Put up a stop sign, I said. People aren't stopping, and there's gonna be a crash, I said. Nah, said MLS. We'll put up a sign that says "Go real real fast," said MLS. It's what the people want, said MLS. Fine, I said. But you'll be sorry, I said. Technically, of course, Seattle and DC United are not dead. They're milling about in the barn, waiting for Hershel to find a cure.
You know, if DC gets a goal early, then that game's going to have a rocket in its jock. For grits and shiggles, I looked it up on Major League Soccer Soccer - out of DC's eighteen games at Robert Fitzgerald this year (I didn't count the Open Cup game), they have won by two goals or more six times.
How does that stack up against the rest of the league? Well, how the crap should I know? Fine, I'll look it up. Chivas USA didn't beat anyone by more than one. Toronto did once - in Montreal. Montreal themselves? Seven, and they canned Marsch anyway. The Timbers did it once, badly misleading their fans since it was their home opener.
As far as the other playoff teams - Houston did it five times, the Galaxy eight times (not counting the CUSA road win), and the Sounders seven times. New York did it six times, so did San Jose. Salt Lake only did it four times, and Kansas City only three.
Well, sorry, I thought I was going to be able to do more with that stat. Anyway, taken in a vacuum, DC United has about a one in three chance of sending this into extra time, and...well, usually the home team goes on to win in that scenario, but me and Dario Sala recall at least one time when it didn't.
That's a lot better chance than Seattle has, and it's all their fault. I think.
Last year, Seattle was seeded ahead of Real Salt Lake in the first round, and celebrated by taking a ski vacation in or around Sandy, Utah. The next thing you know, old Jed's a millionaire. And also, Salt Lake was having the epic confrontation in Carson and not the Sounders.
Around this time, the league was mulling over the playoff format, and it was widely speculated (by me) (I speculate quite widely indeed) that the format would be changed so that such a travesty of justice could never happen again.
Instead, we learned at the Supporters Summit that the league liked and enjoyed said travesties. Before you go and blaming the league, though, keep in mind who the league is and who actually makes decisions - the owners.
I wasn't there. But bet you a nickel it went a lot like this:
INT - MLS SECRET UNDERGROUND BUNKER - NIGHT
PAUL ALLEN: We just got boned out of a semifinal spot because we had to go on the road for no reason!
DON GARBER: A two-legged series guarantees you a home game in each round.
PAUL ALLEN: Home and home it is. (Exit, pursued by a bear.)
Sure, maybe this was passed over the screaming, howling objections of the league's richest and most popular team, and with the support of teams that have historically lost attendance and money in the playoffs - but I tend to doubt it. Sounders fans, assuming a miracle fails to materialize, might try to push the undo button on this decision - but the precedent goes back to Aesop, and "What if we finish first?" is going to be trumped by "What if we finish second, third, fourth or fifth?"
The NFL does single elimination, because they can, and probably because they have to - gridiron football is not a game you can play more than once a week. But soccer isn't baseball, hockey, or basketball, where teams can play multiple games a week over the course of a month without a dropoff in quality. DC United is the best example here, simply because they're missing so many players in such a short time. An extra few days to heal during the week, rather than flying to the next city and going full speed 72 hours later, would make a world of difference. But that's cash right out of popular teams' pockets, so I wouldn't hold my breath.