How do you prefer to crown your league champion?

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                                                         Photo by ISIphotos.com

What makes a team a league champion? Is it the team that  played the best throughout the regular season, or the team that reached the playoffs and defeated all comers to lift the trophy?

This debate has raged on in American soccer circles for years as those fans influenced by the European model of naming the best team in the regular season champion square off against those fans who believe the playoffs determine the true league champion.

For those of you who missed it, this debate kicked off on Monday in the comments section of the latest edition of Your Questions Answered, which got me wondering how SBI readers would vote on the subject.

Now is your chance, vote for which system you prefer for naming the MLS champion. Does the regular season's best team deserve the title of league champion, or do you believe the MLS Cup winner deserves the title of league champion? Cast your vote:

As always, feel free to share your thoughts on the subject in the comments section below.

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132 Responses to How do you prefer to crown your league champion?

  1. RJ says:

    I voted for the mls cup winner to be champion because of a few points you made in the comments Ives. This league is not like Europe, no relegation and cup spots to challenge for. You made a great point how after some of the season, most of the games would mean nothing. Now if relegation and other similar European aspects were added I would prefer the best team throughout the year to be crowned champion.

  2. dos-a-cero says:

    Of course it would make more sense and be more in tune with the rest of the world to have the champion be the regular season champ. But, if you are going to have playoffs, they have to mean something or they are just going to be meaningless, extra games.

  3. Brian says:

    Without promotion and relegation, the MLS Cup Final with playoffs makes sense.

    In Europe’s top leagues it makes sense to have a single table because there are things worth fighting for all over the standings. The bottom of the table fights to avoid going down, the middle of the table fights to get to UEFA, the mid/top fights for the Champions League, and the top of the top fight for the league crown.

    With MLS, the playoffs do indeed make sense.

    And I (along with most people) love knockout football.. whether it be the second stage of the World Cup, the promotional playoffs in England’s lower leagues, League Cups, or the MLS playoffs.

  4. J says:

    I never thought I would say this, but I would be ok with doing away the playoffs. It would help with the schedule clutter throughout the season, as they could possibly take a week or two here and there for International dates. Plus this league has tried to mimick Europe enough, why not embrace the single table format.

  5. Mo says:

    I do believe the regular season champion speaks for itself, but in our country, that just doesn’t get ratings. It has to be playoffs.

    We don’t have to do EVERYTHING the way Europe does it, now do we?

  6. Dannyc58 says:

    If the leage wants even a modicum of respect it has to figure out a way to show the Regular Season champ more respect.

  7. WTF says:

    Most other leagues are based on regular season performance.

    Even if Red Bulls won I don’t think they’d deserve the title as the leagues best team…

  8. WK says:

    I’ve learned to live with the playoff format and the excitement around an MLS cup final. However in my perfect world, the league (& the USSF) will eventually do right by soccer fans in this country and go to a regular season champion format, and begin to co-market (schedule accomodation, website and TV coverage) the US Open Cup so this domestic competition with a rich history finally gets the recognition and media coverage it deserves.

  9. Rob C says:

    I like the playoffs for a few reasons. One, it makes the league unique. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with straying a bit from the European standard as long as the game itself is contested under the same rules (the clock counting down and shootouts were bad attempts at “Americanizing” soccer in the early years of MLS). Two, as Ives pointed out, the playoff system keeps team’s seasons alive usually until the last week or two of the regular season. Without promotion and relegation, how else could this be accomplished? In a league that constantly struggles to keep fringe fans interested, making sure teams play 30 meaningful games is important. I simply do not buy the argument that mid-season games in MLS don’t mean anything. Look back at a lot of team’s seasons. The Crew, with nothing to play for, still knocked out DC United on the final weekend. For the Red Bulls, they needed EVERY LAST POINT to make it to the playoffs. So believe me, every game is important.

    The Supporter’s Shield should certainly be considered the league’s second highest honor, and I think it is by most followers of the league. But the playoffs are great and should remain as something that sets MLS apart from the rest of the leagues around the world.

    Also, the playoffs usually produce exhilarating, memorable games.

  10. Kinney says:

    Without relegation many of the games would mean nothing, but more importantly as long as the schedules are imbalanced the regular season champion shouldn’t be THE Champion. If MLS went to even schedules I would probably switch my vote to the regular season.

  11. Justin O says:

    Thanks for clarifying “which is best for MLS” and not saying just which is best, implying that their is some perfect system that all leagues of the world must apply. Lot’s of folks do the latter and it’s a pet peeve of mine.

  12. Chris says:

    I like the way Europe does it, but you need to have value put on the Open Cup, and you should have all MLS teams in the cup tournament, not just a few.

    More than anything, I think promotion/relegation would be a fantastic thing for MLS, but these idiots will never do it.

    US sports fans have no idea about promotion/relegation, but when you explain it them, they love the idea.

  13. Chrös says:

    MLS isn’t set up like the European leagues that don’t use a playoffs.

    It’s also not very exciting when one team is crowned champion with three weeks left and, in England’s case, the majority of teams have nothing to play for.

  14. brett says:

    i wont repeat all of what i mentioned before hand, but a synopsis perhaps….

    i simply cant consider a team who finishes 8th in the league as league champs… and im not digging on the redbulls, their performance was worthy of making the MLS cup final.. but i would say the same thing if the Fire managed to win the MLS cup in 07…

    theres no need to get rid of the playoffs… they are exciting and the fans attend in numbers… but my argument was why cant we consider the SS as the true league winners as they’ve been more consistent throughout the season, and consider the MLS cup winners as simply that, the Cup winners…

    i consider the league champs as the best team in the league…. and a string of 3-4 solid performances in the end doesnt mark someone as the best…

  15. Gilby says:

    I think given the rapid expansion of the league that the playoffs makes since. As MLS grows its going to be harder and harder to maintain a balanced schedule which means different teams will play a different schedules. Given that eventuality I think the playoffs are necessary.

  16. Ko'd says:

    Hmmm…how would I PREFER to crown the MLS champion? I would PREFER to crown MLS champion the team with the best regular season record. That said, I would also prefer to have a league that was 80 years old, with a relegation/promotion dynamic, and that had the ability to attract superstars under the age of 32…

    Clearly, none of that is realistic at this stage in MLS’s development, so the most practical solution is to have a playoff system, as advocated by Ives in the commentary section of the previous post. Playoffs breed interest in the game in America and they also generate hype and money (both of which are necessary for MLS’s continued growth). The fact is, there is a difference between what we want to see or what we think is ideal and what reality actually is. We may want to see a majority-European style of crowning a football league champion, but the reality is that America is not prepared for that set-up. America is used to playoffs for its sports teams, and it is used to the enthusiasm and inertia that builds at the end of a sports season.

    Again, as Ives said, Americans are used to playoffs, and in order for MLS to grow, the league must appeal to a broader, new audience. I have great respect for, and agree with, those passionate soccer fans that want to see what may be characterized as a “pure” regular-season champion. But the reality is that MLS must appeal to a broader base of fans, not all of whom can appreciate a champion based solely on their regular season record. Think about college basketball and Cinderella stories. Americans love those stories, and without playoffs, I think it would be hard to build that kind of “expected” excitement.

    One final note: there is noticeable parity among MLS teams and there are not many teams in the league (by comparison to other, well-established leagues). In that situation, perhaps a playoff system is better because it separates 8 teams that are virtually neck-and-neck in terms of points earned during the regular season. Moreover, MLS does not have the history to have a “big four” (example, only) such that a regular season champion’s record is automatically validated by the public.

  17. rednow.red4ever says:

    I like the MLS Cup playoffs and see their increased relevance without promotion/relegation….however, with half the league still making the playoffs, I’d still go with regular season champs….

  18. Trex says:

    In a perfect world I might prefer the regular season winner to be champion, but this is America and we love our playoffs. The only way soccer has a chance to really grow and capture the interest of new fans is to keep the playoff format and use the energy and stadium atmosphere during those games to draw in fringe fans. It would take too long for non-soccer-educated fans to appreciate a top-of-the-table champion. All we would hear for years would be, “but there’s no playoffs” and frankly I’ll pass on fighting that battle.

    We should make it more difficult to reach the playoffs though…

    Top six make the playoffs, a bye for each conference winner, 3 rounds.

  19. kpugs says:

    I honestly cannot understand why this is such a big deal for us MLS fans.

    My personal opinion is that MLS should be run like the Premiership or Serie A or any of those leagues.

    Having said that, I understand the business side of things. Right now, and for the past 13 seasons, THAT IS SIMPLY NOW HOW TO HAVE A SUCCESSFUL LEAGUE.

    It is hard enough keeping this league flourishing (which it is, now, thankfully) with Americanized rules! There is nothing wrong with thinking the current format is wrong (I do), but to say it should be different is literally to say you want the league to fail.

    In time, I’m sure it will fall into line. Until then, in my mind, there is literally no debate, and I am sick of the morons who love to drink their haterade but also have no concept whatsoever of building a successful league.

  20. Igor says:

    I’m a bit surprised at the results. Apparently a majority of SBI readers are Eurosnobs (nothing wrong with that). I would have thought the opposite. Does this apply to the majority of MLS fans? If so, maybe they should be changing the way they do things?

  21. strago says:

    I would much rather have a system setup like Europe’s. This year happened to be an exception where the SS also won the MLS Cup. Most years that does not happen.

    It’s easy to get hot for 1 month. It’s hard to stay hot for the entire season. There’s no reason that the MLS Cup cant still exist, but it shouldn’t count for everything like it does now.

    Who cares what the general public of America thinks, they aren’t the ones watching the soccer. We are.

  22. Chris says:

    The league champion should be the regular season winner, and the MLS Cup should become a prestigious beast of its own played after the season and with prize money attached.

  23. brett says:

    Igor- it has nothing to do with conforming to euro leagues… why are people so content on using this against the people against crowing league champs during post-season results???

    i personally do not follow ANY other league as closely as i do the MLS… i have 1 team, and that is the Fire… but i can honestly say that i would like the Champs of the league to be crowned by the end of regular season winner…. trying to claim that a mid-table team is in fact the league champions seems silly to me….

    someone answer me this: why cant we simply deem SS as league champs and MLS cup as Cup champs?? leave everything the same… all the benefits each winner receives, the system itself…

  24. Frank says:

    Crowning the regular season’s best team the champion makes sense only if every team has the same schedule. However, if you play some teams three times and others twice, a playoff is needed. Also, teams doing poorly should not be rewarded with allocation money and higher draft picks. I understand the concept of parity but it also encourages teams that are out of the playoffs to play their reserves. They no longer care about winning and are content with mediocre soccer and get rewarded to do so.

  25. BellusLudas says:

    I would like to see MLS adopt the Mexican League format.

  26. Steve says:

    Igor, it’s way too early to look at the voting. Besides, I am willing to bet that a lot of people are voting who don’t even follow MLS, so that doesn’t exactly give us a real sense of what MLS fans would really prefer.

    We should also wait until all the votes are in. I think there are way fewer Eurosnobs on the West Coast than the East Coast.

  27. Justin says:

    I think that until the league grows substantially and we adopt promotion-relegation with USL-1 and USL-2 teams, playoffs are the way to go. If it were based on single table and not playoffs, teams would have more incentive to not finish at the bottom consistently, otherwise they would get relegated. Take the Galaxy for example, the last 3 seasons they would have been relegated. As much as people want the league to grow popular and big like it is in Europe, it is going to take time. A decent amount of time. Until then we have to tailor the league for the best likelihood of success, which in America is a playoff system.

  28. TheUltra says:

    Where is the Both option, after all my Crew did that this year :-)

    Supporter Shield winner is the regular season champ.

    MLS cup is for the winner of the post season turny. MLS needs to stop trying to make the playoff champ the regular season champ and treat the playoffs what they are, A post season turny.

  29. Har says:

    No one watches the MLS Cup anyways and a “memorable” MLS Cup games is a relative term.

  30. Hincha Tim says:

    KO’d hit the nail on the head: In a perfect situation, sure, relegation/promotion with a single table champ would be great, but given the unique circumstances of the MLS, playoffs make sense. Especially when you have an unbalanced schedule like last year (and this coming year). How can you crown a regular season champ fairly with an unbalanced schedule?

    As far as playoffs, people fail to realize that they do have that in Europe. Basically the top teams qualify for playoffs (UEFA Cup/ Champions League). Sure they aren’t put knock out playoffs but after the first round they are.

    I look at it as combining the FA Cup and the League into one format to avoid schedule congestion and having one instead of two champs like they have in England.

  31. hokiedcunited says:

    For me, I would like to see the best team during the season crowned the champion. (And in this country, I would not say that just for the MLS, but for all leagues.)

    But, in addition to doing such, I think the MLS could make the MLS Cup a season long tournament, with the final a week or so after the end of the regular season.

    For a comparison, it would be like the Carling Cup of the MLS, where only MLS teams are invited. That way, you can play a round every once in a while during the season, and then, have a big final right after the end of the regular season. This gives fans say a month to get together travel arrangements, rather than just a week, like with the current format.

    And then MLS can boast that these guys are the MLS Cup winners, while still recognizing the regular season champs the winners of MLS.

  32. Homey says:

    The reasons Ives gave in the other thread are exactly what I’ve been saying for a while now. The regular season would be so boring after a couple months because most teams wouldn’t have anything to play for, if we had just a regular season champ.

    Having said that, there needs to be a LOT more reward in the playoffs for finishing well in the regular season. A couple ideas would be to have home-and-home where the higher seed wins any tie. Or at least give higher seeds a first round bye. My rather radical idea from Q&A would be the regular season champ have a bye all the way to the MLS Cup final, and then the next 6-8 playoff to get there.

    When you look at the NFL, for instance, the regular season results are huge. Home games are super important, and the top 2 seeds in each conference get a bye. That’s a big advantage. Something like that is needed to give more importance to the regular season.

  33. Orlando says:

    Given how big the US is, MLS needs two conferences. Then at the end of the regular season, have the best two teams from each conference have a single-elimination 4-team playoff with each game being held at the higher seed’s home stadium.

  34. Army of Dad says:

    Playoffs all the way.

    Just make it harder to get in. Drop it to six or four teams and make everything but the final home and away. Then play the final at a rotating “neutral” site and crown the tournament winner the league champ. Lesser sides that barely qualify for the tournament will have a tougher time winning two home and away series (in the case of a six team tournament) before getting to the final. This removes some of the luck factor and should allow the cream to rise to the top more often, while providing the excitement and extra home games people and owners are looking for.

  35. The Gentleman Masher says:

    While I like the regular season style…I’d offer a few other options:

    1) Reduce the number of playoff teams. With 16 teams, you should have 4 playoff teams. With an unbalanced schedule, and 2 divisions, that might be the happiest medium, while offering some value to the regular season.

    2) If it were ever just a “regular season” only affair…wait until there are 20 teams in the league…move to a single table, and home/away scheduling.

    I almost feel like, in America, you need to have some kind of playoff just to get noticed…but I think letting over half the teams in is a bit silly.

  36. cowtown says:

    One more vote here for MLS Cup due to no balanced schedule. Parity measures reduce my distaste for the unbalanced schedule a bit, but the fact that schedules are not even balanced WITHIN conferences starts to make me angry all over again.

  37. Chrös says:

    Has anybody considered that maybe America has it right in this situation?

    Just because they do it like this in Europe doesn’t mean it is right, nor does it mean it is more exciting by any means.

  38. Jim says:

    The playoffs are a cup competition…plain and simple.

  39. Freddy says:

    Ives,

    MLS is an American league not a European one. I understand that we are trying to get respect from Europe so that they will consider our league as a competitive one but first we must get respect from our own potential fan base. In American sports most of the leagues have a playoff system. If MLS wants to be accepted as a legitimate league by Americans they first have to be able to identify with it’s system of crowning a champion. Therefore, the playoffs should crown our champion. However that’s not to say that the Supporter’s Shield should count for nothing. I’d say the Supporter’s Shield winner should get a bye all the way to their conference final.

  40. jman81 says:

    The fact of the matter is that many mls teams simply “don’t care” which place they finish at as long as they make the playoffs. The only ones who care about topping the table are the 2 teams fighting for the supporters shield. Many teams prefer to stumble at the first half of the season, lose/tie many games, tweak the team, so that they can make a better push for the playoffs when it counts. With all this happening, it would be foolish to think that the supporters shield winners are the “true” league champions like in european leagues. Most, if not all mls coaches and owners have their sights set on winning the playoffs, not so much on winning the supporters shield.

  41. Amit says:

    Some possibilities:

    Less teams qualify, conference winners get first round bye, Playoff teams get allocations which go in descending order in value from the Cup winner on, playoff teams get the higher draft positions, only playoff teams take place in allocation lotteries for returning Nats etc., teams that don’t qualify for the playoffs lose one academy player to the draft, the worst team in MLS is forced to sign Alexi Lalas as their GM.

  42. nando says:

    i think a lot of this argument may have to do with the fact that there is really no benefit to finishing with the best record in the league or top two for that matter….here’s how u would solve that problem….#1 seed from east and west get bye’s while seeds 3 and 6 face off as seeds 4 and 5 do the same….the winners go on the road to face the teams that had a bye….as the league expands we can increase the number of teams that make it into the playoffs…but for now, this format will make points in the regular season more important as fewer teams make the playoffs and bonus of a bye week if u finish in the top two

  43. Chris says:

    The team that wins the regular season is the champion. The playoffs should just be a play in tournament to superliga and champions league.

    We really need to merge with the USL and have promotion/relegation. If Garber wasn’t so money hungry he would waive the ridiculous $40 Million entry fee and we could have this for the better of the league.

  44. Andrew says:

    For the sake of the typical American fan I believe the MLS needs to keep this system as well as the all-star game. Otherwise the league will not continue to grow in the USA. And wasn’t that the ultimate goal of the MLS?- To see the popularity of soccer grow in America.

  45. tedhill says:

    I believe the team that finishes with the most points in the season should be crowned the MLS Champions. Also, either during the regular season or after it, there should be a cup competition between all of the MLS teams which will be the less prestigious MLS Cup (think Carling/League Cup).

  46. Steve says:

    where “it’s the way Europe does it” is not always the best way for us here in the States, it also doesn’t automatically make it the wrong choice either. “League” (in our case, the SS) and “League Cup” (in our case, MLS Cup) has evolved more or less naturally in tons of leagues around the world.

    But just because it’s not the “American way” it’s not the best choice for us, and can’t work here? Utter nonsense. Anti-eurosnobbery is just as obnoxious as eurosnobbery, probably moreso, it certainly seems more common.

  47. Eric K says:

    If you have no playoffs and no relegation/promotion, there are too many games down the stretch with nothing to play for. The more teams MLS brings in, keeping the same amount of playoff spots, it makes those spots more valuable. Thus we get more dramatic games down the stretch for playoff eligibility. Those take the place of the relegation fight. I wonder why fans here are totally fine with playoffs deciding all the other sports but not soccer.

  48. brett says:

    jman81 – ” Most, if not all mls coaches and owners have their sights set on winning the playoffs, not so much on winning the supporters shield. ”

    and thats due to the playoff system….

    and why is it that people are saying that the league would be boring?? nothing would change… all the perks of winning the MLS cup would remain, we’d simply be deeming the SS as the league winners, and not the MLS cup…

    if teams fail at winning the League (SS), they still have the opportunity of winning the MLS cup which offers just as many rewards as the SS… on top of that, the way the current tourny systems are set up even making the MLS cup final or finishing 2nd or 3rd in the league could make a huge difference on making either CL or Superliga….

    why should we crown a team as league champs b/c they manage to pull forward at the end of the regular season and through the playoffs?? why not give the respect for winning the league by actually being the most consistent team who actually won the regular season??

  49. Derek says:

    I think the playoff system adds a unique feel to the MLS compared to the rest of the world. It makes sense here without relegation and it adds excitement if you have a cinderella type team like the RedBulls. It is easier for the average fan to get into also because it is the “american way of sports”.

  50. Eric K says:

    Chris – there’s no promotion/relegation with USL because no one is going to incur all the costs at this point to end up in the second division. And trying to negotiate contracts (TV, ads) including promoted USL teams in smaller stadiums and markets. The funny thing is, as much as you heard complaining from Montreal about the expansion fee, there’s no such thing from the US groups.

  51. j1mbr0wn says:

    I don’t see what the big deal is. Regular season champs get a trophy (the Supporter’s Shield) and tournament winners get a trophy (the MLS Cup).

    If there is a problem, it’s with people wanting to tell other people which is more important. If I choose to give more importance to the shield vs. the cup, who the f&*k cares other than me? I certainly won’t loose any sleep with the folks thinking the MLS cup is more important.

  52. DemonJuice says:

    I would prefer the regular season winner be named champion, but without promotion/relegation, there isn’t enough excitement at the end of the season without playoffs.

    Therefore, I voted for the MLS Cup winner to be named champion.

  53. Steve says:

    This is really simple. I dont care what sport it is. This is America, not Europe…and in America, the team that wins in the playoffs wins the championship. The best team should win in a win-or-go-home scenario…so that should determine who the better team really is.

  54. wendel says:

    without a system of relegation and promotion it doesnt make sense to give the title to the team with the best overall record since lesser teams would have nothing to play for. think about how exciting the playoff race was this year? without playoffs then the last few weeks of the regular season would have been worthless as all the teams but one or two would have had nothing to play for.

    by having a playoff system we are able to replicate the same kind of races that a promotion relegation system gives you. yes there are flukey things that can happen like ny going to the finals despite having a terrible record but with out the playoff system the mls season could potential be over for a lot of teams really quickly.

  55. Andrew says:

    A champion has to consistently prove they are better than every other team. That can only be done by winning the league. Winning the the playoffs may be more exciting for some but doesn’t prove that the winner is, day-in day-out, the best team.

    For the record, it just looks childish to crown the playoff winner “champion” simply to differentiate ourselves from Europe. (Not that I’m saying that’s why MLS does that now… as I understand it, MLS does it for the money and exposure)

  56. Bootsy says:

    I don’t understand why going the “regular season winner = champion” would make Cup playoffs meaningless. There are Cup tournaments — heck, in England’s case, two Cup tournaments — in countries that crown the season winner as the champion, and somehow those Cup tournaments still hold some value for the players and the fans.

  57. Monkey Boy says:

    In my opinion MLS should stop focusing so much energy on attracking fball, bball and baseballs fans and put more into attracking soccer fans of other leagues.

    That being said, MLS has to stick with some sort of system which makes the last month of regular season games meaningful to most teams. Currently the MLS Cup is a good system. Pro/reg is potentially a good system, mainly due to attracting more soccer fans to MLS.

    Another system is qualification to other competitions, similar to Euro teams fighting to qualify for Euro Cup or Champions League. If we did that based on how teams finish in the regular season, then there would be more meaning to finishing 6th.

  58. scott47a says:

    I love comments like the one that said “I’d like to see the regular season leader named the champion in all leagues, not just the MLS.”

    Seriously, you think the NFL is going to give up the single biggest sporting event in the United States — an event so big that it is practically a national holiday?

    Give me a break.

    MLS needs to appeal to people beyond the small group of folks that likes to watch euro football. The playoffs are how every league and every sport in America is decided — with the sad exception of NCAA football. NFL, NBA, NHL, NCAA at every level in every sport.

    If you ever want a wider embrace of soccer in this country — so that ESPN doesn’t pull its support because of the miniscule ratings — you are going to have to create the kind of excitement that the Super Bowl and NCAA tournament create.

  59. timmyg says:

    Can we have problems with both?

    Crowning champions for having the best regular season record makes sense when everyone plays another in equal amounts (Europe).

    Having playoffs make sense when you cannot play every team (World Cup, Champions League), or only play each team once (Mexico) because of time constraints.

    Yet MLS, and American sports, do neither. Instead, there’s a built-in discrepancy known as ‘regional rivals’. So what sense does it make to award play off positions when there’s an inequality in how many times one team plays another, or even crown a regular season champion with that discrepancy.

    I say if things aren’t going to be equal, than use some power rankings sort of thing to determine a champion (but not like the BCS crap).

  60. kebzach says:

    There’s little that I hate more in life than the “rest of the world” argument.

  61. mikebsiu says:

    With so many teams entering the playoffs the meaning of winning the mls cup becomes dilluted.

  62. Matt L says:

    I think there should be (at least) 5 competitions. All MLS teams into the MLS Cup, with top seeds getting home games, a 2-legged semi-final, and a “destination” final (actually prefer a 2-legged final, as well).

    1. MLS Reg Season

    2. MLS Cup Tourney

    3. US Open

    4. CONCACAF Champs

    5. Superliga

  63. Modibo says:

    Ives, what are the financial numbers on the playoffs? I think we can argue till we’re blue in the face about the best ideas system, but without some sense of the financial benefits of playoff games (I’m assuming they benefit the league… otherwise why bother) v. regular season games I think we’re ignoring a huge factor.

    Two other thoughts: a few people are comparing MLS to Mexico and S America instead of just the big Four in Europe. What about other leagues like the A League and the J League? The A League has a Pre-season cup and a finals series based on the Page playoff system borrowed from curling and softball. Too complicated to explain here, but look it up on wikipedia… The J League had what translates to an apertura and clausura structure until 2004, with the table-toppers playing off for the champion’s mantle. Now they have a two-league relegation system, a trajectory which will appeal to many, but which won’t happen in the US unless MLS decides to expand rapidly to compete with the USL or somehow manages to incorporate the USL.

    Also, who knows what European leagues will look like in 10-20 years? European football is not static either (witness the foreign players rules changes over the past 20 or so years that have resulted in Arsenal squads with no British players on the field). We might see more playoff-type structures in European leagues (like a Middling Cup for all the teams between 4th from bottom and 9th from the top playing off for more TV money or something! Ha ha!).

  64. Al17 says:

    The reason why the Supporter’s Shield exists is because of the effort of people such as Sam Pierron and others back in the day whom wanted to make sure that the team with the best record in the MLS was recognized. This award was created by the fans and one of the few things you actually got supporters from all MLS clubs in existence at the time to agree on – that’s a feat in itself.

    Bottomline is that the Supporter’s Shield will not become more important to the players until there’s some financial incentive involved with winning it. Let’s say a purse somewhere between $500K to $700K for winning it and to be shared between the players on each team, coaching staff, trainers, etc…

    Personally, I like the play-offs, although I’d prefer to see the Final either played in a home and home format or at the field of the team remaining with the best record. Having NY and Columbus or my Fire and DC United travel to LA for a Cup Final is a joke and cheats the fans of both clubs from attending the biggest event of the year for their teams, the teams they’ve supported all season.

    I hate promotion relegation and trust me if they could do it over again in Europe, they would get rid of it in a heartbeat and mimic our play-off format. Who in their right mind would field a team in a league in which their revenue could drop substantially if their team has a bad season? I wouldn’t and I’m sure many of you wouldn’t.

    Money is the bottomline. Give these guys some serious cash to play for and you’ll see play on the field improve from a hustling my ass off standpoint. I’ll use the EPL as an example. The winner of the EPL for the 2005/2006 season was Chelsea and they received almost $20M dollars for winning it. Man Utd finished second and received almost $18M dollars. The amount of money received by the team that won the league is more than that recived by the teams finishing 13th – 20th – COMBINED!!! Want an incentive to win, that’s it. This is just from their share of the TV money not counting other things.

    Lemme repeat, it’s all about the money.

    If MLS were able to come with a pool of $20-$25 Million dollars for teams to split based on their performance for the year, you’d see things change for the better with a quickness. I’ve veered off topic, so going back to the original question. The Supporter’s Shield be awarded to the team with the best record and in addition to their receiving a spot in whatever CONCACAF tournament it is, they should get some coin in recognition for their achievement and it should be some serious coin – $10M to be split as I stated above.

  65. Seriously? says:

    OK, 2 points.

    First, I understand the idea of a champion being the team that has been the most consistently good over the course of the season, but why can’t there be another definition of champion? To me, having an end of season play-off decide a champion sets it up to crown whoever has built the best team through the season. If you have a number of new players who take a while to gel, have a terrible run of injuries, or whatever, you still have a shot at building the “best” team, so to speak. So in MLS, I see the SS as rewarding the team that was most consistently good, and the MLS Cup rewards whoever had built the best team by the end of the season. Seeing as this site has somewhat of a NY base, I’d love to see all the New Yorkers here argue that going forward, the Patriots should be considered the NFL’s champions from last year, rather than the Giants. I have no problems with either way of crowning a champion, but seeing as we’re in the US, I feel that we should use the American system. I don’t follow it, but I know that Mexico has their Apertura/Clausura system, and strangely that league seems to do pretty well. Are there tons of fans there who go on about how, in order to be legitimate, they should change to copying the European leagues, rather than have their own style?

    As for promotion/relegation, I’m sick and tired of hearing people argue for it here in the US/Canada, it’s just not going to happen. As someone already pointed out, the teams in the various levels of USL just aren’t built to play in MLS, a lot of those owners wouldn’t be able to afford it. It seems like many people think that all the “idiots” in MLS have to do is say ‘ok, let’s start promotion/relegation’, then all teams in the USL would line up for it, and it would magically happen. The sports landscape here is very different than it is in Europe, accept it and move on.

    Oh, it’s not anti-Euro snobbery when you say ‘we don’t have to do it that way just because that’s how they do it in Europe’. Anti-Euro snobbery would be saying ‘we shouldn’t do it that way because that’s how they do it in Europe, and we don’t want to be like them’. The latter is indeed obnoxious, but I don’t see how the former could be considered so.

  66. Northzax says:

    can someone explain how more teams in the playoffs dilute the importance of the Cup? That makes no sense, really.

    For those who want a straight regular season only, I have three comments: 1, this year that race was over in September. Done, finito. Since promotion and relegation will never happen in the US (in my lifetime at least, and I’m 34) it’s a non-issue. 2, anyone remember the Fire-Crew game? Yeah, that one. Perhaps the best game ever played by US pro teams? Notice that wasn’t the regular season. Lastly, if playoffs are so anti-soccer, why did the top league in the birthplace of soccer apply to FIFA to play two additional games in a playoff format? I think MLS, by following more of a new world playoff idea, is actually in the vanguard here. Don’t be suprised to see more leagues look at playoffs. The top teams like them for the cash (which would be, in part, shared with the rest of the league through tv rights) the middle table teams like them for having a shot at the rich guys. Think about it. Aston Villa is ten points out of Liverpool in fifth, but only down on goals to Arsenal in fourth. What are the Villains’ chances of catching the Reds? 50-1? What are their chances in a home and home? Not great, but miles better than 50-1. Heck, what are their chances in a one off shot at Anfield? Say they finish fourth, to win a four team playoff would mean going through Anfield and the either The Bridge or Old Trafford. Not great chances, but better than zero. And it would be fun as hell to watch them try.

    Playoffs are the great financial equalizer. Give me enough money and I can finish top four in the league nine years out of ten (see, well, The regular top four) in a playoff, others have hope. Think about it for a second. Let’s project forward for a second. Think 2010. A season and a half away. Name the three teams who you would put money on to win EPL. Serie A? Bumdesliga? La Liga? League One? I picked three to make it somewhat interesting. I bet if Ives had that poll, 80% of our answers would be identical. Only in England are there more than three teams with a halfway legit shot, and that is limited to four teams.

    Now, name the four teams that will be in the NLCS and ALCS in 2010. How about the NFL conference championships? The NBA conference finals? MLS? NHL? If you can do that, get thyself to Vegas and make some coin. In the European system, the richest teams ALWAYS win, regular season titles almost always reward wealth and spending. Playoffs balance that.

  67. Mark says:

    I like the playoffs. I think they need to be revised(fewer teams that quality) or at least kept as is while new franchises are added to the league to make the regular season games matter a bit more.

    I do like the fact that the team that has been the best over the regular season is recognized and gets some perks like entry into cup competitions, but to me, having the pressure of a game where it’s win or you go home is great and exactly the way I like it.

    My $0.02…

  68. JoeW says:

    People are forcing a false choice here–like the choice is either playoffs or no playoffs.

    I voted for regular season determining the champion and I strongly believe that’s the best test. That said, you can declare the regular season winner the champion and then have playoffs to determine who wins the MLS Cup (or Anschutz Cup I guess if we want to be specific). I suspect that for the mainstream media, they’d still cover things pretty much like they do already.

    As for the caveat about “promo/releg” please give it up folks. Let’s say a team pays $40 million and builds a stadium to join MLS and, like most expansion teams, finishes in the bottom their first year. Then their next year, despite being among the USL leaders, they lose in the playoffs and spend two years in USL. Who’s going to sign up for that? Promo/releg means that a whole bunch of major cities (like LA, DC, NYC/NJ) would have had NO representation in MLS for a year or longer. I love promo/releg in a country that can afford to have 4-5 major teams just in one city alone. But the US and MLS aren’t even close to that and maybe never will be.

    Getting a larger MLS also reduces the likelihood of an LAG posting a losing record in a terrible conference and then winning the MLS Cup. Ultimately, as the playoffs get harder to qualify for, as the league becomes more competitive, all regular season matches will become more meaningful.

  69. brett says:

    Steve -“…. The best team should win in a win-or-go-home scenario…so that should determine who the better team really is.”

    yes, i would agree with you if the MLS didnt have things like the Draft nor the salary cap…. both of those things create parity within the league to a certain degree… basically saying that in the MLS any team can beat any team… there are NO clear and cut favorites in a single game…

    you claim the best team should win in a win-or-go-home scenario?? were the Redbulls overall a better team then Houston this season?? no, they WERE better then Hou in the 2 playoff games though…

    was Chicago a better team then DCU last season?? no, but we out played them in both games….

    there are better teams (ie. houston, revs, etc…) who are consistently good year after year, but as proven before, they are more then capable of being beaten… my point is, crowning the “league champions” on a series of 4 games total seems farce, when you have an entire 30 game season before hand….

  70. Pablo Chicago says:

    Way to open a can of worms Ives!

    While it was the fans who created and forced MLS to recognize the significance of winning the Supporter’s Shield, the league continues to place more emphasis on winning the MLS Cup.

    Which is fine with me. It’s not enough to finish with the best record. A team should be willing to take on all comers and finish on top if they want to call themselves champions.

    With all of the complaints I keep hearing about the number of fixtures, I’m somewhat surprised no one has suggested the Prem move their league cup to the post season.

  71. brett says:

    Northzax -“Now, name the four teams that will be in the NLCS and ALCS in 2010. How about the NFL conference championships? The NBA conference finals? MLS? NHL? If you can do that, get thyself to Vegas and make some coin. In the European system, the richest teams ALWAYS win, regular season titles almost always reward wealth and spending. Playoffs balance that. ”

    no, the salary cap and the Draft balance that…. the playoffs (while be entertaining) is nothing more then to give teams who have performed less consistently throughout the season a last HOORAY to be crowned champions….

    the difference between the MLS and Europe is that we dont have teams who will dish out ridiculous amounts to buy a trophy… each team in the MLS has the same advantage as far as providing a competitive team…

  72. brett says:

    JoeW – Thank you joe…we could easily crown the league champions as the SS, and still have a prestigious cup winner…

  73. xrnflyer says:

    Hopefully as MLS grows into an 18 or 20 team league we wiil want to have a league champion. My reaction is to do it sooner rather than later perhaps using “tedhill’s” format. I would add that when we can get lower level leagues to include relegation/promotion formats it will make MLS competition a lot more interesting to non-soccer background fans.

  74. socmin says:

    I love that the polling is virtually dead even!

  75. joel says:

    BOTH!

    -Home and away single table season champion!!!

    -the month of Nov should be for a MLS League Cup taking the best 8 of the regular season in a one off match… after all a given team can win more than one trophy in their league!!!

  76. Steve says:

    America became great by taking what Europe started and making it better. Why would we start copying them now? Playoffs it is.

  77. Sterlinho says:

    We need the playoffs so the Galaxy have something to play for in July.

  78. Brokenbil says:

    I agree that playoffs belong in MLS, but I think the Supporters Shield is a better measure of the best team in the league than the MLS Cup.

    DC United and Houston Dynamo are arguably the most celebrated teams in MLS. Houston’s back-to-back MLS Cup victories proved they were a great tournament team. However, both years they finished second in the Western Conference. DC United, on the other hand, finished top of the league and won the MLS Cup in ’97 and ’99. That’s a more remarkable feat to me.

  79. Paul says:

    Premise: (1) We will never have promotion/relegation. (2) We will always have some sort of playoff.

    Problem: It’s way too easy to get into the playoffs, and regular-season excellence is not sufficiently rewarded.

    Modest proposal: Reduce the playoffs to six teams (top three in each conference). Conference champs get a bye to the conference finals.

    Extreme proposal: Adopt a single-table format. Five teams make the playoffs. Regular-season champ gets a bye to the playoff final.

  80. seth|NYC says:

    Both.

    Two champions (really, three with the less glamorous Open Cup).

    Why is that so hard?

  81. jman81 says:

    brett-why should we crown a team as league champs b/c they manage to pull forward at the end of the regular season and through the playoffs?? why not give the respect for winning the league by actually being the most consistent team who actually won the regular season??

    Well, I will argue that no team has done this truthfully because, with the playoff format, teams are very willing to experiment and practically give away points in order to find the best combination of players come playoff time. If there were no playoffs, then there would be no points given away, and then and only then will the supporters shield winners have the right to call themselves true league champions. But since we have always had playoffs, then there have always been many points giftwrapped to teams, and thus eleminates the notion that the supporters shield winners “earned” all their points.

  82. Cam says:

    Until fewer than half of the teams in the league make the playoffs, I have to vote for the team with the best regular season record. The playoffs were a joke back when 8 of 10 teams qualified. While it is better now, we still will see the majority of teams (8 of 15 for the 09 season) make the playoffs. Through expansion over the next several seasons, the regular season will begin to have more meaning.

    I think the ideal situation for MLS is to have the supporters shield actually come with a prize – maybe a million dollar pay out to the winners – and have a six team playoff with the top two seeds getting a first round bye…and I pray for the day when MLS has a one table format.

  83. ben says:

    I love having the playoffs (although I think they could be formatted better). Honestly, it’s probably the American in me, but there’s just something extremely anti-climactic and boring (in my mind) about just naming the regular season champ the winner. Plus, without an even schedule with all teams playing all other teams the same amount of times (both home and away), a regular season championship would never be truly fair anyway.
    Also, after seeing the playoff atmosphere at Rio Tinto a couple months ago, something that would have never occured with the other system, as RSL’d have been out of contention months earlier, I wouldn’t want it any other way.

  84. Ives says:

    As far as all the people who keep commenting about how easy it is to get into the playoffs, and how that is something that drives fans away, MLS will have 15 teams in 2009. Eight of them will make the playoffs. That is exactly the same percentage as the NBA and the NHL (both of which have 16 of 30 teams make the playoffs). I don’t hear the fans for those sports complaining.

    The issue, if there is one, is the fact that the top teams don’t get enough of a reward in the MLS playoffs for finishing with the best records. That is what needs addressing. Scrapping the entire playoff is not a solution to fix that.

  85. Ron says:

    Like it or not, playoffs are here to stay for MLS. The question is how to improve them.

    The home-and-home for the early rounds is fine. And I can live with the single-game conference final. But what HAS to go is the neutral-site MLS Cup game. The game needs to be played at the stadium of the higher-seeded team. Columbus and New York playing in 1/4 empty home depot center was a real letdown in terms of atmosphere.

  86. Joe says:

    We cant afford to as a league to have no relegation and it be the most points be the champion. Imagine KC with 10 games left and the team has no chance of winning the league. They would get 10 fans to the game. We played NE in the first round of the playoffs and they had 5500 fans at that game. Imagine if they were out of contention to win a title in Sept. They would have nobody at the games and the teams would lose more money than they already do. This is America and we have playoffs so were are stuck with it forever. This league will never go to a single table no matter how much we complain about it on blogs like this.

  87. brett says:

    jman81 – very few teams “experiment” with their lineups unless they are plagued with injuries…. they may add a rookie to the starting XI half way through or pick up a new name or two in the summer window, but primarily the starting lineups roughly stay the same….you may get a player who varies in positions from time to time (ie. rolfe)

    points are never “given away”… and if they are then it comes down to poor coaching…

  88. Win says:

    The USSF and MLS need to get together and shift the US Open Cup to the end of the MLS season. Last year the Open Cup had 8 MLS teams just like the playoffs. The USL and amateur teams could play the preliminary rounds during the last weeks of the MLS season and then the 8 remaining teams could each be pared with the 8 best MLS teams. The MLS playoffs currently have a two week, two leg 1st round so this wouldn’t necessarily create a longer season. Since the USL ends its season a couple weeks before the MLS, both the MLS and the USL teams could fully focus on the “Cup” instead of being distracted by other domestic games. The only problem is the teams could also be playing the CONCACAF Champions League around the same time. Of course this is at issue anyways.

    Would anyone support consolidating the MLS playoffs and the US Open Cup?

  89. PCFC says:

    A league with more teams and a four team playoff would be ideal. Both seem out-of-touch now.

  90. brett says:

    Joe – so what…?? if they are out of the shot of winning the league, then they’d still have a fighting chance at making the playoffs….

    as ives posted, this isnt about scrapping the playoffs, its about crowning the league champions…. the playoffs would still have the same prestige…. you’d still be fighting for a spot in the CL, the money and the hardware….

    the question should be who deserves to be crowned the league champions… the team who consistently played the best throughout the season, or the team who managed a quality 4 game run at the end???

  91. Jason says:

    I guess I’m a purist, count me in for best regular season record.

    With one caveat: you can’t do it that way unless you have a balanced schedule. Which should be on the way in 2010 unless Don Garber screws it up.

    I’d keep the playoffs but treat it more like a Cup Competition (which it is, by the way) with limited entrants (eight). Say the League Cup on Steroids.

  92. Mike Caramba says:

    I hate this push from American fans to get “in tune with the rest of the world.”

    First of all, there is a gross misconception that all other countries name their teams a certain way and crown their champs a certain way. It’s simply not the case. Not every league crowns their champion based on the regular season. Not every team is named [insert city or neighborhood] FC.

    I say we get past our need to imitate Europe (particularly England) and appreciate the uniquely American aspects of our league. The playoffs are too big–no way should more than half the league get in–but they’re here to stay, and I think that’s a good thing.

  93. Doug says:

    Gotta be MLS Cup Champion. The best games for me are the World Cup Final, Euro Final, Champions League Final, etc. Limit the number of teams that get in, since they are already playing too many games, but obviously keep the Final.

    Plus, as everyone’s stated, it generates more money which everyone in the league could use.

  94. brett says:

    Mike Caramba- why do people feel that most of the nay-sayers to crowning the MLScup as champs simply want it b/c thats how “the rest of the world does it”?? we are not wanting to imitate europe…

    and most of all, most (not all) dont want to rid the MLS of the MLScup or the playoffs… simply claim SS are league champs and MLScup are Cup champs….

  95. silent e says:

    It’s really simple. A league decides how it’s champion is determined. As long as the rules are internally consistent (i.e. as long as they don’t change mid-stream in order to favor or disadvantage certain teams) there is no way in which one is “better” than another. MLS says that the champion is the winner of the end of season tourney. There. That’s it. Nothing more need be said.

    For those who persist in that fantasy of calling the SS winner the “true” champion, whatever. It is exactly that: a fantasy. The vast majority of people involved (fans, players, coaches, team owners, etc) accept the league-defined champion. They do not run around saying, for example, that DC should be the champions of 2007 or LA of 1998.

    To those who say that the playoff system is an ahistorical aberration I say: read your history more closely. Many countries in the world have at one time or other decided a national champion through the use of a tournament, rather than league, system.

    To those who say that playoffs are an American bastardization of the game I say: open your eyes and look around the world. Is Mexico’s playoff system corrupt? Much of Latin America uses a playoff system, and even more of it plays two seasons a year. Are these corruptions of the sport? Mexico uses a different relegation system than Europe. They also use a tournament rather than league position to determine who represents the league in Copa Libertadores. Is this a stain on the sport? In Argentina’s recently completed season three teams ended tied on points. Surely San Lorenzo should have been crowned based on the goal difference tie breaker. After all, that’s how they would do it in Europe. Is Boca’s championship, earned in a mini-tournament, not “real”?

    I believe that those who insist that MLS *must* do things the way the rest of the world does (by which they really mean Europe and, more specifically, England) are the same who feel that MLS teams should absolutely not have nicknames (ignoring that some European teams and many from outside Europe have nicknames), that the sport shouldn’t even be called that American term “soccer” (ignoring the English origin of the term), and even that the names of things like shirts, cleats and fields are inappropriate. There is a certain sense of self-loathing here. While I share with most American soccer fans a certain defensiveness related to the treatment of our beloved sport here, I don’t sink to that level.

    Finally, to those who hate playoffs, you might as well not watch soccer in the future. The truth is, the world loves playoffs and they are spreading. Playoffs for promotion in England, playoffs for European spots in the Netherlands, all around the world people are embracing playoffs. Get off your high horse and enjoy the excitement. If you want to argue about who should qualify, that’s fine. But to say the whole system isn’t “real” soccer (or more probably, isn’t “real” football), is just to hide your head in the sand.

    Catch playoff fever. It’s spreading :)

  96. Adam says:

    Single table championship decided by top points, then US Open Cup after season as playoffs.

  97. joel says:

    I think its a great topic to talk about…

    for me the best scenerio would be…

    a single table champ and an MLS league Champ(playoffs)

    football is a sport where a club can win more than one trophy in a given season, this is an important detail that separtes it from other sport leagues.

    The Poll question should be modified to include a 3rd option (both).

  98. Adam says:

    We need to stop trying to cater to AMERICAN AUDIENCES. They do NOT care. Watch sportcenter.

  99. Mike Caramba says:

    Well, Brett, I was mainly attacking those who claim all league champs are crowned by league play alone (and those who claim that, because of this, we should fall in line).

    Which is more important, the cup or the league…well, it’s ultimately up to the fans to decide. Let’s not forget this is a young league that is still evolving. And let’s also not forget, when it comes to qualification for other tournaments (superliga, concacaf champions league, etc.), league play seems to be more valued than the playoffs (or, at the very least, equally valued). I kind of don’t get what people are complaining about when it comes to league not being as valued as cup…

  100. Mike Caramba says:

    Stop trying to cater to American audiences? Perhaps you’re not aware, we but most fans of the league live in the United States…

  101. Mike Caramba says:

    One more thing I’d like to point out… People keep talking about the having a less valuable cup (like the Carling Cup). I’d just like the point out that the FA didn’t sit down and decide, “OK, League is most important, FA Cup is second most important, Carling Cup is the least prestigious.” This was determined by fans. The fans don’t care about the Carling Cup, therefore the teams don’t care about the Carling Cup. The fans value the league above all else, therefore winning league is the highest achievement. The league didn’t tell the fans, “Care about this, not about that”…it sorts itself out.

  102. aristotle says:

    At first I was shocked that the voting was so close. I thought the vote would be overwhelmingly in favor of the team with the best record during the regular season. Logically, how could you think otherwise? However, after reading the comments I see why the vote is so close. A lot of you took into account other conditions that currently exist in the league before making your decision. It never occurred to me to do this. I just answered which system I thought was best without any other consideration. Perhaps Ives should have specified this.

    Obviously if the best record system was chosen some other changes would be necessary to make it work. As some people have suggested, without making other changes, this system would make a lot of games even more meaningless than they are now.

  103. Timber Nick says:

    Stop me if I’m wrong, but doesn’t winning the SS already carry the same weight as winning the Cup? The team is given a trophy and a spot in the champs league. And the runners up of both competitions are treated equally. Seems to me the league already is treating these with equal respect. MLS Cup has always felt to me like a post season league cup that you have to qualify for, which i don’t see as an inherently bad thing.

    I feel like it’s up to the fans to decide which is more important. Things will evolve from there. The FA Cup is less important now because the fans (followed by the clubs) don’t care about it as much as they used to. Doesn’t the supporter’s shield exist because a group of fans decided to create it back in 96? If fans got really excited about the SS and less so about the Cup for the next decade or so, i think you’d see a natural shift in attention from the league and media.

    That said, I really don’t see what’s wrong with the playoffs (especially when the league winner is rewarded with a champs league spot):
    –it’s not unique. plenty of other leagues use playoffs of some sort.
    –so it’s acceptable to crown the european club champion, the european national team champion, and the world cup champion with a cup competition, but not the MLS champion?

  104. mark says:

    You must have playoffs, if you don’t have pro/rel.

  105. doug says:

    I opt for the playoffs for most of the above mentioned reasons.

    One thing that definitely taints the SS is that some teams suffer some handicaps that are unique to MLS. First, teams play during international dates. The case of Toronto losing, like, 8 starters for a match is the extreme. This tends to happen mid-season before the big “playoff push” begins and seems to be forgotten. Also, the better teams have to play many more games which saps the strength of teams with limited roster sizes.

  106. Jedediah says:

    The MLS champion should be the team with the most points at the end of the season. The MLS Cup winner should be considered the league cup winner. A concept not much different from, say, the Premier League and Carling Cup in England, except that the MLS league cup is played entirely after the season instead of during it.

  107. Ossington Mental Youth says:

    Playoffs are cool but can we really say that the team that wins them deserves to be crowned the league champion? If New York had won, had they had such a good season that they should represent as league champion? Even if Toronto had won, i still dont think they would have the right to claim such a title.
    Sorry, gotta say (and i despise Columbus) that the league champion is definitely the team with the best record.

  108. Mike Caramba says:

    I agree that calling New York league champs would have been a little strange, but I think that’s because the MLS playoff system is flawed, not because playoffs are inherently bad. If I were in charge, I would do the following:

    –play a single-table, balanced schedule (reducing the number of games)
    –give the top two table finishers a bye in the first round of the playoffs
    –give a cash prize to the winner of the SS
    –observe international dates

    I think this would solve many of the league’s problems. For instance, reducing the number of regular-season games would allow our teams to be competitive in other cup competitions. It would make the regular season more interesting and each game more valuable.

    As for the which-is-more-important question, I am a firm believer that that is up to the fans. Ultimately, what draws the interest of the fans will take precedence. Look at the US Open Cup. It isn’t irrelevant because the USSF sat down and declared it so. It’s irrelevant because no one cares. Fans don’t come out for the games.

  109. Rudy says:

    I’d like to see the regular season champion be the points leader. Keep the MLS Cup playoff but stagger it through the season, with the final culminating at the end of the MLS season. This way there will be a true league champion and teams can still vie to qualify for the next MLS Cup. Maybe find a way to add to the prestige of MLS Cup as well. (Champions League spot, maybe?)

  110. scott47a says:

    OK, I’m gonna get blasted for this, but … f the EPL.

    Seriously. And I’m a Gooner. I love Arsenal.
    But the MLS is not the EPL and it is not going to be. So people need to let the comparisons go. Different countries, different cultures, different sports, etc., etc., etc.

    I’d be willing to bet that there is some sort of playoff in the EPL long before the MLS gets rid of its playoffs.

  111. Scott C. says:

    yes without promotion and relegation, you have to have playoffs to keep the season interesting, and the MLS cup must be the most important trophy. That keeps the end of the season interesting. Promotion and relegation would be better, but it just is not going to work in such a financially weak league. As more teams enter the league the playoffs will get more difficult to make. Some tweaks to the playoff system, that have already been mentioned, should probably be added to give the top 2 teams more of a playoff advantage. And who cares if a Cinderella team almost one – that’s why they play!

  112. huricano says:

    I prefer a league set up. However, I feel the best mix could be a single table, with some sort of play-off. Or some system that is a hybrid. Part of the reason I don’t follow basketball and football is because I can’t get trough a season.

  113. EDB says:

    I’m a playoff fan.

    And I know its been hashed , but with the uneven schedule there is no way in mls to award it to the league winner and feel everyone had an equal opportunity.

    That being said, as a fan i enjoy the play off atmosphere and the american fans seem to love it too as a game in chicago for the playoffs is pretty crazy and it seems like there is more passion for the team then as well.. of course if your in high 30s and rain , well you are proabably a passionate fan anyways. ;)

  114. Zeppo says:

    Ives, why do you describe the full season champ as the ‘European model?’

    Here in the good ol’ US of A, that sure as heck used to be the way for a long time in the two great American sports, football and baseball (not to mention the conferences of the NCAA in football, basketball, just about any team sport).

    While the MLS model may be based on pro football as it is today, it bears reminding that until the 1960s, there was only a single NFL Championship Game between the two division winners; no “playoffs” as we know them now. The NFL grew into the playoff format they have now after many, many years and only as the popularity of the league grew. The league certainly didn’t start with over 50% of the teams getting into a post-season tournament. Playoffs in pro football are more than anything a product of the AFL’s success and its effect on the NFL, leading to the merger.

    And as we all know, any kind of playoffs in baseball only started in the late 1960s, and for a long time only included 4 teams total.

    To say a playoff system is somehow innately American is to ignore the long history of pro and college sports in this country before the final third of the 20th Century.

  115. Ives says:

    Zeppo, a championship game is the purest definition of a play-off. Hence the World Series, which began around the turn of the century, and the NFL Championship game, which was first played in 1933.

  116. Zeppo says:

    Ives, what you say is true. But when we are talking about ‘playoffs’ in the common lingo, we certainly mean a multi-round knock out tournament, yes?

    I’m only trying to make the point that crowning the regular season winner as Champion isn’t entirely alien to American sports nor exclusively European in nature, but rather something that’s grown up relatively recently in the USA.

  117. Dave Clark says:

    I’m surprised I haven’t seen the following myth knocked down yet

    “Playoffs can’t be best because a team can just have a run of 4-5 games”

    Well, no not really. Said team would have had to QUALIFY for the playoffs.

    In the case of RedBull, they had a mere 39 points/8th in table for the regular season, but guess what? The won 2 games and drew another earning 7 more points, and finished with 46 for the playoff+regular season. That would have been good for the third best total of all teams.

    They did not win the Sheild or Cup. They were 8th, 2nd or 3rd depending on how you look at it.

    They didn’t have just a good run at the end of a 34 match season, they also had a great June and a great August.

    The fact that qualifying for the playoffs gets more difficult each year reduces the logic in the argument that a bad team can just have a good run and win the Cup. If that were true the Galaxy would have had a title since Sigi left.

  118. jloome says:

    A possible solution to this, if the public is truly as split on this as the poll suggests, is to have both a supporter’s shield winner and playoff cup winner, as now, but award the title “league champion” to the team that amassed the most points in both the regular season and playoffs combined.

  119. peteo says:

    Voted MLS Cup because why have it if not to crown a champion? If the SS winner cannot win MLS Cup, then they are not “that good” are they?

    I’d say have the SS winner play the MLS Cup winner for a true “champion” but that would only make the discussion drag on more…

  120. brett says:

    dave clark- you cannot just add the post season and the regular season as an argument in this case…. the redbulls REQUIRED a loss or a tie by DCU to even make the playoffs…. then went on a 3 game solid stint….

    if you want to change the pts distributed, do it to all teams…

    1-CLB-67 pts
    2- Hou- 52 pts
    3- Chi- 50 pts
    4- RBNJ- 46 pts

    now much higher in the points, i agree with that, but this is a very incorrect way of thinking seeing as the points are for the regular season and determine the playoffs…

    ending the season with 39 points means you hit a rough patch for a decent stretch of the season… having lived through the fire 07′ season i know for a fact that there was a large patch of the fire’s season that was poor poor poor in order to end with 40 points (10-10-10 record)…

  121. Dave Clark says:

    brett,

    they still qualified for the playoffs. It wasn’t just a short run of good games, they needed a minimum level of performance over the reg.season.

    Qualification matters, and next year the chances that a sub .500 team makes the playoffs goes down, and in 2010 it will nearly disappear.

  122. brett says:

    dave clark- truth be said they had just as long of good stretches as they did poor stretches….

    but the fact remains is they stood a chance at being deemed league champs despite having a relatively poor season…. they had a solid end stretch, in fact a solid 3 1/2 games coming off of a slaughtering at chicago…

    my point on the subject wasnt about how whether a team performed enough to make the playoffs and earn a spot, it is when the league champs should be crowned… and i simply stand firm on the fact that i cannot take a team seriously as champs when they BARELY made the playoffs…

  123. brett says:

    dave clark- and i also believe with the Cap and the draft that there will be just as many teams in the running for that last spot as the league grows… there will still be 3-5 teams battling it out for that 7th and 8th place spot… and due to parity, the middle of the table will still consist of teams bordering the .500 marker and at least 1 or 2 making it….

    unlike other leagues, any team here can win any game…there is no clear cut favorites… each team has the same advantages and disadvantages… we will have 1-3 teams ahead of the league battling for SS, and we’ll have safe playoff bound teams and then a series of teams battling for the last few spots, and then obvious teams who wont make it…

  124. Miguel says:

    That this argument still goes on is just silly. There has to be playoffs in this league. That’s the bottom line and it’s not because “it’s the way we do things here”. No, it’s because there is no promotion/relegation and no meaningful International cup competitions to play for (and, I’ll say it again, Concacaf Champions Cup and Superliga just don’t cut it). Fans of all the MLS teams who could not win the championship because of their standings (and a bunch of teams at the midseason mark would know they have no chance of winning it) would not even attend games at the end. Yeah, let’s keep talking about the ‘Purity’ of the game but let me tell you that these MLS owners want seats filled and want their teams in the hunt for the championship until the very end.

  125. Travis says:

    Regular season play should crown your champ. If you need a reason, I’ve got 3 words for you: LA Galaxy 2005 – YUCK!

  126. John says:

    As a former Brit I have never understood the European league model. It results in a vast number of meaningless games and an anticlimactic end to the season. By contrast, the US variant on the regular season and playoff system is not only better adapted to a league without promotion and relegation but also keeps more teams involved in meaningful games to the end of the season. Under the standard Euro model, only a few teams at the top and bottom of the league are involved in anything interesting after about the half-way mark in the season, and the championship can be settled even before the season is over. OTOH, take last week in the NFL, the last regular season weekend. I counted 11 games of the 16 being played which had some impact on the playoffs. Add in the Detroit Lions game, which was also of some dubious historical value, and fully 75% of all games in the final week were important. And of course, all ensuing playoff games are by definition important.

  127. Brett says:

    Feasability aside, I prefer the league champion to be crowned by the regular season, where each team plays each other team home and away. It is the most fair and rewards the team that plays the best football for a complete season.

    However, I understand that for MLS, being an american league, a playoff format to determine the champion is more viable.

    If I were to design my own sructure for MLS, the Supporter’s Shield winner would earn a berth in the championship round by virtue of their regular season form. The second spot of the championship round would be determined as a classic single-elimination playoff where #2-9 (in terms of overall record) are included.

    This way the rest of the field remains relevant while the top club gets a just reward for their regular season form.

  128. silent e says:

    Brett, I suspect a lot of coaches would be wary of having their team sit out and grow soft while their opponent played 3 rounds of tough games to earn their spot.

  129. Dave Clark says:

    “and i simply stand firm on the fact that i cannot take a team seriously as champs when they BARELY made the playoffs”

    Brett, you don’t have that problem, because Red Bull didn’t win. And again, if the league is at 15,16,17,18+ teams with only 8 playoffs spots it becomes less and less likely that a midling team makes the Playoffs.

    I hope that the MLS Cup Playoffs don’t grow as the league does.

  130. Brett says:

    silent e – Those coaches would then probably need to find new jobs, as its a coach’s job to keep his team both fit and in form.

    The proposed playoff rounds would be played same-day and 4 days apart. That would come in just under 2 weeks. The SS winner could schedule an exhibition during that stretch to stay fit.

    There’s an advantage to being well rested. The 2nd spot team would be fatigued from playing 3 games in 12 days, so I’m not sure they get an advantage over a team that’s been able to focus on training and tactics over that same span.

  131. Steve says:

    It really, really doesn’t have to be an “either or”. Valuing the SS more than MLS Cup does not mean you want to get rid of the playoffs and the MLS Cup.

    READ what Ives said.

  132. Hammster says:

    With all this talking with our heads up mighty Europe’s buttinsky, I’m surprised people are forgetting all about the “big league” right here in our own back yard – Mexico. In Mexico, if you don’t win the Liguilla (playoffs), you’re not there, because Mexico doesn’t even have a “Supporter’s Shield”. All regular season record gets you is tie-breaker in the quarterfinal and semifinal rounds. Therefore, “rest of the world” argument = F-A-I-L.