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)

USMNT: Brooks out with hip strain; World Cup qualifiers loom

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John Brooks is out of Hertha Berlin’s lineup “for the time being” after scans revealed a hip strain suffered in this weekend’s win over Wolfsburg.

That’s all Hertha has said, and that makes it hard to imagine whether American fans should be a little concerned or very concerned ahead of the USMNT’s World Cup qualifiers against Mexico, and Trinidad and Tobago in early June.

Brooks was unavailable for two weeks with an adductor strain in September, missing a month before returning to the starting lineup.

The U.S. center back pool isn’t teeming after Brooks and Geoff Cameron. Matt Besler, Tim Ream, Omar Gonzalez, and Walker Zimmerman were called up for the last World Cup qualifiers, and Gonzalez struggled but is a Bruce Arena favorite from their time in L.A.

WATCH: Snazzy Sargent goal leads U.S. U-17s past Mexico

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Josh Sargent scored a pretty goal as the United States Soccer program had another banner day against Mexico.

Nearly two months to the day after the U.S. U-20 side beat Mexico for the first time in 31 years, the U.S. U-17 topped El Tri for the first time ever. That win snapped Mexico’s 25-match unbeaten streak.

[ PL PREVIEW: Manchester Derby ]

The goal is the first of Sargent’s two goals, as the 16-year-old latched onto a long diagonal ball and used his right foot and head to move the ball into position for a strong shot.

The U.S. clinches a spot in the next round of U-17 World Cup qualifying with one match remaining in group play.

Sargent is from St. Louis and plays with Scott Gallagher-Missouri. Former Philadelphia Union coach John Hackworth coaches the U.S. U-17s.

Heads of South American soccer sent $128M in bank transfers

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SANTIAGO, Chile (AP) The leaders of South America’s soccer confederation transferred $128.6 million between 2000 and 2015 to personal accounts, suspicious accounts, or unauthorized third-party accounts, according to an audit released Wednesday by Ernst & Young.

According to the audit presented to the annual CONMEBOL congress in the Chilean capital, the confederation’s former president Nicolas Leoz transferred $26.9 million to his personal accounts. Leoz was the president for 27 years until resigning in 2013 for what he said were health reasons.

The audit also found $58 million in payments “to third parties without adequate documentation,” payments of $33.3 million to “unidentified accounts,” and $10.4 million to “suspicious third-parties.”

[ PL PREVIEW: Manchester Derby ]

“We had said that we would have four pillars, and the first two pillars were clear accounts and accountability,” said Alejandro Dominguez, the president of CONMEBOL who commissioned the audit last year. “Today we are accountable to the leaders and the whole world of football.”

Leoz, 88, is one of three ex-presidents of CONMEBOL accused on corruption charges by the United States Department of Justice. He is in Paraguay fighting extradition to the United States.

The South American body has been plagued by corruption, which was exposed two years ago during the FIFA scandal. Leoz’s two successors, Eugenio Figueredo and Juan Angel Napout, were both arrested on corruption charges.

“I’m here, I’m the manager” – Moyes will not quit Sunderland

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This has been one horrible stretch for David Moyes.

The Sunderland manager probably thought he’d been through the worst once he left Real Sociedad, where he went 12-15-15.

But he’s managed just seven wins and seven draws in 38 matches in charge of the Black Cats — an 18 percent win mark. He’s also been charged for threatening to slap a female journalist.

[ PL PREVIEW: Manchester Derby ]

And after Wednesday, Moyes has lost both of his derby matches against Middlesbrough.

Sunderland is 12 points back of safety with five matches left. The odds the Black Cats are headed for the Championship are somewhere north of 99 percent, and fans are calling for his job.

Well, he isn’t quitting. From the BBC:

“No, I’m here, I’m the manager, you take it on the chin. … I’m a football supporter, I know what it’s like. You don’t like seeing your team lose.

“There is nobody who wants to win more than me. I am used to winning, I’m not used to losing and I don’t want to get used to it either.”