Want proper football but still need your playoff fix? This may be the solution for you.
There’s a steady argument with the MLS parrots. It goes something like this…
The average U.S. sports fan expects playoffs to decide their champion. How can we expect them to adjust to a straight league table to decide a title, let alone promotion and relegation?
Couple easy points:
1) College football? Yeah, it’s getting a “playoff” of sorts now, its so-called “Plus One” game. It’s supposed to cure all the ills that the age-old bowl system brought us, as well as those of its somewhat inbred cousin, the BCS. Guess what? Even before this new playoff of sorts, people watched it. All the time. Lots of them.
2) Now, this idea might blow your mind. I’ll need a little space to lay it out. Get ready.
Imagine a tournament, open to all the senior teams in the country, and it’s a straight knockout competition. Sounds pretty good, doesn’t it? But wait, there’s more.
Imagine this tournament – let’s call it an “Open Cup” – has 100 years of history behind it, and is one of the oldest continually running such competitions in the world. Are you enticed yet? Have I sucked you in?
Now let’s just say – and this is all just crazy talk – that your favorite club had won this tournament four times, the most of any club in the modern era. You are absolutely fucking pumped, aren’t you?!?!
Well guess what!!! That tournament exists! It’s called the “U.S. Open Cup” (ōpən kəp) and it’s been here a hell of alot longer than MLS could ever imagine – certainly far too long for it and U.S. Soccer to pretend like it doesn’t exist.
So if Americans have this insatiable appetite for knockout tournaments no matter what the sport, why do they persist in ignoring it? Especially when the U.S. Open Cup Final was the best moment of the MLS season last year, even though they had fuck-all to do with it.
Conceptually, our well-entrenched domestic cup tournament seems like the ideal solution to the promotion/relegation “problem” because it gives the “traditional” ‘MURICAN sports fan what they supposedly crave most: playoff-style goodness. It’s a match made in football heaven!
Yet the same people who tell you “pro/rel” could never work are the ones doing everything possible to sweep this classic of the American sporting landscape into the corner, hoping you won’t notice it’s still there.
The solution to our ills as a footballing country are pretty easy to identify: 1) Spend money to develop the next generation of coaches by teaching them the world’s best practices and methods, and they will in turn produce the first generation of world-class USMNT talent capable of challenging for major international honors; 2) Throw some money at the officiating problem plaguing our “pyramid” at all levels and we’ll get better refs on the pitch from MLS on down to your Sunday league.
And 3) give American football supporters what they want: proper promotion and relegation across all levels of the senior game, with a champion decided by the league table (not some all-inclusive “MLS Cup Playoffs” that makes a mockery of the “regular season”), while still appeasing the playoff diehards with a storied and fantastic single-elimination knockout -style tournament played in cities across the country for six months out of the year – the 100-year-old U.S. Open Cup.
Simple enough, yeah? Great. Let’s go do it.