Good Monday morning Caps fans, hope you all are getting off to a good week and that love is in the air for you and your valentine.
Because I’m an idiot, I forgot when I wrote Friday’s column about the remaining pair of friendlies, with the Caps divvying up their roster for split squad games against Saint Louis City FC and Las Vegas Lights of USL.
The starting XI was pretty evenly split across the matches, but more starters probably featured in the 0-0 draw with Saint Louis, another match that emphasized defensive solidity but raised concerns about the team’s attack.
MATCH REPORT | 'Caps drew 0-0 with expansion side St. Louis CITY SC in their fourth preseason friendly of the 2023 Coachella Valley Invitational in Indio, CA ✍️#VWFC https://t.co/h4kFcM6baC— Vancouver Whitecaps FC (@WhitecapsFC) February 12, 2023
Meanwhile, the other batch of lads got a 2-1 win over Las Vegas Lights, which featured a lovely tally from a Pedro Vite free kick.
GOOOOAAAALLLLLL!— Vancouver Whitecaps FC (@WhitecapsFC) February 13, 2023
Pedro. Vite. ‘Nuff said.
1-0 #VWFC pic.twitter.com/JrljdCn7XB
In other news, I thought the new MLS playoff format that has been floating around deserved a few moments of reflection.
For those out of the loop, the league is reportedly settling on the idea of expanding the playoffs to 18 teams, while also employing a best-of-three format in the first round, before reverting back to single-elimination the rest of the way.
This means nine teams would make the playoffs from each conference, with the eighth and ninth seeds having a play-in match to see who draws the honors of facing the number one seed.
There are two separate components here. The first is the move to a best-of-three series in a bid to give Apple more content for their new streaming service. While I really like the single elimination format, the best-of-three is fine and creates some new dynamics that might be rather interesting (a team needing to give it their all in game two to avoid eliminating; the caginess of a decisive third game). I don’t really want any tinkering with the playoffs, as I think its a sign of a league that isn’t ready for prime time but this one isn’t the worst thing in the world.
Where the silliness really begins is the addition of a ninth team, however.
I made the joke in Friday’s column that if the Caps can’t make the playoffs under this new format then we should all just give up.
But, in truth, I’m not sure I would even want them to make the playoffs as a nine seed, if it meant delaying much needed change or justifying the current path the team is on.
While the joy of single elimination is that anyone could make a run, think about the path for a nine seed. You could win the play-in game, only for the right to get smashed over two or three games by the heavyweight of the conference. A fitting reward for the ninth best team in the conference, perhaps, but hardly one to get excited about as a fan.
I get the desire to have more fanbases invested late in the season but one wonders if a devalued regular season will really give them much to be invested in. The Caps nearly made the playoffs on the back of a torrid closing month — you could’ve fallen asleep for the first 80% of the season and tuned in at the end and gotten the good stuff without some middling games over the summer.
And if the playoffs are increasingly perceived as a marginal reward (I could see coaches getting sacked despite their team making the playoffs), why should fans care whether their mid-table team makes them or not.
A final call on the new playoff format is expected this week and the changes are not quite as dumb as the World Cup-style format that was rumored for awhile. But at a time when MLS needs to be making the regular season matter more in order to drive interest in the league, instead they’re watering everything down further. At a crucial juncture for the league, that seems short-sighted.
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