NFL playoff construction right; MLS construction, not so much

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I’m watched the NFL playoffs yesterday, taking a wee break from our game. But I’m never very far from thinking about soccer. So …

I could not help but think about how the ratio of NFL teams that qualify for the playoffs is spot-on perfect, whereas Major League Soccer’s more lenient qualification policy continues to leave me feeling a tad underwhelmed.

And that’s frustrating, because there are so many areas where Major League Soccer simply cannot compare to the mighty NFL. In any measure of public appeal, it’s no contest, so there’s little cause for comparison.

But in terms of procedures and policies, there’s no reason why MLS cannot match its much bigger “football” brother.

In NFL, 12 of 32 teams make the playoffs. That’s 37.5 percent, or slightly more than a third. Combine that with the fact that NFL teams get just 16 cracks at regular season success, every single game day is a biggie.

By contrast, Major League Soccer’s more forgiving format provides safe playoff passage to 10 of 19 teams. That’s more than half.

And that’s still too many.

The result is too many regular season matches that still don’t carry sufficient weight. (Yes, it would help if there was a promotion-relegation structure – but that’s not going to happen, so let’s not wander down that rabbit trail just now, please.)

Think about this: in the NBA, 16 of 30 teams qualify for the “tournament.” That’s about the same as in MLS, right around 53 percent. They play a whole bunch of regular season games (82), which is the primary reason the regular season is sometimes reduced to a punch line, due to that lack of weight attached to each individual contest.

While the NBA condition is mostly about having so many regular season games, it is also about a playoff format that allows safe post-season passage for too many mediocre teams.

Want to identify one way to instantly make MLS games a little more exciting through the bulk of the season? Go back to the days when just 8 clubs made the post-season. That would certainly help.

Ramos announces U.S. U-20 World Cup qualifying roster

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Tab Ramos announced the 20 men tasked with leading the United States to another U-20 World Cup through qualifying next month in Florida.

[ USWNT: Surgery for O’Hara ]

Goalkeeper Brady Scott is the lone returning member of the team which won the 2017 CONCACAF Championship and advanced to the quarterfinals of the 2017 World Cup in South Korea.

The U-20 World Cup is this summer in Poland.

Several players have MLS minutes under their belts, including promising Jaylin Lindsey of Sporting KC and Mark McKenzie of Philadelphia. McKenzie, 19, could miss some of the Union’s playoff run, having started the side’s last four matches at center back.

Ayo Akinola, 18, is also one of the headliners, having scored five goals in the USL and nabbing a goal and an assist in six matches for Toronto FC.

There are four college players and six youngsters based overseas.

U.S. U-20 roster for CONCACAF Championship

Goalkeepers: 1-Brady Scott (FC Koln), 12-CJ Dos Santos (S.L Benfica).

Defenders: 2-Jaylin Lindsey (Sporting KC), 3-Chris Gloster (Hannover 96), 4-Mark McKenzie (Philadelphia Union), 5-Matthew Real (Philadelphia Union), 14-Manny Perez (NC State), 16-Julian Araujo (LA Galaxy), 19-Sam Rogers (Seattle Sounders).

Midfielders: 6-Brandon Servania (FC Dallas), 7-Juan Pablo Torres (K.S.C. Lokeren Oost-Vlaanderen), 8-Alex Mendez (SC Freiburg), 10-Paxton Pomykal (FC Dallas), 15-Anthony Fontana (Philadelphia Union), 18-Isaac Angking (New England Revolution).

Forwards: 9-Justin Rennicks (Indiana University), 11-Ulysses Llanez (Unattached), 13-Griffin Dorsey (Indiana University), 17-Ayo Akinola (Toronto FC), 20-Frankie Amaya (UCLA)

USWNT’s O’Hara begins World Cup prep with surgery, 8-12 weeks out

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Kelley O’Hara is set for some time on the mend as the United States women’s national team begins its preparation for this summer’s World Cup.

O’Hara, 30, will miss 8-12 weeks after undergoing surgery to remove “loose bodies” in her ankle, according to a U.S. Soccer press release.

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That means the 112-times capped defender will not play in next month’s newly-announced European friendlies against Portugal and Scotland.

“It’s all good. These kinds of things come with the territory,” O’Hara said. “This is just the best time to get the procedure done so I’m one hundred percent heading into 2019 and physically ready to perform at the level I want to and need to. It’s a bummer that I won’t get to Europe, but the most important thing is to be healthy for next year.”

O’Hara scored in the 2015 World Cup semifinal, and has an Olympic gold to go with that tournament title. She’s won two SheBelieves Cups and three Algarve Cups.

Man United arrive late (again) for Juventus game

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Manchester United do not travel well. Even in Manchester. Traffic sucks.

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The Red Devils arrived at Old Trafford just 52 minutes before kick off for their huge UEFA Champions League group stage clash against Juventus on Tuesday.

Juve’s team bus also arrived late and United’s manager Jose Mourinho revealed he arrived at the stadium by jumping off the bus then walking among the fans, while wearing a hoodie so nobody would recognize him.

What is all this about?

United turned up late for their last UCL home game against Valencia and were subsequently fined by UEFA as the kick off was delayed with their bus stuck in traffic in Manchester.

Even though United switched hotels to be even closer to Old Trafford ahead of this massive game against Juve, the players were still stuck in traffic for 45 minutes extra as Mourinho said his walk from the hotel to the stadium took two minutes. Of course, the whole United squad could not have walked through the 75,000 fans heading to the game amid safety fears, so something needs to be done to address this situation. Traffic in Manchester is bad, but it is not that bad.

Plus, it appears someone did spot Mourinho…

UCL, LIVE: Man United v. Juventus headlines action

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The pivotal third round of the UEFA Champions League group stage kicks off on Tuesday, with teams across Europe ready to either push on towards the Round of 16 or kiss goodbye to their dreams of being crowned champions of the continent for at least another season.

[ LIVE: Champions League scores ]

There is no doubting where the big game is, as Manchester United host Juventus at Old Trafford with Cristiano Ronaldo returning to his old club. Jose Mourinho’s United have struggled in the Premier League this season but a win against Italian powerhouse Juve would surely set them back on the right path.

Elsewhere, Manchester City head to Shakhtar Donetsk knowing they need a win after losing their opening UCL group game against Lyon which put them in a spot of bother.

Struggling Real Madrid are in action as the three-time reigning European champions are expected to waltz by Viktoria Plzen, but they did lose to CSKA Moscow last time out.

Click on the link above to follow the action live. Below is the look at the full schedule for Tuesday, with all games kicking off at 2:45 p.m. ET.


Tuesday

Group E
Ajax v. Benfica

Group F
Shakhtar Donetsk v. Manchester City
Hoffenheim v. Lyon

Group G
Real Madrid v. Viktoria Plzen
Roma v. CSKA Moscow

Group H
Manchester United v. Juventus