Tuesday, October 23, 2007

The MLS Playoffs bracket is set. Let the office pools begin! Or not.

I have never really been a fan of the playoffs in MLS. My feelings regarding the playoff system resembled what I felt about the old MLS penalty shootout used to resolve ties. I didn't like it. It was different from the established European leagues that I follow. (Note: For the record, I also abhorred the old countdown-clock style with no injury time. And the “Tampa Bay Mutiny” as a team name. And, for that matter, the “Miami Fusion,” the “Dallas Burn” etc., etc.)

But, upon some contemplation, a tournament-style competition definitely has its up-sides, and is by no means alien to the world of soccer: we all love the World Cup, the Copa America, and the European Championships, not to mention the Champions’ League and the UEFA Cup. And, with my tickets in hand for D.C.’s first-round game against Chicago, I’m looking forward to a spirited and high-caliber competition. Let the playoffs begin!

I think my real beef with the MLS Playoffs is that too many teams get in. Perhaps this will be less of an issue in 5-10 years, after the planned league expansion. I only hope they do not also expand the playoffs.

Moreover, with the awarding of the Supporters’ Shield to the best regular-season team, there is still some prestige to owning the best record (and I think winning the Shield should be touted more by the league and the media).

So, at the end of the day, the league’s system is growing on me, and I think it has the potential to be a winning format.

This year’s matchups:

Eastern Conference Semifinals:
D.C. United vs. Chicago Fire
New England Revolution vs. NY Red Bulls

Western Conference Semifinals:
Chivas USA v. KC Wizards (née “The Wiz”*)
Houston Dynamo vs. FC Dallas (née “The Burn”*)

My predictions later this week...

* Sometimes seems like the old MLS teams were named after medical symptoms. Especially when the Burn matched up with the Wiz—a concerning pairing that cried out for antibiotics.


Slurpo-san said...

sadly, for the league at least, LA didn't make it into the playoffs, thus depriving the league of potentially huge ratings for Beckham games. I think its too soon to consider Beckham's impact on the league--a better determination will be at the start of the next season, when Becks is hopefully healthy. What sort of buzz will the league have the 2nd time around? Will other "name" players come over during the off-season?

And re: names--I hate the Amercian obsession with standard team name nomenclatures: "city name" + "mascot". I love the simplicity of the EPL, for example. Of course, those teams have nicknames, even multiple in some cases (Newcastle: Geordies, Magpies, etc...), so I'm not saying you can't or shouldn't give a team a nickname, but don't do it just to do it. It is nice to see MLS finally start to get a clue and drop sily names like Wiz and Burn. This lends a bit more credibiilty. One problem is that all of the "good names" have been taken by pre-existing pro teams for a long time. So the choice is either 1) go with something unique and risky, or 2) go the simpler route, i.e. FC Dallas, DC United, Toronto FC. And I can't even talk about "Real Salt Lake" rationally. There is nothing "royal" about Salt Lake--if you're going to use that name, at least do so in a city with a recognizable latino populaton. Even then it is still a horrendous attempt to capitalize on the name recognition of one of the most well-known teams in the world. Sad, sad state of affairs.

Scotto said...

I agree that it is unfortunate that LA didn't make the playoffs, but, boy, they were really outplayed by Chicago last week, so don't really think they were deserving.

And, I still think the year ended as a net positive on the Becks front--more media attention, more international recognition, and, almost assuredly, more willingness on the part of other big-name players to give MLS a try (see Thierry Henry a few posts below). That NY game alone was worth all the negatives from his injury-laden debut year. What a supremely entertaining match.

Given another name or two DP's this offseason, and I think next year could be a great year for MLS. I would bill it as Jozy's audition/farewell tour.