So 2011 Should Be Interesting In MLS

So 2011 Should Be Interesting In MLS

  • Posted by Drew Epperley
  • On November 22, 2010
  • 2011 MLS Season

I never touched on some of the big news from last night. Mainly I wanted to enjoy the game as much as possible without having to sit down and write anything on here. I’m lazy what can I say.

Still the league announced some fairly decent sized changes for the 2011 season. With two more clubs coming into the fold you knew something had to be changing. Plus considering the backlash the league received when the Eastern Conference finals had two Western Conference teams in it they knew changes had to be made.

Its a bit of some good news-bad news really. Since I’m doing the writing I’ll give you the good news first.

Good News: The 34-game regular season slate will be a balanced schedule meaning everyone will play each other twice, home and away. I know the league wanted rivalries to be big but for next year this works. Apparently once the league expands to 20 clubs they’ll likely go unbalanced so they don’t have to play more then 34-games in a regular season. In all honesty I can live with that, at least until the club’s rosters can handle a 38-game regular season like the big leagues in Europe do.

Bad New: The league is adding two more clubs to the playoff mix. Yes 10 teams in the playoffs instead of the eight that we’ve seen since, well, the league started. Honestly this is a step backward for the league but could be better once the league expands beyond 20 clubs way down the road (don’t kid yourself this league will have 24 clubs before our lifetime is up, hell maybe even 28 if things go well).

The format of this 10-team playoff hasn’t been decided yet but basically it boils down to the league not being willing enough to go away from the conference format. My bet the conference champions or at least the Supporter’s Shield winner will receive a bye into the conference semi-finals with the 9th and 10th seeds playing in a play-in game. Time will tell how the format will work. It could end up NFL-style with teams how the league deals with wild cards and byes. I know the league wants to focus on giving the higher seeds an advantage here in the playoffs and really I couldn’t disagree with them considering some of the last champions have been low seeds making a run into the finals.

Also the league is said to be “looking into” switching their season calendar to align with the rest of the world in FIFA’s eyes. We all know FIFA has been public about how they want MLS to switch their calendar but its really easier said than done in my opinion. Most agree that this “study” of sorts is really MLS and the USSF’s way of trying to help their World Cup bid out.

“We are speaking to our fans. We are basically telling our fans that we have a goal and a vision to be one of the top soccer leagues in the world. In order for us to be able to achieve that, we are going to have to do a wide variety of things in the next X number of years to achieve them. The calendar is one of them. As we are thinking about our playoff format, our competition calendar, it makes sense for us to start really digging into whether or not this makes sense. We have been thinking about it for the last year, and it certainly is a message we want to say to the international soccer community: We are going to get closer to the way the rest of the world plays.” — Don Garber, MLS Commissioner.

Its one thing to study it than actually do it too. I still see it never happening in MLS. Too many logistics to work out and with weather playing a large factor it could be a very tough sell in places like Toronto, Salt Lake, Colorado, Chicago, New England and more to play games in late November or early February.

Lots of debating will take place for this. I know Garber mentioned promotion/relegation at some point too this past weekend to the press. I’m a bit shocked the Internet or Twitter didn’t explode with that mention. Maybe folks are finally realizing that concept will never happen in the US. Ever.

  • The American sports market is far too saturated in the fall/winter months for the calendar to change any time soon. Part of the reason why MLS was able to out-draw NBA and NHL is that the only other games fans can go to during the summer are MLB games and there are 162 of those per year.