Are there too many MLS playoff teams?

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Congratulations to all 10 MLS playoff participants! You have pinned a lovely post-season blue ribbon onto your lapel, and playoff arrival has always stood as the primary MLS demarcation between success and failure over a season.

But if we’re being brutally honest, in a couple of cases, we are looking at the teams gracing the post-season roster only because they erred, fiddled and fumbled just a little less than a few others.

Are there truly 10 MLS clubs that deserve to be in the playoffs?

It was always destined to be this way; back in late November of 2010 when MLS announced a surprise two-team expansion of the post-season field (from 8 to 10 clubs). Plenty of us warned then that it would be this way, and what a real shame, too. Again, we see “small thinking” trump the longer-term “big thinking” from Major League Soccer’s board room.

(MORE: Small thinking strikes again in lack of final-day simultaneous kickoffs)

The logic went like this: keeping more teams involved in the playoff chase longer would get a few more butts in seats down the stretch (because more teams would remain alive in September and October).

But what if more teams were incentivized to build the right kind of audience, real supports, the kind who would quickly understand the value of every match? They kind that would grasp how points earned in April and May are every bit as valuable as points earned down the stretch? Wouldn’t that put more butts in MLS seats through the entire season rather than just beefing up the gate in the fall?

Here’s the net-out as it concerns the MLS playoffs:

We get a team like Montreal, just barely over .500 and with a humble plus-1 goal difference. Is that what MLS wants its playoffs to be about? We get a team that is 2-6-2 over the last two months. That’s bitter coffee to me.

Yes, getting to the playoffs is about points earned over a full season; but the format remains too forgiving, and there’s your evidence.

Even Houston and New England don’t really look like playoff teams, do they? New England is young and just got back in for the first time since 2009, so it’s a good story. But is Jay Heaps’ team a real MLS Cup threat? Debatable.

Dominic Kinnear’s team will be a threat because, well, because it is coached by Dominic Kinnear. So, the Dynamo is clearly a threat because of a manager that understands how to win in the playoffs better than anyone this side of Bruce Arena. But that’s maybe the point. The regular season needs to be more important; it shouldn’t come down to squeaking past the league’s worst team in history on the final match day to book post-season passage.

But it’s not going the other way. I never sense any momentum to fix this pothole along MLS Boulevard. Our best hope now: As the league adds team No. 20 (New York City FC) and then No. 21 (most likely Orlando) and beyond, let’s hope they keep the playoff field at 10 rather than continuing to expand.

The MLS playoffs become a “cup competition,” so to speak. And there’s some luck involved in cup competitions – which is the logic behind crowing the regular season winner the league champ, as so many places do now.

But in the United States we like our playoff system – and I’m fine with that.

Let’s just make it a little tougher to get into the playoffs; there’s the reasonable compromise.

(MORE: Top story lines for the MLS playoffs)

(MORE: MLS Week in Review for Round 35)

(MORE: MLS Eastern Conference playoffs are set)

(MORE: MLS Western Conference playoffs are set)

Report: Chelsea line up Tuchel to replace Conte

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Reports in Germany claim Chelsea have met with Thomas Tuchel about replacing Antonio Conte as their manager.

[ MORE: 5 new stars in the PL ]

With relations said to be strained between Conte and Chelsea’s board following a summer of unrest regarding a lack of transfers, the Diego Costa situation and more for the reigning Premier League champions, losing to Arsenal in the Community Shield and then their Premier League opening to Burnley was far from an ideal start.

Still, Conte led Chelsea to the PL title last season, his first in England, with a record 30 wins from 38 games. How is he the bookies favorite to be the next PL manager to leave his job?

Tuchel, 43, has been out of work since leaving Borussia Dortmund at the end of last season and Sport Bild is reporting that Chelsea’s director Marina Granovskaia has approached Tuchel about replacing Conte, while it is also stated that former Barca boss Luis Enrique is a contender.

Could Tuchel succeed at Chelsea and in the Premier League? Of course he could.

At Borussia Dortmund he developed one of the finest attacking teams in Europe with talented youngsters playing in a fluid system. Tuchel didn’t leave Dortmund on good terms and although he was linked with plenty of vacant jobs across Europe, including the Arsenal job if Arsene Wenger stepped down, he remains without a club.

Tuchel is a very good coach but what Conte has done at Chelsea over the past 12 months is a borderline miracle.

The situation regarding Conte and Chelsea does appear to have been blown out of proportion, particularly with the Nemanja Matic situation as Conte was reportedly unwilling to lose his Serbian midfielder but the deal was sanctioned by those above him. Given the fact that Conte signed a new contract this summer but only for improved terms and not for an extended period of time past 2019 also raised alarm bells.

Chelsea fans have, understandably, not reacted too kindly to reports that a successor is being lined up for Conte. The Italian coach is adored by the Blues faithful after leading a rapid rebuild of their squad in his famed 3-4-3 formation last season. His passion on the sidelines is now a hallmark of Chelsea matchdays and if he does leave anytime soon due to issues behind-the-scenes, expect a mutiny from the fans.

Yes, managers have come and gone and frequently and success has remained under Roman Abramovich but hooking Conte may even be a step too far for the notoriously expectant owner.

Barcelona’s Twitter hacked to claim Di Maria signing

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FC Barcelona had eyeballs popping across the Twitterverse for a solid 90 seconds there.

La Liga’s giants Tweeted out a welcome to Angel Di Maria, the current PSG and former Real Madrid star, with the hashtag #DiMariaFCB.

[ MORE: EFL Cup Tues. wrap ]

It was an odd Tweet for 4 a.m. local time, as humourously pointed out by our Andy Edwards, and the hackers were quick to claim credit before any Tweets could be deleted.

So if someone tells you Angel Di Maria is the latest member of Barcelona, be sure to stop the spread of fake news.

On a day where Barca’s reportedly ready to up their bid for Liverpool’s Philippe Coutinho, something tells us someone at the Camp Nou is turning over their keys to the club’s social media.

Rescheduled Yankees game moves NYCFC-Houston to Connecticut

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A rescheduled New York Yankees game is moving New York City FC to Connecticut.

Relax, it’s only for a day.

NYCFC will entertain the Houston Dynamo at Rentschler Field at 3 p.m. on Sept. 23 instead of their regular home of Yankee Stadium.

[ MORE: EFL Cup Tues. wrap ]

The club will offer tickets to another match to current ticket holders, and will also discount tickets to the game in East Hartford for fans who hold tickets to the Yankee Stadium game and want to travel for the Dynamo match (More info here, if you are in either of those camps).

This is the third of three scheduled seasons NYCFC will play at Yankee Stadium, and it doesn’t look like it’ll find a new home any time soon.

Given the everyday nature of Major League Baseball, it’s surprising there have not been more conflicts for NYCFC. We just remain hopeful for the day we can watch NYC’s star-studded roster play on a bigger home field.

“Injustice.” “Incomprehensible.” Ronaldo again protests suspension

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The five-game suspension Cristiano Ronaldo received for making contact with an official is not sitting well with the forward.

Better put: it’s still not sitting well.

Six days ago, Ronaldo took to Instagram to say he was being persecuted after his red card in the Spanish Super Cup.

[ MORE: EFL Cup Tues. wrap ]

Tuesday afternoon, he kept up the strong words by saying the suspension is “incomprehensible” and “an injustice.”

Roughly translated, Ronaldo posted, “One more incomprehensible decision. From injustice to injustive, they will never overcome me. And as always I will come back stronger. Thank you to all who have supported me.”

We’ll say this: He’s a really good soccer player.