Friday, November 10, 2006

MLS 2007 season, playoff, youth academy and expansion

Commissioner Don Garber (pictured) gave his State of the League address today and there are some changes coming.

30 game season
Toronto FC will join the MLS next season as a member of the Eastern Conference. This will give the East seven teams and the West six. The current schedule calls for all teams to play their conference mates 4 times and those not in the conference twice, but starting next season that will be a little different.

The East will still play each team four times (24 games in total) and will play each Western team once (6 games).

The West will play four games against two teams in their conference (8 games) and five games against the other three (15) and one game against each team in the East (7 games).

Playoff format
Eight teams will still advance. The top two teams in each conference move on. However, the other four spots will go to the next highest point earners, regardless of their conference.

Their will also be the same two-leg aggregate goals series in the first round, which gives no advantage to the team that worked hard all year, followed by a one-off in the semi-final and MLS Cup.

Mexico- US club tournament
There will be a tournament starting next season with games played during the middle of the week. Teams will earn spots in the tournament based on their league play. More details will be released on Univision's Republica Deportiva on Sunday.

Youth Academy
All MLS teams will be required to have youth academies. Members of these academies must live in the teams "home territory." Clubs will be able to sign players directly out of their academy without going through the MLS Superdraft. Then can sign 2 players from 2008-10.

Expansion cities
They are currently looking at Atlanta, Cleveland, Milwaukee, Philadelphia, Rochester, San Diego, San Jose, St. Louis and Seattle as cities to get a team. They are also looking into New York getting a second team.

The league hopes to expand in 2008 but could wait until 2009 if it is not willing to launch a team without a soccer-specific stadium.

Garber also strongly hinted that more international players are coming to the league.

The youth academy idea is due. It seems odd that this was not done years ago, but whatever. I will be interesting to see the maps of 'home areas.'

I guess the playoff system is better. Had this been in place in 2005, Kansas City would have made the playoffs instead of LA. However, it does setup the chance that two teams from the same conference could play each other in the MLS Cup. I guess it also means the Conference Championship game is dead. I still don't know why they didn't give the Supporters' Shield winner a bye during the first round and only take seven teams, but I guess they have their reason. I mean you wouldn't want to give a really big reward to the team that played best all season long.

The Mexico-US club tournament is going to be good. I just hope that some of the games end up on English language TV.

The 30-game format is not the best for the West and will lead to some team feeling cheated because they had to play (put best team here) one extra time while the other team got to play (put worst team here) instead.

Finally, the expansion cities. Nothing new here, except for New York getting a second team. That's not really new, but it had not been mentioned much of late. That could build up a good derby, but hopefully some other city will get the nod first before the league goes back for seconds.

I was hoping to pass along this information earlier, but the live video cast of the event never took place.

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