Sign up for the free World Soccer Talk daily email newsletter for TV schedules, news and more »

MON, 3PM ET
EVE3
QPR1
TUES, 2:30PM ET
REAL4
CRUZ0
TUES, 2:45PM ET
DER1
CHE3
WED, 2PM ET
BVB2
WOL2
WED, 2:45PM ET
BOU1
LIV3
WED, 2:45PM ET
TOT4
NEW0

MLS and USL: Fixing The Playoffs

mls badge MLS and USL: Fixing The Playoffs

Major League Soccer

I am an advocate of playoffs in American football. I do not believe the solutions often advocated by European oriented fans of balanced schedules, single table and no playoff competitions are practical or logical in North America.

Playoffs build a brand and build excitement. Mexican Football in particular, became more relevant and better supported at home after the Apertura/Clausura format including playoffs replaced the old traditional structure.

However, Red Bull’s run last season, LA’s run in 2005 and the current situation in the USL-1 playoffs have me concerned that the playoff format in MLS (and USL) favor lower seeded teams.

In the first round of this season’s USL-1 playoffs, two of three lower seeded teams advanced, by following a formula of scoring goals at home and then bunkering/counter attacking in the second leg away from home. Last night these two sides, Montreal and Vancouver again beat higher seeded teams at home and can be expected to employ a negative strategy in the second legs. When you add to this, Puerto Rico Islanders have played eight games in nineteen days going into the second leg; you realize Montreal in particular is in great shape despite being far less successful in the Regular Season than the Islanders.

Both MLS and USL need to scrap their current playoff formats. The initial MLS format in the late 90s which involved a best of three series and a NASL styled shootout as a tie-breaker. While this format was far from perfect, it was more reasonable than this format.

DC United, Supporters Shield winners in 2006 and 2007 were hurt badly by the MLS playoff system, which punished the higher seeded team. 2007, in particular is instructive. Forced to go to Chicago in the first leg for a nationally televised, locally hyped matchup, the red and black succumbed and then were unable (or perhaps unlucky) to not chase the series down in the second leg at RFK.

Last season, Houston’s elimination at the hands of Red Bull may have given MLS a nice boost in the nation’s largest media market, a place where the league is nearly invisible (despite having it’s HQ on 5th avenue), perhaps more due to a hostile and arrogant mainstream sporting press than anything else. But was Houston’s elimination truly fair?

Its one thing if MLS and USL awarded their titles based on the Regular Season. While both leagues have awards for the regular season point leaders (Supporters Shield, and Commissioners Cup), they award champions based on the playoffs. The Mexican system heavily favors the higher seeded team, even breaking ties after two legs in favor of the higher seeded team.

It is time for MLS and USL to do the same- either scrap home and home series, awarding all matches to the higher seeded team, or bringing back (in MLS’ case) the best of three series.


This entry was posted in Leagues: Major League Soccer, Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

About Kartik Krishnaiyer

A lifelong lover of soccer, the beautiful game, he served from January 2010 until May 2013 as the Director of Communications and Public Relations for the North American Soccer League (NASL). Raised on the Fort Lauderdale Strikers of the old NASL, Krishnaiyer previously hosted the American Soccer Show on the Champions Soccer Radio Network, the Major League Soccer Talk podcast and the EPL Talk Podcast. His soccer writing has been featured by several media outlets including The Guardian and The Telegraph. He is the author of the book Blue With Envy about Manchester City FC.
View all posts by Kartik Krishnaiyer →