By Michael Lewis
Given how quickly and fluid things have been since March, this piece could be old while I am writing it. But here goes, anyway.
Assuming Major League Soccer has hopes and plans of returning to action in home cities after the MLS Is Back Tournament is completed, I have come up with a plan to continue the league.
It is not in the traditional sense, at least not in the regular season. It is more in the regional sense.
In fact, I call my idea: Michael Lewis Soccer (yes, it is still MLS, my humble vision for 2020).
I would take the 26 teams and place them in five groups. One group would house six teams and the other four would include five apiece.
Taking a strong hint from Major League Baseball and Canada and knowing that teams could not play at home north of the border, the three Canadian sides would be based in America and placed in one of the regional divisions or conferences. Yes, I know that would be easier said than done, but perhaps they can share facilities/stadiums with one of those teams or be positioned in an expansion team candidate city.
Not unlike Major League Baseball, it would cut down the traveling, at least during the season.
Here is the breakdown:
New England Revolution
New York City FC
New York Red Bulls
Inter Miami CF
Chicago Fire FC
Columbus Crew SC
Sporting Kansas City
Real Salt Lake
Vancouver Whitecaps FC
Los Angeles FC
San Jose Earthquakes
Seattle Sounders FC
Each team would play 10 games for the rest of the season from August through October. All divisions and conferences would play home and home series within their respective groups. In the five-team groups, clubs would play two additional games against division/conference opponents.
As for teams that need to make up games to make the regular season even, they could play another team in their division/conference or one in another.
As for the playoffs, this is where it gets complicated because we go from regional to more of a national scope.
The division/conference champions would gain automatic berths while the five second-place sides would also qualify as will the two best third-place sides as wildcard teams.
In the first round, the top four group champions would get byes. The No. 5 first-place team would have to play, but receive home-field advantage as will be top second-place sides. So, the No. 5 group winner, five second-place teams and the two wildcard clubs would play in a one-shot deal.
In the second round (quarterfinals), the top four division/conference winners would host the four survivors (in a perfect world, it would be done on a points accrued basis, but in this crazy pandemic world, we might have to stay as regionally as possible).
In the third round (semifinals), the top four clubs would tussle for a spot in the MLS Cup, sometimes in November or December.
Again, we are assuming the COVID-19 pandemic doesn’t ran rampant in the fall.
Like I said, this plan is far from perfect, but at least it’s a start and a plan.
If you have a better idea, I would love to hear about it and I’ll share the best ones.
Please send your emails to firstname.lastname@example.org.