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Sunday kickaround: MLS playoffs, Terrapins in ACC tournament, Virginia loses, Georgetown upset

By Steve Goff

*Despite all of the flaws and geographically incorrect matchups, the MLS playoffs have provided us with wonderful theater, superb goals, outlandish saves, controversy and tense finishes. Each of the first three series ended in uniquely gripping manners: San Jose overcoming a first-leg deficit but then using a late goal by the Golden Boot winner; Colorado striking for a late aggregate equalizer and then triumphing on penalties; and Dallas surviving a wild finish to earn a draw and win on total goals.

Unfortunately, we have yet to see a home crowd celebrate a series victory, which exposes another shortcoming in the current playoff system: There's really no home-field advantage, thus undermining a seven-month regular season. Los Angeles, the Supporters' Shield holder, should change that trend tonight when it take a 1-0 lead into Home Depot Center against Seattle (9 p.m. ET, ESPN).

The first-round surprises provide excellent storylines for the conference finals but also leave the league with three of the least supported clubs in contention for MLS Cup berths. While postseason success will presumably spike interest in the local markets, San Jose, Colorado and Dallas are largely anonymous on a national scale. The Earthquakes had the lowest average attendance among the 16 teams (9,659), although that's close to capacity on the Santa Clara campus. Despite playing in medium-sized, soccer-specific stadiums, the Rapids (13,329) were 12th and FC Dallas (10,815) 14th on the attendance chart. Seattle (36,173) and Los Angeles (21,437) are first and second respectively.

With only a week until the club hosts the Eastern final, the Rapids' ticket office will have to scramble to come close to filling Dick's Sporting Goods Park. And if Dallas ends up hosting Seattle in the Western final, the same challenge with an even smaller window of opportunity will confront the FCD front office.

Dallas is seeking its first MLS Cup berth, Colorado wants to return for the first time since 1997, and two-time champion San Jose is vying to get back after the original team moved to Houston nearly five years ago.

For more.....

*The second-seeded Maryland women's team (17-2-1) will play for the ACC championship today (2 p.m., Comcast SportsNet/DC) against fifth-seeded Wake Forest (12-7-2). Neither side has ever won the conference title. In the regular season meeting, the Terrapins lost on the road, 2-1.

*The Virginia men ended the regular season in poor fashion with a 2-0 loss at eighth-place North Carolina State. The reigning NCAA champions (10-4-3, 2-4-2 in the ACC) will be the No. 6 seed in the ACC tournament, which begins Wednesday in Cary, N.C.

*The Georgetown men, top seeds from the Big East's Blue Division, were upset at home in the conference quarterfinals, 2-1 by Providence. The Hoyas (11-6-1) will now have to hope for an at-large berth in the NCAA tournament, when the field is announced Nov. 15.

By Steve Goff  | November 7, 2010; 9:26 AM ET
Categories:  College Soccer, MLS  | Tags:  MLS, college soccer  
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Comments

Steve, you are a silly twit. Why should there be a home field advantage. I thought this was about identifying the best MLS team. And somehow, it's unwholesome that teams with low attendance win. Dear me, you need to get a grip.

Posted by: Jphubba | November 7, 2010 11:26 AM | Report abuse

It'll be interesting to see what changes MLS comes up with for the playoffs. And, yes, I do like the playoffs (for all their particularities). Unlike Jphubba, I'm with Goff in that the league needs to do more to give a home-field advantage. I don't know whether that's just making the first round a one-game, higher seed at home, or something else. I have a bit of confidence that MLS will do the needed corrections, though they won't go as far as single table. As for the attendance problems, I'm going to look on the brighter side: perhaps this will give those team's FO the needed kick in the pants to really start marketing their teams well for the coming year. I would hope that ownership would see the attendance $$$ they're losing and want to right ship.

Posted by: nairbsod | November 7, 2010 11:44 AM | Report abuse

I thought I was on a politics blog when I read the ad hominem comments. Jphubba needs to get a grip.

Posted by: I-270Exit1 | November 7, 2010 11:58 AM | Report abuse

I agree with pretty much everything nairbsod said. No reason for me to repeat anything. Jphubba, necessary to call names on a blog?

Posted by: grubbsbl | November 7, 2010 11:58 AM | Report abuse

I think if you have away goals and let the higher seed host the return leg, you may get some sort of home field advantage in the first round. we def. need away goals or get rid of the home and home aspect. basically, the playoff format in MLS is stupid.

Posted by: torrey151 | November 7, 2010 12:21 PM | Report abuse

Even a twit would understand why there ought to be a home-field advantage in a playoffs system. One, it makes the regular-season games more meaningful, thus giving fans a reason to turn out during the season. Also, because the point is to identify the best MLS team, the idea would be to reduce the likelihood of flukey upsets.

As for having teams with strong local and national profiles advance - it should be obvious why that would be healthy for hte league. Look at baseball, where two teams that were basically unknown went to the World Series, and no one watched on TV. There;s a reason why MLB execs salivate when the Yankees, Red Sox or Dodgers make the World Series.

It's neither wholesome nor unwholesome, but it's bad for business when teams no one cares about qualify for the later rounds. MLS hoped to have a dream final match-up of Beckham and Donovan vs. Henry and Marquez. When they're trying to sell the league next year, to fans and advertisers alike, it would help to have playoff games that attract audiences, both in person and on TV. It might be a bit obvious and hardly needs to be said, but Goff is hardly a twit for making the observation. Some folks don't know the numbers and, apparently, some don't even get the point.

Posted by: fischy | November 7, 2010 12:25 PM | Report abuse

For whatever reason, home-field advantage is a real thing. In other sports, regular season success is thus rewarded by hosting a one-game playoff or by having the prospect of hosting an extra, deciding game in a series, Soccer isn't set up that way, so there is a need to find a more concrete advantage than merely hosting the second game in a two-game series, with the possibility of a decisive overtime.

Posted by: fischy | November 7, 2010 12:29 PM | Report abuse


"Steve, you are a silly twit. Why should there be a home field advantage"

Straight Red. 2 Game suspension, Mr Hubba Bubba

Posted by: delantero | November 7, 2010 1:16 PM | Report abuse

Look at baseball, where two teams that were basically unknown went to the World Series, and no one watched on TV. There;s a reason why MLB execs salivate when the Yankees, Red Sox or Dodgers make the World Series.

Posted by: fischy | November 7, 2010 12:25 PM

Thats a pretty big exaggeration. San Francisco and Dallas have the 5th and 6th largest TV markets in the country, and their teams had marquee pitchers. The ratings were lower than Yankees-Philles last season, but not too bad in the grand scheme of things. 14 million viewers is hardly "no one". The ratings became a story because the NFL made a calculated move to crush baseball this season by playing a Sunday night game (and a marquee one) against the Series. They used to leave that slot open for baseball one week per season.

As for MLS ratings, hard to make a comparison to anything else because the league really is watched by next to "no one". I suppose a Beckham/Donovan v Henry/Marquez final would have moved the needle slightly, but...slightly.

Posted by: Kev29 | November 7, 2010 1:56 PM | Report abuse

It's neither wholesome nor unwholesome, but it's bad for business when teams no one cares about qualify for the later rounds

Posted by: fischy | November 7, 2010 12:25 PM

Yeah, why did MLS bother putting teams in the armpits of America??? Five teams in LA, NY & CHI each and have at it...an advertisers wet dream!!!!

Posted by: LAfanofSI | November 7, 2010 4:01 PM | Report abuse

JMU women pull an upset over Hofstra for the CAA championship and an NCAA bid. WVU takes the Big East. Maryland and Wake knotted at 1-1 late in regulation.

Posted by: universityandpark | November 7, 2010 4:01 PM | Report abuse

Yeah, why did MLS bother putting teams in the armpits of America???
Posted by: LAfanofSI
==========

Because people paid good money to have them there. And your premise is false because there are no teams in Gary, IN or Cleveland, OH, but the NJ team draws pretty well.

Posted by: I-270Exit1 | November 7, 2010 4:06 PM | Report abuse

I like my armpits. So much that I even spray fresh scents from a can into them most mornings.

Good to see diversity in the cities making MLS playoff runs. Last I heard the NFL was still in business even though small market Green Bay has won some Super Bowls. And the NBA seems to have survived the San Antonio championships.

Let the best team win regardless of where they're from.

Posted by: Joel_M_Lane | November 7, 2010 5:33 PM | Report abuse

Whoever thinks that you can somehow "tweak" the playoffs so that the regular season is more meaningful is deluding themselves. It's a cup competition!! Anyone can win it. That's why when San Jose wins it all, you'll have to suppress a chuckle when you call them the MLS "Champions".
The LA Galaxy were the best team over the course of the season. The table doesn't lie..

Posted by: cidcamp70 | November 7, 2010 8:23 PM | Report abuse

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