Getting Back: Part 2 (MLS)

I begin with a confession. I am not a soccer fan. 

So when it comes to devising a plan for a sport I don't follow, I must admit I'm a little out of my comfort zone. Nevertheless, it seems to me the MLS has a golden opportunity to do something special amid the throes of this pandemic.

It is my opinion that the league's path to a safe return, its chance to craft a meaningful postseason script and create lasting benefits for its product could outrank all other sports attempting the same season-saving endeavor.

I'll allow you to be the judge. According to me, this is what the MLS should do in its 2020 return to the pitch...


There's not a soccer fan alive that doesn't pray at the church known as the World Cup. It's practically a religious experience. Why, even non-soccer fans, not unlike Easter & Christmas only churchgoers, enjoy the World Cup for its excellence and its pageantry and history. Bottom line, the World Cup tournament format speaks to both diehard and casual fans alike, and it's precisely what the MLS should copy to salvage 2020.


Select five host sites (Seattle being one of them, of course) where the curve is lowest and the amenities are most glorious. They don't even have to be MLS cities, for fan participation is not an expectation until later in my proposal. 

Each host site conducts a five team (one will have to have six) Group Stage round-robin tournament. The pools can be ranked and slotted for the top two seeds in each region, then aligned geographically or, better yet, drawn from a hat to determine participants for each pool. That alone would make for a media event. 

"Listen to Jackson Felts & Garth Lagerway break down the draw on KJR!"

Organizations would certainly miss 34 games worth of revenue, but pool play assures every franchise five heavily viewed matches under an intense format that will allow the league to capture major television ratings while dynamically showcasing the product to many who haven't given the MLS a fair chance in the past.


The Knockout Stage of our World-Cup-like tournament could feature an eight or twelve or sixteen team field--whatever league officials deem most appropriate. Personally, I think I prefer eleven. That's right 11.

The winners of each pool receive a first round bye. The second place finishers in each pool will be forced into a play-in game to reach the Championship Stage's second round. And just to even out the field, so that we might produce three matches in round one, I would add an 11th Wild Card entry from the leftover teams, the team that scored the most combined goals (per game) during pool play.

The three winners would play the 1, 2 & 3 overall seeds (as based on game results and tiebreakers, not pre-tournament rankings). Meanwhile, seeds 4 & 5 would already be locked into a round two matchup.


By the Knockout Stage, perhaps the country has progressed in contending with the virus. Perhaps, we can play this stage in the home stadiums of the teams that earned a lower (meaning better) seed. Perhaps we might even allow a few fans? And if not by the Knockout Stage, then perhaps by the Championship Stage--The Finals! 

What a sensational way to conclude this once-in-a-lifetime MLS season. The only games with fans in attendance would be the best-of-3 Finals featuring alternating host sites. And you think last year's Final was memorable?

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