Clean Sheet Playoff Format: discuss how

Discussion in 'MLS: News & Analysis' started by Viking64, Aug 8, 2002.

  1. Viking64

    Viking64 Member

    Feb 11, 1999
    Tarheel State
    Two groups of four, so suppose it's

    1 San Jose and 1 Chicago
    2 Dallas
    3 Los Angeles
    4 Kansas City
    5 Columbus
    6 Colorado
    7 New York

    Now what? I guess the conference winner gets the anchor. The Supporters Shield winner gets the 4th in their group.

    San Jose
    Los Angeles
    New York


    They schedule 3 games, but where?
    LA at SJ
    NY at Crew

    Crew at SJ
    NY at LA

    Crew at LA
    NY at SJ

    Each team gets 3, 2, 1, and 0 home games?

    Bracket 2
    Burn at Fire
    Colo at City

    City at Fire
    Colo at Burn

    Colo at Fire
    City at Burn

    Round 2, Higher Regular season record gets home away home
    Bracket 1 A vs Brack 2B
    Bracket 2 A vs Brack 1B

    Might be fun...but the whole problem is that they don't control the dates, so the schedule is always going to have problems until they control the venues. THEN it will be worth it.
  2. HalaMadrid

    HalaMadrid Member

    Apr 9, 1999
    This playoff format would be DYNAMITE...

    ...if it were two groups of 3. A great resolution and inovative way to handle playoffs with a modicum of fluke control to keep people happy.

    So, like this:

    Group A: 1, 4, 6
    Group B: 2, 3, 5

    Playoff Round One
    1 v 6
    2 v 5

    Playoff Round Two
    4 v 6
    3 v 5

    Playoff Round Three
    1 v 4
    2 v 3

    Semifinal Round
    A1 v B2B1 v A2

    MLS Cup Final
    Semifinal Winners
    That's 5 weeks, with the early dates locked in to promote ticket sales. Semifinal as one match at the higher seed in the playoff grouping provides aexcitement...I think this is a winner.

    However, it needs to be 6 least until we expand again, then 8 would be alright again. You can easily adapt it to league size without wholly changing the format.
    I also like the idea of 6 teams for a 10 team leage with the 1 and 2 getting a bye to the semis and the other 4 seeds having single play-in games to match up with the high seeds in Best-of-Three Semifinals...but this is not as likely a proposition.

    Creative thinking, at least.
  3. mr.acorn

    mr.acorn New Member

    Jul 22, 2001
    Grand Rapids, Michigan
    Eliminating the game 3's will make getting Tv time alittle easier.

    All in all, I like the concept...though, I'd go one step further and eliminate the divisions and make the Supporters Shield "official".
  4. BWMcTell

    BWMcTell New Member

    Jul 2, 2002
    I like this idea, although it will be difficult to pull that off 'a la European leagues' since the USA is so large that regional matchup-heavy schedules make more sense than a full balanced schedule. But I am all for creating one division for MLS. Enough of this East v. West crap. No matter how the teams are put together, rivalries will develop and remain if the play is good.
  5. mlsrevs

    mlsrevs New Member

    Dec 28, 1999
    I hope this could somehow work.
  6. jmeissen0

    jmeissen0 New Member

    Mar 31, 2001
    page 1078
    we need to get more teams in mls :(
  7. Wizardscharter

    Wizardscharter New Member

    Jul 25, 2001
    Blue Springs, MO
    It may well have the advantages that TCS mentioned. You do have a built in advantage of seeding being earned by the regular season. You hopefully "upgrade" quarterfinal games into "semi-final" type games, maybe that helps sales. You have an interesting but complicated set-up, and maybe even a clear winner (maybe not). Last you have three playoff dates instead of possibly 6. Maybe MLS can squeeze out a better TV contract for this set up. Lots of maybes.

    That said, the disadvantages are numerous, glaring, and not in doubt:

    You might not have a clear winner:
    hello? These are supposed to be playoffs. You might have someone go through on goal difference or some convoluted thing like head-to-head in the regular season. At the very least it increases the need for a tie-breaker heirarchy. Is that what we want? It's not what I want. Pool play? C'mon, stick with playoffs. If pool play was the way to do it, the second round of the World Cup would be 4 pools of 4, where the winners make up the final Group.

    Two teams make the playoffs and get a total of zero home games:
    wow, that's a tough sell. The problem is easily solved by having the #1 seed in the pool go to the #4 seed (again within the pool - 7 or 8 seed in reality), and keed the rest the same. Top two seeds get 2 home games and the low two get one home game of three. Still, it's more complicated. Pundits say people apparently can't grasp a simple-by-comparison first-to-5 system and you are going to ask those same people to swallow this? Please.

    Another disadvantage is that you probably get meaningless games on the third matchday of Round 1:
    you will definitely get at least one game in each pool where one team has nothing at stake. With the current system you might get a "meaningless" game, but it's never known that it was meaningless (a Gm 1 or 2 tie) until it was over. That's a horrible system in that regard. Just plain horrible. It is a sure way to guarantee at least one Matchday 3 crowd of 6,000 in colder October.

    Yet another disadvantage: It's more accurate to call this a negative similarity to the current system. MLS plays in NFL stadia mostly, and will for some time. Dates will be as difficult to iron out for one system as the other. The difference being 3 preset dates versus up to four where only one is pre-set currently. If the league can reserve 3 dates in advance for a system like the one proposed, why can't they reserve four dates (two home dates over two rounds) for the current system. Where is the ease of scheduling that is supposed to lead to MLS being able to "pre-sell" the dates. I think this is a fallacy. The system shouldn't matter when reserving October dates in February. MLS either can or MLS can't. Don't be fooled by spin doctoring. Can MLS really say that the difference in reserving MLS stadia for 3 dates instead of 4 warrants the changing of an ingrained playoff system? Hmmm, there is a value in consistency.

    Is 3 games to determine a finalist better than 4 and possibly 6? I believe the goal of playoffs is to determine the best team. "Best team" to me goes beyond the first 11 and all the way down the bench to your last guy. I think it's better to have the possibility of more games to test that bench, if need be. To me the attrition inherant to playoff hockey is one reason the TV numbers are greater. The average sports fan that only tunes in to the playoffs wants to see some of that "Bhutan Death March" aspect on ABC/ESPN and hear about it from Gary Thorne. I don't think MLS can capture what NHL does, but why throw it away?

    Still, there is no possible way this system is "easier" to understand or less complex than the current one. The system is unique and different, but so is the current system. At least under the current one you get a clear decision and maybe more games. As a fan that would seem to be a signifigant positive.

    I'd love to meet the marketer that was able to sell this idea to the decision makers. That person has a brilliant future ahead of him/her.

    Obviously the pitch was about money increasing or something like that. I'd like to read the proposal to find out how exactly the proposed would translate to more dollars. Unless those numbers were phenominal, and true, it's a mistake.
  8. due time

    due time Member+

    Mar 1, 1999
    Santa Clara
    Re: Re: Clean Sheet Playoff Format: discuss how

    Yes, a clear tie-breaker system would be needed which did not include 'coin flip' as the last tie-breaker. The great minds at MLS surely could think of something better than FIFA did.

    I think most people in the US who would even consider watching an MLS play-off game will be familiar with the WC system after Kore/Japan.

    BTW, why do you think FIFA does pool play in the first round? I myself don't know, but if it is as repugnant as you suggest, they could easily devise a pure single elimination tournament. I think the answer is this:
    It takes too long to do pool play to the end. It also deprives the fans of a 1v1 matchup of the two best teams with the cup on the line. Otherwise, I could argue that pool play is inherently more fair than a single elimination tournament (ability to recover from one bad referee's decision, etc..).
  9. due time

    due time Member+

    Mar 1, 1999
    Santa Clara
    Re: Re: Clean Sheet Playoff Format: discuss how

    It's done all the time in the NFL, remember the '81 Raiders? Next point....

    Mathematically, there is only one combination of wins/losese/ties 3/1/0 that results in a meaningless game, i.e. Team1 6, Team2 6, Team3 0, Team4 0. It didn't occur in this WC, and would be rather rare, not a yearly occurance for sure.

    You would end up with games on the third date where one team is eliminated (i.e. Poland) and only playing a spoiler role. If that is the home team, then yes, it could affect attendance, but it definately is not 'meaningless', at least at the start of the game (US v Poland turned out to be meaningless, but my gut wasn't saying that thru most of the match!).
  10. due time

    due time Member+

    Mar 1, 1999
    Santa Clara
    Re: Re: Clean Sheet Playoff Format: discuss how

    The concept is group play to determine the top two teams in each group and THEN, have a four team single elimination play-off. Very similar to a mini WC format. I think maybe you missed that point. So the # of 'playoff' games is 5 for the winner and runner-up.

    Maybe it is more complex than I was imagining since a die-hard fan like yourself is having trouble with it! j/k...

    Seriously, I think having a system that is even a bit complicated is OK, if it's modeled after something everyone is now pretty familiar with, i.e. world cup. A unique system is the most complex because fans and media don't have a reference point.
  11. sydtheeagle

    sydtheeagle New Member

    May 21, 2002
    Quite apart from the fact that playoffs are, by definition, a farce since the "regular" season determines in every sense the best team in a league, why does the MSL have to have them? Why should fans be expected to pay to watch games week in and week out that are all too oftent essentially meaningless, and even openly insulted by the administrators of the game itself by being called "regular" as if to denote that only what comes next is special.

    Before anyone says "because in America, playoffs are the way it's done", well, why not football buck the trend? Instead of carving out its own identity and drawing new followers by imitating the worst traits of the other major sports in the States (clue: playoffs are nothing more than a way to squeeze a few extra bucks out of the fans the TV networks), why doesn't the MSL stand proudly apart and say "here, we've got a league system that actually counts".

    No doubt a stupid idea.
  12. The REVerend

    The REVerend New Member

    Feb 25, 2001
    Newton, MA
    I agree that this would be ideal. Having one table and declaring the team with the most points champion is the best way to do it. It makes "regular" season games meaningful. It is also the fairest way to do things, because injuries and bad referee decisions even out over the course of the year.

    However I don't think this system would work in MLS right now because

    1) MLS needs the money that the playoffs generate. You could argue that the one table system would bring in extra revenue for regular season games, but I don't think it would bring in as much as having 4 or 5 extra dates does. Also, having a higher profile game like MLS Cup is important for getting MLS media exposure.

    2) Most teams would have little to play for at the end of the season. In Europe the table system works because there is promotion/relegation and because teams can attempt to earn places in the Champions League and UEFA Cup. We don't have any of those things here, and so there would only be one meaningful position in the league: #1. In the English Premier League, for example, a team that is out of the title race might still have to fight to avoid relegation or attempt to qualify for the next season's CL. If this weren't the case, there would be a ton of relatively meaningless games in the last few months of the season.

    I would love to see the table system in MLS. However I don't think it will work until MLS starts making money, implements some sort of promotion/relegation system, and finds a way to get its teams into a meaningful club competition (the copa libertadores?)...
  13. galaxyfan03

    galaxyfan03 Member

    Jul 4, 2001
    Glendale, California
    Los Angeles Galaxy
    Nat'l Team:
    United States
    ANYTHING would be better than that PATHETIC "First to 5 points" system we have right now.

    However, I do have MY own proposal.

    Make the Q-finals & Semis a "true" best-of-three series. In other words, instead of "First to 5 points," make it "First to win 2 games." If there is a tie in Game 1 or Game 2, play a 30-minute OT (Golden Goal). If still even, then go to PKs. It may not be the most popular choice, but at least we'll have a winner. If the teams are still even after two games & regulation time in the third game, then play the 30-minute OT followed by PKs, if necessary.

    ELIMINATE that stupid "mini-game" stuff.

    Now, as far as the MLS Cup Final goes, it should be a two-game series, a la Copa Libertadores. The finalists should each host a game, with the higher-seeded team hosting the second game. If the first game ends in a draw after 90 minutes, it stays that way. If the second game ends in a draw after 90 minutes or is even on total goals, then you play 30 minutes of sudden-death OT followed by PKs to decide the MLS Cup Champion.

    This would insure each finalist gets an extra home game (which means more $) & would, hopefully, guarantee a large crowd.

    I've liked the neutral-site idea for the Cup Final, but after what happened at Crew Stadium last year I feel a change might be in order. This would also move MLS more in line with FIFA standards, in terms of deciding a the league champ.
  14. Jimbob

    Jimbob New Member

    Jul 17, 1999
    Washington DC
    Re: Re: Re: Clean Sheet Playoff Format: discuss how

    FIFA organizes the first round of the World Cup as pool play because it means that 16 teams dont come home after one game.

    Well, it matters if two teams would advance from the four team group or if one team would advance. The more sensible approach, having the group winners play each other in the MLS Cup final, means there are more meaningless games than in the World Cup's First Round. In any case, any playoff system where there is any chance of a meaningless game is not worth it.

    MLS has nowhere near the amount of exposure that the NFL has to make this a relevant argument. Imagine my Quakes winning the MLS Cup last year without a single home there any coverage here locally? Not at all.

    MLS, MLS, MLS.

    Couldn't agree with you more...I really wish the lague would be decided like that, but it ain't never going to happen here. It just wouldn't don't understand.

    MLS? Make money?

    I am assuming you're English. I'd like to point out a certain country quite a ways south of us that is pretty well respected and they too have a playoff format to decide their national championship. They beat you in the Quarters, remember? It may be a stupid idea, but its not like America is the blight on a footballing world that is free of playoff systems. How do you expect Crystal Palace to get to the Premiership, anyway? Automatically?

  15. sydtheeagle

    sydtheeagle New Member

    May 21, 2002
    Re: Re: Re: Re: Clean Sheet Playoff Format: discuss how

    Tomorrow evening is the 33rd anniversary of my first match at Selhurst Park. That means I've seen Palace something in the region of 1,000 times. With that in mind, what on God's green earth makes you think I expect them to get promoted?

    You can have the Premiership. I cared about things like "glamour" when I was young, but these days I'm quite happy to watch my football in real grounds packed (or not, as the case may be) by real supporters who follow their local teams and to revel in absence of bandwagon jumpers and prawn sandwiches in the cocktail bar at half time. That's what the "lower divisions" are about, and I love it.
  16. John Galt

    John Galt Member

    Aug 30, 2001
    Personally, I think the World Cup style playoff format is a great idea. It's easier to schedule and market games than the first to five format, is easier to understand, and provides real consequences for the regular season. No playoffs just isn't going to happen and for those who don't want soccer to copy other leagues, this playoff format is unique to soccer. I only wish it could be implemented this year. It's a fantastic idea.
  17. Rocket

    Rocket Member

    Aug 29, 1999
    Everton FC
    Nat'l Team:
    United States
    The main problem I see with the playoff format as its being proposed is the possibility of ending up with meaningless matches during the final stage of the round-robin phase.

    A good way to get around that difficulty (proposed by kebzach, I believe) would be to have only 3 teams in each group. Then have the winners of each group meet up in the MLS Cup.


    1) 6 of 10 teams make the playoffs
    2) playoffs could be held over 3 weekends
    3) each round-robin match is hosted by the team having the better regular season record
    4) the use of PK's to decide a winner would only potentially occur in the MLS Cup


    1) If teams are tied in points after the end of the round-robin phase, it would be necessary to break the tie by a coin toss/drawing lots if all other tiebreakers (goal differential, total goals scored, etc) were inconclusive
  18. harttbeat

    harttbeat Member

    Dec 29, 1998
    New York
    My Playoff Format

    what about this... the current league structure, there's really no incentives for conference winners... Let's have a 6 teams playoff (ala the NFL championship conference)...

    The two conference winners will get bye... The four wild card teams will play to advanced to the MLS Cup semi-final... I would rather have a single game elimination...the team with more points will get home field advantage... I think this would system will take less than 3 weeks and it would not necessary crash with NFL stadium conflicts... I dunno but the current 5 points system really sux.

    I know this system will mean less games for MLS but you can always add from 28 games season to 32 games season...Besides, history shown MLS playoff games don't sell for whatever reason... This system gives more meaning to MLS season and teams will want to win the conference...

    what ya think?
  19. ThreeApples

    ThreeApples Member+

    Jul 28, 1999
    Smurf Village
    San Jose Earthquakes
    Nat'l Team:
    United States
    Re: My Playoff Format

    The current league structure gives a lot of incentive to conference winners. Having two out of three at home in each round is a big incentive, especially for a team like San Jose, which hasn't dropped a league point at home since last August and hasn't earned a point on the road since June 1. They need to win the Supporters Shield to have a clear path to the final. For the Eastern Conference winner, they get to have the 2nd seed and home field advantage despite being 6th-place in the league.
  20. harttbeat

    harttbeat Member

    Dec 29, 1998
    New York
    Re: Re: My Playoff Format

    if the conference winner loses the first match and loses again in the away match, what incentives does they have? You're only GUARANTEE to have one home games... Look at MLB, NBA, and NHL... I know they have a 5 or 7 games type playoff format but the better winning percentage team play at least 2 home games...
  21. ThreeApples

    ThreeApples Member+

    Jul 28, 1999
    Smurf Village
    San Jose Earthquakes
    Nat'l Team:
    United States
    Re: Re: Re: My Playoff Format

    None, because they will be out of it. If you lose at home in the playoffs, you are screwed under pretty much any format. Getting the home field advantage is a big incentive, but you still have to do something with it.
  22. harttbeat

    harttbeat Member

    Dec 29, 1998
    New York
    Re: Re: Re: Re: My Playoff Format

    I just think in a 3 game series, a home-field advantage is not enough incentives... A week bye sounds better to me...
  23. Rocket

    Rocket Member

    Aug 29, 1999
    Everton FC
    Nat'l Team:
    United States
    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: My Playoff Format

    Whoever wins the East this year certainly doesn't deserve a bye.
  24. ElJefe

    ElJefe Moderator
    Staff Member

    Feb 16, 1999
    Colorful Colorado
    FC Dallas
    Nat'l Team:
    United States
    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: My Playoff Format

    In MLS, the team with the home-field advantage has won the 3-game series a significant percentage of the time. There have only been 10 upsets in the 36 3-game series in MLS history, and four of those came in 1997 alone. Take out 1997, and 24 out of the 30 teams (80%) with the home-field advantage in MLS history have gone on to win.

    And only twice in league history has a team ever won Game 3 on the road.
  25. bright

    bright Member

    Dec 28, 2000
    Central District
    Seattle Sounders
    Nat'l Team:
    United States
    Re: My Playoff Format

    I like the idea of a 6-team playoff, too. I also like the 3-game series, but the current playoffs drag on way too long. So I would do it like this:

    The regular season ends on a Saturday with exciting playoff-implication matches. :)

    The following Saturday, the 3rd place team hosts the 6th place team and the 4th place team hosts the 5th place team in a one-match knockout to advance to the semifinals. The 1st and 2nd place teams (conference winners) get a bye to the semifinals.

    The next three Saturdays will be the semifinals with the 1st and 2nd place teams hosting matches 1 and 3, and the knock-out winning teams hosting match 2. The third game may not be necessary to play, and if so, the teams that would have been involved in the third games of the semifinals will rest.

    Then the final will be played the Saturday following the 3rd games of the semifinals.

    The schedule would look like this:
    weekend 28: last game of regular season
    weekend 29: teams 3-6 play a knockout game, teams 1-2 rest
    weekend 30: semifinal game 1
    weekend 31: semifinal game 2
    weekend 32: semifinal game 3 (if necessary)
    weekend 33: final at neutral venue


    1) As soon as the regular season is over, the playoff schedule is locked in.

    2) Not that many games need to be locked in, only 2 matches per saturday except for the final. This makes it easier to schedule.

    3) There is plenty of time for the host team to market the next match. For the one-game knockout teams 3-4 have one week, and the winners of the knockout match have 2 weeks to market the next home match that will occur as game 2 of the semifinals. The conference winners have 2 weeks after the last regular season match to market game 1 of the semifinals.

    4) All games can be on Saturday, venue availability permitting, although with only 2 venues needed per weekend, this is easier to pull off. No weekday games.

    5) Playoffs become less convoluted and drawn-out, with the focus being on the 3-game semifinal match-ups. We cut to the chase right away, we don't linger with 4 3-game quarterfinal match-ups involving some teams that finished on the bottom-end of the table (or middle of table in a 16-team league) [basically teams that finished too far from first place to really be considered champions even if they win the playoffs, although it is really only a philosophical difference between 8,6,4,2,or 1 :)]

    6) 1st and 2nd place teams are rewarded more, so there will be exciting races in the regular season for these positions. And the races for 3rd through 6th places will also be more exciting, because the home-field advantage will be essential in the one-game knockout. With only 6 teams in the playoffs, there will be more quality.

    7) I think this will create more momentum and drama going into the final match.

    8) The "2 games per weekend" schedule makes for destination viewing on TV, continuing with the "Soccer Saturday" theme from the regular season.

    I think that no matter how many teams MLS expands to, they should always have 2 conferences, East and West. I like this number of conferences because it allows for an unbalanced schedule and thus gives credence to playoffs, but it doesn't go overboard with too many regular season "champions". Thus even with a 20-team league, I think 2 conferences plus my playoff setup would work beautifully.

    I don't like the idea of the round-robin group play for the playoffs. It will be too drawn-out and seems too much like an extra season, especially with 4 teams per group. 3 teams per group just doesn't seem worth it. And there is too much chance for meaningless games in group play.

    - Paul


Share This Page