Morning Jac: MCLA Scores with Its New Tourney Schedule
Those who follow the MCLA must wait another seven months to determine whether the MCLA made a positive logistical decision in moving its national tournament from Denver to Greenville, S.C., but we already know that the association will be delivering a better on-field product when it lands in the Palmetto State.
During its summer meetings, the MCLA tweaked its tournament schedule from past years, eschewing the grueling four-games-in-five-days structure in favor of an extra off day squeezed in between the semifinals and finals. This year's slate will look like this:
Monday, May 14 – First Round
Tuesday, May 15 – Second Round
Wednesday, May 16 – OFF DAY
Thursday, May 17 – Semifinals
Friday, May 18 – OFF DAY
Saturday, May 19 – Finals
The primary benefit is obvious, and will be reflected in a higher quality of play during the championship game (which I assume will once again be broadcast live to a national cable audience). Instead of the marquee game of the entire MCLA season featuring a pair of teams running on fumes and just a couple of hours of preparation time, it will now boast the best teams operating at a premium level. This reason alone makes this change a smart choice.
There is another compelling reason to make this move.
Since 2008, when I first started attending the national championships, I feel comfortable saying the best team has won the championship every year. Sure, Michigan had a pair of one-goal wins over Chapman ('09) and Arizona State ('10), but the Wolverines would have won those even with a day off between the final two rounds (although I can guarantee you that Mike Wood and Chris Malone would disagree). With that said, one thing has been a constant among the winners: the deepest team always wins the title.
In order to navigate the previous schedule gauntlet and reach the finals, it required a capable third midfield line and adequate subs at all positions on the field. It also didn't hurt to have a monkey trick that was impossible to prepare for on short notice (see: 10-man ride, Michigan's). With the new paradigm, thinner teams (the '10 Simon Fraser squad comes to mind) will remain viable if they can squeeze past the quarterfinals – no small feat these days – and coaches will have the chance to flex their X's and O's acumen during the off day.
In short, the tourney is now structured to benefit the best teams, not necessarily the deepest ones.
An ulterior benefit is the MCLA now has more breathing room if, God forbid, Mother Nature decides to get testy. Whether it was Dallas in '08 (thunderstorms), Denver '09 (rain), Denver '10 (snow, freezing rain) or Denver '11 (tornadoes), the tourney has a history of running into rescheduling issues. To the credit of tournament director Dan Morris and the association's senior staff, the tournament always hit its mark. With the extra off day built in, inclement weather becomes nearly a non-issue.
With decisions like this scheduling one, I like to counterbalance the positives with the negatives, but the downside is tough to find in this case. Teams will have to fly in a day or two earlier and incur the cost of an extra night at a hotel, but that's a small price to pay for showcasing themselves in a better manner.
I typically keep a jaundiced eye when the MCLA alters its structure, whether it be with the tournament or otherwise, but in this case, the association has made a sage decision that will benefit both its on-field product and its reputation.