EDITORIAL – The Colorado Rapids haven’t played a game since Sep. 23. They have had four games in a row postponed due to positive COVID-19 tests within the organization. Two of those games have been rescheduled. The team now has two games a week for the rest of the regular season with no availability for the other two postponed matches before Decision Day on Nov. 8. Could MLS make the Colorado Rapids forfeit those games? Or is there another option?
Could MLS Make Colorado Rapids Forfeit Postponed Games? No, There are Other Options.
Let’s start with what the MLS Cup Playoffs look like this year. We already know each round will be single-game elimination with the higher seeded team hosting each match. MLS Cup is scheduled for Dec. 12.
There are five weeks between Decision Day and MLS Cup. Ten teams in the Eastern Conference will make the playoffs, with the bottom four teams facing off (7th vs. 10th, 8th vs. 9th) to make an eight team bracket. So there are five matchdays/rounds of the playoffs.
Finishing up After Decision Day and Prior to the Start of the Playoffs:
Given the fixture congestion during the regular season, MLS would be prudent to avoid making teams play two games a week. That means the Eastern Conference qualifier games could be played the weekend of Nov. 14 and then each round of the playoffs would be over the weekend through MLS Cup.
Of course MLS would largely have to ignore the the Nov. 11-19 international window. The league might want to adjust their travel policy so the road team for MLS Cup isn’t traveling the day of the final as well.
The Rapids could play a double game week that first week (Nov. 9-14) since the Western Conference Playoffs wouldn’t start until the weekend of Nov. 21 in this scenario. This does disrupt the competitive integrity of Decision Day, but this is 2020 and there are no good answers at this point. Only less bad ones.
In theory, they could have another game postponed and play Wednesday Nov. 11, Saturday Nov. 14, and Wednesday Nov. 18. It’d be hell if they then have to play a fourth game in two weeks should they make it to the playoffs, but it’s possible, calendar wise.
Forfeiting Games on Class Action Grounds:
MLS could make the Colorado Rapids forfeit their postponed games that have not been rescheduled against LAFC and LA Galaxy. The Southern California teams would have an argument that they are being affected by this situation at no fault to their own. They’ve gotten their act together COVID wise and if they make the playoffs, will have to play on short rest due to playing Colorado after Decision Day.
That said, Sporting KC and Portland Timbers have also been affected with their games against Colorado being postponed and rescheduled. Is it fair to make Portland and Kansas City play and not the LA teams? They were affected at no fault to their own. But because they were scheduled to play Colorado earlier, such that there was room to fit those games into the back end of the schedule.
All four of these teams would love to have MLS cancel their game and give them three points and a +3 to their goal differential.
Having Colorado reschedule some games and forfeit others is arbitrary on some level. Rescheduling the games is disruptive to the competitive integrity of the season, but rescheduling some and cancelling others is worse. Especially when it’s not publicly known whether Colorado violated protocol or has just been unlucky with the virus getting inhouse.
Last Word: The Simplest Solution is Going With PPG
There’s a third option: Forget deciding the table by total points and just go with points per game. The tie breakers could be prorated per game as well: Win % instead of number of wins, goal differential per game, and goals for per game.
The schedule imbalance is already ridiculous and this would mess it up more. Colorado would go an entire season without playing LAFC, a team they’re competing with for the playoffs. They’ll play the Galaxy just once but Real Salt Lake four times. All while Houston Dynamo and FC Dallas play Eastern Conference teams and Vancouver Whitecaps played the other Canadian teams six times during Phase One.
This would simplify the calendar migraine for Don Garber. Nobody plays on short rest for the first round of the playoffs. Every team would have to focus in on the games they have scheduled. For the teams that play fewer than 23 games, that would just make each match all the more important.
All these six pointer conference games would feel even more like playoff games. And for that reason, maybe this is the least bad option. Or maybe Garber should just make the Rapids forfeit the games to help the LA teams make the playoffs so the league can have another playoff El Tráfico.