL was just sanctioned by USSF to even be considered Div II. Do we even have a Div III? I love pro/rel, but it just isn’t going to happen here any time soon. Just the way it is. The sooner we stop denying our situation and accept what we have, the sooner we can start supporting it.

        1. K-Town, although I realize your comment wasn’t directed at me, I want to add that I’m not in favor of promotion/relegation in the current MLS system.

          The Gaffer

          1. No, none of my comments are directed at anyone. I’m just upset that there are so many blinded fans here in the US. I wish more people could just be proud of what we have instead of whine about what we don’t have. If they all jumped on board, we would have a great league. Where’s the pride in America? It’s my league, your league, our league. Even if it is $hitty, it’s ours. It is our children’s league. Many of them have dreams of being a professional, and I will support that till I die. I was a season ticket holder of the Austin Aztex. They played on a highschool football field (turf with gridiron lines) and didn’t even sell beer!!! because it was high school grounds and was illegal, even though it wasn’t a high school event. Was it as fun as the Bundesliga games I attended near my home when I was a teenager, not quite, maybe it could’ve been with some damn beer though. But, it was my town’s team, I knew the players and the coaches, and it was a blast supporting them.

          2. Gaffer,

            Have you stopped to think that maybe MLS’ current set-up is designed to make guys like you think a euro structure would be bad?

        2. So as I’ve stated above, until we have promotion/relegation, playoffs are here to stay. And we aren’t getting promotion relegation until we actually have teams to promote. America is a big country with regional hubs. We don’t have soccer clubs in every town, village, and city.

          So lets be happy with the fact we do have soccer here. At the end of the day, it is just a game, enjoy it, don’t bitch about it. There are many more important things to be concerned about in life.

          1. The usasa has over 500 clubs.
            1993 pro soccer brought to japan for the first time ever
            1999 jfa restructures Japanese soccer, introduces pro/erg

            It’s not that hard.

        3. @K-Town
          We already promoted Seattle,the most suscesfull MLS franchise ever.Next will be Protland,Vancouver and Montreal.This year I would promote the Rochester Rhinos only,they were the regular seasson champions of our 2nd div. Unfortunately the Aztecs(2nd div 2 regular seasson) could not had been promoted because they would not meet the requirements for promotion.

          To own a stadium is not a requirement on any league on the world in order to be promoted.A club can either own a stadium, share rent (Milan,Inter/Rome,Lazio),or have proof of rental rights for next seasson.Stadium have to meet minimum requirements for league that club is being promoted to.Also,clubs are not allowed to move to a diferent field for the purpose of promotion,they have to use the field in wich they play last seasson.

          One point made over and over against pro/rel is the one you just made.”Our lower divisions are not healthy enough to implement pro/rel”. It is what I call reversed logic. Using it’s actual situation to justify not implementing the changes that would incentivate it’s growth.

          To tell a soccer fan that soccer is just a game,is like telling an architech that Tah Mahal is a building.

          @The Gaffer
          Thanks for your work!
          I am not in favor of promotion and relegation in the current system either.I think that first we have to get rid of this fake and soul-less invention called single entity,then we should implement a meaningfull structure(not just a league)that :
          a)respect the history and values of our game.
          b)adapts to the specific geografical,social and economical. characteristics of the country.

          I think it is important to point that both points(a+b)should be acomplished.To ignore either one would be wrong.

          Like you say.Cheers.

          1. You are free to start a soccer league yourself.
            Seriously. MLS CANNOT stop you.

            The ALeague-USL did, I think before MLS. And they got the biggest name in soccer in the US to join ( outside the Cosmos ). The Sounders joined the FIRST DIVISION league they wanted to belong to.
            It failed, you now claim it is a workable second division of MLS.

            You may hate single entitiy, but it worked where a traditional soccer league failed………..miserably.

            So at this point it is Love it, Leave it, or start your own.
            Dont kill the messenger, but you have to agree with me, no?

          2. “We already promoted Seattle,the most suscesfull MLS franchise ever.”

            Wouldn’t the most successful be DC United? Seattle has built a great fanbase in its two years in MLS. DC United, followed by the Galaxy have more hardware, though.

            If you want to get technical about it, the Sounders weren’t promoted. The MLS Sounders are a 2009 expansion team. The D2 Sounders disbanded when the MLS Sounders were formed. They aren’t technically the same organization even though they functionally are. You could make the same argument that Toronto FC is the former USL Toronto team. However, no one from Toronto asserts that. Everyone sees Toronto FC as a brand new team as of 2007.

            When we talk about the Sounders or Timbers or Impact being promoted, it’s in quotation marks. It’s not the literal truth. It’s metaphorical. The Sounders and Timbers are promoted in that they are direct successors and retain the soul and on-field history of the D2 predecessor. But, they’re expansion teams from a business perspective.

          3. Thanks for the lesson Roger. While I appreciate your opinions, (honestly, I do) I still feel the same.

            1. I grew up in Europe, I think I understand how it works, but thanks again for setting things straight. It has been a few years since I attended live Bundesliga matches. Just want to throw out my meaningless euro-snob credibility. I am not claiming you are one, just being facetious.

            2. It is just a game. Serve your country and have friends that don’t make it back, and well, you realize that some things shouldn’t be taken so seriously. Some things are just entertainment. Sure, it makes life more meaningful and enjoyable, but at the end of the day, soccer/football/whatever means nothing compared to my family.

            3. I believe you meant “Taj Mahal”. I wouldn’t want us to be offending any fans of architecture.

          4. @ Charles

            “You may hate single entitiy, but it worked where a traditional soccer league failed………..miserably”

            so basically every league in the world except for MLS, K-league and Austrialias A-League has failed miserably………hmmm interesting. and if u were talking about the A-League on that quote they didnt fail, they just got rebranded to USL first divison.

            as much as i hate single entity (for the same reason roger pointed out and also i dont like the fact MLS has majority control over every “franchise” in the league, i like to cheer for a team thats independent, unique and original, not one that is bascially “MLS Houston, MLS New York, MLS LA, MLS Seattle” except with cute name”) its not single entity that “saved” MLS its revenue sharing, which can exist perfectly well without single entity.

  10. Maybe it would just be easier just to have the Eastern conference teams only in Eastern Conference side and Western Conference teams on the Western CConference side. or just do a single table playoff one of the 2 .

  11. Have Goal Aggregate playoffs with Away goals rule in the Quarters & Semis, One match Final. Kill off the Conference tables and concentrate on one single table. First thru eight goes to the playoffs and set it up 1 V 8, 2 V 7, 3 V 6, 4 V 5.

  12. I’d keep the play-offs but do a little more to promote the shield winners. Let them wear a badge the next year, and play with a blue ball. Keep the silver ball and a different badge for the cup winners. Mabe reserve a rare gold ball for teams that do the “double”. Also regular season runners up should get the CONCACAF play-off place instead of the MLS cup runners up.

    My most important change is make the play-offs one bracket. I’m happy for MY Rapids, but we should have had to play 2nd seed in the first round (RSL, incidentally) instead of the 4th and we didn’t deserve to host the semi-final.

  13. Congratulations to League Champions – LA Galaxy. Congrats to Supporters Cup Winner Colorado Rapids. Congrats to Sounders Franchise Club for winning US Irrelevant Cup

    1. Yes Robert, cups that allow a team to enter the continental champions league are the definition of irrelevant. Thank you for being so smartly attuned to this fact.

  14. The first thing I would do is expand the league with the goal being 5 to 6 divisons made up of five teams. This will increase the intensity of existing rivalries and be the catalyst for future rivalries to form. If we had 5 division at 5 teams a piece we would play home and away each team in our division for a total of 8 games and 1 game against every team in the rest of the league which would be 20 games for a season total of 28 games. The playoffs would be set up like a knockout cup competition. There would be a draw, the runners up of each division would be in one bowl and the winners of each division in another bowl and they would be drawn together into a bracket system, the division winners playing on home turf in round one. For the proceeding rounds the teams with the best season points totals get home field advantage over the team they are playing regardless of where they entered round one. (So if you enter round one as the division runner up and you beat the division winner you drew, in the proceeding round if your overall points total is higher than your opponents then you would get home field advantage even if they had won their division, because you have more points overall during the regular season.)

    The divisions I see would be something like:

    Division1: Chicago, Detroit, Columbus, Toronto, and Montreal
    Division 2: New England, New York, New York, DC, and Philadelphia
    Division 3: San Jose, Chivas, L.A., Dallas, and Houston
    Division 4:St. Louis,, Kansas City, Atlanta, Miami, and Orlando/Tampa
    Division 5: Portland, Vancouver, Seattle, Colorado, and Salt Lake

      1. If we move away from a balanced schedule, MLS will lose me permanently. I don’t know anyone in my city that watch MLS at the moment, so they don’t even have a base where I’m at. I have no less than 25 Facebook friends whom have either stopped watching MLS because they are sick of MLS trying to be the NFL or are ready to dump it for the same reasons I’m ready to dump it. If you convolute the league with “divisions” and move away from the unbalanced schedule, I GUARANTEE that the MLS ratings, gate intake, and merchandising will drop at least 10% (more likely a higher number, though).

        MLS is not the NFL. MLS needs to stop trying to be the NFL.

        1. The reason for this is not to be the nfl but because our country is not as small as England. Fans cant travel unless there are more regional games. We also can piggy back of rivalries already formed with cities we despise, such as Michiganders hating Chicago teams, the Ohio Buckeyes and The Toronto Maple Leafs etc. Its like that all over the U.S. Because of our vastness we have created these pockets where we care little for teams so far away from us. Ratings are always better for games where you play a regional rival than some team you never see or hear across the other end of the country. If we were as small as england I would agree because you can hop a train and be at any club within a few hours.

          1. +1 I don’t think many people understand how important this fact is. It works for college rivalries and pro sports alike. My boss just invited me to watch his son play in a high school football game last friday night, which is pretty much a religion in Texas. I’m new to Texas so I’m figuring it out. The cool thing about high school football is that all the teams are local rivals. Within a 1 hour drive there are a dozen teams. That reminds me of football when I grew up in England and Germany. Heck in any given year there are maybe 6 teams in the EPL from just London. As awesome as the new I-5 rivalry is going to be in the Pac NW, it still pales in comparison.

  15. The MLS playoff’s are a mess. Yet there is no other option. While the league continues to expand no one format can be considered final. In fact I believe the league got a jump start on a 20 team league playoff format by expanding the playoff’s to 10 teams. If so it was a decision that was a bit farsighted. Will the 10 team format be the final word, who knows.

    The number one issue appears to me to be player quality. Even with the lack of quality players MLS attendance is good especially when compared to other American sports. Do not believe me their was a recent Wall Street Journal article about it. Once you have bigger named players on the field TV ratings will improve. Beyond doubt America watches big time soccer.
    What is needed is reason to get people away from the big European leagues or UEFA events and onto MLS broadcasts. International stars throughout the league will do this.

    Local media is critical also. In Chicago I have to find a internet broadcast of the visiting teams radio to get a radio broadcast in English. Both English and Spanish language media are devoting more time to and ink to soccer. Yet at least in Chicago there is still a lack MLS on a daily basis but it is growing.

    The future continues to be bright for soccer in America and MLS. Last season the playoffs where great this season they where terrible. How many Super Bowls have been terrible games? Too many! MLS and it’s TV partners need to do a better job on their broadcasts but the overall picture is in HD!

  16. well if Major League soccer is trying to appease to the soccer fan maybe they could just stop and just quit, I just dont see a european system that is clearly favors a small minority of people who dont invest in the domestic product. ….. If MLS does got Full Euro( or Full Retard) the ship will sink, then it would make the NASL of old like ancient history. and soccer will be back to the stone age, in america any ways, because People dont watch MLS on tv or even talk about it the smallest of Media markets. the MLS final(championship game) had low ratings because of the competiton on TV plus the lack of marketing from the league, which is nothing new because they havent marketed to the american people in the first place. and they expect people to take MLS seriously????? you really thing a european system that is clearly boring and there is no definitive champion to be taken seriously from the american sports fan point of view. well good luck eurosnobs, but you wont be successful.

        1. Charles, I can’t believe that you think the current playoff system is perfect. The whole system is flawed.

          The Gaffer

          1. Charles is drinking the MLS kool-aid. He hates the global system but loves those cute scarves and loves singing along at Sounders Franchise games. Euro wannabe.

            1. Hi Robert, I know you’re half joking, but let’s try to keep the debate to an intelligent level without this thread sinking to a flame war.

              The Gaffer

          2. Gaffer,
            Playoff soccer this year was some of the best and most exciting games of the year. Of course. Look at the Euro team championships and how much money they make…playoffs rock.

            10 teams ? rediculous. I wasn’t in favor of baseball expanding playoffs and they have a much lower percentage.

          3. @Charles:

            “Playoff soccer this year was some of the best and most exciting games of the year. Of course. Look at the Euro team championships and how much money they make…playoffs rock”.

            I don’t think anyone is saying that the matches themselves have been boring. If they are, they clearly they didn’t watch RSL and Dallas in the first round. The biggest gripe for playoff wannabe playoff reformers (not removers) like myself is the tournament format.

            Let’s say the playoffs go to a single bracket, 2-leg tournament like the CCL, Copa America, D2 Playoffs, Mexican Playoffs, etc. Do you think the matches would be any less exciting if your Sounder’s had New York in the first round? Or if every fan has the opportunity to see their team play for a championship?

            If you ask me, Colorado playing for the MLS Cup in front of their own fans, after possibly knocking off both RSL and New York, would be a great moment in a Cinderella story.

  17. I find it funny that when a wildcard team like the Red Sox 04, Pats in 01? win the whole thing those fans don’t whine like soccer people. What the Yankees had the best record!!!?

    I remember people complaining that under 500 teams in Conference X were getting in the playoffs but team Y in that conference with a winning record is out. The league changes it to make the reg season “MATTER”and now the whole Colorado in the East or NYRB in the West nonsense arrives. I would rather have SJ/Colorado in the playoffs than KC because they were the better team. Sheesh….are there any happy soccer fans in the US?
    The league only has to adjust the playoffs not scrap them. I say 1 through 8/10 whatever. I liked the idea of MLS CUP on thanksgiving night, not much competition (NFL on NFL channel)and we may get people watching who are trapped in bad turkey day situations.

    Whoever brought up Ghana ratings is being silly. The hype of Donovan’s goal and the gravitas of the WC brought in non-soccer people for that one. Stupid reasoning, really, on that one!
    Lets face it, MLS is 15 Effing years old and still having growing pains and those people who seem to bitch the most are either new to the game or are VERY long time followers who are too used to European football to see that the Americas are different, because the if they did they would see the playoffs being played in Mexico and all over South America.

    1. I was going to say something very similar Brittkamp.

      “The Warriors beat the Mavericks?! But the Mavs had a better season! That’s not FAIR!”

      Can you imagine anyone less fun to watch a game with than these people?

  18. One angle that have not being analized is that,a regular seasson and playoffs at the end of it will never be fair,if you take in consideration how a profesional club plans the seasson.

    Soccer clubs can not maintain a high level af performance for a long period of time,it naturally goes up,and then it comes back down.What profesional phisical trainers and tecnical directors do is,they plan their work so that the high performance “curve” takes most of the regular seasson,so they can make the most points.Therefore,at the end of the seasson ,it is almost imposible for the league leader to be anywhere close to their best form.

    MLS Cup was won by the Rapids ,the 7th club of their seasson.USSF D-2 was won by the Islanders,the 8th out of 12 of the seasson and last to qualify for play-offs.Guys, this is not a coincidence.

    The fact that the best leagues on the world use a league and cup format,is not a coincidence either.They have had more than a century of soccer experience.Their system is a result of the knowledge adquired.There are reasons why they do things the way they do.

    The stupidity of our format,is the result of the lack of knowledge and arrogance of our “leaders”.

    1. Roger,
      If some commenter on a blog is smart enough to know that performance ebbs and flows and that it’s important to be “peaking” at the right time of the season, don’t you think someone in the LA Galaxy organization should know that too? It’s not like this MLS Cup came out of nowhere. They knew all along it was coming. They could have planned minutes, substitutions, any number of things to get their team into top form come playoff time. Yet there they were, beat up and down their own field by a more aggressive, more creative, more deserving FC Dallas side.
      And still no one has adequately addressed my main question: why do we feel we have to coddle these so-called “champion” teams? If you’re a champion, you win do-or-die games. You don’t bitch and moan about fatigue, about the format of the league, about anything that is out of your control. You man up and get it done.

      1. So,you choose to criticize the LA Galaxy for not adapting to a stupid format,instead of going to the root of the problem.

        If some commenter on a blog is smart enough to know that performance ebbs and flows and that it’s important to be “peaking” at the right time of the season, don’t you think that someone in the MLS organization should know that too?

      2. For you champion might be all about peaking at the right time, but for many people it represents the whole season. Focus is instead on fairness, minimizing the impact of individual games and coincidences. It is more important that the winner is the best team overall, than it is creating exiting playoff games for rubes.

        1. Robert – So the entire format of playoffs in general is stupid? Try telling that to every other professional sports league in North America.

          Jay – “It is more important that the winner is the best team overall” according to who? You? OK. So for you Galaxy are the champions. And your champions get the same prize as the MLS Cup champions – a group stage spot in the CONCACAF Champions League. So what’s the problem?

          1. According to me yes Galaxy was the best team this season and deserves the title champion. I don’t care what other prizes they get. The important thing is that the best team is recognized as champion in the history books among the other countries’ champions.

          2. If the Galaxy hadn’t stumbled in the 2nd half of the season, they could’ve won the league with 5 weeks (or more) left to play. You call that exciting? You think the ratings would suddenly go up if that happens?

            When I watched Chelsea beat Wigan 8-0, I cared nothing about the EPL Championship. I tuned in to see an entertaining game, period. I’ve never lived in England, so I can only watch as a “fan.” You can’t be a “supporter” of something that’s not local.

          3. Well Jay, unfortunately the history books are written by the victors. And MLS might not seem much like victors, but they have more money, clout, and media coverage than you do. So if they set up a system that crowns the Colorado Rapids champions, then that’s what goes in the book.

            So don’t buy the book I guess.

          4. “Robert – So the entire format of playoffs in general is stupid? Try telling that to every other professional sports league in North America.”

            I’m no mind reader, but I think the competition committees from the Big4 would tell you the MLS Playoffs aren’t getting the job done.

  19. The problem isn’t the concept of Play-offs, the problem is the format!
    The only issue here is that we can’t accept that the 7th place overall won the MLS Cup. If that is your issue here (not counting Eurosnobs – even that I’m portuguese, living in Portugal and never went to the US) let’s give to the Conference regular season winners a competitive advantage and that is:
    West/East Conference
    – MLS Cup: Winner Home/Away Series #3 East vs Winner Home/Away Series #3 West
    – Home/Away Series #3: 1st (Conference or Supporters Shield Winner) vs Winner Home/Away Series #2
    – Home/Away Series #2: 2nd vs Winner Home/ Away Series #1
    – Home/Away Series #1: 3rd vs 4th in the Conference.

    If the 4th place team from the east/west conference wins the MLS Cup is entirely on their own credits, because they had to beat 4 teams on the process! If the Supporters Shield wins the MLS Cup, it’s normal, because they fought for that spot all over the season.

    Don Garber this is so simple! There is no need to 10 teams, just give me a call or send me an email!

  20. On the three points.
    1. TV ratings: Suck
    2. New media business: Website + Silverlight = Suck
    3. Quality of play. Compared to Mexico = Suck

    Overall Garber score: Garbage + Suck = Suck
    Recommendation: Give Garber his golden parachute and send him to the showers.

    1. -1

      I have to laugh at anyone who holds up Mexican soccer as the model for quality of play. Yes, MLS needs to improve the quality of play, and I think it is improving, but not by chasing after the dirty, chopping, flopping Mexican style. Mexican soccer is something to be ignored and silently passed in the night, like the way Real Salt Lake slapped down Cruz Azul.

  21. I just want to stress that there’s a way for compromizing. For instance, a middle ground solution woulde be MLS to go “full baseball”, instead be influenced by NBA and NHL (as it seems to be the case). Therefore, the changes would be:

    a) the adoption of TWO single tables of 9 teams each;
    b) both champions playing the title.

    A playoff-system would be build from top-to-bottom due expantion and the necessity of splitting the teams into divisions, as it has happened throughout MLB history.




    1. Well said. It’s interesting that at a time when people are pushing to get rid of the ladder-climb that is the BCS regular season –> and move instead to a more March Madness-ier playoffs (I think they need to make sure the pendulum doesn’t swing TOO far towards that, because I feel college hoops regular season is an absolute bore until about February), soccer fans in this country are going in the opposite direction. I will admit, as broken as the BCS system is, the one thing they need to consider holding on to is the excitement that comes when one or two (or seven or eight in terms of an MLS season) losses absolutely submarines your season. Every game counts! MLS could stand to have some of that excitement injected into its season. You’re compromised idea is the best of both worlds. Someone get Don Garber on the phone.

  22. I did have a lot of respect for you before. But you are just flat out wrong here.. i will proboly never be back to any of you’re sites again. You can have your Eurosnobbery!

    1. Tom, thanks for expressing your opinion. Although you disagree with what I’ve written, which is an editorial/opinion piece, please let me know your reasoning why. It’s got nothing to do with Europe vs America. It’s about creating a system that will help the game grow here.

      The Gaffer

  23. You definitely sense a change in American soccer.

    And you see it in these posts. While we may not all agree on what format to take, details to be worked out, you sense that Americans are not apologizing over US Soccer now. Not afraid to have our own vision.

    Where guys would apologize in the 80s over not conforming to Euridiots ideas of what soccer was and what they thought it should be in the US on R.S.S. ( look it up on Wiki newbies to soccer ) we don’t anymore.

    Even a few years ago, Zakuani trying out with Everton would have been met with, oh this is so big, one of our boys might “make” it. Now it is viewed as almost a so what ? Bigger news in England than here.

    As someone who has been following this for 35+ years….Nice to see the confidence, next step swagger.

  24. I love how the problem of playoffs having low TV ratings and poor (in the writer’s opinion) attendence is solved by making the tournament merely a qualifier for the CCL — a tournament with far worse TV ratings and attendence.

    Seriously, when a writer starts talking about the CCL as if it’s something that anyone outside of the hardest core cares about, that’s my clue that I can ignore everything that guy says.

    1. Robin, under the proposed system, the TV ratings for the cup portion of the season would decrease. But the ratings for the regular season would increase because the games would be more meaningful.

      The Gaffer

    2. Whoa whoa whoa. So people actually think the reason people aren’t watching MLS is because there’s a playoffs and that makes the regular season “meaningless”? To think that people are making that calculated of a decision shows that you don’t really understand people at all.

      Here are the facts: the US has the top American Football league, the top basketball league, and (arguably) the top baseball league in the world. PEOPLE WATCH THEM BECAUSE PEOPLE LIKE WATCHING THE BEST OF THE BEST! PEOPLE WATCH EPL BECAUSE THEY ARE WATCHING THE BEST OF THE BEST! If you actually think that people would stop watching the EPL because it had a playoffs and made the regular season meaningless, I’m sorry, but you’re an idiot.

      The issue is quality of talent and quality of play. That will take time to improve. US Soccer is young and still figuring it out. Those of us who will support it no matter what will continue to do so. Those who like watching the highest quality play will come when the play is of a high quality, regardless of the format of the season.

      1. Joe is right. People watch EPL because they “know” it’s the best league. Getting rid of the playoffs won’t change that “truth.”

  25. At the end of the day if MLS ratings do not improve ESPN will drop the broadcast.
    There are many in full support of expanding the playoffs and keeping the current system but the numbers do no lie and the league is failing to garner an audience. Call me a Europoser or whatever name but I feel that we all want a successful league because if MLS fails/folds our National Team will be sent back to the dark ages in international soccer once again.

    TV is what pays the bills for most clubs and leagues around the world. If MLS’ main-event can’t garner an audience there is something seriously flawed with the current MLS system.

    Quality of play needs to be addressed. You can have a hybrid system of naminig a Champion but if the game is played like a bunch of amateurs the televisions will be turned off. Mexico is a top 10 league in the world and their playoff system is more confusing than ours but the level of play and passion is light years ahead of MLS.

    We need to reform MLS

    1. So wait Robert, first you say that we should eliminate the MLS Cup and go to a single table, because that will cure what ails MLS. Then you completely backtrack and say it’s quality of play that is the issue: “You can have a hybrid system of naming a Champion but if the game is played like a bunch of amateurs the televisions will be turned off.”

      Thanks for finally agreeing that your first opinion was baseless and doesn’t address the real issue.

    2. I’m a fan of the beautiful game. I watch La Liga, the EPL, Serie A, Bundesliga, MLS, and the occasional Brazilian League or Mexican League match. I don’t care for the MLS playoff system, but that is what the US sports fan seems used to, so keep it. I think Robert summed up the main problems with the MLS television ratings and the reason I typically watch the European leagues first;
      “Quality of play needs to be addressed” and followed with “the level of play and passion is light years ahead of MLS” which applies to most of the other leagues around the world.
      As the Gaffer has stated, I’d love to have an MLS team nearby as well and I would support them with season tickets and attending matches, but I’ll still watch the European teams I have followed over the years on television every week.

  26. Make it a 4 team playoffs or kill it completely. I don’t like the idea of MLS CUP Champion. Just kill it 100% and pump all that money and marketing into the US Open Cup. So you have MLS Champion and US Open Cup Champion. You will then have 2nd and 3rd place making Champions League.

    I agree that Garber needs to change things FAST, this year was a HUGE letdown. I don’t really agree about the website though, it’s not great but it’s not a huge deal. Bigger deal is the TV times they show these matches, the commentators need VAST improvement. Why aren’t the US National Team commentators being used?

    I 100% agree about marketing MLS to the soccer fans of the country, forget those stupid families. We need to attract the Premiership and La Liga fans to watch MLS. If you can get 90% of them MLS will become a HUGE league. Imagine all the Mexicans alone in So. Cal that will go out of their way to watch Barca or Madrid play but don’t give a shit about the Galaxy or Chivas!!!!!!!!!!

  27. There is no reason why we can’t have a 20 team single table system without playoffs. This is not MLB, NHL, NBA, or NFL. A real soccer league should resemble every other credible league in the world and we couldn’t be farther from it. America is not always right. It is completely heart breaking to see these NFL execs running our league. They might be good businessmen but they have no idea what the sport of soccer really is or what it needs to strive.

    1. Dude single table won’t work because the structure doesn’t favor American sportsfans. U don’t have a definitive champion and plus the in seasontournments are meaningless, nobody watches meaningless soccer tournments that arenot playoffs. Soccer forit to be more successful it needs to be more americanize and less eurosnobby

      1. @dcud
        It’s people like you that prove my point. You have no idea what real soccer is about. The US Open Cup is not a pointless tournament, it is the oldest tournament in the United States. And saying that no playoffs provides no real champion is just a stupid comment, the team at the top is clearly the best team because they played the exact same opponents through out the year with better results. Playoffs just allow shitty teams to grind their way through with a few lucky or ugly games. As long as MLS refuses to be like other credible leagues, MLS itself will not be credible. And I really want MLS to become a credible league.

  28. @Cavan
    You are right , I should have used quotation marks because they were not exactly promotions like in a promotion and relegation system.However,they were “promoted” from a lower to a higher league,they are in a way the same clubs adapting to a new reality.

    Besides the technicality,I think that what is important is the point I was trying to make,wich is the potential of promotion and relegation.

  29. The entire problem with the playoffs, at least the Cup Final (or whatever its called), is that ESPN decided the game time. If that doesn’t tell you something about the state of MLS, then I can’t help you. If Garber had any pull, which he doesn’t, MLS would have chosen the date and time for the final. But for mere crumbs MLS has allowed another entity to decide its most important game. MLS should give all the games to Telemundo or Univision or both in exchange for bilingual coverage. Those networks already have a healthy audience focused on watching soccer.

    1. Not a bad idea joejoe! Telemundo and Univision already have “soccer audiences”. Definitely much more likely to watch MLS than “American sports” fans. Let’s be honest; no MLB, NBA, NFL die hard fan is going to watch soccer. The MLS should be looking to capture the casual sports fan, who loves all sports, and the young up and coming fans who currently play soccer in this country.

  30. it would be huge mistake to eliminate the playoff structure. the next step for mls is to pressure the media for more attention inorder to attract non soccer fans. playoff structure is necessary towards that end

  31. I don’t think we need an MLS Cup Playoffs for the CCL when we already have a similar competition in the U.S Open Cup. The U.S. Open tournament has been disgustingly promoted for years and scheduled all over the place in different months.

    After the regular season and an MLS champion, we can have the U.S. Open Cup latter rounds televised and played.

  32. I think Don Garber has been good for U.S. soccer in general. He is smart enough to identify where the failures are and while the failures are glaring, it is only because they were willing to take the risk. I believe MLS will continue to keep trying new things until they find something that works. Hopefully, if the U.S. wins the World Cup bid in a few days we will be able to capitalize on it because there were problems trying to transfer the wave of support from the World Cup to MLS. The next step is definitely going to be marketing new fans for any growth to happen. But a great job has been done so far since 1996.

    1. Ever notice that Garber will tinker only as far as the people who pay his $3 million salary allow him to? As long as it isn’t about independent clubs and promotion/relegation, Don Garber will admit it. If urinal cakes go unreplaced in Red Bull Arena, Don Garber will be on at halftime of MLS Cup, admitting the problem and promising a solution…. that never comes.

  33. Yes, the MLS should embrace exactly what it’s hard core fans want.

    The question is, where is the evidence that the majority of it’s hard core fans want exactly what the author claims they want.

    The fact is, there isn’t any evidence of this. It’s something that people who can’t otherwise justify their own personal quirks and whims invoke as a means of rationalize their stance on something. Don’t like the playoffs? No need to show that getting rid of them will increase revenues for the league (in fact, quite the opposite) when we can just say “the hard core fans want it”.

    The problem is the MLS couldn’t be half the size it is today with just hard core fans. It needs far more than them to remain a viable business.

    1. If hard core MLS fans represent less than 1% of soccer supporters in the USA, maybe we shouldn’t be catering to them at all.

      We’ve spent 15 years worrying about MLS revenues. It’s time to worry about MLS soccer.

  34. I’m in favor of dropping the playoffs if a team’s season ends when its record has eliminated the possibility of it reaching first place. At every point when a team drops out, the schedule should be changed to reflect the new league.

    It’ll mean fewer games and less stress on the players, and it’s like pro/rel without the stupidity of pro/rel.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *