The curtain is about to close on this year’s MLS season. Tonight in Toronto, we get to see the surging Sounders and high-flying Toronto match up in what should be a great Cup final. It should be a high-scoring affair as TFC’s three-headed monster of Jozy Altidore, Sebastian Giovinco, and Michael Bradley try to keep up with the pace and power of Nico Lodeiro and Jordan Morris.
Hopefully it’s as entertaining as the Eastern Conference tilt between Toronto and Montreal, that was a back-and-forth goal-fest for the ages. As a bonus, it’s supposed to be below freezing. If you’re trying to get a friend into MLS (or soccer in general), this is a game you’ll want to show them. There’s nothing like two clubs playing for their first title.
To get you into the mood before first kick tonight, we’ve got a full slate of Links for you to peruse.
Breaking Down MLS Cup
If you’re looking for more information on the two conference champions before tonight, MLSSoccer.com’s Matthew Doyle has you covered. It’s the tactical side of the Cup, the team’s strengths and weaknesses, and what to expect on a cold night in Ontario. Since I haven’t necessarily been keeping up with Seattle or Toronto throughout the year, the charts, highlights, and comprehensive analysis of every position on the pitch is helpful to get to know their personnel. If you’ve got any questions, that preview will likely answer them.
Don Garber Gives State of the League Address
David Beckham’s Miami expansion franchise was at the forefront of Garber’s annual speech. This time, however, it wasn’t the same old song and dance of wait and see, promising that it was moving forward. Now, Garber has said there is a deadline for Beckham to get his team off the ground to be the 24th franchise. He’s not saying Miami won’t get a team if Beckham can’t get things going, just that other teams waiting in line can jump them. The league will discuss franchises 25-28 this coming week.
Video replay was another major talking point on Friday and Garber says the league wants to implement it after the All-Star Game in 2017. On top of having another large influx of Targeted Allocation Money and the two new expansion clubs, next season should be full of positive new additions.
Garber Q&A on NASL, Promotion and Relegation
As the 2016 season winds down, the commissioner took some time to reflect on the year with ESPN FC and look ahead to the future. The uptick in TV ratings and attendance is great, but Garber wants to make matches even more accessible to fans by allowing them to watch “on whatever platform they want to watch. We will be very focused on that next year and the years to come.”
With NASL potentially on the verge of collapse, the Soccer Don also discussed the lower leagues and what they mean for MLS. While America’s top league has been relatively stable, the turnover in USL and especially MLS has created some turmoil and uncertainty. Garber certainly isn’t happy that some clubs might go under, but he’s an advocate for stability in the American soccer landscape. He does not believe that MLS was a cause for NASL’s demise, even though there was competition for markets and NASL wanted the Division I label.
Brad Guzan Reportedly Returning Stateside
The era of an American goalkeeper in the Premier League may be finally coming to an end. Tim Howard made his triumphant return to MLS this year and helped bring the Colorado Rapids deep into the playoffs. Now his compatriot, Brad Guzan, is reportedly following suit. Atlanta United may be getting a USMNT keeper for the club’s inaugural year as the 32-year-old Guzan is set to leave Middlesbrough for the expansion side. Atlanta’s off-season has been the talk of the league so far, and it will be interesting to see if they can put it all together to be competitive in their first season.
The Optimal World Cup Format?
There has been talk of expanding the field of the world’s most prestigious international tournament, but Jonathan Wison of Sports Illustrated believes that he has found the perfect format. There are inherent issues with most of the proposed increases in the size of the field, be it shorter rest or a longer tournament with more matches. Wilson wants to focus to on two major points: making sure the top teams play stiff competition and developing soccer in more countries. His idea — to play group stages between teams from varying confederations in their home countries before moving on to one final, centralized tournament — certainly seems to solve some of the problems posed by FIFA’s ideas. This proposed method has its own flaws — mainly the greatly increased travel for every team involved — but in a perfect world it gives plenty of fans the ability to technically watch World Cup matches and turns the final 16 into an epic tournament between the best nations regardless of confederation.
Those are all the Links we have for you today. Now all we can do is crack open some beer and watch either Toronto FC or Seattle win their first Cup. Who do you think takes home the silverware?