April 2, 2015
MY TWO CENTS
Another option for MLS I and MLS II
Dr. Christopher Berger, a soccer fan, is a professor at the University of Vermont.
"The opinions reflected in the My Two Cents columns do not express the views of the editors or management of BigAppleSoccer. com"
By Christopher Berger
Special to BigAppleSoccer.com
I generally agree with your thoughts that Major League Soccer should split into two divisions when it reaches 32 teams, with a system of promotion and relegation between the two. I am not sure the idea that four of the division 2 teams make the playoffs will be enough to appease the owners that paid hefty expansion fees to be in the MLS.
I have a slightly different idea:
1) Teams only play other teams in their division (MLS I or MLS II) during the regular season, a balanced schedule (home and away series) against each of the other 15 division foes for a total of 30 games. Regular-season champions would be the MLS I and MLS II champions for the year.
2) At the end of the regular season all 32 teams play in a World Cup style MLS Cup championship where the groups are based on the regular season standings (i.e., Group A has the first and 16th seeded teams from both MLS I and MLS II, Group B the second and 15th teams from both MLS I and MLS II, etc.). These would be home-away series for six games each, top two teams advance to the second round. This would allow some MLS II teams to advance, with some of the surprises one finds in March Madness, albeit more fairly weighted over six games.
3) Round 2 would also be a group stage with four groups of four, each having two of the round 1 group winners and two of the round 1 runners-up, but this will be once against each team, with the group 1 winners hosting two of the their three games and the group 1 runners-up hosting one of their three games. Top two teams from each group advance to the single elimination knock-out round.
4) Round 3 has the round 2 group winners each hosting a round 2 runner-up in the quarterfinals. Quarterfinal winners advance to semifinals hosted by the highest two placed regular season teams, and the MLS Cup final is hosted by the semifinal winner with the best regular season record.
Thus, the regular season still counts for a lot, but all teams still have a shot in the playoffs, MLS I or MLS II. It would be a maximum of 42 games for the top teams, only two more than required in the current MLS regular season and playoffs.
This should appease the owners, who could all still be in play for the major overall championship (the MLS Cup) regardless of which division (MLS I or MLS II) they are in, have the advantages of promotion/relegation in terms of competitiveness, and appease both the Euro-style fans with a 30-game regular season balanced schedule and a World Cup type playoff system, and the American-style fans that want both regular season and playoffs, where the play-off success depends on success in the regular season.
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