Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Let's fix the MLS playoff system

It is that time of year again when thoughts of the American soccer fan turn to the poor idea that is the MLS playoff system. Although the system is better then it was a few years back when 80% of teams made it to the post-season, it still leaves a lot to be desired.

Currently we have a mixed system. Each of the two conferences gets four seeds. In the first round the number one seed plays number four while the number two plays number three in a home-home series. The winners of these series then play each other in the second round, however this is a single elimination game hosted by the higher seeded team. The winner then moves on to the MLS Cup final played at a predetermined stadium that may or may not be the home of one of the teams involved.

As many people have pointed out, in the first round, the top seed really doesn't get any advantage. The advantage does not kick in till they get to the second round where they get to play on their home pitch.

So what to do? There has been talk of dropping the number of teams to 2 or 4, but that brings up another issue. MLS wants to have four weeks of playoff games. This allows them more television time and a hope of squeezing a few more ticket sales out of fans. In a two-team playoff, it would only last a week (unless they went home-home, which they won't since ABC will only carry one match). In the four-team scenario, you can get 3 weeks with a home-home, but then where is the advantage for the top seed?

What about having a six-team playoff? It really is a simple idea and I know I'm not the first to suggest it. Have the top team in each conference earn a bye in the first round, while the second and third teams play a home-home event. In the second round, the top seed gets to host a single elimination game with the winner advancing to the MLS Cup.

In addition, red and yellow cards should start a new in the playoffs. What I mean is if a player gets a yellow in the last match of the regular season, it should not carry over to the playoffs.

This would give the top seed lots of advantages. They would get two weeks off while the first round takes place, they would not have to worry about suspended players for the second round and they get to play on their own pitch.

This scenario keeps the same number of weeks for the playoffs, while decreasing the number of teams involved. With fewer teams gaining entry, the regular season games will start to mean more. Perhaps it will mean that one day if a team got only 2 points from 10 matches (about a third of the season) they would no longer be in the running for a playoff spot with just five games left.

If this idea were put into place for the 2007 season, it would mean, for the first time, that less then 50% of MLS clubs would make the playoffs. It just seems to me that getting under the 50% mark is the least we can do at this point in MLS's history.



Blogger Brian said...

I love this idea. I think I wrote on this at some time as well.

10:25 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Why not hybridize what the NBA and NCAA bball do? Random pitches, four regions instead of two and two conferences. The top seed in every region makes it and then the best of the east and west make it to fill up 4 spots per conference. The NBA has been highly unsuccessful in what they've been campaigning, and MLS can learn from them. Plus, in the random Pitch idea soccer spreads across the country. Right now MLS is seen as a lesser league, why not play in areas where sales will be guaranteed to be strong, better buy rates for the owners and overall a better game to watch. The richer the owners get, the more teams, the more teams, the bigger the league and the better we get.

12:58 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

why have a playoff system at all. it is silly and it is not fair. So what the american system says is that a team that has won and played well all year, now can lose it all based on a few games. The playoff system is flawed, we need one table and whomever can win the most games wins the campaign. If people really want to see a playoff then have a system where there is a 1st part of the year and then a second part like in south america (clausura etc) this will then setup 2 champions that have won all their respective campaigns to play each other.

8:44 PM  
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