It's Time to Change the Format of the MLS Cup Final

The Year was 2010 and the Venue was BMO Field in Toronto, Canada, where a cold crowd of nuetral fans watched as the Colorado Rapids faced off against FC Dallas in the MLS Cup final. The match ended 2-1 on an own goal that deflected off of UW Husky and FC Dallas legend George John to give Colorado their first and only MLS Cup victory.

In 2010 MLS had just welcomed the Philadelphia Union as the 16th team split evenly between the two conferences and believe it or not had a balanced schedule. MLS was already talking about moving the MLS Cup away from a pre-determined nuetral venue to either the site of the Supporter's Shield Winner, or to the site of the team with the better record between finalists. In 2012 the current system of hosting MLS Cup finals was introduced and the Stubhub Center (LA Galaxy's home field) was the first to host based off whichever of the two finalists had the better record.

MLS has done a lot of growing since 2010.

There are now 27 teams between the two leagues, a staggering growth pace that isn't stopping anytime soon as two more teams will enter MLS in the next two years and an expected announcement for a 30th team is coming very soon. (Let's all cross our fingers for Las Vegas because of the potential away trips) It just isn't feasible for MLS to have anything remotely close to a balanced schedule and it is impossible for a team to play home and home in the regular season against all the teams in their conference and also play a meaningful amount of cross-conference matches. Specifically, there will not be enough cross-conference matches to determine such an important advantage as hosting the MLS Cup final in a one off match.

It's time for MLS to move to a Home and Home format for the MLS Cup.

This helps address the unbalanced nature of the current MLS schedule and what is almost guaranteed to be an even more unbalanced schedule in the future. Famous Western Conference truther, Jeremiah Oshan, pointed out on twitter that New England Revolution hasn't played a team with as high of a PPG as the Colorado Rapids had going into the match on Wednesday since they played Atlanta United in week 3 of the season. Another post on Twitter pointed out that the New England Revolution haven't played one team this year with 13 wins yet (they play Colorado soon), while the Sounders have played 9 games against a team with at least 13 wins, number 10 will be this Saturday. This isn't to say I think New England is a bad team, just pointing out how much different the two schedules are.

A home and home MLS Cup is a massive revenue generator. Assuming this year is a New England v. Seattle MLS Cup, the Sounders would sell 70,000 tickets at an average cost of near 200 dollars, that just vanishes for MLS under the current system. Even if it isn't two teams playing in venues that hold over 60,000 people, it would still be a guaranteed sell-out with high ticket prices for any team. For a league that lost a lot of revenue due to the pandemic this seems like a great way to earn back that revenue that is much more palatable then say, threatening a lock-out and forcing the players to renegotiate their Collective Bargaining Agreement.

To make things a little simplier for the marquee matchup of the year that likely pulls in the most non-soccer eyeballs to screens, I'd do away with the away goals tie-breaker and if the series is still tied after the end of regulation in the 2nd leg it'd go straight to Spot Kicks.

A nuetral venue MLS Cup is still a bad idea for all the same reasons it was in 2010, MLS can't have it's marquee match of the year in front of a crowd that isn't going to spend the cost of a finals ticket to watch two different teams play, and away travel is a lot to ask even of the most dedicated fans.

MLS continues to grow and the schedules will continue to be more unbalanced, and that's okay. It's time for the league to make the MLS Cup final reflect this new reality and generate more revenue in the process while making the fans of the other MLS Cup finalist incredibly happy by making MLS Cup a home and home series.

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