So I have heard and read a lot of things about how the playoffs this year are going to be "off" due to the real likelihood of 6 Western Conference teams and how it will be unfair to the top teams in MLS, both again likely in the Western Conference to make them play the other top teams in the West, while the "weaker" Western Conference teams would go to the East.
What a freakin mouth full, in short it isn't exactly fair that if the playoffs started today that the overall #1 and #2 teams in MLS (LA Galaxy and Real Salt Lake) would be facing off in the playoffs against FC Dallas and the Seattle Sounders (both of whom could end up with better point totals than the top teams in the East).
So here is how the playoffs would look if they started today:
LA Galaxy #1 (56 points) in the West would face off against the Seattle Sounders #4 (45 points) in the West.
Real Salt Lake #2 (52 points) in the West would face off against FC Dallas #3 (50 points) in the West
Columbus Crew #2 (46 points) in the East would face off against San Jose #5 (43 points) from the West
The question most critics have is why would you take the worst teams from a conference and move them to the other conference instead of taking the stronger teams? It would see that it is giving the weaker conference an easier road to the Championship instead of giving that advantage to the stronger conference.
Easy Fix #1 when there are 6 teams from one conference.
The top two teams in each conference are ranked 1-4 based on their points total, then 1vs8, 2 vs7, 3 vs6, and 4vs5. That seems logical, so it would be LA vs. Colorado, RSL vs. San Jose, New York vs Dallas, and Columbus vs Seattle.
after the jump an ever easier fix (one you never thought you would hear from me:
OK, I have resisted the whole single table thing because far too many soccer fans in the US think that getting it will lead to the whole of promotion/relegation which I don't think will ever take in the US. That being said with the expansion of MLS to 18 teams next year and at least 19 in 2012, a single table for standings makes sense until you have so many teams that playing a balanced schedule (play every team home and away) no longer is possible. So if this system were in place right now we would have the following playoff series:
#1 Los Angeles Galaxy vs. #8 Colorado Rapids
#4 New York Red Bulls vs. #5 Columbus Crew
#2 Real Salt Lake vs. #7 San Jose Earthquakes
#3 FC Dallas vs #6 Seattle Sounders
and I will be honest I am not sure if I like that but one thing is for sure, no matter how the playoffs shape up this year with 6 teams from one conference making it in, it will have to impact how the playoffs are structured in the future. It may be a single table (but once we go to an unbalanced schedule - I think this becomes a problem), it may be that you take the top two teams from each conference and then rank them so you can reward the teams with the better numbers regardless of conference, or we could leave it like it is.
The reality is that no plan is ever going to make everyone happy, and I am sure that should LA lose to Seattle, or RSL to FC Dallas that fans of the teams that lose will bemoan that the system is broke. It may well be, but as long as their are playoffs, there will be playoff controversy.
OFF MY SOAPBOX