The basis for this opinion piece is a survey from the Soccer United Council. For those who don't know, SUC is a website run by MLS to basically survey MLS fans in an attempt to better the league. Today I received a survey about the current format of the league and playoff format. My responses were basically that I was unhappy, but since I couldn't spell out my opinion there, I figured why not here. Now, I know this isn't strictly focused on the NY Red Bulls, but I figure that shouldn't matter in this case.
Ideally, I would like to not see playoffs, but I know why they exist. I would like to see MLS move to a single table with a balanced schedule (Example: English Premier League). However, since that will not happen any time soon (or probably at all), I will settle for a better playoff system. The current system; to remind everyone:
- Top 5 teams in each conference qualify for playoffs (total 10 out of 19 teams, more than 50%).
- #4 plays #5 in one game "Wildcard" round.
- #1 vs 4/5, #2 vs #3 in a home-and-home. Total goals win, no away goal as a tiebreaker.
- Winners meet in home-and-home conference finals.
- Conference winners meet in one game, with the higher seed (based on regular season point total) hosting.
- No real advantage for higher seeds since MLS does not use the away goal rule for 2-leg series. Advantage only kicks in if there is a draw on aggregate goals.
- Schedule before MLS Cup is so compact that teams are more affected by injuries.
- Wildcard team can see a one and done situation. This is worse for the #4 seed as they can have a much better season than #5 and lose out in 90 minutes.
- Top 4 teams in each conference qualify. This would mean less than half of the teams in MLS make the postseason.
- Teams play a group stage ala World Cup, Gold Cup, etc. However, #1 gets all 3 games at home, #2 gets 2 at home, #3 gets 1, and #4 is on the road for all 3 games (see table below). All games are played in conference (none of that pre-2012 Red Bulls Western Conference Champs stuff). Final round of the group stage to be played at the same time to avoid any collusion between teams.
|Seed||Home Games||Away Games|
- #1 in group stage hosts #2 in 1 game for conference final.
- Conference winners face each other with highest regular season points used for hosting privileges.
- One game per week throughout playoffs to help with injuries and travel time, this means no extra week before MLS Cup like there is now.
- It would actually reward a team for placing higher in the regular season by providing more home games.
- 3 guaranteed games, so no possibility of one and done .
- All teams would have to play the same number of games in order to win the MLS Cup.
- Group stage could provide more excitement than current format.
- No extra break before MLS Cup will help fans keep interested.
- Format changes with adding only 1 game for seeds 1-3.
- Format doesn't add any extra weeks to the MLS calendar since the extra week break is removed.
- One game per week allows teams to better manage injuries, providing the best possible lineups.