Major League Soccer announced on Tuesday that the 2011 MLS Cup final will be held at the Home Depot Center in Los Angeles, California on November 20 with kickoff at 9 PM Eastern time. The game will be televised on ESPN. This will be the fourth time that the Home Depot Center has hosted the league's cup final, and the fifth occasion that the final has been held in Los Angeles.
A number of issues with this decision sprung up immediately: first, why is Los Angeles hosting the final for the fifth time? Sure, the city has a nice soccer-specific stadium, but so do most cities with MLS teams. The Home Depot Center also hosted the final three years ago, and in the meantime several new soccer-specific stadiums have opened. Instead, MLS should be looking to spread the league's showpiece game around to cities that are accessible for most fans (i.e. not Toronto like last year).
This decision smacks of favoritism toward the Los Angeles Galaxy, as well as sheer stupidity on the part of Major League Soccer. The game conflicts directly with Sunday Night Football's Giants-Eagles clash at the New Meadowlands Stadium, which is likely to draw away some of the casual audience as well as Red Bulls or Union fans whose teams could be in the cup final.
Galaxy season ticket holders have MLS Cup included as part of their package, meaning that the stadium should be full if LA makes it to the final again. However, as we heard this past weekend, the atmosphere even a full Home Depot Center produces is not particularly engrossing. As this season will probably be David Beckham's last in MLS, this seems like a decision designed to let him finish his mediocre career in Major League Soccer with a storybook ending: winning MLS Cup on his home turf.
Yet again, Major League Soccer has left its fans flabbergasted with an illogical decision that looks like clear favoritism toward the league office's most beloved club.