Major League Soccer Acting American, and It Makes No Sense

Tim Fontenault@Tim_FontenaultCorrespondent IApril 21, 2011

With a single table, DC United and Chivas USA would have joined Houston in relegation last season.
With a single table, DC United and Chivas USA would have joined Houston in relegation last season.Jeff Golden/Getty Images

Major League Soccer continues to show signs of American isolationism.

I thought we left that back in the 1800s?

The league, in its 16th season, is at its highest point of popularity ever and is continuously expanding into new markets, with Seattle, Philadelphia, Portland, Vancouver, Montreal and New York all having introduced or began to prepare to introduce a new club since 2009.

As more cities become interested in joining the growing phenomenon, MLS has made a statement that truly irritates me.

Mark Abbott, the president of Major League Soccer, defiantly stated that the league has no intentions of exploring a promotion/relegation system.

"I don't see that in the future, certainly in any reasonable future for us," he said.

The American top flight has no desire to join with the rest of the world, where in most countries teams are set into single tables with the bottom three teams being relegated to the next lowest division.

In MLS, the current 18 teams are split into two conferences, East and West, with the top three teams in each conference being given automatic qualification to the Conference Semifinals and the next four teams, with all teams combined into a single table qualify. Therefore, 10 of the league's 18 teams—56 percent of the league—reaches the playoffs.

Other countries make it simple. The BEST team wins. A single table is used with the highest team in points being crowned champions. What is so difficult about that? Why does MLS have to act like soccer is so similar to other American sports?

One of the reasons that Abbott gives is that MLS is trying to promote regional rivalries and a single table takes away from that.

Oh it does?

Manchester Derby, Merseyside Derby, Milan Derby, the Old Firm, El Clasico, El Superclasico, Derby della Capitale, the Genoa Derby, North London Derby, West Ham-Millwall. Do I need to go any farther?

These rivalries are all still very strong in a single table, and while West Ham-Millwall has not been played since 2009, there is always the possibility of meetings in cup tournaments, such as the US Open Cup.

MLS has some great rivalries. Los Angeles-Chivas, Seattle-Philly. I'm sure Portland, Seattle and Vancouver will make for some great rivalries, and more. Besides, many of the top teams, such as Salt Lake, Los Angeles and Seattle, all play in proximity to each other, and rivalries are strong. Nothing would be affected by a single table. If anything, it would give a relegated team more incentive to climb back into the top flight.

The whole thing is just ridiculous, much like many things that MLS does.

There are 41 teams in the top three flights of American soccer. Why not mold those into two leagues with 20 in the top flight and 21 in the lower. Play single tables with promotion and relegation and implement the same system down the chain to the smaller divisions which have upwards of 64 teams.

Eventually, you have something like the England system: Premier League, Football Championship, Football League One, Football League Two, Football Conference, Conference North, Conference South, etc.

Where's the harm in that? It makes competition so much stronger! Everyone has something to play for, and you get rid of the need for this stupid playoff system where the best of the mediocre are allowed in. Ten of 18 teams? That's pathetic.

MLS needs to sack up and act like a real football league! This is not like basketball or baseball. Things do not work the same.