This week Los Angeles FC clinched the Major League Soccer Supporters’ Shield, given to the team with the best regular-season record in the league. The North Carolina Courage did the same thing, clinching the team’s third consecutive National Women’s Soccer League Shield. But it’s the playoff champion that gets remembered, not the shield winner. While the leagues have good reasons to tout their playoff winners, they have it backward: The regular-season winner deserves more plaudits.
With both leagues striving mightily for TV viewers and media attention, it’s natural that they’d want an end-of-season showcase tournament to highlight. Everyone understands the stakes in a playoff game, even if they’re not die-hard followers of either league. MLS was so keen on playoffs at the league’s founding that fans, not the league itself, had to crowdsource the shield award, creating, funding and awarding a trophy nearly four years after the league kicked off.
With MLS transitioning this fall to single-elimination playoffs, which the NWSL has always used, the playoffs are more of a crapshoot. Which is more impressive, the team that proved itself over 24 (NWSL) or 34 (MLS) games or the team that won a knockout tournament, with all of the random chance that it promotes? It’s LAFC, which plays Sunday at Allianz Field against Minnesota United, and the Courage that deserve the real kudos this season.
• The U.S. World Cup victory led to plenty of hardware at the FIFA Best awards this week. Striker Megan Rapinoe won the Player of the Year award and coach Jill Ellis won women’s coach of the year, joined by men’s winners Lionel Messi and Jurgen Klopp. Rapinoe and four teammates were named to the Women’s Best XI: Alex Morgan, Rose Lavelle, Julie Ertz and Kelley O’Hara.
• Mexico appears to be finally cracking down on homophobic chanting at goal kicks that regularly happens both at Mexican league games and games involving the Mexican national team. Starting this week, fans will be warned of consequences over the public address if the chant happens. Beginning in late October, referees can suspend games if they hear the chants. Fans can be evicted if they participate, and teams can be fined. It’s a welcome step forward.
NWSL: Portland at Reign FC, 1 p.m. Sunday, ESPN2. Portland is in the playoffs yet again. The Reign, nee Seattle and playing home games in Tacoma, has the inside track on the final NWSL playoff spot. In a league short on rivalries, this Cascadia matchup is as good as it gets.
Writer Jon Marthaler gives you a recap of recent events and previews the week ahead. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org