After The Athletic released an interview with Inter Miami manager Phil Neville, the club banned the publication from its media day event. The interview with Neville included criticism of the lack of a finite playoff structure a week before the regular season started. However, the most interesting note was Neville’s support of promotion and relegation in Major League Soccer.

Inter Miami banned Pablo Iglesias Maurer and Felipe Cardenas from the club’s media festivities. However, the two writers from The Athletic stood by their reporting and the story.

In fact, the original story included an editor’s note with a comment from Inter Miami. The club wanted to ensure that the sentiments of pro/rel and the criticism of a playoff structure was entirely Neville’s personal opinion, not that of the club.

Regardless, Maurer said on Twitter that the club was unhappy with the content and timing of the release of the interview with Phil Neville.

The MLS season starts on Feb. 25, and The Athletic published the interview with the Inter Miami manager on Feb. 19.

Inter Miami targets The Athletic before playoff format release

Since the story went live, MLS did finally come to a conclusion on a revised playoff structure. It differs heavily from the seven teams per conference from a season ago.

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This season, there is a play-in game for the eight and nine seeds in each conference. Then, the opening round of the competition is a best-of-three series, which is seldom done in soccer. Those games cannot be settled by draws. Then, the conference semifinals, conference finals and MLS Cup are all single-elimination games.

In total, 18 of the league’s 29 teams in the 2023 season will make the playoffs, even if four of those teams are in a wildcard matchup in the first round of the playoffs.

Even then, this announcement comes just four days before the beginning of the season. Neville says that delay makes the league look unprofessional.

Of course, Neville also hoped for promotion and relegation. That much seems unlikely given the risk on owners spending hundreds of millions on franchises.

Photo: IMAGO / ZUMA Wire