So we heard from Don Garber how the addition of the wildcard round would be better, and just last week he said how happy he was with the format and that so much was still up in the air with 2 weeks to go. Well we are in the final week and there is just one spot to be determined, and there are four teams fighting for it.
Now remember all the grief that was given when RSL on the final weekend of the 2009 season was able to get in despite a losing 11-12-17 record. Well one of the teams fighting for the final spot this year has 14 losses, one has 4 straight losses, and the other two have set a MLS record for most draws (16) in a season. Yup those are the teams fighting for the final of the "wildcard spots", and what is really sad is that either FC Dallas or Real Salt Lake will have to join the "wildcard" race with 15 wins, no team in the Eastern can equal that total no matter what happens this week.
So has the expanded playoffs made things better? Or have they simply made it easier for a team from the East to make to MLS Cup?
So if the same system was being used this year as was used in 2010 what would the playoff picture look like? It was the top two from each conference and then the next best 4 teams and the answer is after the jump:
West # 1 Los Angeles Galaxy - 67 points
West # 2 Seattle Sounders - 60 points
East #1 Sporting KC - 48 points
East #2 Philadelphia Union - 48 points
#1Real Salt Lake - 52 points
#2 FC Dallas - 52 points
#3 Columbus Crew - 47 points
#4 Colorado Rapids - 46 points
Now while the final spot is still up for grabs, imagine this scenario where each of the top two spots in the East are still up for grabs as well as the final two at large spots. Yes the old system would have given us more unknowns with a week to go than we have with the new system as two other teams would still be fighting for that final spot as well.
Now maybe I am a bit of a snob, maybe by opening up the field to more teams with worse records there is more of a chance that one of these teams could make a run like 2009 RSL did and I am keeping them from that opportunity. Maybe I just think that having a play in match for a team with more points than every single team (including the 3 that have guaranteed spots) in the East is wrong. It is funny that the league in one breath says they want to make the regular season matches mean more, but in the next they are set to reward the 9-8-16 New York Red Bulls who have excelled at nothing but being mediocre all year. Oh well they could reward DC United, Portland, or Chicago as well but in a league that is fighting for fans, fighting to be taken serious by casual sports fans in the US, is that really the message you want to send?
I would rather we take the approach of Major League Baseball where only 8 of 30 teams make the post season, than the NBA where 16 of 30 teams make it. I get that for MLS teams the two extra matches will mean a payday of over half a million dollars in ticket sales but for me the price to the league of having the "wildcard" could come at the cost of having to once again explain why a team with a losing record is your Champion. The old system would have prevented that this year and as there are more teams in the league.
Oh and by the way if you had the top 8 teams make the playoffs from a single table, right now it would be exactly those 8 teams in using the old playoff system.
Whatever happens over the next 6 days and whoever claims that #10 spot, the one thing we know for sure is that one team with at least 15 wins this year will be forced to "play" their way into the playoffs while 3 teams with fewer wins will make it in to the playoffs proper and that simply isn't right or fair.