Join Now | 
HomeAboutContact UsPrivacy & SecurityAdvertise
Soccer America DailySoccer World DailySpecial EditionAround The NetSoccer Business InsiderCollege Soccer ReporterYouth Soccer ReporterSoccer on TVSoccer America ClassifiedsGame Report
Paul Gardner: SoccerTalkSoccer America ConfidentialYouth Soccer InsiderWorld Cup Watch
RSS FeedsArchivesManage SubscriptionsSubscribe
Order Current IssueSubscribeManage My SubscriptionRenew My SubscriptionGift Subscription
My AccountJoin Now
Tournament CalendarCamps & AcademiesSoccer GlossaryClassifieds
TV Puzzle Created by Tight Playoff Race
by Ridge Mahoney, October 23rd, 2009 3:45PM



Which team will draw the short straw in the upcoming MLS postseason, and host its home playoff game next Thursday on national television?

Selling enough tickets for a nationally televised playoff game on short notice is beyond the capabilities of most MLS teams, whose gates are heavily predicated on season tickets and group sales, which require significant lead time and flat-out persistence to get done. Yet should Toronto FC or Seattle be allotted that match, the resources and manpower in those offices will put to shame the majority of MLS front offices.

The playoffs are their own animal, but for the purposes of publicizing and marketing and selling tickets, what a team has done during the regular season indicates what it can do for the playoffs. A much-ballyhooed drop in attendance in most league cities from regular-season average to early playoff figures is blamed on the relatively brief period in which to promote the games and sell tickets, but just as culpable are the relatively meager resources MLS teams allot to single-game and walk-up ticket sales.

Certainly the prestige and marketing might of the NFL Seahawks and the NHL Maple Leafs, respectively, give the Sounders and TFC a huge advantage, but it's precisely that buzz and reach that has turned Seattle into an MLS mecca, and driven three straight seasons of sellouts - not to mention a switch from turf to natural grass - at BMO Field.

The critical mass of fans who follow those teams intently is much greater than what Colorado and FC Dallas, to cite just two examples, have created in more than a decade of existence. TFC and Sounders fans, as well as those in D.C. and a few other places, go to games in droves regardless of day of the week or kickoff time.

Though five teams clinched more than a week ago, only Columbus knew it would host the second leg at home. Now Chicago has been assured of homefield advantage, but with four Western Conference teams, incredibly, bunched within one point, nothing may be known until Houston and Chivas finish their game Sunday afternoon. If the Galaxy beats San Jose Saturday night, it will win the conference title on tiebreakers regardless of the Chivas USA-Houston result, yet either of those teams, or Seattle, could still finish second.

ESPN2 is leaning toward a West Coast host for that first Thursday playoff slot, which would mean either of the Home Depot Center tenants or Seattle will get the nod. Yet it's possible all three of those teams could receive homefield advantage and play the first game on the road. What would happen then regarding that TV slot isn't clear.

The ESPN networks will televise five playoff games in addition to MLS Cup 2009: games on Thursday and Sunday through both legs of the conference semifinals, and a conference final Thursday, Nov. 12. The same format is in play this week, and on Thursday night's Chicago-Chivas USA game the network ran numerous promotions for its Sunday telecast of Columbus-New England. On Sunday's telecast, the network can promote its Thursday playoff game, and so the cycle will continue through the playoffs. Hopefully, the home fans in those markets will take the opportunity to set their home video systems to record a game they plan to attend in person.

ESPN2 also prompted a switch in the kickoff time of the Crew-Revs game, pushing it back an hour to 6 p.m. ET, so preceding programming wouldn't run into the MLS broadcast. That is a live Spanish League broadcast of Barcelona-Zaragoza, which makes for a nice cross-Atlantic doubleheader.

Four other playoff games will be televised on Fox Soccer Channel on weekends, so teams trying to sell playoff tickets will face unprecedented competition from national television in addition to the short lead times. Television also gets some of the blame for smaller playoff crowds, but that's another crutch some teams lean on to cover up their deficiencies. Seattle and TFC televise every game, home and away, and are one-two in average attendance.

TFC still has to qualify for the playoffs and may not get a chance to show how quickly it can sell playoff tickets. The Sounders are run by a football team in the midst of its season, so the postseason numbers at Qwest probably won't match those of the regular season. But these teams are debunking many of the myths and excuses behind which some teams have hidden for more than a decade.

The reputation of teams doing things right is spreading amongst the players and coaches, many of whom who will sooner or later gravitate to the superior organizations. If a player can at some point in his career choose between playing, even on turf, to packed houses at Qwest Field every week, or about 5,000 fans at Dick's Sporting Goods Park, the choice won't be very hard to make.


  1. I w Nowozeniuk
    commented on: October 23, 2009 at 5:23 p.m.
    The playoff contenders at the bottom of the ladder have no one to blame but themselves for not giving the effort during the regular season. Additionally, ESPN does a fine job in televising MLS games and it could improve with fine tuning its camerawork which jumps around too much from the center of gravity to cameo closeups of players, coaches or the ref while the game is in progress. As for their announcers, Harkes & Dellacamera, these two represent mediocrity at its worst; too much rambling and not letting the game speak for itself.
  1. Gus Keri
    commented on: October 23, 2009 at 5:57 p.m.
    "ESPN2 is leaning toward a West Coast host for that first Thursday playoff slot, which would mean either of the Home Depot Center tenants or Seattle will get the nod. Yet it's possible all three of those teams could receive homefield advantage and play the first game on the road. What would happen then regarding that TV slot isn't clear." It's not possible for all three teams to receive homefield advantage. At least one of them will be at home in the first leg regardless of the results in the weekend. The western bracket consists of these three teams and Houston only.

Sign in to leave a comment. Don't have an account? Join Now



Recent Soccer America Confidential
Jozy shows he's still the man up front    
U.S. soccer fans have a love-hate relationship with most of their big stars. For every fan ...
Lee Nguyen on how he parlayed longer offseason into national team success    
Revs attacker Lee Nguyen got his first U.S. start against Iceland last Sunday and turned in ...
Revs' Heaps relishes competition and preaches consistency    
Aside from the apparent departure of Jermaine Jones, not a lot has changed on the New ...
USA-Canada match underscores Olympic issues for Klinsmann    
A games against Canada Friday may be the last opportunity for USA coaches Jurgen Klinsmann and ...
Christian Pulisic, 'the American Jewel,' must be protected    
I can think of 10 reasons we should be excited about Christian Pulisic. Those are each ...
Paths of Miazga and Cropper cross with both at crucial points    
An FA Cup match this weekend between MK Dons and Chelsea is a tussle between a ...
Return of Movsisyan reconnects Real Salt Lake with its rise to success    
After five years in Europe, striker Yura Movsisyan has come back to Real Salt Lake on ...
Coaches-in-training ready to whip LA Galaxy locker room into shape    
With three MLS titles in five seasons with the LA Galaxy and a scoring rate that ...
For once, some healthy signs are coming out of Toronto    
A flurry of offseason moves has strengthened Toronto FC after it conceded as many goals as ...
Clint Dempsey on Jordan Morris, moving abroad and his national team future    
Perhaps no player on the Seattle Sounders knows better what Jordan Morris was facing in deciding ...
>> Soccer America Confidential Archives