By Tony Edwards – San Jose, CA (May 10, 2012) US Soccer Players — Five Questions time, and we join those congratulating Sacha Kljestan on a job well done in Belgium, consider the playoff systems in use in Europe, and look at a stat that flatters Toronto FC.
How did Sacha Kljestan react to being asked to become a holding midfielder during RSC Anderlecht's run to the title in Belgium?
By becoming a champion. Anderlecht clinched the Belgian title this past weekend. Speaking to The Sporting News, Kljestan has said more than once that fighting for playing time on a team expected to win is a challenge he welcomes. Kljestan's Anderlecht will feature in next season's Champions League third qualifying round, good news for a National Teamer in a league that doesn't get a lot of publicity stateside.
According to an interview in Forbes with MLS Chief Marketing Officer, Howard Handler, what is 鈥渉is biggest challenge鈥?as it relates to MLS?
鈥淭o make sure that the casual fans know what a quality entertainment soccer is, and become part of the experience,鈥?Handler said. This isn't a new point, and much like the article's title it dates back to the original North American Soccer League era. And for good reason. Getting people to a live game is a hurdle for most MLS clubs. Getting them to come back is the next step.
How many points does it take to avoid relegation in Italy, England, and Germany?
This season, if a team averaged a little more than a point a game, they were safe. This year, 40 points (in 38 games) means safety in Italy (Michael Bradley's Chievo Verona are not only safe, but could finish in the top 10), 39 points (38 games) in England means you're in the EPL next season (it is possible that Tim Ream/Stuart Holden's Bolton Wanderers could go down with 38 points), and 32 in Germany in 34 games (Hertha, Koln, and Kaiserslautern are relegated with 31, 30, and 23 points).
Speaking of Bundesliga relegation, what's with the playoff system?
Ask most Europeans, and they would point to playoffs as an American thing that has no place in their leagues. Fair enough, but there are several examples of playoffs to determine who moves up and down in the European leagues. Most of us are familiar with the English system where the top two lower division clubs are promoted with the 3rd through 6th spots entering a playoff. In Germany, there's a twist on that system. Just like in England, the top two clubs are promoted, but the playoff only involves the 3rd-place 2.Bundesliga team and the 16th-place Bundesliga team. That means Hertha Berlin (Bundesliga) play Fortuna Dusseldorf (2.Bundesliga) home and away to determine who gets the final Bundesliga slot.
That's straightforward compared to the Italian system. There's a playoff to decide who gets the third promotion slot in Serie B, but only if the 3rd-place team finishes less than ten points ahead of the 4th-place team. There's also a playoff in Serie B's relegation zone if teams are close on points. We haven't even talked about the playoff system in Belgium that Anderlecht just successfully navigated. Enough examples that North American sports aren't the world leaders in convoluted playoff setups.
What are some reasons to be optimistic in Toronto?
They're second in corner kicks, with 51, after only 8 games played, (Kansas City leads the League with 63 in 9 games). Danny Koevermans (in half as many minutes played as most above him) is just outside the Castrol Index Full-Season Top 10 (he's 11th on the list through April 30). Their schedule for May and June includes a week off, then DC United, Philadelphia, a long break until June 16, then Kansas City, Houston, New England, Montreal, and the Red Bulls.
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