Well we looked at the change to MLS Cup in Part 1 of this series and now we move to the playoffs, which will have a couple of changes, two that I really like and 1 that well seems a bit of a stretch. Here are the changes that MLS announced:
- 10 clubs will qualify for the MLS Cup Playoffs – the top five in points from each conference at the end of the regular season.
- The 4th- and 5th- place teams will play a single knockout game, the winner of which will advance to the Conference Semifinals and face the 1st-place team in the conference.
- The Conference Semifinals will be decided by a two-game, aggregate-goal format (same as 2011).
- The Conference Championships will be decided by a two-game, aggregate-goal format (change from recent years).
So let's start with the changes that I like, first up there is no more moving of teams between conferences. Now it might seem strange that I would like this change but with all the other changes being made this one seems rather logical. If you are going to have conferences, why would you move teams to other conferences in the playoffs? Of course I don't consider it perfect because I would rather just see the best teams make the playoffs and not worry about conferences at all, but "this is North America and we have to do things differently here, besides all the other sports have conferences".
Oh how I love when MLS uses this answer anytime they have a change that flies in face of what most consider to be the norm of the soccer world. Conversely, have you ever noticed that in addition to that "explanation" that MLS has one other they use when they defend not changing something "well we want to protect the integrity of the sport". I will leave it at that, as this is a topic for another day.
After the jump, a further look at the playoff changes:
So I do think the decision to stay with 10 teams "making" the playoffs is silly, I think having over 50% of the league in the playoffs is too much. I would be perfectly fine if we just let the top 4 teams in each conference play in the playoffs and get rid of this wildcard thing as quickly as possible. Now a big part of the reason why I don't like the whole wildcard thing is perhaps the biggest change to the playoff system (and one I like a lot), now the Conference Final will be a two game series just like the Conference Semifinal.
It is the addition of one more match to the playoffs that makes me believe that adding the extra match to the Conference final, while keeping the wildcard match would be counter to what MLS stated about not going to a longer season to keep a balanced schedule, that being they want players to be able to perform at their highest level at the end of the season. With the crunched timeline of the playoffs, caused by FIFA dates the week before MLS Cup for at least the next 3 years, doesn't having a wildcard match seem excessive?
The addition of a second leg to the Conference Final means that the team that hosts MLS Cup will have been able to play 3 playoff matches in front of their home fans. That is something that I thin all of us can support.
Overall the changes to the playoffs, including the change to MLS Cup are ones that I can support and overall I think they will make the MLS post season a more enjoyable one for the fans.
OFF MY SOAPBOX