The New York Cosmos will get their season underway in just six days time, when they host the Atlanta Silverbacks on Sunday afternoon. While their 2014 season will wind up being about twice as long as the 2013 campaign, it's probably even more important for the club to get off to a fast start this season than it was last fall.
In 2013, the Cosmos had only 14 games in which to earn a spot in the Soccer Bowl, and just two wins from their opening six fixtures left them needing to finish the season with a bang in order to top the table. Fortunately, the club managed to take 22 of a possible 24 points from the final eight fixtures, which proved to be enough to clinch a Soccer Bowl appearance.
In 2014, the Cosmos will have quite a bit more room for error. The Championship format ensures that the league's top four sides will reach the semifinals, with the spring and fall champions hosting the two non-champion clubs with the highest combined point total.
That format means that the team with the highest point total after just nine games will be in a very comfortable position. That club will already be one home victory away from the championship game, with nothing but seeding and the right to host that game to be determined by the 18-game fall season. That gives the spring champion the opportunity to try some different things, and to rotate their squad heavily in order to avoid fatigue and injury. It would also allow the club to focus heavily on the U.S. Open Cup, a competition often ignored by MLS sides due to an already crowded fixture list.
The spring schedule set up nicely for the Cosmos, with five contests at home compared to just four on the road. What's more, they host all of Atlanta, Minnesota, and San Antonio, who on paper, should be three of the top teams in the league. If they can manage to start 2014 in the same form they finished 2013 with, managing a U.S. Open Cup run on top of the fall season will be a far less daunting task.