Single Table Debate

Single Table Debate

  • Posted by Drew Epperley
  • On March 23, 2009
  • 16 Comments
  • Geoff Reid, Single Table

Editor’s note: Geoff Reid is a WVH contributor. This is his third post on the site. Today he tackles the ever fun issue of the single table debate. Geoff got some of his ideas from his college soccer days and he feels this is a good move for the league. If you agree or disagree with Geoff feel free to post below…keep the debate civil though!

This past week we have seen potentially the biggest hotbed of soccer in America start to take shape in MLS after 14 years. One wonders why MLS didnít look to the Pacific north-west back in 1994 when assigning† franchises. The league can argue that they wanted to separate themselves from the old NASL and rightly so because arguably in some cases, and ultimately, the NASL was a failure. Yes it attracted lots of new fans to the sport and fan bases that really planted the seeds for future American soccer fans and national team players such as John Harkes, Tab Ramos (who was drafted by the Cosmos in 1984), Marcelo Balboa, Tony Meola, Kasey Keller and the list can go on and on.

However, the business model was a disaster and we should question if their ever was one. But give credit to the NASL when itís due and it certainly deserves credit for planting the seeds in Vancouver, Seattle and Portland respectively.

The 2011 season is just two years away, but eventually league officials will have to discuss the possibility of adopting a single table format because once the 2011 season is ready to kick off, the western conference will have 10 clubs while the eastern conference will only have 8 clubs. Future expansion beyond 2011 will come into play as well when choosing the answer for this topic. Bringing in the Montreal Impact and St. Louis or a New York City club would balance both conferences out, but 20 teams is a good round number and it would be a fantastic debate regarding should the league expand further beyond that. Would the league be large enough where every team has their own specifically built stadium and could then align to FIFAís calender along with the rest of the world? More topics for another day.

While discussing the single table format being more in line with the most of the world is a hot debate and everyone can essentially throw their own two cents in. However, there will come a time when this hot topic must be discussed seriously by the league and that time will be before the 2011 season begins.

Now if Iím MLS commissioner Don Garber I would do this:

1. Go to a single table format.

2. However, keep the playoff system. Have the top eight teams qualify for the playoffs and that way the best eight teams will qualify with no arguments and this way we won’t see New York end up as the western conference champions!

3. Adopt the same system that is used in all of college soccer: Once the regular season is done, the playoffs start where the top seed will play the eighth seed, then two plays seven, and so on. Whether itís two legged ties and decided on aggregate can be debated later. This way the league looks more international since this is the worldís game after all, but it still has the American flavor so it doesnít seem too foreign.

By this time teams will play more then 30 regular season games and every club plays each other twice a season. Itís worth noting that this will be the last season where some teams will play other teams three times in the regular season. Once Philadelphia kicks off in 12 months time, by playing the same club twice (home and away) each team will have played 32 regular season games.

There are other ideas such as splitting all the clubs into four different divisions: Pacific and Mid-West in the western conference, and Central and Atlantic in the eastern conference. It just seems more simpler to have the single table and the top eight clubs make the playoffs.

You can also bring in the idea of the higher seed in the final potentially hosting the MLS Cup final but just like expanding beyond 20 clubs, and changing the timing of the season, itís another topic for another day.

  • Brian Zygo

    Good article. I like the idea of a 20 team league, it is the gold standard in top flight football, with some exceptions. I would like to keep a playoffs system, but instead of the college system, MLS might want to see how the WPS playoff system works, and if that is worth adopting.<br />
    <br />
    This post dovetails nicely with something I wrote on Saturday:<br />
    <br />
    <a href="http://wswhb.blogspot.com/2009/03/couple-weeks-ago-i-was-guest-on-mad.html&quot; target="_blank"><a href="http://wswhb.blogspot.com/2009/03/couple-weeks-ag…</a>" target="_blank">http://wswhb.blogspot.com/2009/03/couple-weeks-ag…</a></a>

  • TCompton

    I think that we place a lot of focus on the Single Table format because that's what we're use to seeing in most European leagues, however what I believe the real point we're trying to make is for the league to implement a balanced tabled where teams only play each other at home and away. Single tables accomplish this, however it is not necessary to have a Single table to accomplish this.<br />
    <br />
    Currently, MLS' 15 team league would establish a 28 game season on a balanced table. I believe that the league needs to focus on have at least a 30 game season to allow for team owners to host at least 15 home games a year, stabilizing stadium revenues. <br />
    <br />
    As a DC United, I believe this is extremely important when it comes to teams making the argument to a city/county/state that building a soccer specific stadium will bring revenue to the region.<br />
    <br />
    Once Philly joins the league, the league can implement a balanced schedule that allows for each team to play their opponents home and away (30 game season). The East/West Conferences only adds to regional rivalries, but does not dilute the importance of winning games. <br />
    <br />
    What it does do is allow for at least 1 to 2 representatives of a region to participate in the post season, essentially preventing regional domination (take former East and West Germany for example, where only one team from formerly East German states traditionally compete in the 1. Bundesliga. This is obviously a little different, since the Bundesliga utilizes promotion and relegation to segregate its teams, but if you consider the MLS season &quot;promotes&quot; its top teams to the MLS Cup Playoffs, then the similar situation could be applied.<br />
    <br />
    Personally, I'd prefer the Single Table solution to simplify the matter, but I at least can see some reasoning to maintaining conferences once the league is truly balanced.

  • Good article. I like the idea of a 20 team league, it is the gold standard in top flight football, with some exceptions. I would like to keep a playoffs system, but instead of the college system, MLS might want to see how the WPS playoff system works, and if that is worth adopting.

    This post dovetails nicely with something I wrote on Saturday:

    http://wswhb.blogspot.com/2009/03/couple-weeks-ago-i-was-guest-on-mad.html

  • Vnice

    Single table, yes!<br />
    <br />
    Higher seeded team hosts the MLS Cup, yes!<br />
    <br />
    However, I wouldn't mind seeing playoff games seeded by lottery, a la Champions League.

  • TCompton

    I think that we place a lot of focus on the Single Table format because that’s what we’re use to seeing in most European leagues, however what I believe the real point we’re trying to make is for the league to implement a balanced tabled where teams only play each other at home and away. Single tables accomplish this, however it is not necessary to have a Single table to accomplish this.

    Currently, MLS’ 15 team league would establish a 28 game season on a balanced table. I believe that the league needs to focus on have at least a 30 game season to allow for team owners to host at least 15 home games a year, stabilizing stadium revenues.

    As a DC United, I believe this is extremely important when it comes to teams making the argument to a city/county/state that building a soccer specific stadium will bring revenue to the region.

    Once Philly joins the league, the league can implement a balanced schedule that allows for each team to play their opponents home and away (30 game season). The East/West Conferences only adds to regional rivalries, but does not dilute the importance of winning games.

    What it does do is allow for at least 1 to 2 representatives of a region to participate in the post season, essentially preventing regional domination (take former East and West Germany for example, where only one team from formerly East German states traditionally compete in the 1. Bundesliga. This is obviously a little different, since the Bundesliga utilizes promotion and relegation to segregate its teams, but if you consider the MLS season “promotes” its top teams to the MLS Cup Playoffs, then the similar situation could be applied.

    Personally, I’d prefer the Single Table solution to simplify the matter, but I at least can see some reasoning to maintaining conferences once the league is truly balanced.

  • joel es latest socce

    I prefer the single table. But the playoffs do bring an extra dimension to the season.

  • Vnice

    Single table, yes!

    Higher seeded team hosts the MLS Cup, yes!

    However, I wouldn’t mind seeing playoff games seeded by lottery, a la Champions League.

  • Geoff

    Thanks guys for all your comments on my three articles so far, positive and negative. Its good to get different opinions and I do learn from comments that are written! I'm not an aspiring journalist, just a fan of the game or better way to put it, my life revolves around it whether it's my career or as a die hard fan.

  • I prefer the single table. But the playoffs do bring an extra dimension to the season.

  • VICvik

    Yes a single table, with the playoffs still. Top 8 make it in, and in a college style playoff format. Then in 3 years, lets go FIFA calendar style, MLS needs to get some balls and let the MLS number 1 seed host the CUP or keep it the same way to earn a tradition, but its better to let the number 1 seed host the final. I also think USL, should change their name to MLS-2 in the near future, to add least make some connection with USL teams. Then, if the MLS goes for 23,24,25, teams lets at least promote 1 team, to separate from the American Sports Leagues. MLS and USL have to make a connection sooner or later, because USL will only one day fight the MLS for terrirtory. And if you are wondering if the United States cant have 23,24,25, yes we can because the U.S. is big. We ca also promote at least one team every 2 years or 3, and if Kansas City and San Jose play in 12,000 seat stadiums, then a team promoted as well can play in the MLS.

  • Peter C

    Geoff,<br />
    <br />
    A good read. Futbol appears to hold similar positions in our lives.<br />
    <br />
    I'll try to make an argument for not going to a single table.<br />
    <br />
    I look at the MLS as still being in survival mode, a young league with big aspirations.<br />
    As such you want to maintain as much excitement as possible at as many franchises as possible. Despite how horrible the Galaxy were, just for one example, they weren't out of the playoffs until Week 28 if my memory serves correct.<br />
    <br />
    Going to a single table will more than likely condemn 2-4 franchises of 'nothing to play for' much earlier in the season. Given what I perceive to be the fragile finances of many of the clubs(only 3 made money last year), losing significant game day revenues for more games might result in a serious loss of income for some.<br />
    <br />
    We can't forget that the single table system so admired around the world has pro/reg. The bottom 4-7 clubs are in a race that has real meaning. Without pro/reg our bottom feeders will have nothing to play for, perhaps to the extent that the players will be just 'mailing it in' once their playoff hopes are extinguished.<br />
    <br />
    Finally, the 800 pound gorilla worldwide is TV rights. While it's terrific that MLS was able to secure profitable rights deals in '07, as far as I know the numbers are locked.(sure would be nice if there was a sliding scale built into the contracts) The 21.7 million, from ABC/ESPN, FSC, Univision and HDNet is a starting point, but a drop in the bucket compared to domestic rights around the globe. The two largest contracts run through 2014.<br />
    <br />
    There were 13 teams in 2007, there will be 18(or 20) by 2012. So if the pie doesn't get bigger, the slices get smaller. The now famous Forbes' report on the state of the league after the '07 season mentioned that the clubs received $800,000 from the TV rights deals. Not a lot.<br />
    <br />
    Sorry I got a little off track, but it all speaks to why maintaining league wide interest deep into the season is critical at this time.<br />
    <br />
    I might go so far as to say… deep breath now, have minimal or even no inter-conference play to reduce massive cross country travel expenses. Hey, without all that jet lag, you might even get better performance on the pitch. OK, maybe I'm reaching here, or maybe not.<br />
    <br />
    Without pro/reg and given difficult economic times, single table is not a good idea. Perhaps when MLS is 40 or 50 years old, but not now.

  • Geoff

    Thanks guys for all your comments on my three articles so far, positive and negative. Its good to get different opinions and I do learn from comments that are written! I’m not an aspiring journalist, just a fan of the game or better way to put it, my life revolves around it whether it’s my career or as a die hard fan.

  • Peter C

    Geoff,

    A good read. Futbol appears to hold similar positions in our lives.

    I’ll try to make an argument for not going to a single table.

    I look at the MLS as still being in survival mode, a young league with big aspirations.
    As such you want to maintain as much excitement as possible at as many franchises as possible. Despite how horrible the Galaxy were, just for one example, they weren’t out of the playoffs until Week 28 if my memory serves correct.

    Going to a single table will more than likely condemn 2-4 franchises of ‘nothing to play for’ much earlier in the season. Given what I perceive to be the fragile finances of many of the clubs(only 3 made money last year), losing significant game day revenues for more games might result in a serious loss of income for some.

    We can’t forget that the single table system so admired around the world has pro/reg. The bottom 4-7 clubs are in a race that has real meaning. Without pro/reg our bottom feeders will have nothing to play for, perhaps to the extent that the players will be just ‘mailing it in’ once their playoff hopes are extinguished.

    Finally, the 800 pound gorilla worldwide is TV rights. While it’s terrific that MLS was able to secure profitable rights deals in ’07, as far as I know the numbers are locked.(sure would be nice if there was a sliding scale built into the contracts) The 21.7 million, from ABC/ESPN, FSC, Univision and HDNet is a starting point, but a drop in the bucket compared to domestic rights around the globe. The two largest contracts run through 2014.

    There were 13 teams in 2007, there will be 18(or 20) by 2012. So if the pie doesn’t get bigger, the slices get smaller. The now famous Forbes’ report on the state of the league after the ’07 season mentioned that the clubs received $800,000 from the TV rights deals. Not a lot.

    Sorry I got a little off track, but it all speaks to why maintaining league wide interest deep into the season is critical at this time.

    I might go so far as to say… deep breath now, have minimal or even no inter-conference play to reduce massive cross country travel expenses. Hey, without all that jet lag, you might even get better performance on the pitch. OK, maybe I’m reaching here, or maybe not.

    Without pro/reg and given difficult economic times, single table is not a good idea. Perhaps when MLS is 40 or 50 years old, but not now.

  • VICvik

    Yes a single table, with the playoffs still. Top 8 make it in, and in a college style playoff format. Then in 3 years, lets go FIFA calendar style, MLS needs to get some balls and let the MLS number 1 seed host the CUP or keep it the same way to earn a tradition, but its better to let the number 1 seed host the final. I also think USL, should change their name to MLS-2 in the near future, to add least make some connection with USL teams. Then, if the MLS goes for 23,24,25, teams lets at least promote 1 team, to separate from the American Sports Leagues. MLS and USL have to make a connection sooner or later, because USL will only one day fight the MLS for terrirtory. And if you are wondering if the United States cant have 23,24,25, yes we can because the U.S. is big. We ca also promote at least one team every 2 years or 3, and if Kansas City and San Jose play in 12,000 seat stadiums, then a team promoted as well can play in the MLS.

  • TCompton

    I'll throw out another idea to go along with the single table theory:<br />
    <br />
    What about having a Apertura/Clausura season calender. Doing this will:<br />
    1. Allow for the majority of the summer International Dates to be observed, <br />
    2. Align MLS with the leagues in our region, and <br />
    3. Apply consistent qualification criteria for the Champions League across the region.<br />
    <br />
    Just an idea…

  • TCompton

    I’ll throw out another idea to go along with the single table theory:

    What about having a Apertura/Clausura season calender. Doing this will:
    1. Allow for the majority of the summer International Dates to be observed,
    2. Align MLS with the leagues in our region, and
    3. Apply consistent qualification criteria for the Champions League across the region.

    Just an idea…