The Yorkies' Regular Features

Starting 11       The Word       The Matchup       After 90       The South Stand Report

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Could Cup Final failure be good for MLS?

Away supporters arrive in Toronto for the MLS Cup

When the proverbial Garcia was hitting the fan in TFC-land a month ago, the initial fear from those on high wasn't necessarily the club's long-term health but the sudden fan anger's effect on the upcoming MLS Cup Final match in Toronto. ML$E and Major League Soccer bigwigs both, were sweating audibly at the sudden image of a half-empty BMO Field... in a blizzard... with Dallas and Colorado playing to a scoreless draw... on (sort of) national TV.
Code Reds were alerted forcing MLS boss Don Garber to fly into Toronto and crow about how fantastic Toronto supporters are and the mythical "model club" that TFC supposedly is. While Garber was on "Charm Tour 2010", ML$E scrambled to assure their fans that things would change in the future and that the mandatory purchase of MLS Cup tickets was some kind of "wondrous" gift. Toronto supporters are still split on whether they will attend the Final with many holding out for the potentially dull finalists and/or the potentially terrible weather forecast. However, could a sparsely attended Final in a "jewel" MLS city be a positive agent for change?
Major League Soccer's playoff system and indeed its final match are both flawed entities that are stuck in the iron grip of North American reality. While the playoff system is likely here to stay, the enforced and false "East vs. West" conference play caused matchups that should not have even existed in a best vs. worst format and have created the geographically absurd "East Final" between San Jose and Colorado. Last time we checked, neither Denver nor San Jose relocated to the Eastern Seaboard. If the playoffs have to stay, a single-table leading to a 1 vs. 8 seeding is the only sane way forward.
The problem of the MLS Cup Final itself is that it has far less to do with football as it does "entertainment". MLS is stuck on trying to have its own "Super Bowl" with the requisite concerts and "fan experience zones" which of course necessitates a neutral venue for planning, rather than the match being played in the higher seeded finalist’s park. This robs the match of real atmosphere with North American geography stifling travelling support and the fact that football hasn't reached that "mega-game" place for the continent's neutral sports fans.
MLS apologists will argue that all major football finals in Europe and elsewhere are neutral site but that excuse doesn't fly as 95% of world football also doesn't rely on playoffs to crown the league champion. Picking and choosing bits from around FIFA that suits advertisers and "demographics" does not build the game in North America. It's time for MLS to treat its supporters as knowledgeable fans and ditch the NASL-esque antics in favour of a football friendly, yet still North American style.
Perhaps seeing a Garber-christened "knowledgeable" Toronto crowd uninterested and absent for a possible Earthquakes v FC Dallas final with no travelling support may help push the death of the neutral site final. It would be a tiny step in boosting an often anti-climactic championship process.

1 comment:

  1. I know there's only a 25% chance of LA getting in, but even if 3 of the 4 teams in the semifinals are losers, I still think it would be cool to see Beckham/Donovan/Buddle (TO Reject! Clap! Clap! Clap! Clap! Clap!)/the LA-San Jose derby at BMO. BUt then again, there IS a 50% chance of that happening.