Should we judge the Eastern and Western Conferences As Independent Leagues within MLS? / by Drew Olsen

So, I kind of alluded to this on Podcast XXXIV last week, but I wanted to start a conversation this week in regards to the very question that's been ringing in my ears. With the alignment changes in regards to the CONCACAF Champions League bids, it puts a new emphasis on winning your conference in 2014 rather than the Supporters Shield---which in times past has conflicted MLS between being conference-based system or as being a single-table entity. Now, with all these changes occurring, is there a reason to look at these two entities within Major League Soccer as being the same? It's obvious that there was a split or a line drawn between three different echelons (good, meh and poor) within the Eastern Conference where in the West it was much tighter and distinct between who was good and who was... well, bad.

When we enter 2014 and start looking at predictions, obviously you have to look at the picture as a whole and take into consideration and account for the inclusion of as many possible influences and pieces that could affect an outcome. That said, is it fair to compare the New York Red Bulls to the LA Galaxy anymore, or even compare Toronto FC to Chivas USA? These teams will have fewer and fewer overlapping influences, meaning that their results and outcomes are more conference-centric, right?

It's an interesting thought.