Should we judge the Eastern and Western Conferences As Independent Leagues within MLS?

So, I kind of alluded to this on Podcast XXXIV last week, but I wanted to start a conversation this week in regards to the very question that’s been ringing in my ears. With the alignment changes in regards to the CONCACAF Champions League bids, it puts a new emphasis on winning your conference in 2014 rather than the Supporters Shield—which in times past has conflicted MLS between being conference-based system or as being a single-table entity.

Now, with all these changes occurring, is there a reason to look at these two entities within Major League Soccer as being the same? It’s obvious that there was a split or a line drawn between three different echelons (good, meh and poor) within the Eastern Conference where in the West it was much tighter and distinct between who was good and who was… well, bad.

When we enter 2014 and start looking at predictions, obviously you have to look at the picture as a whole and take into consideration and account for the inclusion of as many possible influences and pieces that could affect an outcome. That said, is it fair to compare the New York Red Bulls to the LA Galaxy anymore, or even compare Toronto FC to Chivas USA? These teams will have fewer and fewer overlapping influences, meaning that their results and outcomes are more conference-centric, right?

It’s an interesting thought.

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2 thoughts on “Should we judge the Eastern and Western Conferences As Independent Leagues within MLS?

  1. I’m not sure you can really say that the emphasis is on winning the conference RATHER THAN the supporters shield, because teams are essentially fighting for both with the same objective. Get the most points possible. It’s not like college conferences where you can win your conference despite being terrible out of conference. If an MLS team sucks against the opposite conference, it impacts their standing in their own conference, if a college football team goes 0-4 in non-conference and 8-0 in conference, they win their conference.

    Conference games are more important only because teams play more of them due to the unbalanced schedule. I’m not sure that the CCL qualification really provides an extra incentive for teams, since most teams in conference championship race are also in SS race and fighting for home field advantage in playoffs/Final.

    • Yes, the race is obviously about who can claim the most points and by that perspective I suppose it wouldn’t matter. However, Sporting doesn’t need to have more points than Portland to get into the CCL so in that context why should we compare the two? They are similar clubs but the only time they are competing against each other, really, is during the MLS Cup and that’s a tournament and functions much different in a predictive model. LA Galaxy could have the second most points in MLS and not win a CCL bid or win a trophy, likewise Toronto very well could end up with the third most points in the table and come away with both.

      I’ll agree that I don’t think most teams probably don’t see the CCL as an extra incentive but they should. Clubs such as Houston, DC, Portland, RSL, LA, Seattle and Sporting have experienced the fruits and entitlements of having a CCL bid and it’s obvious their desire to keep/acquire it back. The allocation money that comes with that bid a game changer and is the difference between rebuilding your roster and keeping valuable pieces long term without having to use a DP tag on them.

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