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What If the Premier League Adopted A MLS Playoff System?

LIVERPOOL, UNITED KINGDOM - FEBRUARY 6:  American businessmen George Gillett (L) and Tom Hicks talk to the media after their takeover of Liverpool Football Club on 6 February, 2007, Liverpool, England. Gillett and Hicks have reached an agreement to buy the football club in a deal thought to be worth GBP470m.  (Photo by Christopher Furlong/Getty Images)

There’s been so much uproar during the past few weeks about whether the playoff system for Major League Soccer is a joke or not. First, the Eastern Conference Final featured two teams, San Jose Earthquakes versus Colorado Rapids, who were decidedly western teams. And second, the playoff system resulted in a final featuring the team that ended in fifth place in the final standings against the seventh place team.

So, it’s no surprise that a lot of soccer fans and pundits have questioned the way that the MLS playoffs are structured and whether it’s time to change it to a more traditional soccer format. But instead of going down that road, I thought I would flip the conversation and consider what if the Premier League adopted the MLS playoff system. They never would, of course. But based on how the teams finished in the 2009-10 Premier League season, here’s how it would have ended up American style.

Key: Since the finalists of the 2010 MLS Cup, Colorado and FC Dallas, finished 7th and 5th respectively, I took the 2009-2010 Premier League table and picked the winners based on those final positions. And then worked backwards to reveal the Western Conference Champions as well as the Eastern Conference Champions, etc.

So drumroll please, here are the winners:

  • Supporters Shield: Chelsea (but very few people really care about winning that trophy; even my local team, Miami Fusion, won it one year and look what happened to them)
  • Western Conference Champions: Manchester City (after defeating Chelsea in the Western Conference Final)
  • Eastern Conference Champions: Liverpool (I know, it doesn’t make much sense either, would have defeated Everton in the Eastern Conference Final)
  • Premier League Cup Final: Manchester City (fifth placed team) against Liverpool (seventh placed team)
  • 2010 Premier League Cup Champions: Liverpool

The above is a perfect example of how zany the MLS playoff systems are. Chelsea, who stormed ahead to win the regular season, would receive a meaningless trophy. The second place team, Manchester United, who almost pipped Chelsea at the end would have ended up with nothing. Third place Arsenal would have come up empty handed again. Fourth placed Tottenham and sixth placed Aston Villa would have got knocked out in the early rounds. And Liverpool, despite having a poor season under Rafael Benitez, would have ended up as the 2010 Premier League Cup winner. What a comedy that would have been!

It goes to show how meaningless the regular Major League Soccer season is. Yes, the playoffs are exciting and it would have been wonderful to see a Merseyside derby in a Conference Final. But would it have been fair to clubs such as Manchester United, Chelsea and Arsenal who worked so hard during the season to then come up empty-handed after a club saved its best for last over a few games? I’m sure Liverpool supporters wouldn’t have minded.

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  1. DCUdiplomat96

    January 29, 2012 at 9:24 am

    if you have the most wins in the regular season, you should have no problem winning the CHAMPIONSHIP, ofcourse if you do then clearly you arent the best!… im sorry but its true

  2. DCUdiplomat96

    January 29, 2012 at 9:03 am

    the single table No playoff format wouldnt do very well in the here in America because whats the point of the regular season and rewarding a champion without being tested.. thats what these european leagues been doing for so long. as for promotion and relegation its mainly benefits the the lower teams than the bigger teams. relegation races are not exciting outside the participating teams fanbases which might support or not support. plus why root for a team that has no shot for a championship cause u crown yall champion only for the Regular season effort…. thats the problem with yall european soccer fans, yall dont dare to strive and push the envelope. we american do, ourculture is based on all or nothing, glory or die.

  3. Americans are allowed to be american

    January 27, 2011 at 7:34 pm

    Europeans need to realize something
    American regular season= Epl season
    Playoffs=champion’s league
    Biggest difference is that one happens at the end of the year. America is much bigger than England and comparable to Europe as a whole so it can have more than four good teams in a league.

    • DCUdiplomat96

      January 29, 2012 at 9:12 am

      teams that qualify for champions league dont start playing til the following season, so there is no comparison. it would be nice if champions league qualifiers played in the same season it would be alot better.

  4. Cricketlover

    January 3, 2011 at 2:03 pm

    The reason for the playoff system in all of USA sports is because each team doesn’t play the other teams the same number of times. Eastern teams play western teams fewer times. This was devised intially because of geography and the prospect of travelling from one coast to the other. Even if the MLS were to have a single division with each team playing the others the same number of times I doubt if the playoff system would be eliminated because of the extra revenue from gate sales and TV. It’s the American way.

  5. ben

    January 3, 2011 at 11:42 am

    If the EPL were to ever adopt a playoff I think that the fairest thing would be to pit 1st place vs 4th place and 2nd vs 3rd place in a home and home agregate. So even if 4th place won the whole thing it would be so bad because 4th place goes to the champions league anyways in the current format. I think it would add more excitement and would give incentive to the teams below 4th place to play for something.

  6. Tyler Walter

    December 24, 2010 at 1:31 pm

    There are incentives to winning the MLS Supporters’ Shield that are ignored. Winning the supporters shield gives you practically the same rewards as winning the MLS Cup. First off, you are guaranteed a Group Stage spot in the CONCACAF Champions League (so Man City and Chelsea would be going to the Champs League), plus there is some allocation money the Shield winners earn. I’m not sure how much it is.

    But the rewards for MLS clubs to go to their continent’s Champs League are rediculous. Group Stage spots go to the MLS Cup winner and the Supporters’ Shield winner (people do care about the Shield, hardcore fans see it as the true title, while casual sports idiots see it as the consolation prize). But Preliminary spots go to the US Open Cup winner and the MLS Cup finalist.

    Since Chelsea won the FA Cup, then PORTSMOUTH would get a UEFA Champions League birth. So the UEFA Champions League clubs from England would be then:

    * Chelsea [EPL Supporters’ Shield & FA Cup winners]
    * Manchester City [EPL Cup winners]
    * Liverpool [EPL Cup finalists]
    * Portsmouth [FA Cup finalists]

  7. Football Souvenirs

    November 26, 2010 at 12:08 pm

    I would prefer less Americanisation in the league but if it generates income then i can imagine the American owners of clubs voting for it, alongside the foreign match idea

  8. doc

    November 25, 2010 at 9:00 am

    in my mind, playoffs aren’t needed in many sports, period. if the goal is to determine the best team, which should be the goal, then a regular season with good ‘saturation’ through playing enough games against enough opponents would suffice. why does the nba need a playoff system? is 82 games not enough to determine who the best team is? instead you’re going to say that the best team is the team that plays the best over a series of short, 7 game series? i beg to differ. same goes for baseball. is 162 games not enough to know who the best team is in each league? pair up the al champ vs. the nl champ, and forget the wild cards and other division winners. because the nfl only plays a 16 game schedule, which doesn’t allow each team to play all others, a playoff is needed. why can mls not just play a double round robin format, and be able to say with certainty at the end of the year that the best team was the team that topped the table. the table never lies.

  9. CrazyMike366

    November 24, 2010 at 2:25 pm

    Ask any ardent supporter of an MLS team which they’d rather win, the Supporters’ Shield or the MLS Cup, and a majority would choose the Shield. I would at least. I was on cloud nine when LA clinched it this year. They got a lot of money for winning, a spot in the Concacaf CL, and a big old trophy for their troubles. The team that wins the MLS Cup gets the same rewards, but goes to the team that is on good form at the end rather than consistent form throughout the season, and is therefore less prestigious in my eyes. The winner of the Open Cup gets similar rewards too.

    Sure, I think its lame that more than half of the league will get to make the playoffs next year, but I think its much worse that the winners of each division aren’t given a bye week or some similarly lopsided advantage to help them out in the post season. One proposal I’ve read is 10 teams make it, 5 from each conference (conferences are absolutely necessary for marketing purposes in a country the size of America,) the lowest three play a group stage (5@4, 5@3, 4@3) and the one with the worst record with tiebreakers is dropped, while the 1 and 2 seeds get a bye, then play runner-up@#1 and group winner@#2, then the winner of each in the next round. That would be nice.

    I just don’t see how fans of the English game can talk about the magic of the FA Cup and all the potential for giant-killing upsets it brings while rejecting the notion of the MLS playoffs. When Portsmouth won the FA Cup in ’08, no one complained even though they finished a lowly 8th in the EPL. It makes Colorado’s MLS Cup victory from 7th seed seem more palatable by comparison.

    On the non-conforming schedule of MLS – its necessary because of competition from more popular sports. Soccer is the top sport in almost every other country in the world, but in the US its far behind gridiron, basketball, and perhaps even baseball and hockey. To get a larger market share, MLS absolutely must try to not compete with the other big sports when possible, which means having a funky season that runs through summer. You can’t win over new fans if they’re all watching the gridiron game that’s on at the same time instead. I can see MLS adopting some concessions to the international calendar in the near future, but soccer won’t be able to compete head to head with the NFL or NBA for at very least a generation.

    On promotion/relegation: we don’t have enough die-hard fans and we don’t have enough well supported teams. The logistics of a single entity structure make it so that it will eventually be possible due to profit sharing and salary caps, but not for quite some time.

    • Jay

      November 25, 2010 at 12:38 am

      We already know this won’t happen but strictly speaking as a “what if” it would be interesting. Who knows, maybe Stoke gets hot in the playoffs and in turn wins the league in a playoff….

      All that being said…

      The current system is, well, perfect. Play each other home and away, most points at the end of the season is champion. Simple.

  10. Jleau

    November 24, 2010 at 12:31 pm

    Gaffer, the results of the MLS play-offs are crazy, but that’s not necessarily because the play-off model is flawed. The reason why Colorado is champ has less to do with the play-off structure and is more related to the league policies that promote a ridiculous level of parity. Tiny salary caps, no reserve league, and small rosters make the difference between 1 and 8 in MLS very small. It would be highly unlikely to get a similar result in the EPL because the top teams have much bigger advantages.

    I certainly don’t want the EPL to try a play-off but your premise that it’s the cause of the MLS chaos rings hollow. The play-offs are fine for MLS and the league should reflect the American sporting culture. Where’s the criticism of the Argentinian or Mexican league play-off system?

    MLS’ primary problems are ridiculous salary caps ( less than the cost of an average euro players annual salary), poor record developing talent, total disregard for the international schedule.

  11. Rich F

    November 24, 2010 at 12:47 am

    I don’t think the EPL should adopt the playoff system. The teams who are strongest throughout the season deserve to be rewarded without the off chance of some 5th place team upsetting them in a playoff game. Sure it invites some randomness into the league, and we all know America is all for that, but I don’t think it has a place in England.

  12. David G

    November 24, 2010 at 12:00 am

    I love the no playoffs. Every game counts. If there were playoffs Spurs losing to West Ham wouldn’t matter, but in the EPL it could very well count for something at the end of the season. No playoffs is like roto-fantasy…just better!

    • Pakapala

      November 24, 2010 at 8:31 pm

      for it to not matter they would have to let all the teams into the playoff. Yet only a number of teams end up in the playoff. So obviously regular season games do matter in a table/playoff format. Losing a game might mean you miss the playoff.

  13. Brian

    November 23, 2010 at 11:25 pm

    One of the biggest reasons a playoff system hurts the way the MLS does it is because soccer more than any other sport is prone to upsets by the little guy. When you look at MLB, NBA, and NHL all the playoff systems involve a best of 5 or 7 game series at each stage of the playoffs. This ensures that the best team between the 2 will usually win the series and advance. True there will occasionally be a weaker team that causes the upset, but by and large the better team will win. The NFL is kind of in between MLS and the other sports because each step in the playoffs is only one game, but in football an upset is not quite as common as it is in soccer so the playoffs can get by. I feel MLS could certainly improve the playoffs by for one reducing them to 4 teams, so only the truly top teams in the league even make the playoffs, and then do a home and home series for the semifinals with a one game final for the MLS Cup.

    A final issue of note with the reason foreign leagues are not ripe for a playoff while it does work in the MLS is the parity. In the EPL for example you know Chelsea, Man Utd, and Arsenal will be the top 3 teams with Spurs, Man City, and maybe Liverpool vying for forth behind them. This means that if a team like Aston VIlla or Everton were to win a playoff it would seem ridiculous because they finished the season so far out of first place. If the difference between say 1st place and 8th were only 6-8 points, the fact that a lower placed team winning a playoff wouldn’t be quite as preposterous because that type of difference over a 38 game season isn’t extremely huge.

    Anyway the point of my rant is that the lack of parity over a season in soccer and the nature of the game is why a playoff doesn’t work well

  14. Joe

    November 23, 2010 at 11:03 pm

    Well, people can talk and talk about how bad MLS is, but there are now 31 comments on this post. That’s about ten times as many as the more recent EPL posts I’ve seen.

    So obviously if a post about MLS can generate that much interest, they must be doing something right. Publicity is publicity…

    • Dave C

      November 24, 2010 at 9:42 pm

      Wow, that is some crazy logic.

      If I posted a story about the Topless-ladies u-23 international indoor soccer championship, with photos, it would generate a lot of hits and comments. Doesn’t mean the quality of play is good or bad though.

      Ps. Gaffer, I have come up with an an excellent idea for a reader’s suggested article…

      • The Gaffer

        November 24, 2010 at 10:32 pm

        Bring it on Dave! 😉

        The Gaffer

  15. 1888

    November 23, 2010 at 9:10 pm

    In México we have playoff system and i must to say that isn’t good. Many times the best team of the regular season doesn´t win the league. We have a league lacking of good football because of that horrible “playoff system”.

    By the way, we have a relegated team who is decided with a fool system.

  16. David

    November 23, 2010 at 6:02 pm

    Promotion/Relegation is never going to work in the US- if a team in one of the major media markets got relegated, it would probably kill the league entirely.

    I agree with single-table though- it would make more sense to “purists”, even if you still had playoffs.

    My concern is they need to figure out a way to encourage offense and too often teams play for draws. Maybe going to 4 points for a win, 1 for a draw, and/or possibly a bonus points system like in rugby union (say 1 bonus point if you get 3 goals in a game, no matter if you win, lose, or draw)

  17. Earl Reed

    November 23, 2010 at 1:16 pm

    You take into account the geography of the US, that’s why single table is less attractive for leagues. In Britain, you get the 20 Premier League teams an area that roughly covers Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and Maryland (we’ll throw my measly state of Delaware in there too). You’d have 3-4 teams in Philadelphia who are all major rivals. You’d have 2-3 teams in Pittsburgh, and more scattered in areas like Harrisburg, Baltmore, Scranton, Erie, Trenton, and others. Those are all easy trips for anyone, so instead of an LA Galaxy vs. Philadelphia Union game, let’s make it a Harrisburg Galaxy vs. Philadelphia Union game…a lot more road supporters, and local buzz.

    I think the MLS could definitely make the single table work. I think turning the schedule over to August-May is a must. The buzz of having high profile friendlies precede your season would be very favorable, as opposed to friendlies that seem to encumber the MLS Season.

    And I know there’s a lot of consternation about bad weather. It’s a fair concern, more from the standpoint of fan attendance rather than sloppiness. I think you could partially schedule around the heavy winter states, but on the other hand, weather is a crap shoot. I don’t know about you, if I was going to watch a soccer match, I’d rather sit in a frozen stadium than one where I was baking at 110F.

    • joboo

      November 25, 2010 at 4:08 am

      August to May would kill the MLS. The league would have to compete all season with the NFL, NBA, NHL, and college football and basketball, plus the beginning and end of the MLB season. Right now it’s only really competing with MLB all season.

  18. Anarchy Ant

    November 23, 2010 at 11:53 am

    I’ll admit I prefer the Premier Leagues version.

    What I would really like to see in the MLS instead of the current playoffs is taking the top teams and playing a home-away divided into two groups Western and Eastern with the top two teams playing for the championship in a winner take all game.

    Americans love their brackets though and I don’t think you could ever get rid of them. Unfortunately, I don’t think modeling MLS after the Premier league would get more American fans. I actually think it would make it more foreign to people who already think of soccer as “everybody but USA” sport.

  19. Nathan

    November 23, 2010 at 11:33 am

    As a Liverpool fan and a Rapids supporter that scenario sounds pretty good to me.

    I also happen to live in Florida. Where do you go to watch games around here?

    • The Gaffer

      November 23, 2010 at 11:56 am

      Nathan, where in Florida do you live?

      The Gaffer

  20. George

    November 23, 2010 at 11:21 am

    That’ll be the only way Liverpool would win anything!

  21. Ringo

    November 23, 2010 at 10:59 am

    Garber should just give up the act and switch MLS to a traditional August-May schedule with single-table standings. MLS Cup should run concurrent with the season.

    • MennoDaddy

      November 23, 2010 at 11:24 am

      I totally agree with that. I’ve always disliked the MLS’s reliance on divisions.

      I’d also like to see the MLS institute a promotion/relegation system akin to European football. But that won’t happen so long as there’s an MLS draft and a salary cap.

      • bob

        November 25, 2010 at 3:59 am

        No, it won’t happen because the infrastructure is different than European football. Sheffield Wednesday plays in a ~40,000 seat stadium and they’re in the third level of the English pyramid. They would have the 10th largest stadium if they were in the Premier League this year. Teams in the third level of the American/Canadian pyramid play in ~2,000 seat stadiums if that.

        The sporting landscape isn’t as divided in Europe as it is in the US. We have major football, baseball, basketball, and hockey leagues. Soccer is far and away the number one sport in Europe. The second level of the English pyramid has a higher average attendance than rugby’s Guinness Premiership. Basketball and hockey aren’t even in the same ballpark.

  22. NC

    November 23, 2010 at 9:11 am

    Good topic. The merits of a playoff (no playoff, brief, or extended) vary from sport to sport. In my opinion, comparing soccer to NCAA basketball is apples to oranges. Basketball lends itself to being playoff oriented. The NBA is structured well in this regard. If anything they could cut back a little on their regular season. I think baseball most closely resembles soccer in the sense that a longer extended regular season is the better determination of a champion than anything a playoff would yield. Baseball is also an excellent model to look at because they’ve already gone through 40+ years of playoff evolution.

    1903-1968: No LCS. Champions of the two leagues met for the World Series
    1969- Implementation of the LCS. Playoffs expanded to four teams
    1985- LCS goes from best of 5 to best of 7
    1995 – Introduction of wild card. Playoffs expand from 4 to 8 teams with division realignment
    Currently – Talks to expand playoffs to ten teams (of 30).

    Everyone has their own opinion of how positive the impact of these changes have been. Personally I think it is ridiculous to give a marginal team who slid into a wild card slot the opportunity to get hot for a few weeks and make a run to the world series. I think soccer is similar in this regard. From 2002-2007 at least one wild card team was represented in the world series. So much for winning your division. The short series makes it especially ridiculous. Look no further than this year. Cliff Lee single handedly won the Rays series for the Rangers. The Rays were clearly a better team than the Rangers this year, but a late season acquisition enabled them to ride one player through a short series.

    In short, I would say no to extended playoffs for the EPL. And MLB too for that matter.

  23. Brian

    November 23, 2010 at 8:52 am

    You keep saying “meaningless” and, with apologies to Inigo Montoya, I don’t think that word means what you think it does.

    The Shield winner gets a spot in the Concacaf Champion’s League group stage, just like the MLS Cup winner. They get a trophy. They are recognized by the league and the supporter’s as the best team in the regular season. They get cash through the CBA for winning their conference and, as a function of having the best record, they earned more money through win bonuses than any other team.

    Meaningless? Hell, no. Not up to your standards? Maybe, but stop pretending that because you made up a catchy nickname for yourself, happened to be born under the Crown and can pay a hosting service to put your site online you determine what is meaningful and meaningless.

    Not everyone has to like the system. It’s fine if you don’t like it, but only the truly arrogant say that their opinion of it is what gives it meaning for everyone. There can be plenty of meaning in the MLS season to many, many fans. No goofy pretend EPL playoffs system can change that.

    • The Gaffer

      November 23, 2010 at 9:50 am

      Brian, it’s an opinion and I’m entitled to say whether I believe something is meaningful or meaningless. Winning the Supporter’s Shield is meaningless. You’re entitled to disagree.

      The Gaffer

      • Randall

        November 23, 2010 at 10:12 am


        I totally agree it is meaningless to 95% of fans…but, it should be the true measure of who the champion in the league is. The ridiculousness of MLS’s playoff system has gone on long enough. What other American sports league has consistently crowned such weak champions? None. Hopefully, over time, the Shield will become the premier trophy in MLS with the playoffs just a way to appease fans used to such a way to decide their champion.

        • Joe

          November 23, 2010 at 10:17 am


          Every American sports league has a playoff format that allows for upsets and surprises. That’s the nature of playoffs, and I don’t see why it’s a big deal to ask that a CHAMPION be able to win a CHAMPIONSHIP game.

          Do you really believe that the New England Patriots won the NFL when they went undefeated? They lost to the Giants in the Super Bowl. So, should we now consider the Super Bowl a way to “appease fans”? Why are we coddling these so-called “champion” teams? If you’re a champion, prove it. Win a winner-take-all tournament.

          Europe already does this with the Champions League. I don’t see why it’s such a tough concept for British football fans to grasp.

          • Pakapala

            November 24, 2010 at 7:54 pm

            They don’t even need to look at the UEFA league to understand what a playoff is, their own rugby leagues has a playoff system. So they can’t pretend that it’s a foreign idea to them.

            There are many things wrong with the current format of the playoff used by MLS, but the fact that there’s a playoff in the MLS is not one of them.

            Go tell the mexicans that they should get rid of their league/playoff format that they adopted since they first hosted the World Cup. That has saved their league, when the EPL format could not.

            It’s completely hard to believe that someone would want every leagues around the world to follow the EPL format to the T, even if that would mean the doom of said domestic league. Look around, the US is no the only country to use some format in their league different to the EPL. Each country do what will bring success to their domestic league.

      • Clampdown

        November 23, 2010 at 11:47 am

        So you admit your nickname is catchy!

        • The Gaffer

          November 23, 2010 at 11:55 am

          Clampdown, I do. I quite like it. It’s easy to remember, which is exactly the reason I chose it in the first place. Adds a bit of mystery and intrigue to the soccer blogosphere.

          The Gaffer

      • Pakapala

        November 24, 2010 at 8:21 pm

        Agreed in the sense that for the players, that is not the ultimate goal, therefore if they don’t win the whole thing, that title will not be any consolation to them. The Patriots had one of the most memorable season in 2007, but finishing the regular season undefeated meant nothing once they lost in the Super Bowl. It would only mean something if they had made it all the way to the finish line.
        Having said that, that doesn’t mean that a playoff system is nonsense; the parity that english football fans yearn so much for, fans of the middle table teams who’s only dream of winning the title rely on having a sugar dady come and laud them with money is pitiful. To that I prefer the playoff system. It does remedy to the fact that you don’t have 16 teams fans going into the season with no hope of being crowned champion, year after year.

  24. Dave's Football Blog

    November 23, 2010 at 8:48 am

    European football does have a playoff system. It’s called the UEFA Champions League, and it’s rather exciting.

    In fact, if you look at it closely enough, European football is structured very similarly to college basketball in America. Every country has its own league, like every region has its own conference. The champions of each league/conference, plus the top X number of teams from the more successful league/conferences all make it to the big stage. Teams that weren’t quite good enough? Well, they go to the NIT/Europa League.

    Joe mentioned Butler. Their Champions League equivalent would be, say, Shahktar Donetsk — champions of a smaller league, but a very successful and talented team in their own right.

    There are only a few key differences here:

    1.) Unlike the NCAA Tournament, the Champions League has a group stage to weed out any upset-minded minnows. Rubin Kazan beating Barcelona was impressive, but it didn’t eliminate Barca like 15-seed Hampton eliminated 2-seed Iowa State with one win in 2001.

    2.) Conference tournaments, your domestic cup equivalents, actually matter in determining who makes the NCAA Tourney. Winning the FA Cup only gets you to the Europa League, and only if you haven’t qualified for Europe already through the leagues. (Duke has won a lot of ACC Tournaments lately, but they didn’t really need to win them to play in the NCAAs.)

    I like the way this system is set up. Whether or not I would want the EPL to go to an MLS-type system (and I don’t) is irrelevant, because it would never happen. The EPL doesn’t need playoffs to be exciting. That’s what the Champions League is for.

    • warren

      November 23, 2010 at 10:40 am

      “The EPL doesn’t need playoffs to be exciting. That’s what the Champions League is for.”

      And if you want knockout-style drama in English football, there’s the FA Cup, involving over 700 teams!

    • Jeremy

      November 23, 2010 at 11:13 am

      I’ve always loved the similarities between UEFA & the NCAA. I’ve tried to imagine the spectacle of a UEFA 64 team neutral site knockout tourney in May right after all the domestic leagues.

    • Joe

      November 23, 2010 at 11:55 am

      Your analogy works pretty well, except for the fact that most NCAA conferences have their own tournament (playoffs) at the end of the year to determine who is the conference champion. There just isn’t a perfect example in US sports of a league using a single table with no playoffs at the end to determine the championship.

      Like I keep saying, I have no problem with the fact that the EPL has no playoffs – it’s just a different system. My problem is with people who constantly complain, belittle, or find fault in the way other leagues do it. Diversity is a good thing. EPL is EPL, MLS is MLS. Leave it alone.

      • Dave's Football Blog

        November 23, 2010 at 1:48 pm

        Joe: There actually used to be a lot of college conferences that used the regular season rather than a tournament to determine the champion. TV money changed all that. The Big Ten and Pac-10 held out on conference tournaments until 1998 and 2002, respectively.

        Though I agree with your larger point. Expecting soccer in North America to be the same as soccer in Europe is just silly, and we should just let it be.

      • bob

        November 25, 2010 at 3:38 am

        The Ivy League has no conference tourney to determine their champion.

  25. Joe

    November 23, 2010 at 7:26 am

    Your argument that playoff upsets make the regular season “meaningless” basically contradicts everything great about American sports. I find it hard to understand how you can’t see the beauty in Butler making an NCAA Final, George Mason beating UConn in the tournament, the 8th-seed NY Knicks making the NBA Finals, the “starless” Detroit Pistons winning the NBA Finals, the New York Giants beating the unbeaten New England Patriots in the Super Bowl…no, I’d much rather spend the last day of the year watching points accumulate on a table.

    And yes, how unfair that a team that “worked hard” to have a good record (because those other teams with lesser budgets clearly just didn’t work as hard, that’s the real issue) are left with “nothing” because they lost an important game! Teams should have to win crucial games to reap the rewards?! They can’t just run up the score on weak opponents in the last week?! Unheard of!

    • Dave C

      November 23, 2010 at 9:27 am

      The whole point of a round robin league format (like the EPL) is that teams can’t win the league simply by “running up the score on weak opponents in the last week“. They have to have been consistently good throughout the 38 game season.

      • Joe

        November 23, 2010 at 10:13 am

        I understand the point of the round robin format and think that it works fine in the EPL. I don’t think they should add a playoffs to the EPL, because the league is in fine shape as it is.

        What I do have a problem with is these poser scarf-wearing douchebags who scoff at anyone who runs their soccer league differently than the “perfect” EPL. EPL has good points (world-class talent) and bad points (lack of parity among the best teams). The MLS has good points (9 champions so far, incredible parity) and bad points (undeveloped talent pool, schedule that doesn’t account for the FIFA calendar).

        If you want to ignore all leagues other than EPL, go ahead and do that. Don’t discuss other leagues that you either know nothing about or have nothing but haughty pretentious bullshit to say about.

        • hark now hear.

          November 24, 2010 at 9:59 am

          the mls has got parity because most teams are crap thats why u got 9 champions no consistency if u look at great champions of the past barca real ac milan man u liverpool ajax bayern they all had consistency,and at the moment the epl is the most competitive its ever been for years chelsea man u arsenal spurs man c all capable of winning the league

    • warren

      November 23, 2010 at 10:32 am

      In the EPL each of the 38 games carries equal importance. In terms of an actual sport, what could be fairer that than? There’s also relegation – even teams at the bottom have something to fight for, not just silverware.

      • Matt T.

        November 23, 2010 at 3:38 pm

        Really? Are you sure Chelsea just doesn’t have to beat the crap out of the teams on the bottom of the table to make sure they win it all?

        And the scenario posted only serves to show that MLS lets too many teams into the playoffs. There should be no more than 6 for a 16 team league.

      • bob

        November 25, 2010 at 3:35 am

        What appreciable difference is there between a first place team with 90 points and a second place team with 89, with both teams winning 2-1 at home in the head-to-head match-ups?

    • Unak78

      November 23, 2010 at 4:28 pm

      The true beauty of Butler’s story is that it doesn’t happen 4 times a season. You’re Butlers in the Final Four are things that happen few and far between. Most Cinderella storys burn out in the sweet 16. And regardless of how far they go, they usually only make up, at most, a third of the field. That’s why Cinderella Storys are so sweet, because they’re rare, and in a 64-team field which is ranked appropriately, they’re hard to accomplish. When a Butler makes it to the final, you can count how many games and how many top-ranked sides they had to beat, bracketed outside of their region, to do it.

      MLS’s playoff system makes a mockery of the concept of the Cinderella. The brackets are misconstructed, they don’t reseed the brackets, and then there is little to no advantage paid to the regular season’s best teams outside of home field in the Conf. final. Yes, I enjoyed Butler’s run to the NCAA Final, because the deck was stacked against them and it was truly an accomplishment. Not to mention that Butler also had to win their Conference tourney just to make it to the Big Dance. Maybe 20% of all teams in the country even make it to the tourney. But how could you compare MLS’ “crapshoot” playoff to that. 50% of the teams get in by default. You may as well flip a coin. There is far less adversity, fewer games, easy to get in, inproper seeding, do I need to go on?

      Horrible comparison. I enjoy true Cinderella storys. MLS’ version cheapens the concept.

      • Joe

        November 23, 2010 at 6:16 pm

        What other advantages would you like high seeds to get? A free goal to start the game? A bribed ref?

        Here’s the advantage LA Galaxy had: Home field advantage plus the fact that they’re SUPPOSED TO BE THE BEST TEAM IN THE LEAGUE. I still cannot fathom why you think it’s too much to expect that the best team in the league to win a do-or-die game in their own stadium. And they didn’t even come close! It was 3-0!

        I expect that a champion can overcome adversity, and LA Galaxy proved by losing 3-0 AT HOME in a do-or-die game that they could not do this. Therefore, they are not league champions.

        Yes, you could argue that FC Dallas or Colorado Rapids didn’t really have to overcome any giants on their way to the MLS Cup. But all that really means is that MLS is a league without giants. Is it really so horrible to have a league where all the teams are pretty evenly matched?

        • Matt

          November 25, 2010 at 2:49 am

          Yes. It is that horrible. Leagues rely on a couple bright, shiny showpieces to market the league’s quality, even if those showpieces change over the years (Man U, Chelsea, RM, Barca, Lakers, Celtics, Bulls, Spurs). Without a couple select standouts and with a revolving championship title, then there are no giants to be killed, there are no stories, and anyone can win.

          And that is crap. Your quality is a name out of a hat.

          I get what you’re saying, but the MLS’s attention to parity borders on absurd, and it’s only hurting the league’s quality and, more importantly, its perceived quality. Giving the owners a little more freedom to responsibly make riskier investments in their player base will develop winning strategies. And THAT will create true dynasties and advantages, and, perhaps more importantly, more meaningful upsets.

          THAT is what sells your league. That’s how we can take the MLS beyond just a sandbox of puppet teams with Euro-clone mickey mouse names.

          … because that’s how we’re clearly seen now.

    • hark now hear.

      November 24, 2010 at 9:49 am

      to be fair this is football making most of your comments meaningless too

  26. canyid

    November 23, 2010 at 7:11 am

    “It goes to show how meaningless the regular Major League Soccer season is.”
    This is a function of the relative importance we place on the trophies in the MLS. If the Supporter’s Shield was the “big one” (in fan recognition and prize money), the regular would still be valuable. The MLS Cup would be more akin to… the Carling Cup, I suppose. Though it’s obviously different in that it happens at the end of the season and is a result of successes during the season.

    The North American play-off system is ingrained in our psyche. What I don’t like about the MLS in particular is how easy it is to get in. Over half of the teams in the MLS next year will get a shot at the Cup.

  27. Angus

    November 23, 2010 at 6:09 am

    Dear god no!

    • hark now hear.

      November 24, 2010 at 9:32 am

      who ever wrote this is a retard the mls need to start taking advice from us the makers of the best league in the world we are doing just fine in our world famous league whilst yours is regarded as a retirement home for past it european players and fails to capture the interest of most football fans ..probably because of the strange system..if it aint broke dont fix it.

      • MennoDaddy

        November 24, 2010 at 9:42 am

        Well, that’s not arrogant at all, is it?

      • hark now hear.

        November 24, 2010 at 9:45 am

        why turn a league into a cup?? its a league, can u do anything without doing it to the point where it makes no sense? this system is not fair on teams who have been playing well all season not just in this dumb playoff/cup/league/thing. Why do u ruin everything..and are incapable of admitting that a better idea has been invented outside the us and long before the mls and guess what it works dont be scared america embrace normal football all the top leagues work in a similar way and thats right..thats why they are the best leagues. Why the hell are man city and chelsea in the same mythical west conference? and liverpool who are less than an hour away from manchester end up in the mythical east conference? it all stinks

        • MennoDaddy

          November 24, 2010 at 9:51 am

          I’m not saying I disagree. I’m saying that’s a pretty arrogant way of putting it.

          I happen to like the EPL’s one-table no-playoff system. I also happen to REALLY like the football pyramid and system of promotion and relegation all the way down to the Sunday leagues. That’s awesome, and I wish that system were implemented in a number of different American sports leagues. However, while I’d say the MLS system needs some tweaking (in my opinion), it works for them. Besides, if the MLS were a clone of the EPL in terms of structure, don’t you think that you’d right now be crowing about how the Yanks are flat-out copying “the best league in the world [sic]” ?


          • hark now hear.

            November 24, 2010 at 10:16 am

            u like that word dont u? go on say it again try not to get a hard on lol

          • Joe

            November 24, 2010 at 1:37 pm

            Apparently “hark now hear” is deficient in reading skills. Did you not understand that the article was intended as a joke and the author is not actually suggesting that the EPL adopt playoffs? Go back to school.

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