Friday, September 16, 2005
Eight is enough...
One of the most common complaints I hear with the MLS playoff structure is that too many teams get in.

"Eight teams! Up until last year only two teams missed the playoffs! Now over half the league makes it! You can play crappy all year and still win the cup! It makes the regular season meaningless! More exclamation points, please!!!"

To me, that's a silly argument. One, limited playoff spots doesn't make the regular season any less or more exciting. Talk to me sometime when you're watching a Clippers-Bobcats regular season NBA game or a Royals-Tigers midseason MLB game. Not impressed? How about a Blue Jackets-Hurricanes mid-January NHL game or, G-d bless 'em, a mid-January Bolton-Middlesbrough slugfest?

Right now nothing will make the regular-season more meaningful unless players decide to play harder. And, frankly, over the course of a 32-game regular season, I don't expect every matchup to be fantastic. No sport has that.

In time, once the league has expanded (in 10 years or so), we should be at 18-20 teams and that will mean that less than half of those teams make it into the playoffs. Do I think we'll push higher than that in team locations? Sure, I expect MLS to eventually have 24 - 30 teams in its stable and never, never will promotion/relegation enter in the conversation.

The one thing we're lacking here that Europe and South America has, and that only College Football has in the U.S., are alternative competitions. Not only is the fight for the Prem title huge, once Chelsea's 50 points ahead of everyone by February, at least other teams can fight for Champions League positions. Or UEFA Cup. Or Libertadores. Or Sudamericana.

Once Conmebol and Concacaf combine (I have a gut feeling that's less than 5 years away -- post 2010 World Cup), we'll see our opportunities for auxilliary competitions increase and instead of 12 teams fighting for one cup (and the U.S. Open Cup ... whose merits have been debated plenty over the past few weeks) we'll have lots of teams fighting for lots of cups ... and more to play for.


Blogger Tim Froh said...

The other big complain is that the current playoff format gives lower seeds a chance at MLS Cup. So far, the results don't bare out that hypothesis. In 2003, the No. 1 seeds from each conference met in MLS Cup. Last year, the No. 1 and No. 2 seeds met.

1:04 PM  
Blogger maradawga said...

Right. I think overall, during the season, the teams separate appropriately and more often than not you'll see the "right" teams playing for it all.

I would, however, like to see more love given to the Supporters Shield to make "two" championships during the year ... regular season and playoff.

1:07 PM  
Blogger D said...

Tim you have a point, but last year it was only one penalty stopping from #4 New England making it to the cup. I hate to admit this, but it could have happened then.

2:31 PM  
Blogger D said...

PS to Dawg - Thanks for you comment over at DCtrs, it helps me think about things.

2:38 PM  
Blogger Tim Froh said...

d - Yes, you're right, but keep in mind that while anything can happen in the conference championship, the big key is that Columbus blew it against New England. Had they not failed to convert two (!) penalty kicks at home (!), they'd have played United in the conference final. Home field in the first round cannot be emphasized enough. In 2003, San Jose overcame a 4 goal deficit, and Kansas City overcame a 2 goal deficit against San Jose last year.

5:02 PM  
Blogger Mr. Fish said...

I can't see MLS with 24 clubs in the next twenty years. Until we get to 18 teams, I'd love to see the top 3 in each conf. make the postseason, with #3 vs. #2 in the conf semis, with winner facing #1 for a spot in the MLS Cup.

5:09 PM  
Blogger maradawga said...

I can see MLS with 24 clubs in 20 years. I imagine we'll be close to 18 or 20 by the end of the decade. Then we have to stop until we're making money and filling stadiums.

2007 - Toronto
2008 - Milwaukee (team 16)
2010 - Expansion teams (Houston and another NYC team, possibly?)

5:11 PM  
Blogger D said...

Hmmm... I'm gonna guess St. Louis at some point.

5:16 PM  
Blogger maradawga said...

It seems like St. Louis would have lots of fans but who is gonna step up and own the team? And are they able to get a stadium?

5:20 PM  
Blogger Eric PZ said...

Isn't it interesting that cities with successful USL teams (Rochester, Portland) don't seem to be mentioned for MLS teams lately?

10:36 AM  
Blogger Eric PZ said...

Oh yeah, and I can't see CONMEBOL and CONCACAF combining--far too much politics and desire for power here--though I could see the merits of joining forces for the Copa America and Copa Libratadoras more. Euro style qualification for the Copa America could be a good thing. However, there's just too much money guaranteed CONCACAF for World Cup Qualification in it's current format to allow the possibility of those slots moving south.

10:40 AM  

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