Good Friday morning Caps fans, as we have now entered the cold and snowy world of November. That means a few things: the holiday season is right around the corner, as is the MLS offseason getting into full swing.
But before we do that, there is one more match left to play: Toronto FC will travel to Seattle to contest the MLS Cup Final, after the Sounders upset one of the best teams in MLS history, LAFC, this week.
Now, for most Caps fans, the desired result of this match is a meteor blowing up CenturyLink Stadium so we don’t have to hear one of these fan bases gloat. But the final underscores a key point about the modern state of MLS that our organization would do well to heed.
That point was articulated very well in a piece by The Athletic’s Sam Stejskal: despite the popular perception of MLS as being a league filled with parity, an elite class of teams (LAFC, LA Galaxy, Atlanta United, Seattle, NYCFC and Toronto FC) are pulling away from the pack.
We know this innately, of course. When we see LAFC splash the cash on Brian Rodriguez to add onto an already star-studded team, for instance, we know what kind of effect this will have on competitiveness. This isn’t necessarily bad—it means that something that occurs in basically every league in the world has finally arrived in MLS.
This doesn’t mean that other teams can’t make the playoffs or be basically competitive. FC Dallas, Philadelphia Union, New York Red Bulls and RSL all made the playoffs. Two of those teams even got out of the first round, despite having rosters built more on homegrown talent than on major international signings. But there is a gulf even then. In the new playoff format, it may be possible for a team like that to make a run. To slay multiple giants, however, may be a bridge too far to seeing them reach MLS Cup.
That’s why we are again faced with Seattle and Toronto in the final. Despite the narative that both are upstarts (fueled primarily by the fact that they upended teams which were favorites), that is objectively not the case.
This is instructive as the Caps consider their rebuild. The decline of parity underscores what we already know: you need to spend to be competitive. Even teams like Sporting Kansas City, which have been competitive on the cheap, are finding a shoestring budget isn’t cutting it these days—real spending on proven DP commodities is necessary.
The league dynamics are changing—not necessarily for the better, not necessarily for the worst but certainly in favor of a new world order. The arrival of Inter Miami will only increase this fact and, while it isn’t earth shattering news, it is stark to read a story and see it so clearly laid out. This offseason will show how committed the Caps are to following along—their future in MLS 5.0 (or is it 6.0, I can never remember) so obviously depends on it.
Onto the links:
Shameless Self Promotion
We wrap up our roundtable series with a look at how the Whitecaps might line up next year. Hint: no one is really sure!
Best of the Rest
Michael Bradley will have his $6.5 million contract option for next season picked up if Toronto wins MLS Cup. Would be a nice piece for the Caps midfield if that doesn’t happen...
Drake helped seal the deal in bringing Jermaine Defoe to Toronto for a hot sec and this story had me laughing