News: Conference alignment & schedule parameters announced

Discussion in 'MLS: News & Analysis' started by JasonMa, Dec 2, 2019.

  1. Fighting Illini

    Fighting Illini Member+

    Feb 6, 2014
    Chicago
    That's a good way to put it, and I think there's an extension on to that which is, how much do those lines matter? Titles and relegation in open systems are life-and-death serious, and in Europe that Champions League line is not too far off, and even the Europa League line is an interest-generator for certain clubs.

    MLS Cup has that gravitas. Making the playoffs is probably most comparable to the Europa League thing. And then there's the USOC and CCL hanging out there, unseen and largely unloved.

    Is that good enough in a 30-something team league? One where, unlike the Big Four, the local broadcast inventory for a lot of teams is basically worthless? I can't see how the math adds up there.

    That answer has been obvious for years IMO. The MINIMUM number is however many serious, high-quality, deep pocketed ownership groups they can find. They will never say no.
     
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  2. Yoshou

    Yoshou Moderator
    Staff Member

    May 12, 2009
    Seattle
    Club:
    Seattle Sounders
    Nat'l Team:
    United States
    As long as local revenue generates a large portion of an MLS team's total revenue, the growth will continue. If MLS gets to the point where TV contracts, or national contracts outweigh local contracts, you'll see expansion stop.
     
  3. Kingston

    Kingston Member+

    Oct 6, 2005
    So what's your best guess?
     
  4. Yoshou

    Yoshou Moderator
    Staff Member

    May 12, 2009
    Seattle
    Club:
    Seattle Sounders
    Nat'l Team:
    United States
    Wrong forum for this discussion.
     
  5. ToMhIlL

    ToMhIlL Member+

    Feb 18, 1999
    Boxborough, MA
    Club:
    New England Revolution
    Nat'l Team:
    United States
    While MLS certainly has NFL roots, I think (hope!) that the people making these kinds of (multi-billion-dollar) decisions are smart enough to know that what works in one league would not necessarily work in another.

    All you Garber-haters will have to bear with me on this, but in 1999 when he first came on board I was fortunate enough to have a conversation with him at one of the events leading up to MLS Cup. He clearly understood that US soccer fans are a totally different breed from the mainstream US sports fan. They are much more likely to have traveled to other countries, or at least have a higher level of knowledge of the world at large. Much more likely to have a passport, generally better educated and higher income than the population at large. He also understoop that fan culture was a lot different. Most people are not part of "supporters" sections, but the influence is there, and it's far better to let that atmosphere spread, than try to quash it and make everyone like the "average" fan. This was all in 1999, mind you, and you can see where we've come from there.

    By contrast, in 1995 this kind of thinking was completely foreign. I tried to have a similar conversation with Jonathan Kraft and he had no clue what I was talking about. One size fits all, right? Any business that is trying to sell needs to understand who their customers are, and it was clear that a lot of the early MLS decision makers had no clue whatsoever.

    As for the original topic, scheduling and alignment, I can't see them going for an NFL-like 8 divisions of 4 teams each setup. There is no way to keep rivalries intact with 4 team groups. You can have Vancouver, Seattle, Portland, and then either San Jose OR Sacramento, but not both. So you break up the Northern California rivalry. Same thing in Texas, with 3 teams. Do you add KC, but that takes them away from Minnesota and St. Louis?

    I'm not sure what the answer is for scheduling, since 4 divisions of 8 would mean a 38-game schedule, which would be 4 too many. I guess you can skip half of one division, missing 4 teams each year and rotating so that every 6 years you skip every non-division opponent...
     
  6. CeltTexan

    CeltTexan Member+

    Sep 21, 2000
    Houston, TX USA
    Club:
    Houston Dynamo
    Nat'l Team:
    United States
    #81 CeltTexan, Dec 5, 2019
    Last edited: Dec 5, 2019
    https://www.yahoo.com/sports/mls-teams-no-longer-play-every-opponent-season-172914119--mls.html

    From this AP article today:
    NEW YORK (AP) -- Major League Soccer is breaking away from soccer's tradition of having each team play every opponent in its league.

    MLS is expanding to 26 teams in 2020 with the additions of Miami and Nashville but will keep a 34-game regular-season schedule. A team will play each of its 12 conference opponents home and away, and will face only 10 of the 13 teams in the other conference.

    The X-Games jerseys, the turn against FIFA standards for the clock. Ending all regular season games in a shootout so there has to be a "winner" and a loser even though the last placed team might have gone on the road, dug deep as a team and tied the first place team in a 3-3 thriller, this team still loses the points in said shootout. Yes, the early MLS decision makers really went long on Americanizing the most dominate sport on our planet in the vain thought that it would be Americanizing the sport that would pull in Americans new to the sport. To hell with alienating the core fan base right off the bat.
     
  7. ThreeApples

    ThreeApples Member+

    Jul 28, 1999
    Smurf Village
    Club:
    San Jose Earthquakes
    Nat'l Team:
    United States
    I think discussion of possible formats within the context of where the league is obviously heading in the near term (30 teams or a little bit more) is good here. Things like "Here's my idea of how a 64-team regionalized first division would look" are better left to YTBD.
     
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  8. Fighting Illini

    Fighting Illini Member+

    Feb 6, 2014
    Chicago
    It seems to me that that's not so much a question of "when" than "who".

    Still plenty of Jonathan Kraft's around, including the man himself, and a cultural understanding of your audience is just one part of it.

    American sports owners are monopolists (and monopsonists btw), that's the business world they understand. It's both my opinion that that is a morally bankrupt and fan-unfriendly practice, and also an undeniable fact that it's never going to be quite that simple in soccer.

    I think the powers that be do have the sense you mentioned, that you can't just copy-paste the NFL model into soccer. I have much less confidence that they really understand how and why soccer works so well elsewhere (or even here), or that they have the courage to take risks seeking that out.
     
  9. JasonMa

    JasonMa Member+

    Mar 20, 2000
    Arvada, CO
    Club:
    Colorado Rapids
    Nat'l Team:
    United States
    That way lies "the Colorado Rapids, your 2010 Eastern Conference Champions!" :D
     
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  10. AlbertCamus

    AlbertCamus Member+

    Colorado Rapids
    Sep 2, 2005
    Colorado, USA
    Club:
    Colorado Rapids
    I hate giving trophies to teams that win semi-finals. Just call them MLS cup finalists. If you have to have a conference/division champion, give it to the team that finishes first during the regular season.
     
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  11. ToMhIlL

    ToMhIlL Member+

    Feb 18, 1999
    Boxborough, MA
    Club:
    New England Revolution
    Nat'l Team:
    United States
    Back in the days of the Central Division they would seed the teams 1-8, regardless of division. They could either do that, or have 2 brackets, but not necessarily call them East-West. You could be an "MLS Cup Finalist" regardless of your division.
     
  12. 007Spartan

    007Spartan Member+

    Mar 1, 2006
    Scottsdale, AZ
    Club:
    Sporting Kansas City
    Nat'l Team:
    United States


    Not sure this is right thread for this, Twitter is full of reports that Charlotte will be announced as team #30 on 12/17. If that happens, I’d be kinda surprised if the team doesn’t enter the league in 2022.
     
  13. NashSC

    NashSC Member+

    Nashville SC
    United States
    Jan 3, 2018
    As the league grows and we get more unbalanced schedule (not playing every team) I would like to see them officially crown the season winner of each conference as that conference champion. I just think it gives the season a little more value. I think NCAA basketball does this. The team that wins the season is the conference champion but they still have conference playoffs, but they call the winner the tournament champion.
    Maybe it wouldn't make a difference but something I have thought would reward teams a little more for a strong season.
     
  14. newtex

    newtex Member+

    May 25, 2005
    Houston
    Club:
    Houston Dynamo
    It varies in college basketball. In the Big Ten, for example, the team with the best regular season record is the official conference champ. If there are ties then it is a split championship. The Big Ten tournament winner is just the tournament winner but does get the automatic NCAA bid. In the ACC the conference champion is the winner of the ACC tournament.

    https://web.archive.org/web/2000030...s/acc/sports/m-baskbl/spec-rel/022499aac.html

    " In the early years of the Tournament, unofficially, and by custom, everyone regarded the Tournament champion as the ACC champion. But it wasn't until July, 1, 1961, that the words "and the winner shall be the conference champion" were added to the ACC bylaws."
     
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  15. CeltTexan

    CeltTexan Member+

    Sep 21, 2000
    Houston, TX USA
    Club:
    Houston Dynamo
    Nat'l Team:
    United States
    I agree. I have stated that there is the concept that MLS stick to the long season format as known, yet have some section where the East teams play just the East and West teams play just the West and from this stretch of competition of a points race of facing each team in your Conference, the winner is the Conference Champion. have those two winners face off in a mid year League Cup Final circa June. Then when MLS Cup playoffs are seeded stick to whatever Garber and MLS HQ are doing this week.
     
  16. NashSC

    NashSC Member+

    Nashville SC
    United States
    Jan 3, 2018
    The Southern Conference (which is the conference I follow most) also does it this way.
     
  17. don gagliardi

    don gagliardi Member+

    San Jose Earthquakes
    Feb 28, 2004
    san jose
    Club:
    San Jose Earthquakes
    I've been "fortunate enough", if that's the phrase, to converse with Garber, as well. And the difference between being a US soccer fan and a mainstream US sports fan did not arise during our discussion, perhaps because it's a false dichotomy. I'm both.

    Does my being a Quakes fan make me more likely to have traveled to other countries and have a higher level of knowledge of the world at large than my being a Bills fan? Please let me know, Professor Karlan, so I can either cluster with the enlightened or self-segregate with the benighted.
     
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  18. JasonMa

    JasonMa Member+

    Mar 20, 2000
    Arvada, CO
    Club:
    Colorado Rapids
    Nat'l Team:
    United States
    Taking the smugness out of this statement I think there's a legitimate discussion here. From my personal experience (and we all not the plural of anecdote is not data) I would say there's some validity to the idea that, all other things being equal, soccer fans are more likely to have increased knowledge of the world outside the U.S. than say a NFL fan.

    Now that said, that's a false scenario because the idea of "all else being equal" isn't realistic. But I do think that anyone who's a fan of a team outside the U.S. is likely to have increased knowledge of the culture, politics, etc. of the region that team is in, because those things can often (usually?) have a direct affect on the team.
     
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  19. don gagliardi

    don gagliardi Member+

    San Jose Earthquakes
    Feb 28, 2004
    san jose
    Club:
    San Jose Earthquakes
    You confuse smugness with indignation.
     
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  20. Fighting Illini

    Fighting Illini Member+

    Feb 6, 2014
    Chicago
    Yes!
     
  21. don gagliardi

    don gagliardi Member+

    San Jose Earthquakes
    Feb 28, 2004
    san jose
    Club:
    San Jose Earthquakes
    "[Garber] clearly understood that US soccer fans are a totally different breed from the mainstream US sports fan. They are much more likely to have traveled to other countries, or at least have a higher level of knowledge of the world at large . . ."

    wolf blitzer bills fan.jpg
     
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  22. CMeszt

    CMeszt Member+

    Fire Crown 4 Life (or until they change it again)
    Jan 9, 2004
    Soldier Field Media Deck. First Row.
    Club:
    Philadelphia Union
    Though whenever I meet anyone from the UK I usually have no idea about the place they're from if they don't have a team in the top two levels of English football.
     
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  23. ToMhIlL

    ToMhIlL Member+

    Feb 18, 1999
    Boxborough, MA
    Club:
    New England Revolution
    Nat'l Team:
    United States
    Well, my Garber conversation was before the 1999 MLS Cup, and I was trying to summarize, so I left out a lot of details. Here is a little more context.

    In the last 20 years, soccer has become much, much more "mainstream" than it was then. The 1999 soccer fan knew that Nigeria has a green/white flag from watching the World Cup, and knew that they speak Portuguese in Brazil and Spanish in the rest of Latin America, which is something that maybe the "average" American didn't know in 1999.

    Having said that, there were 4 basic groups of fans MLS should have been marketing to in 1996. 1) Die-hard American soccer fans. 2) "Ethnic" fans from any soccer country who know the game and while they may have a team back home, they'd embrace a local team as their 2nd if they were welcomed and because it's the only way to see live games without getting on a plane. 3) Families of kids who play soccer. They know the game, but may not be familiar with the traditions and culture of the sport worldwide. 4) American "big 4" sports fans who are open to following a "new" sport. There was some overlap then, but not like now where those things are much more fluid.

    Group 1 was very small, but made up the core of the Supporters culture, but not without a lot of resistance from the clubs. Group 2 embraced their local teams in some markets but not so much in others. Group 3 was the primary demographic they went after, but when the 10 year old who thinks it's "cool" turns 14, it becomes something for "little kids" and they lose interest. Group 4 was the reason they thought they needed shootouts, backward clocks and all that.

    Of course, these are broad generalizations, and they made significant changes since then, but they could have found a way to give each of those groups 80% of what they wanted and they all would have been happy. Things like having an alcohol-free "family" section at the opposite end of the (very large) stadium to keep the kiddies from being too close to the foul-mouthed hooligans, instead of mixing all the cheap tickets in the same or nearby sections.
     
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  24. TrueCrew

    TrueCrew Member+

    Dec 22, 2003
    Columbus, OH
    Club:
    Columbus Crew
    Nat'l Team:
    United States
    If they had gone to 38 games, the 2x/1x still would have worked at 26 teams. Though not at 28 or 30.
     
  25. aztec21bas

    aztec21bas BigSoccer Supporter

    Jun 24, 2009
    Mullica Hill, NJ
    Club:
    Philadelphia Union
    Nat'l Team:
    United States
    I'd counter with this concept that i posted in an earlier thread:

    When we reach 32, why not 8 divisions in two conferences, like the NFL? It would yield 6 division games (2x each team) and 7 other divisions of 4 (1x each) to yield 28 or a total of that MLS favorite number... 34. Playoff setup of each division winner and then the top 4 records in each conference, with 16 total playoff teams. Seems to work mathematically and follow somewhat the NFL prototype that Garber likes. What would your reservations be with this? It would also keep the Supporters Shield somewhat relevant. The small divisions would also create more intense rivalries among division opponents.

    Here is how I would set up the eight divisions (assuming Garber’s front runners* round out the 32):

    East 1: RBNY, NYCFC, PHL, DCU

    East 2: NER, TOR, MON, CHI

    East 3: OCSC, ATL, CHAR*, MIA

    East 4: CBS, FCC, MUFC, NAS

    West 1: FCD, HOU, SKC, STL

    West 2: RSL, COL, PHO*, AUS

    West 3: LAFC, LAG, SJE, LV*

    West 4: POR, SEA, VAN, SAC
     

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