Mls 2029

sbrylski

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I got a little bored this afternoon and charted out an example of a season in my vision of the future MLS. I know it's rather fruitless and I spent entirely too much time on it, but I thought it might spark some discussion about how we think MLS will or should complete its growth into a top American sports league.

Background

After a brief period where MLS consisted of 24 teams, eight new teams entered the league during the 2020's. By 2029, the league reached 32 teams, effectively saturating North America. Because of the large size of the league and country, MLS divided the teams into four conferences roughly based on timezone and rivalries. The regular season remained at 34 games, with 14 games against conference opponents, and 20 games outside of it.

Regular Season Results

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In 2029, regional title trophies are awarded to NYCFC, OCFC, Sporting KC, and LA Galaxy. In addition, the top four teams from each conference qualified for MLS Group Stage. The qualifiers were placed in four pots based on their final position in their conference. After Pot 1 was drawn, Pot 2 was drawn randomly with the exception that the teams would not be placed in a group with someone from their own conference. Pot 3 was then drawn under the same restriction, and finally the Pot 4 teams were placed in the only remaining group that had no representative from their conference.

Group Stage Results

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The Group Stage looked a lot like a World Cup tournament. Each group of four played each of the other teams in their group once, with the higher seed always hosting. The top two teams from each group qualify for the Playoffs, and are seeded according to their points scored during the Group Stage. In 2029, three of the teams from Pot 1 survived the group stage, but only one of them won their group to earn home field advantage in the Playoffs. Athletico LA (formerly Chivas USA) got hot and scored 7 points despite playing three road games and earned the 4 seed.

Playoff Results

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In the Playoffs, the Quarterfinals and Semifinals consisted of two legs, with the first leg hosted by the lower seed and the second leg hosted by the higher seed. The away goal rule applied, and helped the LA Galaxy advance to the Semifinals. There they defeated the hot Athletico LA squad, their crosstown rivals, in an epic Semifinal that was decided by penalties. They then went on to defeat NYCFC in the single elimination Cup Final, 2-1.

If MLS was set up like this in 2029, what are your thoughts? Regional rivalries are emphasized during the regular season, with no cross-conference competition for qualification spots and the double round robin within the conference. Then, national rivalries are promoted with a group stage instead of another round of knockout games. Instead of playing just one other qualifier, each qualifier plays three. In addition, the first round of the playoffs consists of 24 games with playoff intensity, instead of 16 games, cashing in on the most valuable games in terms of gate receipts and TV deals.

I would like to see them start thinking about a four conference split at 28 teams, but I think 32 teams is the more likely splitting point. The other advantage of the four conference setup is that the league can grow much bigger before having to consider another structural change. The league could go as high as 48 teams in this format, at which point each team would play a regular season consisting of 22 conference games and 12 interconference games against one of the other three conferences (always seeing every team in the league once every three years).
 
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CP_Scouse

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i like the idea of confrences based off timezones. what MLS should do is have more teams in each timezone, but all the teams in a particular timezone should only verse eachother. really brings up the rivalries like you said.
 

sbrylski

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i like the idea of confrences based off timezones. what MLS should do is have more teams in each timezone, but all the teams in a particular timezone should only verse eachother. really brings up the rivalries like you said.

Yup. The Western Conference and the Northeast were pretty easy to group as rivals, with the exception of maybe DC United and Arizona United in my hypothetical above. The trickier part was the center of the country. I thought the Texas teams (and AZU) fit better with RSL, Rapids, SKC and MNU better than they did with the Florida and mid-Atlantic teams, so it ended up being pretty close to mirroring timezones.
 

sbrylski

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No Vegas ? Sad.

Seriously a lot of research and fantasy there. Good job.

I'm pulling for a Vegas experiment too, but I'm relatively cool on their realistic prospects. I doubt they'll be in before 24, and after that I think expansion will be focused on NASL and other proven markets as the league acts safer in its established phase.

I think Miami and either Sacramento/Minnesota get MLS to 24 by 2018. I also rebranded the Red Bulls as "FC Metro 96" and Chivas as "Athletico LA." After that, six of the eight expansion teams were NASL teams:

Ottawa Fury (NASL)
New York Cosmos (NASL)
Indy Eleven (NASL)
Carolina RailHawks (NASL)
San Antonio Scorpions (NASL)
Minnesota United (NASL)

You could almost say I'm projecting a merger, with MLS absorbing 50% of its cousin. Edmonton, Ft. Lauderdale, Tampa Bay, Jacksonville, Oklahoma City, and Virginia are the NASL teams I didn't take. I thought Phoenix (Arizona United from USL Pro) and San Diego (CD San Diego as a fictional expansion team) would be better long term markets, but that's definitely debatable.
 

MagnusPax

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At this point, Vegas is far, far more likely than San Diego, Ottawa, Carolina etc. to get a MLS team.

But this is your fantasy. Roll with it.
 

sbrylski

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At this point, Vegas is far, far more likely than San Diego, Ottawa, Carolina etc. to get a MLS team.

But this is your fantasy. Roll with it.

I don't disagree that right now, for team #24, Vegas slots ahead of other cities. But 5+ years from now? I think it's a completely different landscape.
 

Z4CH3B99

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Wow! There is no way that I would have ever been able to create something as awesome as this!

I might disagree with the expansion cities but, other than that its EPIC!
 

einwindir

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This is simply amazing. Though I think the inclusion of Cosmos is far-fetched. I don't see the NY/NJ market sustaining 3 professional teams. Perhaps something in the Capital Region, North Country or even Mohawk Valley.
 

sbrylski

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This is simply amazing. Though I think the inclusion of Cosmos is far-fetched. I don't see the NY/NJ market sustaining 3 professional teams. Perhaps something in the Capital Region, North Country or even Mohawk Valley.

Beyond a few markets (Sacramento, Minneapolis, San Antonio, Indy), it's basically guesswork. As I said above, I'm guessing the MLS will get more conservative with its expansion selections in the future, which means pulling up successful NASL teams before venturing into new riskier markets (e.g. Las Vegas). For that reason, I could see a successful Cosmos with a new SSS getting called up.
 
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