November 17, 2013
MY TWO CENTS
Some thoughts on improving NASL's split season format
By Matt Levine
"The opinions reflected in the My Two Cents columns do not express the views of the editors or management of BigAppleSoccer. com"
The North American Soccer League playoff format isnít what we are used to seeing in terms of North American sport. However, it keeps the league in a unique position in which it is doing something no one else is. However, in order to grow the league, a few changes should be taken into consideration.
Play the same number of games for both halves of the season
In order for the split season to be a truly legitimate format, the league needs to schedule the same number of games for both seasons. In 2014, the plan is to have an abbreviated spring season with the break in between seasons coinciding with the World Cup. Even with an event as big as the World Cup, the league needs to play the same amount of games each half, even if it means starting the spring season earlier. It is a different case if an expansion team joins, although with some backlash to the New York Cosmos only playing the fall and winning Soccer Bowl, it may be in the leagueís best interest to only allow teams to begin play in the spring.
The fall season must count for the spring champions
The Atlanta Silverbacks were able to coast in the fall season after having clinched their Soccer Bowl berth in the spring. It certainly showed in the standings with them finishing third from the bottom in the fall table. Although the Silverbacks and Cosmos was an entertaining final, one has to wonder if the Silverbacks had to win more games in the fall and were on better form heading in, the title game could have been that much better. Something simple as adding a Supporterís Shield and handing it to the team with the best overall combined record may be one way to encourage teams to treat both seasons equally.
Pick a host city before the season
For the spring champion, sure it is great to host the title game. However, even with the Silverbacks hosting, it never really felt like they had a home-field advantage. That also could have been because of the boisterous traveling support for the Cosmos. However, hosting the Soccer Bowl in a select city each year allows the planning committee more time as well as offering a chance to test out markets for potential expansion.
Bonus idea: Donít expand too quickly
The NASL, although deemed a second division league, has aspirations of being bigger and possibly rivaling MLS. To do that, the league needs to grow the league organically and fight the urge to grow too quickly. There are several expansion teams planned for the 2014 and 2015 seasons already. The NASL should take lessons from MLS when they tried to grow a little too quickly in their early days and also make sure that every new team has the support structure in place to remain in the league. Not every team is going to sell 7,000 tickets before a ball is kicked as what IndyEleven has accomplished.
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