The footballing purist in me knows that by far the best way to decide which team should be crowned the Champions of Major League Soccer is to let every team play every other team twice and then just tally up the points at the end of the season; whoever gets the most gets the trophy.
Yet the realist in me knows that this system just won’t cut it at this stage of the MLS journey. If the League had adopted that approach then the LA Galaxy would be on the verge of claiming the title with only Real Salt Lake and (maybe) the Seattle Sounders having any chance of catching them, effectively leaving only three teams with meaningful games left to play.
Of course if there was relegation within MLS then the battle at the bottom would be compelling with as many as eight teams still fearing the drop, and if the CONCACAF Champions League carried the same allure as its European cousin then as many as five or six clubs could be fighting it out for that allusive fourth spot.
But neither of those scenarios is likely to occur in anything like the near future, so the powers that be needed to devise a system that created the maximum amount of interest for the maximum amount of teams and their supporters.
Hence the system that we have right now.
The New York Red Bulls may be having a train wreck of a campaign but they still retain interest in the possibility of post-season play, as do at least a dozen other franchises. That may not be fair from a purely sporting point of view, but from an entertainment perspective it works out just fine, with attendances still maintaining high levels despite the challenge of the start of the NFL season.
We can argue about the way that the post-season is structured (far from perfect) and we can argue that a neutral venue threatens to take away much of the atmosphere that can make soccer such a compelling spectacle, but what cannot be argued is that the current format makes the season far more enjoyable for far more fans, and that is no bad thing at all.
Next year I have to learn to love an unbalanced schedule but lets take it one small step at a time.
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