When the debate starts up here in the good ol' US of A about who the best teams in various leagues are, it's pretty easy here. Most sports fans will tell you, that whoever wins their respective championship game is clearly the best team in that sport.
You sure about that?
Here in America, playoffs are expected in just about every sport, as if no league is complete without some type of playoff format. Hell, even those dudes in tricked out sedans that turn left all the time, have succumbed to a "type" of playoff to finish out the season. Baseball and football have added "wild cards" ( I think the networks had something to do with that), and of course, Major League Soccer can not end without playoffs.
The best team in MLS is the dominant team that gets to hoist the MLS Cup. They marched through the playoffs beating every opponent, and in the end...
Hold on a sec.
Don't get me wrong here, I get it. The regular season and the playoffs are pretty much separate. Once the regular season ends, the win/loss records go back to zero, and the playoffs begin. Again, I get it.
But what about the Supporters Shield?
Now the Supporters Shield (if you didn't know) is awarded to the team who has accumulated the highest point total during the regular season. The awarded team is to face the lowest seed at the start of the playoffs, not to mention they are also entered into the CONCACAF Champions League Tournament the following year. And all of this is done by achieving one goal - finish the season with the highest point total in MLS.Playing for points.
The MLS season is based on a point system, three points for a win, one point for a draw, and if you lose... Doughnut! (That explanation was for the non-soccer folk.) That means that in a 34 game season, pitted against 18 other teams, one would think that accumulating the most points is a pretty difficult thing to do. Well, that's because... it is!
If you ain't first, you're last!
This has always bothered me. So you mean to tell me that the team with the highest point total can lose in the playoffs, (possibly in the Championship game) to a team that finished the regular season in say, fourth place?
Now you can probably tell by now, that I'm a supporter of a single table format. It's simple, win with the highest point total, (once again, the teams play for points here) and you are the best team in the league, and are deemed League Champions. It's as simple as that. No need for playoffs, and no need to drag the season any longer than it has to - and not to mention, it can be just as exciting. Remember the 2011/2012 English Premier League? The season came down to the wire against Manchester City and Manchester United (who weren't even playing each other that day) with City coming away with the title by the slimmest of margins.
The Supporters Shield recently went through a re-birth if you will, being re designed to make it a pretty impressive piece of hardware. I mean, after all, if its going to be the hardest award in MLS to get, it should look impressive. And it does. The supporter groups representing all 19 teams in MLS donated money to the cause, and the result was a beautifully designed award. It even looks like a shield now, with every team that has won it being represented for all to see. It's currently on a tour through all of the MLS cities so that every supporter will have his or her chance to see it up close and even hold it. Warning: It's very heavy!!!! I know, I held it, but not for long.
With all the great trophies, cups, and various awards that we hand out to our beloved teams around the world, it would be a shame to give this great item to a dominant team only to tell them...
You're not champions yet.
Feel free to follow me on Twitter @whitesalljohn and give me your opinion.