Gothamite

North American Pro Soccer 2018

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10 hours ago, Kramerica Industries said:

This would be way down the road and I don't think MLS would ever intend for it to get to this point, but the best system I can think of would be for each conference to have 20 teams, play a traditional 38-game home/away schedule, and the winner from each conference plays a two-legged championship, random draw for which team hosts which leg. That team would be the overall champion. I would really fancy something like that. 

 

This is good.  Except, if the only round of post-season play is the final round between the top finishers in both conferences, then make it a best-of-three series, not a two-legged tie with home-field advantage rotating between conferences, as it traditionally has been done in the the World Series.  (Giving home-field advantage based on record would not be appropriate, because the teams would have played totally different schedules.)

The only other modification I would make is that, with 20 teams per conference, I'd split each conference into two divisions, and have the two top finishers in a conference's division play each other in one match at the home of the team with more points to determine the conference champ.  This one additional match would not prevent the playing of a best-of-three final series.

 

8 hours ago, Gothamite said:

[A two-conference alignment] really sounds good, but you can’t keep New York and DC isolated from LA and Portland.

 

You wouldn't have to end all interconference play.  If we imagine a 40-team league with two conferences of 20 teams, and each conference consisting of two 10-team divisions, a team would play two games a piece against each division opponent and one game against each team from the other division.  It would then play games against ten teams from the other conference, scheduled on a rotating basis, making a total of 38 games in a season.  So you'd face any given team from the other conference every other year.

Matches between the New York teams and the L.A. teams would thus remain special, as would every team's interconference meetings with Seattle or Portland or DC.
 

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9 hours ago, Gothamite said:

That really sounds good, but you can’t keep New York and DC isolated from LA and Portland.  And the alternative is an AL/NL-style split where local clubs never play.  Either way, it would be disastrous for the league. 

 

That system can work in a smaller country where you cap the number of clubs in the top league at 20.  It cannot work in a nation so heavily populated and geographically spread out as ours. 

 

I get that, but, at the same time, the NFL doesn't have too much integration with the two conferences; AFC teams only play at a given NFC stadium once every eight years and vice versa, so you can certainly go a long time without seeing teams coming to town or playing away in a given city. In MLB, it's a minimum of three seasons, sometimes more because it's inexplicably not a set rotation like in the NFL, between when AL teams visit NL stadiums, and vice versa, designated "rivalry" matchups aside. The United States is an enormous country; far larger than any country in Europe outside of Russia of course. Does what happens in New York and Washington D.C. affect what goes on in Seattle and Portland? Is the sport hurt by limiting the footballing interactions of cities 3,000 miles away from one another? I have my doubts.

 

Besides, there are two further ways I think this problem could be mitigated. You could always schedule pre-season games against the opposite conference, just for exposure reasons. It's not a big coincidence, after all, that a large amount of pre-season NFL games are inter-conference, after all, but since no one cares about pre-season that only goes so far. The other thing you could do is rig the US Open Cup in a way that the only matchups that occur (unless it becomes impossible in the later rounds) are inter-conference as well. I doubt this would have much effect, really no effect at all that I can imagine, on the "integrity" of the competition. 

 

MLS and the US soccer federation have to be creative about the standards they set because, again, being in such a bigger country, we can't look at the norms in England/Spain/Germany/etc. as a baseline for the United States because all those countries, and dozens more, would fit in the United States combined (and we also have Canadian teams in the league, of course, lest I forget that they exist). At the end of the day, this sport thrives off regional rivalries so that must be maintained at all cost. And a favorite argument of people who dislike interleague play in MLB is that they don't like the possibility of a World Series matchup between two teams who met in the regular season. Well, within MLS proper competition, that wouldn't happen. Que the supposed intrigue and mystery that's supposed to create.

 

But, obviously, we are a long, long way from such a scenario even being plausible. This is really just my fantasy speaking on this matter. We're seeing MLS struggle to get 24 financially secure and stadium-secure in the league right now. Adding 16 more on top of that would be the talk of a provacateur as things stand in 2018.

 

EDIT:

 

 

7 minutes ago, Ferdinand Cesarano said:

You wouldn't have to end all interconference play.  If we imagine a 40-team league with two conferences of 20 teams, and each conference consisting of two 10-team divisions, a team would play two games a piece against each division opponent and one game against each team from the other division.  It would then play games against ten teams from the other conference, scheduled on a rotating basis, making a total of 38 games in a season.  So you'd face any given team from the other conference every other year.

Matches between the New York teams and the L.A. teams would thus remain special, as would every team's interconference meetings with Seattle or Portland or DC.

 

Or that works probably better than my scenario, honestly. Or could even work in conjunction with the two ideas I suggested above. Either way.

 

EDIT 2:

 

44 minutes ago, Bucfan56 said:

there’s a fundamental shift in the game and how it’s played from regular season to post season. I get why they do it, but I also understand why that’s seen as a huge turn off for a lot of people. 

 

I would suggest, again, however that the Champions League operates in much the same way as the MLS playoffs do. Ultimately, what you can try to do is separate the regular season (league play, if you will) from playoff play (or cup play, since that's essentially what it becomes). Unless you're PSG and spending out your ass, winning your domestic league still means something in Europe. It's celebrated when you win the Premier League, or La Liga, etc. It gets boring as hell when you have the same teams winning year after year in other countries (the strongest argument against a pro/rel structure, btw, because pro/rel inherently creates top-heavy structures like that), but even in those countries it's still celebrated more than we celebrate our teams winning division championships here in the United States.

 

Think about it - before their home opener this season, the Predators hung a banner acknowledging, among other things, winning the President's Trophy last season. And pretty much all our inherent reactions? Was to mock them for it. For celebrating a regular season award when they finished nine wins short of winning the Stanley Cup. My favorite hockey team finished first in the East last season, and I doubt they did much of anything to acknowledge it because our season ended in miserable headache-inducing hockey (getting shutout for the last 159 minutes and 27 seconds of the ECF is a number that is forever burned into my memory). But I think that speaks more to our American mindset of "the playoffs are all that matters". And that's not our fault; all of our major sports have had playoff structures pretty much for their entire histories. There was a World Series in professional baseball in the 1880s. The whole concept of the United States is about seeing what the UK does, and then proceed to do the exact opposite (you know, except for *PRE-EMPTIVE MOD EDIT*). It's not our fault that we think this way when we're conditioned to think this way. But I would dare suggest this is an area where Europeans are conditioned better, and this wouldn't be the worst page to rip out of their playbook and put in our own. 

 

I mean, Lord knows people here who visit the baseball thread can remember how much I bitched about how much I hate MLB's playoff format, and what a diversion it is from how the regular season is played, and how so often (especially back then, not so much in recent years) inferior teams beat superior teams in the playoffs. The best-of-5 first round is still an abomination too vile for words, as far as I'm concerned. Is it really any different than what MLS's admittedly-flawed playoff structures creates? I don't think so. But what's the difference? That there is no professional baseball league on Earth that existed before MLB, and there is none that is on the level of MLB, so if MLB wants to do something a certain way that I don't like, what's my alternative? Watch Nippon, which has a playoff structure? Watch KBO, which I can only presume has a playoff structure? Does professional baseball even exist in Europe or Asia elsewhere? And if it does, nobody of any note is playing it and it's not available through television or pirated internet, surely. My point being, that we can bitch about the MLS playoff structure and its inherent deficiencies, because we know the structures and formats that other, longer-established and higher quality leagues, are using. And that's fair. But some of these same similar structures that exist in our sports, we don't complain so much about because, in some ways, "that's the way they've always been".

 

Ultimately, mental conditioning is one hell of a drug.

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Something else to keep in mind in this discussion;

 

Most of us posting here are big fans of the game in North America and understand the major differences between what's going on here and in other parts of the world.

 

We aren't the really the people MLS/US soccer/Canadian Soccer is trying to market to. They have us. 

 

For example I can't tell you how many times I have explained the Canadian Championship to non soccer/casual soccer fans. The comments range from things like "so it's a different league?" to "seems pointless, just see who does the best in the season"....to "well that's just unnecessary". Or, in another related indecent, while trying to explain the CONCACAF champion's league I think I actually saw my friend's brain cramp. 

 

Anyways, all I'm saying is if MLS is trying to hook  in a, let's say NFL fan, they need to (as the league/sport that is growing in this continent) make it relate-able to some extent. 

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5 hours ago, mr.negative15 said:

For example I can't tell you how many times I have explained the Canadian Championship to non soccer/casual soccer fans. The comments range from things like "so it's a different league?" to "seems pointless, just see who does the best in the season"....to "well that's just unnecessary". Or, in another related indecent, while trying to explain the CONCACAF champion's league I think I actually saw my friend's brain cramp.

 

Really?  That’s the easiest thing in the world: “The best clubs get to play an international tournament against the best clubs from other countries.”  Everybody can get that.

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I think you’re vastly overstating both the ability, and more importantly, the interest level most casual fans have in soccer. I usually lose people when just trying to explain why the clock counts UP rather than down. And don’t even get me started on stoppage time. 

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38 minutes ago, Bucfan56 said:

I think you’re vastly overstating both the ability, and more importantly, the interest level most casual fans have in soccer. I usually lose people when just trying to explain why the clock counts UP rather than down. And don’t even get me started on stoppage time. 

Myself and all of my friends got into soccer around the same time and this was something we all just had to learn to accept, but it took time. We constantly talked about how they should just stop the clock instead of doing stoppage time. It's something that just takes time for people to accept if they're willing to at all.

 

Also, I went to a women's college soccer game once and was baffled by the countdown clock they use in NCAA. It reminds me of soccer's existence in America, because there's so much push and pull between whether we do things like in other American sports vs. Euro soccer. Like, it's always a crap shoot whether records are displayed wins-draws-losses as in international soccer, or wins-losses-draws like we would for American football. There are still some sites and networks that display home teams second as is typical in North American sports, while others show the home team first as in international soccer. It feels needlessly confusing, but honestly I don't know what the right answer is. 

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7 hours ago, Red Wolf said:

Myself and all of my friends got into soccer around the same time and this was something we all just had to learn to accept, but it took time. We constantly talked about how they should just stop the clock instead of doing stoppage time. It's something that just takes time for people to accept if they're willing to at all.

 

Also, I went to a women's college soccer game once and was baffled by the countdown clock they use in NCAA. It reminds me of soccer's existence in America, because there's so much push and pull between whether we do things like in other American sports vs. Euro soccer. Like, it's always a crap shoot whether records are displayed wins-draws-losses as in international soccer, or wins-losses-draws like we would for American football. There are still some sites and networks that display home teams second as is typical in North American sports, while others show the home team first as in international soccer. It feels needlessly confusing, but honestly I don't know what the right answer is. 

 

I think the answer is just that soccer doesn't have one single place's league to be the be all, the way our North American big four leagues are, so different locales sprout up different customs and there is no single great standard. (I also seem to remember MLS clocks counted down in the very early years?)

 

13 hours ago, Gothamite said:

 

Really?  That’s the easiest thing in the world: “The best clubs get to play an international tournament against the best clubs from other countries.”  Everybody can get that.

 

Simple theoretically, maybe, but it can be a little odd to explain to a casual why their team is playing a random midweek and no, this doesn't count in MLS, this counts in a different thing. Again, if you grew up on big four, single league, regular season then playoff bracket... there aren't really comparisons; big college tournaments maybe gets you part way there. 

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On 11/27/2018 at 5:30 PM, Gothamite said:

If the existence of playoffs. or a 28-club league, or the summer calendar, or lack of pro/rel, is really "turn(ing) potential fans off", then I doubt they actually "(want) to consume the product".

I would just like to note that I like playoffs in MLS and think they're needed and good for a variety of reasons (high parity in the league, the need for a showcase game, American culture, unbalanced scheduling, etc.). I just don't like the idea of the league's second-best team being able to get knocked out early in a one-legged tie, solely because soccer is a sport with a high degree of randomness and I think making the playoffs a complete crapshoot devalues the regular season. I'm particularly concerned by this as a soccer fan who's generally a neutral observer of MLS -- I like to see the league and American soccer do well, but particularly if I don't feel like regular season results are particularly significant, I'll probably choose to watch something else that's on instead.

 

I also like two-legged ties on the whole, though, because they strike a balance between the randomness of soccer and the physical demand of soccer, though I think MLS could definitely do them better (away goals are dumb, let the higher seed choose which match they want to host).

 

Personally, I'd like to see MLS move to a McIntyre top-five playoff in each conference or something similar -- this, for me, balances rewarding teams for quality regular-season performances and ensures you can't get :censored:housed out of the playoffs based on 90 weird minutes, and only would add one week onto a straight knockout championship. If MLS wants to move to seven playoff teams per conference, just add a midweek 4v7 and 5v6 round onto the front of the top-five playoff and go from there.

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I have a question about the "high seed picks which date to host in a two-leg playoff" thing. Are there other tournaments that do that? Just curious to see how it plays out IRL. I do worry here teams would pick not based on competition, but based on their stadium hosting a car show on one of the possible dates or something (ahem, Sounders).

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The St. Louis Board of Aldermen's Housing, Urban Development and Zoning Committee has voted unanimously - 8-0 - in support of a resolution for a tax incentive plan that would back  construction of a soccer-specific stadium for the MLS expansion bid headed-up by members of Enterprise Holdings' Taylor family and World Wide Technology CEO Jim Kavanaugh. Some believe that the ease with which the plan was passed by the aldermanic committee may indicate that the proposed stadium project may have a relatively easy time making its way through St. Louis City Hall.

St. Louis soccer stadium wins early support for tax incentives

The vote came a day after the St. Louis Development Corporation - citing a financial impact report that said the city would earn $41 million over 30 years from the stadium - awarded the proposal its highest marks, a "five stars out of five" rating.

City gives Major League Soccer stadium proposal five stars

The full aldermanic board must still approve the plan, with a vote thought likely to take place tomorrow.  

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16 hours ago, Gothamite said:

 

Really?  That’s the easiest thing in the world: “The best clubs get to play an international tournament against the best clubs from other countries.”  Everybody can get that.

Of course I agree, but I think the fact that there are leagues in different countries all over the world is what doesn't compute. 

 

The same person I referenced in my previous post couldn't get over the fact that the league in Mexico wasn't a "farm league" for MLS. Especially here in Toronto where the Leafs are everything for most people, the idea of a league playing the same sport that isn't inferior (aka semi-pro or the KHL) or some type of a feeder system (like the CHL or university) is hard to understand. 

 

Similarly, I've been explaining how the CPL is Canada's top league and that hasn't computed because "but Toronto FC don't play in the USA".....it's the same thing with the Toronto Wolfpack. I've actually had someone ask me "why don't they just play in a league here?"....well.....

 

Might say something about what people are conditioned to, might say something about the idea that "In North America we get the best for sports", or maybe people just don't care enough.

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4 hours ago, Digby said:

Simple theoretically, maybe, but it can be a little odd to explain to a casual why their team is playing a random midweek and no, this doesn't count in MLS, this counts in a different thing. Again, if you grew up on big four, single league, regular season then playoff bracket... there aren't really comparisons; big college tournaments maybe gets you part way there. 

 

They get you all the way there. 

 

Anybody who’s even slightly familiar with the Final Four or Frozen Four will understand the Champions League or US Open Cup. 

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13 hours ago, Bucfan56 said:

I think you’re vastly overstating both the ability, and more importantly, the interest level most casual fans have in soccer. I usually lose people when just trying to explain why the clock counts UP rather than down. And don’t even get me started on stoppage time. 

 

Every sport has quirks.  Every sport can seem opaque to the newcomer.

 

Why are they replacing the pitcher with another pitcher?  What’s this with a second halftime? Why can’t the quarterback throw the ball after he steps over an imaginary line?  What the hell is “icing”?  What the hell is an “infield fly”?  What the hell is traveling? Why they hell did the football game just stop for a “TV timeout”?  And why they hell are they doing it again?

 

Soccer isn’t any more difficult to explain in its peculiarities than hockey, baseball, basketball and football are in theirs. 

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3 hours ago, Gothamite said:
8 hours ago, Digby said:

big college tournaments maybe gets you part way there. 

 

They get you all the way there. 

 

Anybody who’s even slightly familiar with the Final Four or Frozen Four will understand the Champions League or US Open Cup. 

 

Not quite all the way.  Those college tournaments are played after the regular season is over.  Whereas, the matches of the Champions League and the cup competitions are played while the league season is going on.  American fans who are new to soccer often have trouble accepting the notion that other competitions can be played concurrent with the season; the fixture congestion that befalls a football club that is playing in the Champions League and its domestic cup competition (or, if English, its two cup competitions) never happens to a college basketball or college hockey team.

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I think you’re letting your personal knowledge of the game get in the way of understanding why it’s difficult for some people to grasp it. It’s similar to riding a bike. You can try to explain to people how to do it, but if you’ve spent years riding a bike every day, it just comes across as a natural action, and it doesn’t really make much sense as to why it’s a hard concept for people to grasp. This is especially true with people who barely have a passing interest in it in the first place. 

 

Saying “It’s so easy, why can’t people grasp this?” comes across as more smug than anything. I’m not saying you’re doing that intentionally, but that’s the feel. That in itself is going to turn people off 

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1 hour ago, Bucfan56 said:

Saying “It’s so easy, why can’t people grasp this?” comes across as more smug than anything. I’m not saying you’re doing that intentionally, but that’s the feel. That in itself is going to turn people off 

 

Sorry, I didn’t mean to say that at all. 

 

I meant to say “It’s so easy, why do people who know the sport have difficulty understanding it?”  I place the blame on those trying to explain who make it more complicated than it needs to be.

 

And that’s true about all sports, from the ones I understand to those I don’t. Because all sports have their idiosyncratic quirks, and all have their connections with things familiar. 

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I never had much trouble explaining soccer to people. It’s simple enough as far as regulations go... 11 guys on a team, get the ball in the other guys' net, game's divided into two 45-minute halves, no commercials until halftime... If it’s something I can’t easily explain, I’ll just say 'that’s the way it is.' 

 

I didn’t start following soccer until well into the 00s, so I can remember when I too was confused about how some things worked. For example, why don’t most teams use nicknames? They do, but they don’t use them as their official names. Los Angeles Black'n'Gold or Chelsea Pensioners wouldn’t have rolled off the tongue that well, I imagine.

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4 hours ago, Ferdinand Cesarano said:

 

Not quite all the way.  Those college tournaments are played after the regular season is over.  Whereas, the matches of the Champions League and the cup competitions are played while the league season is going on.  American fans who are new to soccer often have trouble accepting the notion that other competitions can be played concurrent with the season; the fixture congestion that befalls a football club that is playing in the Champions League and its domestic cup competition (or, if English, its two cup competitions) never happens to a college basketball or college hockey team.

As someone who started to watch more of soccer in the past 4 years, I had a hard time trying to understand how the UEFA Champions League worked. To me it didn’t make sense to have a major tournament at the same time as the regular season. 

 

I remember when Leicester City were on their way to winning the Premier League I asked my cousin who knew more than me, “so when’s the Premier League Final?”

He said, “There are none” and I’m like “....what?” 

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The Champions League was never an issue for me, but the various national cups (and the League Cup or Johnstown’s Paint Trophy or whatever!) was tough for me to wrap my head around.

 

also, we haven’t even talked about the aggregate thing. That’s simple enough to understand, but just kind of a “WTF, why tho” for people who are used to series going by games, not goals, in three other sports. 

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