The Colorado Rapids, a member of the Western Conference based 600 miles due west of the westernmost Eastern Conference club, will host the San Jose Earthquakes, another Western Conference club based east of nothing but the the world's largest body of water, in a game that will be officially titled the Major League Soccer Eastern Conference Final.

It seems the MLS playoffs contradict themselves.

This has more than a few people taking potshots at the League as a result. By setting the table so that if the two participants with "East" on their place cards failed (which they did) the Eastern Conference Final would be a battle between two Western teams, MLS begged for criticism. This is a clear case of labels gone horribly, horribly wrong.

But that's all it is. Because the league allowed for four wildcard teams, the MLS playoffs included the eight best clubs in 2010; Western Conference dominance meant a serious imbalance due to the qualifying structure. Rather than include the East's third and fourth best teams regardless of where they finished in the overall points table, the League allowed for the very possibility that arose this season.  For that, some credit is due.

The important part was done somewhat right (although there was a bit of luck involved), at least in the context of arguing the geographical labels.  Where the League warrants some heat is in clinging to the conference labels at all; the balanced schedule this season make it irrelevant during the regular season.  Dividing the teams only made sense if they'll matter more again in the future. 

In other words, the alternative would have been worse.  Had MLS ensured that at least one eastern team made the Eastern Conference Final despite the way the table shook out, we'd have a real reason to gripe.  That two Western Conference teams are in the Eastern Conference Final is amusing and annoying, but nothing more. 

But if you root for failure, if you like to see MLS made to look foolish, then Colorado-San Jose for the East title surely brings a smile.  It doesn't make much sense, and it's a maddening thing to have to explain to a novice, but at least the two most deserving teams are playing in what is better called the MLS Cup Semifinals.

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