The Age Old Debate About The Playoff Format

The Age Old Debate About The Playoff Format

  • Posted by Drew Epperley
  • On October 3, 2007
  • 8 Comments

Sometimes repeating the obvious helps. Even though I feel this has been the best season to date for the MLS since it’s first season, I still fear for the playoffs to be a complete mess-up due to the fact that the league still hasn’t managed to get a proper system in place for the playoffs.

Sure the league can argue that more games this season have added interest and meaning due to the change in format that was introduced at the beginning of the season. Its cute, interesting but it still remains mostly the same. It just helps a conference more than the other if one or more teams are doing better than in the other conference. Its a step up from the previous formats, but not a full leap into what needs to be done.

But the fact still remains, in a league that currently has 13 clubs (soon to be 14 and then 16), eight of them get into the playoffs. That’s nearly two-thirds of the league reaching a post-season. Look at other leagues in the US, some have half of their teams reaching the playoffs (NBA, NHL), and the other two has around a forth with great success (NFL, MLB).

I’ve said it before, and I will say it again here: less is more. I feel until the MLS lowers the number of clubs reaching the playoffs or switches to a single table format for good that they will continue to be looked like fools to people in the US and other leagues around the world.

We have playoffs to determine the best team right? Over the last three years the MLS has seen three of its worst champions. Look no further than to 2005’s champion the LA Galaxy who limped into the playoffs as the eighth and final team (or the forth seed in the west). LA was able to knock off one of the best clubs in league history (San Jose) and were able to play another club that upset a higher seed (Colorado over Dallas).

As much as I keep trying to care over who gets in the final playoff spots I can’t help but to worry that one of them (meaning whoever gets in those last two spots) will get on some sort of hot streak in the playoffs and upset a better club and win the league title. Quite frankly I would be a bit embarrassed for the MLS if a club reaches the playoffs with a losing record and wins the MLS Cup. It sadly could happen (all seeds 5-8 could end up with sub-.500 records).

The league will only hope for DC or a Houston to win this season instead of a New York, Chicago, or LA. Of course the league will point out that the new format works if a DC or Houston wins this season thus meaning no needed change. But if they don’t win it will only prove what is already been shown, the MLS playoff format gives way to a mediocre champion.

I said before the season this year that the league needs to switch to a playoff format with only four clubs. Thus meaning that the regular season actually has real meaning. I know they would argue that lowering the number of playoff contending teams would hurt the revenue and other things but it would at least give the best clubs the championships year after year. Hell, I’d even settle for six clubs reaching.
However, with the league growing, the number that reaches the playoffs will not change, but let’s hope it doesn’t increase. I am just wanting the league to produce their best champion each year like most leagues and not their average.

  • Anonymous

    <i>We have playoffs to determine the best team right?</i><br />
    <br />
    No, no, we have playoffs to enhance money making opportunities, to create end-of-year excitement, and crown a champion. (And, ancillilarily, create fun debates on futbol blogs.) The <i>Supporters' Shield</i> determines the best team.<br />
    <br />
    <br />
    <i>I feel until the MLS lowers the number of clubs reaching the playoffs or switches to a single table format for good that they will continue to be looked like fools to people in the US and other leagues around the world.</i><br />
    <br />
    Umm, sure, I guess. But I kinda think that if the teams in the league can start to hold their own internationally that will go a lot farther to dispelling the disdain some idiots chose to spend their time heaping upon MLS. <br />
    <br />
    Having said both those things, I say (1) with the expansion of the league I no longer have a problem with 8 teams making the play-offs, though I have often laughed about the fact that 8 out of 10 teams were making post-season plans.<br />
    <br />
    (2)Playoffs are an acknowledgment that MLS plays in the United States where playoffs happen in almost all sports at all levels. And its not like other leagues don't have play-offs. The Dutch league uses playoffs to figure out its Champions League teams and the Colaship uses playoffs to determine the 3rd team for promotion. Not having playoffs isn't necessarily &quot;pure&quot; (and what the hell is &quot;pure&quot; anyway? The original offsides rule required 3 defensive players between the offensive player and the defensive goal. Is &quot;modern&quot; futbol non-pure because they changed that rule?), it just gives Eurosnobs something to gripe about.<br />
    <br />
    (3)I predict that there will never be a &quot;pure&quot; single table because of the geographic constraints of playing in a country with 4 timezones spanning 3,000 miles. We need divisions or conferences or something to deal with the crazy travel times and distances and help spark up regional derbys.

  • henryo
  • nathanhj

    We have playoffs to determine the best team right?

    No, no, we have playoffs to enhance money making opportunities, to create end-of-year excitement, and crown a champion. (And, ancillilarily, create fun debates on futbol blogs.) The Supporters’ Shield determines the best team.

    I feel until the MLS lowers the number of clubs reaching the playoffs or switches to a single table format for good that they will continue to be looked like fools to people in the US and other leagues around the world.

    Umm, sure, I guess. But I kinda think that if the teams in the league can start to hold their own internationally that will go a lot farther to dispelling the disdain some idiots chose to spend their time heaping upon MLS.

    Having said both those things, I say (1) with the expansion of the league I no longer have a problem with 8 teams making the play-offs, though I have often laughed about the fact that 8 out of 10 teams were making post-season plans.

    (2)Playoffs are an acknowledgment that MLS plays in the United States where playoffs happen in almost all sports at all levels. And its not like other leagues don’t have play-offs. The Dutch league uses playoffs to figure out its Champions League teams and the Colaship uses playoffs to determine the 3rd team for promotion. Not having playoffs isn’t necessarily “pure” (and what the hell is “pure” anyway? The original offsides rule required 3 defensive players between the offensive player and the defensive goal. Is “modern” futbol non-pure because they changed that rule?), it just gives Eurosnobs something to gripe about.

    (3)I predict that there will never be a “pure” single table because of the geographic constraints of playing in a country with 4 timezones spanning 3,000 miles. We need divisions or conferences or something to deal with the crazy travel times and distances and help spark up regional derbys.

  • Jeff Bull

    I just want to flag one thing on the post I wrote on this whole playoff thing.

  • Jeff Bull

    Whoops. Botched comment post. I just want to note that the post I wrote makes <a href="http://centerholdsit.wordpress.com/2007/10/05/mls-playoffs-lucky-8-and-merit-v-excitement/&quot; target="_blank">a little twist</a> on the playoffs-format-sucks argument.

  • I just want to flag one thing on the post I wrote on this whole playoff thing.

  • Whoops. Botched comment post. I just want to note that the post I wrote makes a little twist on the playoffs-format-sucks argument.