Beckham or no Beckham, this year's MLS playoffs are shaping up to be the most exciting yet, says Boston Globe columnist Frank Dell'Apa. The marquee match-up, unquestionably is the Chicago-D.C. United series, which pits Cuauhtemoc Blanco and Chicago's thrusting offense against the league's best midfield and its top scorer -- and possible MVP -- Luciano Emilio. Interestingly, Chicago, the underdog, actually dominates this playoff series, with a 4-0-1 record and 10 goals scored to D.C.'s none. Another plus for fans is the fact that both games will be nationally televised on ESPN 2.
Over the long-haul United was the best team in MLS, becoming the first club to lift the Supporter's Shield (given to the team with the best regular-season record) in successive seasons. That said, Dell'Apa believes that improved defending champ Houston Dynamo "should be favored to repeat as champions." Chivas USA, the surprise top team in the West, could stand in Houston's way, and New England is the only team in the East with a realistic shot of keeping D.C. United from marching towards the final.
All told, Dell'Apa says the playoffs, which are touted as "a showcase for the league," could certainly deliver on that promise. However, a few downsides remain, the most glaring of which is the absence of the L.A. Galaxy and David Beckham. Also, New England and New York both still play on turf (Gillette Stadium and Giants Stadium), while Kansas City and New York play in ridiculously oversized stadiums built for American football.