Major League Soccer announced a new playoff format on Tuesday. This brings a total of 18 teams into the postseason, an increase of two teams per conference. That’s just half the change. After a one-off play-in game between the 8th and 9th seeds in each conference, the opening round of the playoffs will be a best-of-three series.
athletic The change, reportedly, was made in part to create a higher stakes playoff game for Apple as part of a $2.5 billion 10-year media rights deal with MLS. But on the other hand, there are also concerns that the expansion of the playoff field could ruin the MLS regular’s season.
Here, in alphabetical order, a panel of MLS writers gave their opinions on the new format.
Alexander Abnos: Personally, I wouldn’t worry too much about the team growth. The best we have is shame, because no serious consequences will be imposed on teams that fail to make it to the playoffs. By spreading it to fewer teams, you can make that shame stronger and more targeted. However, the 3-game series is a different story. Looking at it now, it’s a clumsy set-up that doesn’t fit the sport of other knockout competitions in the world. The threat of upsets is what makes the playoffs exciting in the first place, and they do too much to avoid upsets.
That being said, I can easily imagine a situation where we get some really exciting games in the best of three, especially in games 2 and 3 of these series. maybe. For MLS, I hope so.
Felipe Cardenas: I still don’t like the 18-team playoff format. You wouldn’t convince me that sending a bad ninth-place team into the postseason would help the league. I really like it.
The league made smart decisions here to build the high-stakes format players, coaches and fans enjoyed last season, and MLS can’t afford to lose an environment like that. As the regular season becomes more and more irrelevant, the playoffs need to matter.
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Pablo Maurer: I can’t say I’ve been terribly annoyed by a best-of-three format or a slightly expanding postseason field.The MLS has always loved tinkering with competitive formats, club names and identities, and roster rules and regulations. . Over the course of the league’s lifetime, they’ve used half a dozen formats after the season (often dictated by team additions and conference reorganizations).
I had an interesting conversation the other day with Philadelphia Union head coach Jim Curtin. I brought up best of three and he said he liked it. Curtin, of course, played for the Chicago Fire and went through numerous playoff permutations. His argument was that when two teams play against him three times in his one week, hatred is born. buy it We are excited about the new format.
But at the end of the day, we want MLS to have single-elimination with eight teams per conference. It seemed to me (and many others) that they had finally found the right formula.
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Jeff Luther: It’s been said before, but it’s hard to see why a bloated postseason round would justify an even weaker regular season. There have already been some games between matchweeks 10-25 that felt like dead rubber matches, with warm-weather sweat slogging between some teams and keeping players healthy during the bigger match. I kept If these teams were even less urgent to move up the standings, the number of these sloppy contests could increase. It’s about the extra strain on the player’s body, of course.
I did the calculation on the back of the napkin. Let’s say LAFC, Austin, Philadelphia or Orlando push for glory.
– 34 games #MLS
– Up to 6 playoffs without WC
– 5 US Open Cups (4th place)
– Up to 7 league cup games
– Up to 8 CCLs
…the roster is not deep enough for 50-60 games. https://t.co/k9hfXVlPry
— Jeff Rueter (@jeffrueter) February 21, 2023
Also: if we offal To turn a single round of playoffs into a three-leg series…can’t wait until the conference finals? The goal of getting more qualifiers to playoff games is noble (financially), but these are the best games. not. Did the conference’s 8th seed really earn the right to host a playoff game? Had I been on the panel, it would have been focused on the conference semifinals. At that point, his four of the weaker contestants were ruled out. If you look at last year’s fixtures, you’ll see two or three games between Austin and Dallas, Philadelphia and Cincinnati, New York City and Montreal, and… Los Angeles FC and LA Galaxy. This seems more like an upgrade than guaranteeing the 8th place team to host the conference champion every year.
Paul Tenorio: Speaking to those who helped rebuild the playoffs, they strongly believe the new format will motivate people to fight harder for the seed. Fight to avoid. The team at the bottom of the standings will never be kicked out and will strive for ninth and last place. The Best of 3 also adds value to home games, with constant competition for the top four seeds.
It all makes sense, but I still think it understates the impact of being a playoff team. is the closest comparable to MLS. The NFL regular season only has his 17 games, which is closer to his 34 MLS games than the NBA’s 82, MLB’s 162, and NHL’s 82. MLS is now 18 of 29 teams — 62%. There are a lot of teams in the postseason.
With 12 teams (or still 14) making the playoffs, there will be more tension and real stakes for teams trying to make it into the top half of the league.
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And not 14 of the 28 teams made the playoffs late last season. Out of the playoffs, but still very much in the hunt. Punishing teams that failed to make the playoffs is a key component of accountability, forcing change, and ultimately (and hopefully) making those teams better. Rewarding more than 60% of him in the league with a playoff spot lowers the stakes throughout the regular season.
I think MLS will have to increase the number of games when it comes to the best of three series. The postseason was too short compared to the regular season. I spoke to a sports director who told me that best-of-three and especially his penalties in the first two games would alienate the international audience that MLS is now eyeing for this Apple deal. I was worried that But I also agree with his Curtin. The old MLS best-of-three series created a real rivalry between teams. Watch the old Chicago Fire and New England Revolution playoffs.
Ultimately, I think MLS may eventually realize they need to do more to make the regular season matter. They are now asking people to pay $100 a year to watch these games. They cannot significantly reduce the pace and excitement of their surroundings.
(Photo: Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images)