News: Conference alignment & schedule parameters announced

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

  1. Pack87Man

    Pack87Man BigSoccer Supporter

    Sep 1, 2001
    Quad Cities
    Club:
    Chicago Fire
    Nat'l Team:
    United States
    Speaking as a B1G school fan, I guess I would cheer for a conference rep over a non-conference rep, but truthfully I don't care much unless my school is involved. I don't think I've ever voluntarily sat and watched a whole SEC game, for instance. But tonight, I'm probably cheering for Ohio State, not because I like them much (I really don't), but because Wisconsin is much more my school's rival, and I dislike them much more. I would guess that JasonMa would be the same for USC vs. Washington State or ElJefe for Kansas vs. Oklahoma.
     
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  2. JasonMa

    JasonMa Member+

    Mar 20, 2000
    Arvada, CO
    Club:
    Colorado Rapids
    Nat'l Team:
    United States
    Change it to ASU vs. Wazzu and I'd agree (Washington's top 3 rivals are Wazzu, the Zeros, and the University of Spoiled Children).
     
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  3. Ismitje

    Ismitje Super Moderator

    Dec 30, 2000
    The Palouse
    Club:
    Real Salt Lake
    Nat'l Team:
    United States
    As an alum of the school in the P-5 with the lowest athletic budget, getting a Pac-12 team into the CFB playoff means an important infusion of cash to us. So I was definitely rooting for Utah last night.
     
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  4. Pack87Man

    Pack87Man BigSoccer Supporter

    Sep 1, 2001
    Quad Cities
    Club:
    Chicago Fire
    Nat'l Team:
    United States
    Iowa is in pretty much the center of the B1G West, so our entire division is more or less a hate fest for us. Minnesota, Illinois, Nebraska, Wisconsin, it's all part of the Quadrangle of Hate.
     
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  5. ElJefe

    ElJefe Moderator
    Staff Member

    Feb 16, 1999
    Colorful Colorado
    Club:
    FC Dallas
    Nat'l Team:
    United States
    I’m glad to see that y’all have taken up Texas’ former role as Nebraska‘s almost-guaranteed loss.
     
  6. GunnerJacket

    GunnerJacket Moderator
    Staff Member

    Sep 18, 2003
    Gainesville, GA
    Club:
    Arsenal FC
    Conferences should have been capped at 12, I say, and I wish they'd make teams play balanced home and away schedules. Know it will never happen but still.
     
  7. CeltTexan

    CeltTexan Member+

    Sep 21, 2000
    Houston, TX USA
    Club:
    Houston Dynamo
    Nat'l Team:
    United States
    Spot on!
    Knowing the back story of how both rugby football and association football were the twin codes of football played at colleges and Universities in our nation, to witness the rugby code splinter into the gridiron code played in Canada and the U.S., at the very core being is how the college culture is the very entity we have that is even remotely similar to what the world would go on to enjoy these last 150 years with their domestic professional soccer leagues. The regular season IS the playoffs and there is no issue with having a football game end in a tie as the last place team might have gone on the road and tied the defending champions in some miracle fight to the finish. Imho, Garber should look more into finding out what does make the regular season college gridiron experience so much more robust than the regular season NFL game. The student body section with the band is what soccer has with the supporter section with flags and drums of passion.

    You left off # 15 Evan...having Billionaire owners that threaten their city's people with moving the team to another city.
    College football never has had a team pack their bags for Tennessee.

    I agree.
    Texas A&M entered the SEC in what? 2011. 8 Seasons in and TAMU finally played Georgia in conference play this gridiron season. That is so goofy on so many levels.
     
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  8. AlbertCamus

    AlbertCamus Member+

    Colorado Rapids
    Sep 2, 2005
    Colorado, USA
    Club:
    Colorado Rapids
    That is a bug in my bonnet too. PAC 12 teams play 9 of 11 possible conference opponents; SEC only plays 8 of 13. I believe the justification is that several SEC teams have non-conference rivalry games - Florida v Florida state; Georgia v Georgia Tech, Clemson v South Carolina, etc... - but it is pretty lame. It is why Alabama, who doesn't have non-conference rivalry, played an easy schedule.

    What this has to do with MLS I'm not sure.
     
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  9. Fighting Illini

    Fighting Illini Member+

    Feb 6, 2014
    Chicago
    #134 Fighting Illini, Dec 9, 2019
    Last edited: Dec 9, 2019
    It's a lesson in how cash-grabbing expansion and poorly thought-out competitive structure can weaken a brand.

    It's not just that they only play 8 of 13, it's also that one of those 8 for the age-old traditional rivals is now Mizzou for no particular reason.

    Most of the championship-deciding high-leverage games in college football are now played later in the season at neutral, non-campus sites. A ton of the blood feuds that make the sport what it is have been broken up, and the traditional conference cores play one another less and less, in games that matter less and less.

    A buck to be made in the short, short term through all of it, but it's just eating the seed corn of the sport. Selling what made it beloved for pennies on the dollar. And then everyone will wonder what's the matter with college football when attendance and TV ratings and whatnot slip. Oh, it's those damned millennials and their cell phones, it must be.
     
  10. AlbertCamus

    AlbertCamus Member+

    Colorado Rapids
    Sep 2, 2005
    Colorado, USA
    Club:
    Colorado Rapids
    So true. Plus crazy kick-off times and constant and long TV time outs. The good news for MLS is that the expansion so far has made it better. The variety of fan groups, culture, and competitive approaches means the league is much more interesting. And I say that as a fan of a left-behind team - the Colorado Rapids.
     
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  11. CeltTexan

    CeltTexan Member+

    Sep 21, 2000
    Houston, TX USA
    Club:
    Houston Dynamo
    Nat'l Team:
    United States
    If Garber continues down the path now that he is leading MLS away from each team not being able to play every other team, what happens if there are back to back years where the eventual champion and defending champion do not ever meet in the regular season. And come playoffs as one advanced the other got knocked out earlier in the playoffs than expected. Basically, several MLS seasons go by where the very two or three teams that are owning the league never get to lock horns for everyone to enjoy. Talk about leaving the neutral viewer wanting.

    Nail this to Garber's office door please!
     
  12. Fighting Illini

    Fighting Illini Member+

    Feb 6, 2014
    Chicago
    I do wonder what might happen if the Nashville and Miami launches are the first ones in forever to struggle and attendance overall keeps softening. Especially if there is a work stoppage that ends with little to no addition in player investment.

    I don't see an endless glide path to mid-sized market booms, at least not under the current structure.
     
  13. Fighting Illini

    Fighting Illini Member+

    Feb 6, 2014
    Chicago
    To put some meat on the bone of what I have in mind competitively, I think I would look at something like splitting entirely into three different leagues based on geography. Call them the MLS Atlantic League the Pacific League and the Heartland League or something. Everyone plays everyone twice (or maybe 3 times, and the winner is crowned champion and gets a berth into the CCL. 2nd and 3rd play off for the right for another spot in a 6-team playoff for MLS Cup.

    (Maybe you could have a Big Ten/ACC Challenge-type thing where at given points in the season the leagues play each other and that determines MLS Cup seeding. Just as a way not to totally separate the leagues.)

    Also, buy the rights to the CCL and USOC and put them all under one TV package. Hype the heck out of CCL games the first half of the year and USOC games the second. Get as much viewership as you can for international matchups in the CCL and interleague matchups in the USOC.

    Make winning trophies the measure of a club's importance, and make sure your broadcast partners emphasize that. Incubate local rivalries with real stakes and an emphasis on regional supremacy.

    And be an ally to CONCACAF's growth. We're not ready for a Europa League-type secondary competition at this point, but that would be a great goal for the future. Don't cannibalize it with random one-off things with Liga MX.
     
  14. GunnerJacket

    GunnerJacket Moderator
    Staff Member

    Sep 18, 2003
    Gainesville, GA
    Club:
    Arsenal FC
    I think there's something to be said about shared production and promotion of the USOC and CCL, especially as there is little overlap in those events right now. The OC especially has great potential in the near term, I feel.

    I wouldn't worry about or try to force anything regarding the regional trophies. Doing so might even backfire by diluting the appeal of what's there and real, and muddy the waters for casual fans of teams with less original and known trophies. Besides, the presence of conferences (and possibly in the future even divisions) means teams will have enough legit honors to claim. No need to step closer toward awarding participation trophies.
     
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  15. Fighting Illini

    Fighting Illini Member+

    Feb 6, 2014
    Chicago
    The idea is truly, no fooling, separating the leagues so they aren't participation trophies, they aren't NBA Division Championships. LAFC and NYCFC do not play each other anymore. They are in different leagues. It's the way the NL and AL used to be.

    Then, if that matchup comes out of the hopper in one of the cups, that's something to get excited about, it's novel.

    And at the other end, I think really critically, there are no dreary, meaningless RSL vs. Montreal Impact games in September than even the teams have to pretend they care about. I'm not going to claim San Jose vs. Vancouver dueling for 9th in the Pacific League has tons more juice than that, but as someone who has watched his fair share of Illinois vs. Purdue, it's not nothing.

    This of course also really helps answer some of the travel questions, as well as potentially giving the opportunity to make the schedule a bit more compact.

    You just have to do something to steer clear of NFL-ization. The league is already too far in that direction, and the further you go, the more of your game inventory becomes just total garbage. An answer other than pro/rel to keep that from happening in a large league is going to have to involve real creativity.
     
  16. CeltTexan

    CeltTexan Member+

    Sep 21, 2000
    Houston, TX USA
    Club:
    Houston Dynamo
    Nat'l Team:
    United States
    Correct.
    This goes back to what I mentioned with scarcity breeds power. If you only play one regular season game versus your long time rival each season then those tickets should be easy to sell for an MLS Front Office. The away travelling plans and numbers in such away support grow and can plan for away days in MLS. The smart FO can plan months in advance for that specific night, when the season schedules drop from MLS HQ, get to planning.
    Then if this same rivalry pops up in the USOC bracket, the same Front Office staff can market this specific night as well for the very reason that it is not planned out each season on the league generated season schedule. You might get extra matches at the very city you and your buddies despise the most. Cup competitions running congruent to the league. It really is a glorious aspect to the beautiful game! Garber and our USSF need to know how to market this aspect to having a pro soccer team to follow.
    Then if in the playoff bracket you find out your team will be playing your arch rival. How scarce is that occurrence. Any FO would love to market and sell that match up. Getting a derby in MLS playoffs is what pulls the neutral fan in as well.
     
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  17. Green and BLue

    Green and BLue Member+

    Seattle Sounders FC
    Nov 3, 2003
    Republic of Cascadia
    Club:
    Seattle Sounders
    Nat'l Team:
    United States
    BigSoccer when MLS announces not all teams will play each other next season:
     
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  18. AlbertCamus

    AlbertCamus Member+

    Colorado Rapids
    Sep 2, 2005
    Colorado, USA
    Club:
    Colorado Rapids
    I really don't like these ideas. If Colorado gets separated from SKC, we'd never play them? Toronto and Montreal would never play Vancouver. Not to mention if Atlanta and LAFC are the best teams they never get to play each other? No, I get me might not play every team every year, but keep inter-conference play.
     
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  19. ToMhIlL

    ToMhIlL Member+

    Feb 18, 1999
    Boxborough, MA
    Club:
    New England Revolution
    Nat'l Team:
    United States
    Back when I was a kid, the 16-team NFL had 4 divisions of 4, and a 14-game season. They'd play 2x3 in their own division and 2 of the other 3 divisions once. So they'd skip one division each year, but it would rotate.

    It seems inevitable that MLS would do something like this, where they skip a handful of teams per year, and rotate them so you would never go more than a year without playing someone. They could make special exceptions so that, say, Vancouver would play Montreal and Toronto every year while skipping some other eastern team instead. There are certain teams that have to be together in the same division, so that's why they have to be 7 or 8 teams per division.
     
  20. Fighting Illini

    Fighting Illini Member+

    Feb 6, 2014
    Chicago
    Well, the best teams would find their way into one another in the MLS Cup playoffs and the latter stages of the CCL and USOC.

    Again, the fundamental observation here is that if you create a system like the big four where everyone is playing for only one championship that matters per year that gets decided through a big playoff system at the end, in a 30+ team closed system, what you've built yourself is an endless procession of totally meaningless garbage.

    To the extent that "works" in the big four (and I'd argue it doesn't), the meaningfulness of the draft plays a huge role, something MLS doesn't, probably won't and definitely shouldn't have.

    What I laid out is hardly the only way to combat this. But with the proven option for creating season-long stakes up and down the table (pro/rel) off the table, you gotta get creative somehow.
     
  21. CeltTexan

    CeltTexan Member+

    Sep 21, 2000
    Houston, TX USA
    Club:
    Houston Dynamo
    Nat'l Team:
    United States
    Unless of course, there are the upsets that train wreck the ideal matchups the neutrals are waiting on in the playoffs. To make no mention that the bracket has to align in certain ways for the juicier encounters to find each other. Thus for many seasons in a row the two teams that are indeed commanding MLS and winning their own MLS Cups, just never meet in the regular season and again with upsets, go years in the playoffs without ever meeting. I am not saying this is some death nail to MLS prosperity as Garber adds teams to our booming soccer league, I am just reminding him and anyone reading that moving away from a very old pro soccer tradition of playing everyone in your league, running the gauntlet of the table to see all teams and what they bring to the fight that season, if we move away from this old tradition he better think this through.

    Insular in nature and works when, like the NFL, parity is so well done. Parity used to be in MLS. Now, with the DP rules and the new owners so committed to being the best in the league, parity is going extinct now isn't it sports fans.

    Correct.
    Again, parity is what the draft in our culture is to provide. If you have a terrible season, finish last even. In our culture an owner is rewarded for his or her stink with a chance at a young prospect that could be a future star. In other nations you get handed a ticket to playing your home games on Tuesday night versus Millwall! HA!

    I agree, and recall our cherished association with small attention spans in our culture. A long pro soccer season, longer than Hockey or Baseball with 6 months, pro soccer in so many other nations at often 8 or 9 months with multiple pieces of silverware to win, the stakes of regional competition to be earned for next season and a shot at regional silverware, plus pro/reg, all this makes the long soccer season legit. If us in the U.S. and Canada cannot have all this than Garber needs to find a way to replicate the opportunities to be won/earned over the long MLS season. What Liga MX and other leagues in our hemisphere did in these last two decades is go to a Opening and Closing sections to the long season. Often awarding two championships to said Opening and Closing winners. Not in favor of this at all. However, something Garber has stated is growing Liga MX and MLS competitions and I suggest the Summer Window of an Opening and Closing MLS season is where this can be had to grow. Also a League Cup for MLS teams to play for in June. I read an article on the NBA and they are kicking around concepts that appear pro soccer in nature with having a mid season tournament for NBA teams to compete for. LIke a League Cup in England and Scotland.
     
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  22. Fighting Illini

    Fighting Illini Member+

    Feb 6, 2014
    Chicago
    But alas, they aren't in the same league. They are different leagues. Teams WOULD play everyone in their league, home and away.

    Making that concrete and real isn't as easy as snapping your fingers, and wouldn't be popular with everyone, but it's not some crazy impossibility either. Alabama and Clemson play in different leagues in a nominally national structure. Same basic concept.

    Reasonable people can disagree, but IMO structurally enforced parity is awful. The older I get the more I drift toward sports where that's not the case.

    And again, you combine that enforced parity structure (and let's be real, MLS enforces parity. Not to the NFL extent maybe, but to a very large extent) with a year-long season followed by a large and (because of the parity) fairly random playoff system to determine the one championship that matters, and most of your games just have very little meaning in terms of affecting that outcome.

    Big four fans are used to it, but being used to it isn't the same as liking it. College football and European soccer are notably different in structure and are much, much more compelling entertainment products on a game in, game out level. And I'd argue that due to that both wildly overperform their market fundamentals in terms of TV viewership and fan interest. It works.

    And let's be clear, that "culture" is collusive anti-competitive behavior on the part of the capital owners that is flagrantly in violation of every antitrust law on the books, except for the good fortune of labor law making it all okay through collective bargaining with their players.

    They're waking up to the reality that the competitive structure of their product stinks. And with a hidebound tradition of doing things that way and no one else to play to spice things up, it's going to be tough for them to do anything about it.

    MLS already has the CCL and USOC sitting right there, and has a fan community that are familiar with different kinds of structures in other leagues. It's a much easier lift, if they're willing to do it.
     
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  23. EvanJ

    EvanJ Member+

    Manchester United
    United States
    Mar 30, 2004
    Nassau County, NY
    Club:
    Manchester United FC
    Nat'l Team:
    United States
    Playing every opponent isn't hypothetically possible in the NCAA. The amount of teams makes it an unfair comparison to MLS. Furthermore, MLS fans are used to playing every club every year. Alabama, Clemson, and Ohio State fans aren't used to playing every year other than the College Football Playoff.

    In European soccer, you can say every game matters for Barcelona because a draw against a bad club could be why Real Madrid wins a title by 1 point. However, there are so many clubs with no chance at the Champions League, little or not chance at the Europa League, and way above the relegation zone. These clubs can have games that are as unimportant as the MLS regular season.
     
  24. Fighting Illini

    Fighting Illini Member+

    Feb 6, 2014
    Chicago
    Actually, no, the way they are structured there tend to be very few teams in that position, even quite late in the season. And then even those teams are regularly playing teams at the top or the bottom so it's an even smaller percentage of games that lack juice for either team.

    That is night-and-day different from all of the big four sports and you know it.
     
  25. Pack87Man

    Pack87Man BigSoccer Supporter

    Sep 1, 2001
    Quad Cities
    Club:
    Chicago Fire
    Nat'l Team:
    United States
    Not really. The playoff races usually include a similar number of teams, and have the added benefit of being at least half decent teams. Relegation battles are usually high drama, but some of the worst soccer I have ever seen. I don't think a team playing in a relegation 6 pointer would be able to beat a Hyundai A League team, because they're wound so tightly.
     

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