World Soccer Talk

MLS ’13 – The End of the Western Conference’s Dominance

For the past three years, the gulf between the two MLS conferences has seemingly been as deep as the Grand Canyon.  In 2011 and 2012, the East’s representative in MLS Cup was Houston, a convert from the West.  The last time MLS Cup featured an original Eastern Conference team was 2008 when two teams from the East played for the championship (those silly meaningless geography days).  In discussions of the best teams in MLS, the conversation has naturally gravitated from who would come out of the West.

The dominance makes sense in a number of ways.  Los Angeles has taken utmost advantage of the Beckham rule to build a team around superstars who fit in MLS (and darn good coaching doesn’t hurt).  Teams like Seattle and Real Salt Lake have excellent management and team building, while coaches like Schellas Hyndman happen to be out West.  Indeed, even “lucky” teams like Colorado built their team to maximize their MLS Cup opportunities.  In the East, there has been turmoil at the top.  The team with the most resources (New York) is also the most unsettled at every level.  DC United struggled through bad coaching and management challenges, and had to dive to the deepest depths before seemingly being rebuilt.  Dominant teams from the mid-2000s like Columbus and New England got old and didn’t rebuild.  New powers like Sporting Kansas City are just now reaching the consistency of Western Conference teams.  And Houston has been the class of the East but struggles in the regular season.

However, the 2013 season looks to be the year when the East catches up to the West.  Consider the offseason of the “best” teams in the West:

Now take a look at what will probably be the contenders in the East:

While preseason predictions and teams on paper can crumble in the August heat, in the snows of February the East looks like it has multiple, serious MLS Cup contenders for the first time in a few year, at least as many who arguably have very good chances to lift the Cup from the West.

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