Monday, November 23, 2009

Getting Real with RSL

Congrats to RSL and Nick Rimando, one of my favorite players in MLS, for reasons that I have never been able to articulate. I just like the guy. And big props to Cletus on winning his one and only MLS ring. Who would have thought that 10 years ago? And also big props to Jason Kreis. That team had the front page treatment in the Deseret News or Slat Lake Tribune, one of those, right before moving into Rio Tinto last year talking about how they were, in real “Man on the Moon” huge type, THE WORST TEAM IN MLS. Since then, that team has been in two Cup semifinals and now won a Cup Final. Remarkable.

And now reality: I think RSL in 2010 will be the first defending champion since the 2006 Galaxy to miss the playoffs entirely, though this is hardly a unique analysis. That team is good, but nothing more than that. Though of course, they were clearly the better team last night. Next year they have no Movsisyan, and we all know that over the course of a whole season, a date with the Royals is usually one Dynamo at least expect to win, either here or at Rio Tinto. Championship or not, I don’t see that changing next year. I don’t mean to be brutal or anything, just honest. This is a team that just got hot at the right time. Let’s not make them out to be anything more than that. That is, until they prove it over the course of a whole season.

That being said, I do not join the chorus of opinion that says that RSL is proof positive that the playoffs are a crock and that MLS does not crown their true champion.

The solution to these “problems” (if such they are) is to stop this ludicrous Supporter’s Shield title and name the regular season champion something a name that’s befitting, like, oh I don’t know, how about “Season Champion”? Get a trophy befitting the status of champion. Use the name champion, whatever. Just like with the Supporter’s Shield now, the team gets a berth in the Champions League, and in addition, a scudetto to wear all of next season.

Then use the regular season to seed a postseason tournament of eight teams, the MLS Cup Tournament. The winner of that tournament is the MLS Cup Champion.

How so very precedented is a format like this? The regular season champ is the champ, the MLS Cup champ is a champ and the USOC champ is kind of like a champion. You could have a domestic triple, a domestic double or three separate trophy winners. That is just fine by me. We are often accused of being to Anglocentric in our soccer here in the US. Well here is a situation where it works. The USOC = FA Cup. The Season champ = Premier League champ. MLS Cup winner = Carling (League) Cup.

The reason I want to keep the playoffs is that I like tournaments with all of their silly internal logic. Anyone can beat anyone on any given day and upsets happen far more frequently than during the marathon of a regular season run. The regular season does not produce undeserving champions, while it is true that tournaments do. However, this is only a problem when the tournament presents the only title to win. So keep the playoffs. Keep it all. It’s fun and entertaining and leads to debates and discussion and upsets and favorites and the whole shebang. Keep it all.


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