Major League Soccer has finalized a new postseason format for the start of the new season in five days. Nine teams from each conference will qualify for his MLS Cup playoffs in 2023, league sources said on condition of anonymity. athletic ahead of the official announcement. Here’s what you should know:
- Nine teams per conference is the highest number of playoff teams ever for a “normal” season and surpasses the makeshift model of 10 teams per conference during the COVID-19-shortened 2020 season only.
- The opening “wild card” round will see the 8th and 9th seeds after the regular season play a one-off match at a highly seeded venue.
- The “First Round” will feature the 1st seed against the wildcard winner, the 2nd seed against 7, the 3rd seed against 6, and the 4th seed against 5. First and (optionally) third game. These games cannot end in a draw. The first team he wins two advances to the conference semi-finals.
- The Conference Semifinals, Conference Finals and MLS Cup will return to their normal one-off format and will be hosted by the higher number of remaining seeds.
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Is this the first time the league has overhauled its postseason format?
Far from it. The league’s playoff format has changed many times over its 27-year history. In the early days when the league struggled for relevance and was financially meager, eight of his ten teams in the league made it to the playoffs. The league adopted a “first to five points” best-of-three format for the conference semi-finals and finals. We fixed that format when we split the league into three divisions in 2000. At that point, the league’s top eight teams made the postseason, regardless of division. We moved to a two-legged system of “Away”. In 2019, MLS transitioned to its newest iteration, the single-elimination format, which it will retain through the 2023 season. — Maurer
Why is MLS changing the format now?
On the face of it, the MLS Cup playoffs were one of the least problematic elements of the league’s sports operations.As athletic It has been reported many times since early 2023 that MLS’ new broadcast deal with Apple will push more playoff games to the year-end slate in hopes of sweetening deals with new paying subscribers. There is a growing desire to cram in. Additionally, this ensures that every qualifying team (excluding the wildcard round losers) hosts at least one playoff game, increasing game revenue for owners. increase.
However, league sources say discussions about a possible change to the format began in 2021, before the deal with Apple was finalized. — router
Will this format improve postseason quality?
First look: almost.
The best matches of the MLS Cup Playoffs are often played after the first round. Specifically, conference semifinals, conference finals, and finals. During these stages, the best team, or the team that pulled off a shocking early upset, breaks away from the pack to play in a hard-fought match. The top seed hosted 7, 3 hosted 6, and 4 hosted 5. upset.
A clash between teams closer in the standings may be tempting, but Columbus Crew (who finished 8th in the East in 2022) and Charlotte (who finished 9th) had the most challenges for first place. It’s hard to imagine. Seed Philadelphia. — router
(Photo: Robert Hanashiro/USA Today)