How well did Major League Soccer’s format work in 2013? Few qualms with this year’s results

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One of the themes of Major League Soccer commissioner Don Garber’s Tuesday State of the League address was competitiveness. The league, he said, wanted to be the most competitive in the world. What exactly that means, we’ll wait for another time to nail down, but the Commissioner did point out that five teams finished within six points of the league’s regular season title. From MLS’s point of view, it’s a pretty safe assumption parity is a highly desired quality when assessing competitiveness.

In a league like that, playoffs are almost obligatory, with a 34-game regular season unlikely to be enough to distinguish squads being pulled toward the mean. But given most of the world persists without crowning champions through postseasons, it’s worth asking whether Major League Soccer’s system worked. After a regular season and three rounds of playoffs, has the competition format done a good job of identifying the two teams that should be competing for this year’s title?

That is, after all, what this is all about, right? Sure, you need to play enough games to pay for the whole thing, but ultimately a league needs to have a credible competition. It needs to have a format where the best teams are rewarded; else, it becomes pretty difficult for people to buy into your league.

It’s one thing to have a number of teams capable of competing for a title, or even have the occasional shock winner. It’s something entirely different to be perceived as a place where champions might as well be drawn out of a hat, with too many teams having a shot-in-the-dark chance of claiming a championship.

MLS seemed to be approaching that in 2009 and 2010, when two Western Conference teams played their way through the East before claiming MLS Cup. The league’s subsequent tweaks have helped with that perception. There’s no more conference crossover. Now, the top five teams from each conference make the postseason, never mind that a sixth place team might be better than a higher finisher from the other conference. The schedule, an equitable double round robin, is now unbalanced, so teams play more games within their conference. Instead of MLS Cup final at a predetermined site, the finalist with the best regular season point total hosts the game.

source: Getty Images
Matt Besler, seen here on international duty with the United States, missed 11 game this year for a Sporting Kansas City team that fell one point short of the Supporters’ Shield. (Photo: Getty Images.)

Having a playoff system means you don’t need to answer those questions. Teams just need to make the playoffs, and although the whole thing kind of goes awry when a low-finishing hot hand blazes through the postseason (rendering the bulk of the season meaningless), everything looks great when you get to the end and two proven contenders are fighting for the league title.

In that respect, this year’s competition format worked. The best teams not only qualified for the playoffs but they didn’t cruise through the regular season. At year’s end, two teams firmly ensconced in the “who’s the best team” debate are competing for the final. What more could you ask for?

Perhaps a better way of settling home field advantage for MLS Cup? With an unbalanced regular season schedule, awarding home field to the highest point getter is only truly fair when the quality conferences are balanced. Right now, they’re not. In time the East may improve, but right now, there’s little question the West is the stronger conference, and because Real Salt Lake played more games against that tougher circuit, they finished two points short of Sporting Kansas City. The Eastern Conference champions aren’t hosting Saturday’s game because they were the better team through the end of October. They’re hosting because MLS gave them an easier schedule.

The most-obvious solution is to alternate which conference hosts MLS Cup finals. Recognizing that the unbalanced schedule is both beneficial (in terms of travel, building rivalries, and the other reasons why MLS implemented it in the first place) and makes it impossible to meaningfully compare the records of teams from different conferences, the league should simply switch off. In even-numbered years, one conference hosts the game. In odd number years, it goes the other way. MLS would avoid the problems for the previous format (potentially having a neutral’s atmosphere when fans are such an important selling point for the league) while avoiding the issue introduced by the unbalanced regular season schedule.

Think about how well this would have worked in 2011 and 2012. Instead of two games in Los Angeles between the Galaxy and Dynamo, we would have had one in Carson, the other in Houston. While you could argue the Dynamo didn’t deserve to host either of those games, Los Angeles didn’t exactly plow through the regular season in 2012. If they would have travelled to BBVA Compass last year, few would have complained.

But as far as 2013 is concerned, the qualms about home field and MLS Cup are a relatively minor concerns – the type of wrinkle you’d expect from an 18-year-old league still playing trial-and-error with its rules. If we’re worried about whether home field is decided in a fair way come the season’s last game, we should probably move away from the current system. Otherwise, 2013’s been a pretty good once for MLS’s competition format.

World Cup 2022 odds: Favorites, underdogs, quarterfinal game odds

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The World Cup 2022 odds so intriguing.

Who’s going to lift the World Cup trophy on Sunday, Dec. 18, and what are the current betting odds for them to do so?

[ LIVE: World Cup 2022 schedule, how to watch, scores, hub

Odds for not only who will be crowned world champions this winter in Qatar, but also for each of the quarterfinal games have been posted.

24 teams are out. Only eight teams remain.

Check out the 2022 World Cup winners betting odds below, provided by our partner, PointsBet.


World Cup 2022 schedule, start time, dates, how to watch live

  • When: November 20, 2022 to December 18, 2022
  • Knockout games kick-off times: 10am, 2pm (both ET)
  • Location: Qatar
  • TV channels en Español: Telemundo, Universo, Peacock
  • Streaming en Español: Peacock (all 64 matches)

Follow along with ProSoccerTalk for the latest news, scores, storylines, and updates surrounding the 2022 World Cup, and be sure to subscribe to NBC Sports on YouTube!


World Cup 2022 odds – Quarterfinal games

PointsBet is our Official Sports Betting Partner and we may receive compensation if you place a bet on PointsBet for the first time after clicking our links. Here are the odds provided by our partner, PointsBet.

(+800) Croatia vs Brazil (-286). Draw: +400
(+250) Netherlands vs Argentina (+115). Draw: +220
(+450) Morocco vs Portugal (-150). Draw: +260
(+210) England vs France (+140). Draw: +220


World Cup 2022 odds – winners (As of December 8)

PointsBet is our Official Sports Betting Partner and we may receive compensation if you place a bet on PointsBet for the first time after clicking our links. Here are the odds provided by our partner, PointsBet.

Brazil +170
France +400
Argentina +600
Portugal +600
England +650
Netherlands +1650
Croatia +4000
Morocco +4000


South Korea – Eliminated
Japan – Eliminated
Switzerland – Eliminated
Spain – Eliminated
Poland – Eliminated
Senegal – Eliminated
Australia – Eliminated
Qatar – Eliminated
Canada – Eliminated
Ecuador – Eliminated
Wales – Eliminated
Iran – Eliminated
Germany – Eliminated
Belgium – Eliminated
Denmark – Eliminated
Costa Rica – Eliminated
Tunisia – Eliminated
Mexico – Eliminated
Saudi Arabia – Eliminated
Cameroon – Eliminated
Ghana – Eliminated
Serbia – Eliminated
Uruguay – Eliminated
USA – Eliminated


World Cup odds – group stage winners (At start of tournament, November 20)

PointsBet is our Official Sports Betting Partner and we may receive compensation if you place a bet on PointsBet for the first time after clicking our links. Here are the odds provided by our partner, PointsBet.

Group A

Netherlands -223
Senegal +400
Ecuador +550
Qatar +1600

Group B

England -304
Wales +550
USA +600
Iran +1800

Group C

Argentina -223
Poland +450
Mexico +450
Saudi Arabia +2500

Group D

France -250
Denmark +275
Tunisia +1400
Australia +2000

Group E

Spain -112
Germany +110
Japan +1200
Costa Rica +5000

Group F

Belgium -200
Croatia +250
Morocco +1000
Canada +1200

Group G

Brazil -250
Switzerland +500
Serbia +600
Cameroon +1200

Group H

Portugal -154
Uruguay +200
Ghana +1100
South Korea +1100


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When and where is the 2026 World Cup?

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The 2022 World Cup officially begins on Sunday, November 20, and runs through Sunday, December 18 in Qatar featuring 64 matches contested by 32 nations in 8 stadiums over the course of 29 days.

This year marks the very first time that the World Cup is taking place in the Middle East. Qatar, which is the smallest nation to ever host the event, has average high temperatures in June and July of over 100 degrees Fahrenheit, which is why FIFA made the decision to host the 22nd edition of the World Cup in the Fall. As always, this year’s World Cup marks four years until the next edition of the tournament, which will make history with three different nations hosting matches.  See below for location information for both the 2022 and 2026 World Cups.

RELATED: World Cup 2022 odds: Favorites, underdogs, group stage winners

2022 World Cup Venues:

The 2022 World Cup will take place in the following venues:

  • Al Bayt Stadium – 22 miles from central Doha
  • Lusail Stadium – 12 miles from central Doha
  • Ahmad Bin Ali Stadium – 12 miles from central Doha
  • Al Janoub Stadium – 14 miles from central Doha
  • Al Thumama Stadium – 8 miles from central Doha
  • Education City Stadium – 8 miles from central Doha
  • Khalifa International Stadium – 3 miles from central Doha
  • Stadium 974 – 6 miles from central Doha

Where will the 2026 World Cup take place?

The 2026 World Cup will take place in three North American countries: the United States, Mexico, and Canada. This will be the first time that the tournament is hosted by three different nations and it will be the very first time that the event will be contested in Canada. There will be a total of 16 venues used as host cities for the 2026 World Cup. The U.S. will have 11, Canada will have 2, and Mexico will have 3.

Additionally, the 2026 World Cup will debut an expanded format featuring 48 teams–as opposed to 32–split into 16 groups of 3.

RELATED: 2026 World Cup venues selected: Which cities will host in USA, Canada, Mexico?

2026 World Cup host cities

USA (11)

Atlanta – Mercedes-Benz Stadium
Boston – Gillette Stadium
Dallas – AT&T Stadium
Houston – NRG Stadium
Kansas City – Arrowhead Stadium
Los Angeles – SoFi Stadium
Miami – Hard Rock Stadium
New York/New Jersey – MetLife Stadium
Philadelphia – Lincoln Financial Field
San Francisco – Levi’s Stadium
Seattle – Lumen Field

Canada (2)

Toronto – BMO Field
Vancouver – BC Place

Mexico (3)

Guadalajara – Estadio Akron
Mexico City – Estadio Azteca
Monterrey – Estadio BBVA

When is the 2026 World Cup?

The 2026 World Cup is scheduled to take place from June 8 through July 3.


2022 World Cup U.S. Group Stage Schedule:

  • U.S. vs. Wales – Monday, November 21 at 2 PM ET
  • U.S. vs. England – Friday, November 25 at 2 PM ET
  • U.S. vs Iran – Tuesday, November 29 at 2 PM ET

2022 World Cup Mexico Group Stage Schedule:

  • Mexico vs. Poland – Tuesday, November 22 at 11 AM ET
  • Mexico vs Argentina – Saturday, November 26 at 2 PM ET
  • Mexico  vs Saudi Arabia – Wednesday, November 30 at 2 PM ET

RELATED: World Cup 2022 schedule – groups, calendar, match schedule, brackets, dates


How to watch the 2022 World Cup:

*All times are listed as ET

  • When: November 20, 2022 – December 18, 2022
  • Group stage game kick-off times: 5 am, 8 am, 11 am, and 2 pm
  • Location: Qatar
  • TV channel in English: Fox
  • TV channels en Español: Telemundo, Universo, Peacock

 Follow along with ProSoccerTalk for the latest news, storylines, and updates surrounding the 2022 World Cup!

RELATED: World Cup 2022 Group B: England, USA, Iran, Wales schedule, fixtures, rankings

England vs France: How to watch live, stream link, team news

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Match 59 of the 2022 World Cup features a pair of European heavyweights duking it out for a place in the semifinals when England faces France on Saturday.

Didier Deschamps’ France is bidding to become a back-to-back World Cup winner, but Gareth Southgate’s Three Lions are tournament-hardened and have shown their explosive nature three times this tournament.

STREAM ENGLAND vs FRANCE LIVE

France beat Poland 3-1 in its Round of 16 match while England overcame a dodgy start to pound Senegal 3-0.

Neither team can say its faced a test like this in the tournament, and this could be a fantastic fight in Qatar.

[ LIVE: World Cup 2022 schedule, how to watch, scores, hub ]

Here is everything you need for England vs France.


How to watch England vs France live, stream link and start time

Kick off: 2pm ET, Saturday, December 1
Stadium: Al Bayt Stadium, Al Khor
TV channels en Español: Telemundo
Streaming en Español: Peacock (all 64 matches)


Key storylines, players to watch closely

England will look to Harry Kane, though the question remains who will flank the Tottenham center forward. Marcus Rashford’s been very good but Bukayo Saka and Phil Foden got the starting spots against Senegal and it paid off for Southgate.

Kylian Mbappe has been borderline unstoppable and will test Harry Maguire, John Stones, and friends and Antoine Griezmann pulls the strings in behind and Aurelien Tchouameni continues to strengthen his reputation in the center of the pitch.


England quick facts

Current FIFA world ranking: 5
World Cup titles: 1 (1966)
World Cup appearances: 15
How they qualified: Qualified automatically from UEFA
Coach: Gareth Southgate
Key players: Harry Kane, Jude Bellingham, Jordan Pickford

France quick facts

Current FIFA world ranking: 4
World Cup titles: 2 (1998, 2018)
World Cup appearances: 15
How they qualified: Qualified automatically from UEFA (Won Group D)
Coach: Didier Deschamps
Key players: Kylian Mbappe, Raphael Varane, Antoine Griezmann

Follow @NicholasMendola

2022 World Cup: What are the overtime and penalty kick rules?

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The 2022 World Cup takes place on Sunday, November 20, and runs through Sunday, December 18 in Qatar featuring 64 matches contested by 32 nations in 8 stadiums over the course of 29 days.

This will be the very first time that a World Cup is being contested in the Middle East but that’s not all that will be new at this year’s tournament.

For the first time in history, the Men’s tournament will have female referees. There will be a total of six: 3 officials and 3 assistants. The officials are Stéphanie Frappart (France), Salima Mukansanga (Rwanda), and Yoshimi Yamashita (Japan). Neuza Back (Brazil), Karen Díaz Medina (Mexico), and Kathryn Nesbitt (USA) are the assistants.

Additionally, this will be the first World Cup where teams will be allowed to make 5 substitutions and have 26-player squads. Previously, teams were only allowed to make 3 substitutions and have 23-player squads. Teams will also have the opportunity to make an additional concussion substitution if needed.

RELATED: World Cup 2022 rankings – Who are the favorites?

What are the overtime and penalty kick rules at the World Cup?

If a game is tied after 90 minutes of play, there will be a five minute break and then the match will go into overtime where an extra 30 minutes of time will be given. The time will be divided into two 15-minute periods.

If the score is still tied after extra time is given, the two teams will go into a penalty kick shootout to determine the winner. If there is still a tie at the end of the shootout, teams will be given additional rounds of one kick each until the tie is broken.

RELATED: World Cup 2022 schedule – groups, calendar, match schedule, brackets, dates


How to watch the 2022 World Cup:

*All times are listed as ET

  • When: November 20, 2022 – December 18, 2022
  • Group stage game kick-off times: 5 am, 8 am, 11 am, and 2 pm
  • Location: Qatar
  • TV channel in English: Fox
  • TV channels en Español: Telemundo, Universo, Peacock

RELATED: World Cup 2022 Group B: England, USA, Iran, Wales schedule, fixtures, rankings


2022 World Cup U.S. Group Stage Schedule:

  • U.S. vs. Wales – Monday, November 21 at 2 PM ET
  • U.S. vs. England – Friday, November 25 at 2 PM ET
  • U.S. vs Iran – Tuesday, November 29 at 2 PM ET

2022 World Cup Mexico Group Stage Schedule:

  • Mexico vs. Poland – Tuesday, November 22 at 11 AM ET
  • Mexico vs Argentina – Saturday, November 26 at 2 PM ET
  • Mexico  vs Saudi Arabia – Wednesday, November 30 at 2 PM ET

RELATED: World Cup 2022 odds: Favorites, underdogs, group stage winners


Copa Mundial en Español – Peacock

You can stream all 64 matches of the 2022 Copa Mundial en Español on Peacock.

What devices are compatible with Peacock?

Peacock is available on a variety of devices. See the full list here.

 Follow along with ProSoccerTalk for the latest news, storylines, and updates surrounding the 2022 World Cup!