MLS apparently has a fancy new plan for the playoffs:
To its credit, this system solves some problems including the lack of real advantage for the Supporters Shield winner and winner of the other division – fair enough. It also helps build more conference rivalry by keeping the divisions “intact” up until the final.
And before I get to trashing it, let me just say, I could live with this solution. But here’s what’s wrong with it:
- It’s too long. Monster gets this right in his post where he says, “you’re adding a date at a time when people want FIFA dates to be cleared. That won’t be accomplished by making the post season longer.”
- Two playoff teams would end up without a home match. From a competition point-of-view, this is acceptable, but financially, I suspect it wouldn’t be. I think it’s telling that only the NFL (with its many revenue streams other than the gate) has a system where a team would not host a single game after qualifying for the playoffs. I suspect MLS owners would want a home date as a reward for making the playoffs too.
- There are many good reasons why “pre-selected” site finals make sense, even if it leads to occasionally crummy crowds. It makes every single thing other than the match on the field easier – from the sponsor banquets and get-togethers, to fan travel and accommodations, to the pre-game and halftime shows where MLS likes to show off a bit of pizazz. I suspect much of that would have to be scaled back vastly.
- It’s just too complicated. I want a system that can be explained in three sentences or less. We’ve been through too many systems that require a white board and a process diagram to explain.
- Only MLS could come up with a playoff system that creates meaningless matches. This system does that.
Yet again, I present to you my solution, cribbed from Jeff Bradley’s long-standing plan for the playoffs.
Six teams total in playoffs:
- Division/Conference winners get byes into second round…
- Next best four teams play aggregate goal first-round series to get to second round (conference finals)
- Second round (conference finals) are one-game at higher seed
- Single game final, neutral site works better for commercial aspects like sponsor soirees, etc.
Here’s why it works:
- Gives teams real incentive to win conference/division in order to get the bye AND a home match
- Gives each and every playoff team a home match to sell
- Gets percentage of teams making playoffs down to a more reasonable level and creates a better playoff race towards end of regular season
- Could work with almost any divisional setup or a single table. How you get those next four teams is flexible. It could be the next best two in each division or it could just be the next four teams regardless of division. It doesn’t really matter.
- It’s easy to market and potentially to schedule be cause there are no games “as necessary.”
- It’s simple. It can be explained in 2-3 sentences without a slide-rule or a spreadsheet.
I get the sense that this group phase idea solves many of the problems the “Bradley/Stollar” plan solves, but while keeping the playoff team number at eight, which appears to be a big priority for someone right now. The Bradley/Stollar System is a far simpler, more elegant solution.