U.S. Soccer, Not MLS, Controls Promotion and Relegation in American Game

In case you missed the latest American soccer news or were not logged on to Twitter, a bit of news broke that was likely more circulated than expected: Major League Soccer president Mark Abbott said that MLS had no plans or intentions of having promotion and relegation, nor do they have plans to ever switch to the international calendar. Clearly this reveals that MLS was only having ideas of "simulated" promotion and relegation, along with a season switch, out of hope that FIFA would buy into their semi-conformity, as well as give the United States the World Cup bid. Of course, that did not happen, and Qatar will be hosting the 2022 games. In that sense, the fact that Abbott has publicly stated that MLS now has no immediate or long-term plans to conform is hardly a surprise. Unfortunately, it looks like the only inevitable change for 2012 will be that MLS moves back to an imbalanced schedule and further promotes depreciated conferences. Reason? The promotion of regional rivalries. To many, this likely sounds outrageously tacky and unneeded. However, while the news that the league is going to retain a closed-shop model will depress non-Chivas USA fans, MLS is in no position to declare how the American ...
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Real Salt Lake: How Winning the CONCACAF Final Can Help American Soccer and MLS

There’s an unwritten code in the laws of the American sports landscape: not paying attention to an event or team, unless they perform well.   It could be a nice way of saying we’re a nation of bandwagons, fair weather fans, or in terms of soccer, the Eurosnob. But thanks to Real Salt Lake and their unprecedented run in the revamped CONCACAF Champions League, RSL has now put themselves on the map in the North American soccer landscape, proving how they are the flagship franchise of Major League Soccer and the premier club of the United States. And with their run, they have finally put the Champions League on the map.  Well before then, their run to MLS Cup 2009 was ruled out as a fluke, consequently leading to harsh criticism that the problem is not the format of the playoffs, it is the fact that we have playoffs to determine champions that only the MLS front office calls “league champions.”  This past year, Salt Lake has proven to everyone that their MLS Cup run was no chain of good luck, and that they could play consistently. Heck, they probably play some of the most attractive football in MLS. That’s great for the sake ...
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2011 D.C. United Preview: Bolstered Attack Should Help DCU Make the Playoffs

Position in 2010: 16th Overall, 8th in Eastern Conference Key Additions: Charlie Davies, Dax McCarty, Perry Kitchen, Joseph Ngwenya, Josh Wolff Key Losses: Danny Allsopp, Julius James, Jaime Moreno, Troy Perkins Outlook: People have been treating the United's underachieving over the past three years as something rather unprecedented. In fact, the club had a bit of a swoon following their "golden era" from 1996–99. The club recycled through coaches hoping to find the right blend. Pitor Nowak managed to do that in 2004 and give the club their first Cup title since 1999. Subsequently, the second golden era came, with a run to the CONCACAF semifinals, two consecutive Supporters Shields and another U.S. Open Cup title. Since then, the United hit a tack in the road and have crashed in disastrous fashion. Ben Olsen has to overhaul this club, and the management has shown an intensifying gutting of the squad. The club has removed many international faces and brought in a core group of players who have proven themselves in MLS: Dax McCarty, Joseph Ngwenya and Josh Wolff. Perhaps the most ambitious addition has to be Charlie Davies, who joined the club on a one-year loan deal from FC Sochuax.  Add the rising of Blake Brettschneider to the mix, as well as the return of Chris ...
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2011 MLS Cup Playoffs: As Expected, The New Format Receives Zero Praise

Well, the new MLS Cup Playoff format has been released, and to literally no one's surprise, the system is being chewed to death.  Ideally, it goes without saying that the playoffs should be based upon a single table, have seeds one through eight, or better yet: get rid of the playoffs altogether. Allow the Supporters' Shield winners to become league champions, and allow playoff hungry fans to cheer on their club in the U.S. Open Cup. The evident problem with Major League Soccer is their appeasement, and their ongoing efforts to try to appeal to a casual, playoff loving, American audience, and its sharp polar frenemies: the hardcore, anti-playoff, single table-loving group of fans.  Exactly how evident are MLS' efforts to appeal to the two groups? First and foremost, the league long ago assembled a playoff format that awkwardly blended a conference-driven playoff format with a single-table playoff format, resulting in more "wild-card" entrants than automatic playoff qualifiers.  This so called appeasement has resulted in Eastern Conference final featuring an MLS club based in Colorado playing against a team no more than 50 miles away from the Pacific Ocean. It's also the reason that the only so-called "conference championship" title that the New York Red Bulls earned ...
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2011 MLS Season: 11 Outrageous Predictions for the Upcoming Season

One month from today, the 2011 MLS season will kick off. As hard as it is to believe given its structure, the league is still surviving. The 17th season will begin March 19 with the Seattle Sounders (once again) host the Los Angeles Galaxy. No brainer there. There is nothing for the MLS than showcasing its opening match in front of 40,000 passionate fans with the glitter players of Landon Donovan and David Beckham along with other fan favorites such as Freddy Montero, Kasey Keller and Steve Zakuani. Some predictions like the one above are easy, but predicting teams' outcomes as well as Cup outcomes come down to figuring out what teams care about what tournaments and just simply drawing names out of a hat. Alright, it was not that difficult, and this year might be the season with the most disparity in MLS, which actually might be relishing to hardcore fans at least.Begin Slideshow
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Supporters’ Shield vs. MLS Cup: Backe Considers Cup Secondary To Shield

The common, collective goal amongst Major League Soccer clubs is usually the same season-in and season-out: win the MLS Cup, the award given to the champions of MLS for that year.  For Hans Backe and Red Bull New York, the tables have turned. This morning, in an interview with the New York Post, Backe declared that New York's primary goal entering 2011 will be to win the MLS Supporters' Shield, winning the Cup is nothing more than a "nice edition".  Immediately following the news, Backe received praise and awe amongst the hardcore fans, and raised the question amongst the American soccer community: is the MLS Cup the truest way to determine the league champion, or is obtaining the most points over the regular season the real champions?  It's an enduring debate amongst the MLS community, fitting in with the argument of conference vs. the single table, open league vs. closed league models and academies vs. draft. Primarily because they are the last of their kind. These few differences MLS has with the rest of the world are the remaining Americanizations in MLS, and will likely continue until either the league disbands or docks them for good.  What's interesting about this, is that the debate is ...
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MLS Cup Playoffs: Why MLS Still Has Conferences

The chance that Major League Soccer would dock the Eastern and Western Conferences were practically equivalent to the league's receiving any praise for the retaining of conferences.Well, as unnecessary they may seem, MLS is going to have conferences at least through the end of this year. Knowing that we may only have 19 clubs in MLS for 2012, it's likely (and unfortunate) that we can say bye to the balanced schedule and not bye to the conferences. Needless to say, MLS' announcement that the Houston Dynamo were transferring from the West to East, unsurprisingly, failed to receive any joy amongst the fans. If anything, it simply reignited the same topics that have been hot topics of debate for the past few years now: conference vs. single table, open league vs. closed league model and MLS Cup vs. Supporters Shield. There was minor praise, in very short doses. Most of it was claiming that MLS would expand to around 30 clubs in the future, and would need as much conference emphasis as possible. While I cannot see that happening anytime soon, nor do I see FIFA allowing that happen ever, their reasons are not valid presently. Especially in a league playing a balanced schedule.Right now, with no ...
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CONCACAF Champions League Quarterfinals: Previewing The Final Eight

A month from today, the first match of the knockout stage for the 2010–11 CONCACAF Champions League will kick off.Remember? The Champions League? The matches played over the fall?Yes, it has been awhile, but after a four-month intermission from the tournament, the knockout stage will kick off, and a two-month race for the North American crown will commence. A lot of speculation has been made about the way CONCACAF paired clubs in the knockout stage. Most of it has been with the fact that every Mexican club has been paired in the quarterfinals in such a way so that one Mexican club is guaranteed to make the finals. Although the chance of two of those teams playing for the final is impossible. To a lesser extent, the same criticism has been drawn to the fact that two MLS teams, Real Salt Lake and Columbus Crew, were paired in the quarterfinals. When you look into it, it's actually the result of a rather surreal coincidence. The reason this happened was because of the groups the Mexican and American clubs won and the groups they were runners-up in. Funny how it worked out, but it has made for some thrilling quarterfinal fixtures going into February. Now ...
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MLS Promotion and Relegation: A Realistic Model for How It Can Happen

One of the most hotly discussed topics involving Major League Soccer is something that MLS has no business of doing: promotion and relegation. People's ideas are very polarized when it comes to the concept.Some, such as the Westerveltists at Soccer Reform, believe it will be the savior to American soccer, as it will create instant gratification among the American soccer fans—both hardcore and casual.Others, take an extremely pessimistic approach, claiming that it would kill the league in a heartbeat.Now, if in some bizarre parallel universe, if Don Garber decided to claim that MLS would adopt the system, that either one would happen, it's always fun to imagine what it would be like, and how it would be structured.Yet, it seems that there's never much thought about how to change to that system—if we were to scrape out the squeaky-clean, somewhat communistic, franchise model and navigate towards an open-league model.First thing's first, and everyone will come to an agreement here: my plan will have flaws, and no one will perfectly agree with this plan. No one ever does, people have their own ideologies and biases. Fair enough.I should probably add this in as well: as much as I would love to see this appear in MLS, I have nothing against ...
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Omar Cummings Denied a Work Permit: Good News for Rapids, Bad News for Villa

First it was Dwayne De Rosario and Celtic, then it was David Beckham and Tottenham. Add Omar Cummings to the list: MLS players who were denied to go on loan. Earlier today, it was announced that Colorado Rapids striker Omar Cummings would not be loaned from Colorado to Aston Villa, in spite of the fact Villa manager Gérard Houllier seemed impressed with his work ethic. Before we go and point the finger at the league and its teams for shutting down any international loans, this was not the fault of anyone in MLS. Believe it or not, Colorado agreed to allow Cummings to go on loan. When applying for a work permit for his rather short stint with Villa, he was denied the permit. This rejection is the result of his nationality: Jamaican. A regular player on the national squad, he was able to breeze through that requirement. However, the requirement stalling him? Team rank. It couldn't have been any more brutal. To qualify for a UK Work Permit as an international soccer player, the nation you regularly play for must have an average rank of 70th or higher.  In FIFA's latest rankings, Jamaica dropped one lone spot...from 58th to 59th, thus resulting in the country's ...
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