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Dear Major League Soccer, your playoffs are still broken.

Well first, I hate 10 teams making the playoffs. There is no logic in it at all and one only has to look at the fact that had the new playoff format been used last year, then the Chicago Fire with 36 points would have made the playoffs. Talk about lowering the bar, even RSL with their "losing" record in 2009 managed to get 40 points. I get that the league is growing, but that shouldn't be a reason to put more teams in the playoffs, it sure shouldn't be reason to create a new "wild card" round. We aren't the NFL, and I don't know of any fans who were demanding that more teams make the playoffs or that we create another round of playoffs (or playins).

Was this really the best that "the Don" and the MLS Competition Group could come up with? Honestly? The problem was simple, have the best team play the worst team. I get that "the Don" is hung up on his geographic conferences, but nobody else is and I have to believe most fans would have embraced a 1vs.8, 2vs.7, 3vs.6, and 4vs.5 playoff system. Nope instead we end up with a mess, all in an attempt to ensure that he doesn't end up with two Western Conference teams playing for the Eastern Conference Championship. Hint, just rename the conferences something not based on geography and have the best teams play.

I think the biggest thing I noticed today was the lack of creativity, one thing is for sure those who think we don't need a playoff system in MLS, will not have their minds changed by this offering.

after the jump let's see what it would have done to the 2010 playoffs

So here is how the playoffs would have looked last year (with the new format):

Western Conference (top 3)

Eastern Conference (top 3)
Next 4 clubs
  • Seattle
  • Colorado
  • San Jose
  • Chicago
They would have faced off like this- Chicago at Seattle and San Jose at Colorado, now based on results of the playoffs I am going to pick Colorado and Seattle to win their single game play in series.

That would leave our playoffs looking like this:
Western Conference
  • LA Galaxy vs. Colorado
  • Real Salt Lake vs. FC Dallas
Eastern Conference
  • New York vs. Seattle
  • Columbus vs. Kansas City
Yes it would have had a huge change on the playoffs, and it would have prevented two Western Conference teams from advancing to the Eastern Conference final. For me the question is at what price? Adding Chicago and KC into the playoffs despite them finishing with 7 and 10 fewer points than the 8 teams that made it, does what for MLS? Well it creates a higher chance that a team playing in your championship could have a losing record. Well done, the league hasn't taken enough crap for that lately, have they?

So a while back I proposed a simple change to the playoff format, I had 4 simple steps:
  1. The top 8 teams make it into the playoffs.
  2. The parings will be 1vs8, 2vs7, 3v6, and 4v5
  3. Each series will be home and away, ties broken by total goals, then away goals, then extra time, and finally PK shootout.
  4. The higher ranked team will have the option of hosting first or second leg, including MLS Cup.
I would like to change #3, after some deep thought, and some valid points by Brian Straus (don't tell him I said so).
I would like to propose that each leg of the playoffs be a 3 match series (top seed gets home field advantage) H-A-H(if needed). Notice the if needed part, the deciding factor is the first team to 4 points or more. Yes this adds a level of complexity, but let's think about it for a minute.

Team 1 beats team 8 2-0 at home, and then gets a 1-1 draw on the road, should they be forced to play a 3rd match? they already have established they are the better team, even a loss in the 3rd match would lead to a generic tie breaker like total goals, or away goals, and then lead to extra time or PK shootouts. I say if 1 team can establish dominance after two matches, they are the better team.

I would also establish the timeline for the 3 leg series two groups will play Sat-Wed-Sat, and two will play Sun-Thur-Sun, the choice is up to the top seeded teams to chose their schedule.

OK that took me a couple hours to whip up, and I think it is a much better solution that what we were offered today by the league. It took them months, and to me it looks as if they just tossed ideas up on a white board and pulled out what was the easiest for them to think of without actually thinking.