The Champions League and lesser Europa League in European soccer are two of the most exciting annual tournaments in professional sports. Champions and runners-up from Europe’s top leagues compete in these tournaments that span most of the year with the winner of the Champions League being able to officially stake their claim as the best soccer team on the planet unlike the ‘World Series’ where it’s 29 American teams and 1 Canadian team competing every year.
There are reports that Major League Baseball (MLB) engaged in talks with the Minor Leagues (MiLB) in an effort to overhaul the structure of the minors as well as create ‘The Baseball Cup’ which would pit all 30 MLB teams against 120 MiLB teams in a single-elimination tournament similar to the Champions League in Europe.
J.J. Cooper of Baseball America was first to this scoop and it sounds like this could be the attention-grabber that baseball desperately needs as a sport to bring back fans who might’ve lost interest over the past few years.
MLB proposed the idea of having a single-elimination tournament—known as the Baseball Cup—in which the 30 MLB teams and all 120 MiLB teams would compete for a title held during MLB’s regular season.
Theoretically, the New York Yankees could head to Eastlake, Ohio to take on the Class A Lake County Captains. Imagine Asa Lacy trying to lead a Royals farm team to a win against the Los Angeles Dodgers.
The idea is modeled largely after European soccer competitions, in which lower-level clubs can compete with top-level clubs in yearly tournaments. For instance, England’s FA Cup allows soccer teams from 10 levels of English soccer to compete for a title. The FA Cup runs concurrently with the Premier League season. (via Baseball America)
Logistically, this could be a nightmare for planning out seasons. How do you matchup off days for pro teams that play 162 games a season and suddenly need to fit in more games against MiLB teams? There would definitely need to be a series of qualification rounds to ease the pressure on the pro’s schedules as addressed above.
Other obstacles in pulling this off include:
Such a tournament would require approval of the MLB Players Association as well as MLB teams. Scheduling for an in-season tournament, even a single-elimination one, would require finding ways to squeeze additional dates into an already-packed season. Even if MLB teams received byes through the first two rounds of the tournament, five dates during the MLB schedule would need to be left open to resolve a champion.
And that doesn’t address the injury issues. MLB teams are often reluctant to allow their players to play in the World Baseball Classic. What happens the first time a Class A pitcher hits an MLB star with a 100 mph fastball that got away? (via Baseball America)
Making sure this actually happens is such a no-brainer to me. Fans would go nuts for this. The experience would be invaluable for MiLB teams and it would be a really cool way to boost revenue for all parties by bringing pros to MiLB stadiums and selling extra tickets, merchandise, and opening new TV revenue outlets. This needs to happen.
Of all the major pro sports in America, baseball has the best-organized minor leagues and a massive 150-team tournament could be a really cool way to bridge the season if they were willing to bring this tournament to neutral locations in Arizona and Florida where they could theoretically play the late-stage games year-round.
For the full report, you can head on over to Baseball America.