Ideally, the MLS Cup is awarded each year to Major League Soccer’s best team or at least to the team playing the best soccer at the end of the season, but what if the league’s most successful clubs are not given a fair shot?
Zach Slaton, a statistician from Seattle who writes for Forbes.com and several soccer publications, argues the current playoff format punishes teams that do well in other tournaments. Slaton used statistical analysis from the nine previous post-season tournaments (since the league switched from the best-of-three format) to show that teams which played more matches during the season pay a much higher penalty in a two-legged series than in a single-game format.
Teams that advanced to the later rounds of the U.S. Open Cup and competed in the CONCACAF Champions League have struggled in the playoffs. Even with the shortened Champions League schedule this year, a team that advances to the Open Cup final and plays the group stage of the Champions League would play eight more competitive matches than some other teams. A run to the final of the Champions League would add an additional six matches the following season.
The challenge for those teams will only increase this year as MLS switched to a two-legged conference final this year. In previous years, the conference final has been a single game with the higher seed hosting.
Slaton spoke to Soccer Perspectives on Wednesday and argued for single-game playoff rounds and fewer teams in the post-season in order to offset the burden of playing extra matching during the season. You can read more from him at abeautifulnumbersgame.com.
Josie Becker, of LAGConfidential.com, also joins the podcast to discuss an interesting week for the Galaxy.
Soccer Perspectives recently reported on as many as seven fans of the Galaxy supporters group, Angel City Brigade, being arrested last weekend at Buck Shaw Stadium. More drama occurred after the match as LA defender Omar Gonzalez unleashed on the referees and Earthquakes players.
Gonzalez described the San Jose players as a “bunch of jokes” and their style of play as “obnoxious” and “embarrassing.” He especially took issue with Steven Lenhart’s off-the-ball contact. He then accused the league of worrying more about the pride of the referees than the safety of players.
Striker Robbie Keane also had a few things to say about the officiating. He complained that referee Jair Marrufo – described by Keane as San Jose’s 12th man – would not communicate with him and would only talk to players for the Earthquakes who spoke in Spanish.
If that was not enough drama, Galaxy star forward Landon Donovan gave an interview with ESPN in which he repeated earlier remarks about struggling with motivation.
While most soccer fans think a player’s life is easy as we just seem to play soccer all the time, they don’t see how many milestones I have missed with my family. My family want me to either play and be happy or else to have their son and brother back.
Becker will analyze what effect these comments might have on the Galaxy’s post-season chances and a potential conference semifinal series against the Earthquakes.