October 8, 2013
MY TWO CENTS
Some things this fan would like to see in the long term of MLS
Will Smith is a long-time soccer fan who lives in Brooklyn, N.Y.
"The opinions reflected in the My Two Cents columns do not express the views of the editors or management of BigAppleSoccer. com"
By Will Smith
Special to BigAppleSoccer.com
I have been an avid supporter of MLS since 1996. I survived the uneven play of MLS 1.0 as well as the era of contraction and subsequent expansion. I lived through the David Beckham MLS 2.0 era and now ready myself for MLS 3.0 with the arrival of NYC FC and future expansion. I fully support MLS and U.S. Soccer. That said, if you really love someone or something, you need to be able to look at it with a critical eye and push for further improvement.
Here are four things I'd like to see within the next decade:
A revamping of the MLS playoff system
I'm old school. I don't like playoffs and I especially don't like wildcard teams, regardless of the sport. That said, I realize that playoffs are here to stay. Still, I feel that having roughly half the teams qualify for a spot cheapens the regular season. Finishing first in your division should mean more than home field advantage. I would love to see MLS move to a three division system wherein the three division winners and one wildcard team make the playoffs. The teams would be seeded 1-4 with the better team getting home field advantage. In this way, the regular season becomes more than the post-season dress rehearsal it is now.
Make the MLS Cup a destination date
Since MLS began in 1996, the championship game has been played, at various times, in October, November or December. Unlike, say, the World Series, which everyone knows is in October, the date of MLS is a floating mystery. Even die-hard fans aren't necessarily sure of the game date until it comes upon them and that is reflected in ratings. My solution is to move it, permanently, to the Friday after Thanksgiving. By giving the game a permanent home date, it becomes a destination for television viewers. If the powers that be wanted to go all out, they could turn the day into a soccer holiday by hosting the second division NASL championship that same weekend.
A physical location for National Soccer Hall of Fame
Every major U.S. sport needs a Hall of Fame. Ours is packed up in storage ever since the Hall closed its upstate New York doors a few years back. U.S. Soccer needs to find a permanent home for the Hall and build it, preferably alongside a soccer specific stadium in an area tourists may go to and which has historical significance to the game in the US. Harrison, N.J. Philly and New York all look good to me.
I never thought I'd say this, but I'm in favor of promotion/relegation. When MLS began, the idea was so foreign to U.S. sports fans that there was no way it could have worked. Eighteen years later, a generation has grown up on not only MLS, but European soccer on television. The idea is no longer foreign.
Besides, having promotion/relegation removes the risk of what I call “Florida Marlin Syndrome”, wherein a team can be plain awful for eons and remain in the top flight. There is no good excuse to justify the continued existence of Chivas or Toronto FC in MLS. Let them earn the right to remain there. In addition, there is no good reason for the New York Cosmos or Atlanta Silverbacks to remain in the North American Soccer League should they face off in the Soccer Bowl.
Of course, all these changes would require not only the top two leagues to work together, but long term vision, neither of which I have come to accept as a fan of American soccer.
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