By Michael Lewis
Remember the MLS Cup Playoffs?
Well, they return Tuesday night with absolutely no momentum.
That’s what being off for 15 days will do to the postseason.
Outside of inclement weather or a major disaster, no other sport in North America endures such a delay.
Soccer teams doesn’t deserve it, players don’t deserve it and neither do their fans.
If you remember, the conference finals will pit Columbus Crew SC and Toronto FC in the East and the Houston Dynamo and Seattle Sounders in the West.
The last games they played was Nov. 5. Seems like a long time ago, huh?
With the way the playoffs are structured, it will always bump into the FIFA international playing dates in November. Hence, the postseason has been pushed into December, with a decent chance of playing the final in a northern city.
The two candidates to host MLS Cup this year are Toronto and Columbus, which, as is turns out, hosted the last two championship games. It was freezing on game day both times.
While the playoffs are destined to be played in cold weather, the finals don’t necessarily have to be held under freezing conditions.
Almost a month ago, I shared my plan to make the MLS Cup playoffs better. I haven’t wavered from original remarks, but I figured I would share them again.
These ideas would make the playoffs more viable and put the league in a position to hold games on the weekends and not in midweek.
Of course, the big inequity in the current playoff format is that the best teams in the 34-game regular season are not rewarded enough in the playoffs.
So once again, here are Michael Lewis Soccer’s (that’s my version of MLS) ideas to improve the playoffs:
* Start off the same way we did the last two seasons, with six teams from each conference booking a spot in the postseason (although kicking off the playoffs a week earlier than usual would avoid playing into December).
* Play the knockout round games at the higher seeded side that midweek.
* On the next weekend, have the four conference semifinals as knockout games at the higher seeds. In other words, we eliminate the aggregate-goals series.
* And on the next weekend, the conference finals for the two conference finals as a one-shot deal at the higher seeds. And yes, we eliminate the aggregate-goals series in this one as well.
* And finally, MLS Cup.
Getting rid of the total-goals series would liven things up and make for much more drama (especially after that scoreless draw of a fiasco between Vancouver and Seattle in the Western Conference semifinal first leg, it will make the teams play for something instead of essentially wasting 90 minutes).
Plus, it would allow MLS to schedule games on the weekend, instead of midweek or on a Monday or a Tuesday, which is has for this year’s conference semifinals. That should increase attendances at the games as well.
Let’s make a 34-game season mean something for the teams with the better records.
You say it’s unfair for a team not to have a playoff game in the conference semifinals or final?
Tough, I say.
Finish higher in the standings and earn your way to hosting one.
Don’t know if the MLS powers that be would buy it because teams would lose a playoff game in the conference series and the lower-seeded sides would lose a home match.
To me, it’s about the quality of the competition and giving some more meaning to the regular season.
That, and coming in from the cold, or at least avoiding it.
MLS’ most important game should not be played under adverse conditions.