We have now reached the point where we can firmly say that Major League Soccer has reached the point where it can consider itself an established sports league in North America. With 22 teams already in the league, and more bound to be included in upcoming expansion drafts, we can expect some sort of division arrangement within the next few years. Just to get a head start, I've thrown together some potential division or league ideas just to see how the MLS can potentially format the teams in the near future
Proposal #1: 4 divisions of 3(2 teams in one division) teams within their conference, which can be replicated like the MLB and NFL format their leagues, with a “National vs American” type format to be introduced, sequenced with geographical areas Central, South, East and West divisions to go along with it
National Soccer League
NSL East: New England Revolution
NSL West: Vancouver Whitecaps
NSL Central: Minnesota United
NSL South: Houston Dynamo
Orlando City F.C
American Soccer League
ASL East: NYCFC
NY Red Bulls
ASL West: San Jose Earthquakes
Real Salt Lake
ASL Central: Chicago Fire
ASL South: DC United
So as you can see, the American League and National league both have a division with only 2 teams in it, so in the case of the playoff format, it would go as follows:
*The winner of each division will make it to the postseason, followed by 2 wildcard spots that will be occupied by two teams in each league with the next most amount of points out of the non-divisional winning teams in their league. A total of 6 teams out of 11 will make the playoffs
This format is one of the better ones, but some may feel that dividing the MLS into two separate leagues may be subject to criticism, as the MLS is and always has been under one league banner.
Here’s proposal #2: Two conferences, with 3 divisions of 4 teams(3 teams in one division) within their conference, just the Eastern conference(Northeast, Atlantic, Southeast) vs the Western conference(Northwest, Central, Southwest).
NY Red Bulls
New England Revolution
Southeast: Orlando City
Northwest: Portland Timbers
Real Salt Lake
Central: F.C Dallas
Southwest: L.A Galaxy
*The top two teams in each division with the most amount of points/best record will qualify for the 6 playoff spots
In my honest opinion, I believe this is the best format going forward, and the most likely one to be implemented in the near future. Having the MLS separated into two separate leagues seems unlikely, and the formatting in the second proposal seems to stay true to form with the geographical area, and still pits familiar foes within rivals with each other, which will create for some create matchups in their respective divisions. Having The East, Central and West coexist in one league, one conference would be a fun idea, put will prove difficult and unrealistic, therefore option #2 seems the most plausible and logical going forward when division alignment is needed.
As far as the playoff formatting goes, I believe that proposal #1 with the wildcard aspect could prove to be interesting simply to just the top two teams qualifying like in proposal #2, but both overall make sense format wise.
That's my 2 cents, but hey just some food for thought! When do you think we’ll see some divisions enter the MLS?