MLS crowned a new champion on Sunday when the Colorado Rapids defeated FC Dallas 2-1 in overtime.
It was another case of a lower seed beating a higher seed in the MLS Cup Playoffs. Before the game was final, MLS Commissioner Don Garber addressed the media about possible changes in MLS, from the playoffs to the actual playing calendar. While no final decisions have been made, it’s clear that the league has plenty to think about. Let’s take a look at some of the possibilities:
Changing the playoff structure
The Commissioner didn’t offer up exact details Sunday on how the playoffs would be run in 2011, but he did say that two more teams would be added to the mix, meaning 10 playoff spots would be awarded among the 18 teams. There is talk that the bottom four of those ten teams would compete to put two teams into the playoffs along with the top six.
I’m okay with two more teams making it, so long as you reward conference winners. How about giving them a bye in the opening round of the playoffs? While we’re at it, any thought to having three conferences instead of two?
I know some would like a single table, but how do you sell tickets when your team is in 17th or 18th place?
Changing the MLS Cup final from a neutral venue to a home field advantage scenario
MLS has been talking about this for a few years now, and no doubt the lack of a big time atmosphere in Toronto will have them thinking in this direction again.
Had they played this game at the higher seed, instead of in Toronto, that would have meant that FC Dallas would have hosted the final. Is there any guarantee that Pizza Hut Park would have been filled to capacity for the final? Also, what if you have home field advantage and pack the place, but you get blown out. Would there be any atmosphere if the stadium was sold out for an MLS Cup final, but the home side was trailing 3-0? I’m just playing devil's advocate here to show that while all of these ideas can be good, there is another side to examine.
Changing the MLS calendar to be more like the international calendar
I understand the reasons for wanting to do this, but this will not be easy. There is talk of a summer to spring season with a winter break in December and January. Have we forgotten about the February weather in most parts of the USA and Canada? Will you be able to play in Chicago, Columbus, Toronto, New England, etc. in February?
If we were to change our calendar, I would be more in favor of a split season like they do in places like Argentina and Mexico. Have one season go from August through November, then have the other season run from March through the end of May. You may have to eliminate playoffs, and have two champions, but that’s not a bad thing. You could also have the winner of the summer/fall season play the winner of the winter/spring season for the MLS Cup trophy. So there is plenty to think about during this offseason.
The one thing we know about 2011 is that the 18-team league will play a 34-game balanced schedule. The Commissioner also said it would still be a two conference alignment with Vancouver and Portland playing in the Western Conference, with one unnamed team from the West shifting over to the East.
Wednesday is the expansion draft to stock Portland and Vancouver, during which the Union could lose a player or two. Check out philadelphiaunion.com for extensive draft day coverage.