Yes, there's plenty of soccer yet to be played in the 2014 season, and the push for the playoffs is only just now starting in earnest - but it's not too early to look at how things are shaping up in MLS, and to recognize that there's an imbalance of power.
Let's start by looking at the Eastern Conference, and who's currently making up the top five - those that, if the playoffs were to start today, would be heading into post-season play:
1) Sporting Kansas City (1.7 Points Per Game)
2) D.C. United (1.68 PPG)
3) Toronto FC (1.52 PPG)
4) New York Red Bulls (1.22 PPG)
5) Philadelphia Union (1.17 PPG)
Meanwhile, over in the West, it looks like this:
1) Seattle Sounders (1.95 PPG)
2) Real Salt Lake (1.7 PPG)
3) FC Dallas (1.57 PPG)
4) LA Galaxy (1.7 PPG)
5) Vancouver Whitecaps (1.45 PPG)
The teams currently holding places six through eight in the Western Conference are on 1.3, 1.3, and 1.2 PPG - all good enough to qualify over in the East. Conversely, Philadelphia (5th in the East) would slot in at 9th in the West, were it not for lowly Chivas (1.05 PPG).
Starting to get the picture? In short, the West kicks Eastern butt all day long.
MLS runs an unbalanced schedule in a two-conference league divided along a geographical fault line for well-founded logistical reasons. It cuts down travel, and thus saves money. It also, as the league's Madison Avenue marketeers will tell you, serves to generate regional rivalries, spawning off various localized sub-cup contests that, of course, can be monetized. MLS isn't stupid, after all. Greedy, some might say, but not stupid.
But does it make sense to exclude better teams from the playoffs based on rigid geography alone? Should MLS institute a crossover system similar to what the Canadian Football League has been doing? If the sixth-best team in one conference finishes higher on points than the fifth-place team in the other conference, should a bump take place?
What are your thoughts? Have your say below.