One thing you can’t say about Major League Soccer in 2012 is that the old conference disparity remains in place. The East finished a strong regular season over the weekend, finally stopping the Western dominance in this League. Was it the unbalanced schedule and the playoff tweaks from last season finally taking hold? Yes, and that’s fine.
The League should be in a position to change things for the better, and that’s what we saw over the course of the 2012 regular season. There might have been that same stubborn version of parity that meant results were far from predictable even if the games that created them were far from exciting, but that combined with strength across MLS.
Good teams missed the playoffs in 2012, something that hasn’t been the case in several years. The era of the pseudo single-table through the cross-conference wildcards is truly over, and this League is better off. The results still matter, the conference seeding is still important, and avoiding the Play-In Round still gave us a bit of final weekend drama. If the other option is one conference domination, let’s take the new version.
In 2012, MLS shows what it can be moving forward. Both conferences are tough for quality teams while punishing those clubs that simply aren’t doing enough to compete. The safety net is smaller, the rewards greater. With all due respect to the teams that ended up with the other conference’s wildcard and either won or made the MLS Cup final, that’s evidence of a flawed design. For the most part, the fix makes things better.
Cap this with a strong postseason, and Major League Soccer has a proof of concept that not only demonstrates an ability to move their game forward, but a willingness to change. That’s an important distinction in professional sports where leagues can hang onto archaic ideas. MLS moves on, and that’s good news for all involved.
Corner Rating: (with 1 a return to the Conference disparity and 11 a League where good teams struggle to compete) 9.
Last Week’s Corner: Higuain used the final game of the Crew’s season to show what could happen in 2013. Call us convinced, we’re raising our rating from 9 to 10.