Connolly: Filling out the MLS bracket
in the final. After you made your choice, you'd get the joy of finding out which one of your friends won the office pool on your breakfast choice.
Brackets bring people together. Just think of your NCAA tournament pool and the wide range of people involved. C'mon, there's always a friend's mom in there, usually a few girls who haven't heard a minute of Dick Vitale's endless cadence this winter, and at least two or three degenerate gamblers who can recite their Uber Results points totals from ESPN.com quicker than their girlfriend's phone number.
In high school, I ran or co-ran a huge pool every March. We're talking hundreds of entries, including those of teachers, coaches, and even, on one occasion, the principal. If that happened nowadays, I'm guessing Bryant Gumbel and his Real Sports crew would be all over it.
That also came during a time before the Internet, which meant that running a pool included too many hours spent circling winners on every sheet, updating standings by hand and wearing out a calculator.
Since March Madness happens to come at a time when we're all guessing about what will happen in Major League Soccer this season, we might as well up the excitement level and turn it into a bracket. After all, deciding between which of last year's two expansion teams will finish higher in 2006 is a lot like picking that No. 8-No. 9 game (take Bucknell over Arkansas). And picking against the talent-loaded New England Revolution in the Eastern Conference is akin to going against Duke or Connecticut in their respective regions.
Since MLS has only 12 clubs at the moment, the bracket I'm about to reveal only goes five rounds rather than six. Thirty-two clubs, feats and predictions go at it, not 64. And, don't worry, there's no play-in game.
Enjoy what I came up with as I alert my cronies that, in my household, dry wheat toast just completed the biggest upset since Buster Douglas beat Mike Tyson.
#1 New England Revolution
#16 MetroStars paraphernalia sales
#8 Freddy Adu's goals total
#9 Freddy Adu's transfer rumors on Sky Sports
#5 Columbus Crew
#12 Ante Razov scoring double-digits in goals
#4 Kansas City Wizards
#13 Tony Meola winning Goalkeeper of the Year
#6 New York Red Bulls
#11 "Perception is reality."
#3 Eddie Johnson's goals total
#14 Jason Garey's goals total
#7 Chicago Fire
#10 Damani Ralph's return to MLS
#2 D.C. United
#15 Ray Hudson replaces Simon Cowell on American Idol.
#1 Houston Dynamo
#16 San Jose Earthquakes
#8 Brian Dunseth gets traded
#9 Carey Talley gets traded
#5 FC Dallas
#12 The "Deep Dish" moniker (thank you, Greg Lalas) catches on for Pizza Hut Park
#4 Mehdi Ballouchy wins Rookie of the Year
#13 Ramon Ramirez makes MLS Best XI
#6 Carlos Ruiz wins his second Honda MVP
#11 Colorado Rapids
#3 Jeff Cunningham leads MLS in goals
#14 Clint Mathis leads MLS in goals
#7 Real Salt Lake
#10 Chivas USA
#2 Los Angeles Galaxy
#15 Ned Grabavoy appears on MTV's Cribs.
New England (they covered the spread in a rousing Round One triumph)
Freddy Adu's goals total (barely made it through)
Ante Razov scoring double-digits in goals (you have to pick at least one 12-seed)
Kansas City Wizards (a blowout)
New York Red Bulls (too much "energy" to be denied)
Eddie Johnson's goals total (it was closer than anyone ever thought)
Chicago Fire (painless win)
D.C. United (Hudson didn't want to wear medium-sized black T-shirts)
Houston Dynamo (good thing they played this match at home)
Brian Dunseth gets traded (his stock rose in L.A.; other teams noticed)
The "Deep Dish" moniker catches on for Pizza Hut Park (Yes!)
Mehdi Ballouchy wins Rookie of the Year (no contest)
Carlos Ruiz wins his second Honda MVP (not being in Germany made it much easier)
Jeff Cunningham leads MLS in goals (Mathis made a push at the end)
Chivas USA (everyone loves a 'dog)
Los Angeles Galaxy (Landon gave Ned his signed ball and called it a day)
New England (looking stronger than in '05)
Kansas City Wizards (Wolff-Johnson is like Manchester United's old Yorke-Cole partnership)
New York Red Bulls (only because Johnson was at the World Cup)
D.C. United (Eskandarian returns to form)
Houston Dynamo (Oranje!)
The "Deep Dish" moniker catches on for Pizza Hut Park (a true Cinderella run)
Carlos Ruiz wins his second Honda MVP (Cunningham finished third)
Los Angeles Galaxy (another Clasico triumph)
New England (Twellman's post-WC scoring spree is one for the ages)
D.C. United (two out of three for United?)
Houston Dynamo (Ricardo Clark really coming into his own)
Los Angeles Galaxy (coming alive in the playoffs for the second year in a row)
New England (is it destiny?)
Los Angeles Galaxy (déjà vu?)
Los Angeles Galaxy (for Doug)
Marc Connolly is the managing editor of ussoccerplayers.com and regularly writes to MLSnet.com. Marc can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Soccer or its clubs