footy musings from a (relative) newbie

Posts tagged ‘soccer’

Is Shonda Rhimes Writing MLS’ Playoff Race?

Because it has more twists than an episode of Scandal. And as is the case with that show, the twists in the MLS Playoff race have me confused.

Seattle Sounders slumped to their third straight loss, going down 1-0 to Portland Timbers. With the win over their archrivals, The Timbers are first in the West and challenging for the Supporters Shield.

WTH?

Also, while I wasn’t paying attention, Chicago Fire decided to mount a playoff challenge. And New England Revolution still have a chance to get into the playoffs.

Huh?

On a reassuring note, Toronto, DC and Chivas are still terrible. Whew!

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MLS Playoffs – Did I Speak Too Soon?

Moments after posting about my frustrations with the MLS Playoffs, I checked the scores of this week’s fixtures and saw that the Seattle Sounders – the league’s in-form team just weeks ago – lost 4-1 to the Vancouver Whitecaps. Favorites for the Supporters Shield through the end of the summer, the Sounders have given up a total of 9 goals in their last two games, while scoring only two.

This change of fortunes reminded me of something I actually do like about the MLS playoff push: its unpredictability. In contrast to the sometimes numbing predictability of the European leagues (the champions of Europe’s top 4 divisions last season were decided weeks before the season ended in May), the run-in for MLS’ playoffs is whiplash-inducing. And it’s not just a one-season phenomenon either. The by-design parity of the league means that a team can change its luck within the space of just a few games.

That can be fun for both neutrals and supporters of particular team.

Did your team start the season terribly? Fear not: they could still make a late run to the playoffs? And if your team barely made it into the playoffs, there’s no reason to lament, for they might still end up winning MLS Cup when all is said and done.

I still have issues with the structure of the playoffs, which doesn’t really reward the teams that have been consistent throughout the regular season, but it was nice to get a reminder that the MLS playoff race has its own particular charms to offer

Here Come the MLS Playoffs

I am not ashamed to admit that I don’t always understand Major League Soccer’s (MLS) byzantine rules surrounding which teams get into the playoffs. I get that 10 teams – 5 each from the Eastern and Western conferences – qualify for the knockout tournament that is the road to MLS Cup, and…that’s pretty much where my understanding ends. This isn’t entirely my fault, as MLS seems to change the playoff entrance rules fairly frequently.

As a fairly new fan of soccer and MLS, the marriage of American sports’ playoff tradition with the beautiful game took some getting used to. I spent the early months of my soccer fandom following the European game, where league titles are decided by end-of-season point totals. When I started following MLS, the idea of deciding the league champion via playoffs seemed odd – even though I’d grown up surrounded by American sports’ playoff driven culture.

And as previously mentioned, it didn’t help that MLS was in the midst of changing the rules of the playoffs.

With that said, a part of me – I guess the part raised on NBA and Major League Baseball playoffs – embraced the American-ness of playoff soccer. Here was a good way to put an American stamp on the world’s most popular game, one that was far less obnoxious than some of the other ways MLS had tried to stamp “Made in the USA” on its growing but still young game.

Yet each year, when the playoffs roll around, I find myself feeling frustrated. I think it’s mostly because oftentimes, the team with the best regular season record rarely ends up in the title deciding game (see 2012 San Jose Earthquakes). Yes, the Supporters Shield winner gets a place in CONCACAF Champions League and the bragging rights of being Shield winners. But the fact that that’s all a team can achieve upon posting the best regular-season record makes the season seem meaningless.

There’s also the fact that I genuinely don’t understand how these playoff work – even after reading the league’s own website, the MLS Playoffs Wikipedia page and multiple blog posts on the subject.

I’m not sure what the solution is – or if having playoffs for MLS is even really a problem in need so solving (For various reasons, some, like this writer, think it is).

In the past, it’s been suggested that MLS move to a European model – i.e., allowing the end-of-season point total to determine the league champion – while still keeping MLS Cup as a separate competition similar to England’s League Cup (to go along with the U.S. Open Cup, our version of England’s legendary FA Cup).

That sounds like a plausible alternative, but I am not sure how it would work logistically. Would this mean going to a single league table (as is the custom in most of the world’s domestic leagues), and would that once again open up the promotion/regulation argument?

Not sure about the answers to any of these questions.

In any event, with the season winding down, the playoffs will soon be upon us. One team – the New York Red Bulls – has already qualified. More teams to follow in the coming weeks, but between now and whenever the playoffs begin, I can’t say I’ll have a better grasp of how they all got there.

Welcome to Football is Heartbreak

I am a football junkie. Why? How? All will be revealed! Here, you will find my thoughts – the thoughts of a football newbie – on the beautiful game

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