New Playoff Format Misses The Boat

New Playoff Format Misses The Boat

  • Posted by Drew Epperley
  • On February 24, 2011
  • 9 Comments
  • 2011 MLS Playoffs, 2011 MLS Season

I may be beating a dead horse already with this post but I felt discussing the new playoff format again needed to be done. Now first of all I am not advocating to get rid of the playoffs all together, I see the need for that and I truly believe its a good thing to have when done right. There are a few things that bug me about this new set up though that take away from the regular season and once again could cheapen the MLS Cup title.

First of all the whole ten clubs thing doesn’t really bother as much as it does others. I know it means for this season, Major League Soccer has a higher percentage of it’s clubs reaching the post season than other leagues in this country like the NBA, NHL, MLB and the NFL. MLS is not going to have a playoff system like the MLB that only lets in a few and let’s face it, once the league gets to 20 clubs having half of the league reach the post season won’t be terrible. I thought last year was the first year the playoffs and regular season had some decent meaning to each even though a Western club won the Eastern bracket and then won it all at the MLS Cup. Yeah, I still have to chuckle at that thought.

This new system does set up the chances for that to still happen but not nearly the way it did a year ago. MLS did a nice job realizing their mistakes with two Western Conference clubs in the Eastern Conference final. But where they missed the boat on this is how the format goes; having a single elimination wild-card round is fine, believe me it is a step up in some regards but the conference semifinals being a two-legged series still totally takes any advantage of a higher seed out the window.

Now the league could make the wild card teams play a fairly tight schedule during the playoffs, which could give the higher seeds an advantage. Playing the wild card round the Wednesday after the regular season ends and then the first leg of the semifinals that following weekend could help the higher seeds out a bit. But this is MLS we’re talking about here, will that actually happen? Time will tell.

Another thing that bothers me is the fact that the regular season get devalued again in a way. Having the top three from each conference automatically qualify is a decent step but if we took this format to last year’s standings we’d get one club that was below .500% in the playoffs as an automatic qualifier (Kansas City) and we’d also get a low seed like Chicago in the playoffs.

What I don’t like about this is the possibility of one or more clubs reaching the post season again with a sub-.500% record. Last year was the first time we finally got away from that and the playoffs were really all the better for it.

I do think one positive did come out of the news yesterday though regarding MLS Cup. Based on the wordage the league used it seems the MLS Cup will not be played at the highest seed’s location. Honestly, I love that the MLS Cup is at a set location each year. I know some supporters don’t like this and would rather see their club host it if they were the higher seed. I get that, I really do. But to me the MLS Cup will always be better at a location that is neutral. Just my two cents at least.

The league gets that the playoffs isn’t perfect and I do give them props for at least trying to make things better each year. Hopefully once the league reaches 20 clubs they can land on a final format that makes the majority happy. A good format is out there, I’m sure of it.

What were your thoughts of the new format? What changes could the league have made that would make both the regular season and the MLS Cup meaningful.

  • Zolo79

    Maybe it’s because I’m a relatively new fan of MLS and pro soccer in general, but I’m fine with this set up. It’s like rearranging a room – you temporarily move the table so you can move the couch to make space for the new bookcase, or something like that. This is a temporary fix, and fans and bloggers who love to bark at the moon (you’re one of the few who don’t) have to afford the league a little patience. I do agree with you on the two-legged conf semis, but only time will tell if MLS schedules it in a way that benefits the higher seeded team. Here’s hoping.

  • This does set up the possibility of both finalists representing the wrong conference, which in my opinion would be awesomely laughable.

  • byob

    Hey, actually this new format is really good, MLS can never have a single table, ONLY IF MLS DOES NOT GROW OVER 20 TEAMS. I believe MLS will have over 20 teams, i wish MLS gets 28 or 26 and this format can grow and be very interesting. Also, why not rename and ramake the conferences, so we can haver interleague play with an unbalanced schedule to make the season and playoffs more interesting. By remaking the the conferences, mix the teams to have epic MLS CUPS, like Timbers vs Sounders or TFC vs Montreal, no east vs west. Also, name one conferrence Lamar Hunt and other Philip F. Anschutz. The MLS can also let the supporters shield winner host the MLS CUP, either if they win or not. The MLS can be the most powerful and unique league outside Europe, so MLS need to back away from single table unless MLS keeps 20 teams only.

  • byob

    What do you think WV Hooligan, because MLS can be the most powerful and unique league outside Europe, by having interleague play, unbalanced schedule in order to have interleague, and make the playoffs super interesting and MLS CUP unique. The MLS can go for 26 teams or 28, but i think they will stop at 24, and hopefuly D2 has 15 and D3 what they want. Because in reality, the east has a buffet of cities to pick from after montreal and NYC2 join, you have Detroit, Miami, TB,Orlando, Baltimore, St.louis, NC,SC, and Memphis and the west has less like San Diego, Phoenix,Las Vegas, San Antonio, so the league will have interleague play with unbalanced schedule with new divisions.

    • Honestly, I don’t see an interleague type play ever happening in MLS. Even if the league expands to 24 (which is where I believe they’ll eventually get to).

      • Nikesocca

        Drew – any chance on a possible expansion piece w/ potential cities as it relates to the 24 – If i had to pick I would go – 20-NY, 21-San Diego, 22-Orlando, 23 Tampa Bay , 24 – San Antonio – would say Atlanta/Miami, but I am from the south and as it relates to Soccer I don’t believe MLS has a chance of success in ATL and/or Miami (most fair-weather fans in sports in both cities)- would more likely be successful in Raleigh-Durham Area…..

        • I’ll eventually do another expansion piece for beyond 20. I’ve done plenty of them before…I believe the last time I had 21-24 being fairly similar to those you listed. I may have had Charlotte listed as one of them. I’d have to double check.

  • Nikesocca

    I believe this all but cements the MLS cup being held @ either KC, Portland, or Vancouver – w/ KC in the heavy lead – any objections????

    • Gut feeling MLS Cup will be at Portland. Maybe KC or LA too.