Dan Loney Playoff Column

Discussion in 'MLS: News & Analysis' started by John Galt, Sep 5, 2002.

  1. John Galt

    John Galt Member

    Aug 30, 2001
    Atlanta
    http://www.cybersoccernews.com/columnists/loney/020905loney.shtml

    Wherein, Dan Loney determines that the current best to five format is the best possible playoff format. He's right about the two-game goal-differential idea being terrible. But I think group play gets dismissed too easily. Here's my little schematic for how it could work:

    Top 8 teams in 2 groups of 4: 1,3,5,8 and 2,4,6,7.
    The top 2 seeds in each pool get two home games, bottom two get one. The very top seed plays its only away game at the lowest seed, in the second game.
    Group A[B/] Group B
    3 at 1 4 at 2
    8 at 5 7 at 6
    1 at 8 2 at 7
    5 at 3 6 at 4
    5 at 1 6 at 2
    8 at 3 7 at 4
    Top two seeds have home field in the semis. Scheduling should not be a problem because even the teams beholden to football stadiums would have to schedule 3 games at the max, and every playoff team gets at least one home game.
    What's missing?
     
  2. Wizardscharter

    Wizardscharter New Member

    Jul 25, 2001
    Blue Springs, MO
    Loney Playoff Column

    Nice article.

    It's an accurate synopsis of all the intelligent thoughts posted by non-Euros on this board over the last few years. Very interesting how Loney adds in a "hisorical chain" by mentioning an e-mail from someone everyone knows. It's almost believable that he had an original thought and developed a collumn from it...almost.

    I couldn't agree with the view any more than I do. That's why myself and precious few others have posted exactly the same thing since the format was created. It's good to see a writer of sorts come around to the proper way of thinking.
     
  3. Wizardscharter

    Wizardscharter New Member

    Jul 25, 2001
    Blue Springs, MO
    Re: Loney Playoff Column

    typo...historical

    My editor has the week off.
     
  4. Rocket

    Rocket Member

    Aug 29, 1999
    Chicago
    Club:
    Everton FC
    Nat'l Team:
    United States
    Dan correctly points out that under the old playoff system, the visiting team had an incentive to play for a tie so that they could earn the chance for a shootout win.

    But while Loney infers that "first to five" has helped lessen the incentive for dull, play-for-the-tie play, I fail to see how that's the case. Under the "first to five" setup, doesn't a team have the exact same incentive to play for a tie on the road as they did back in the days of the shootout?

    And what about the scenario in "first to five" where teams teams tie the first game. If that occurs, the 2nd game is all but meaningless, since no matter what happens a 3rd game is assured.
     
  5. ThreeApples

    ThreeApples Member+

    Jul 28, 1999
    Smurf Village
    Club:
    San Jose Earthquakes
    Nat'l Team:
    United States
    Not really. For the higher-seeded team, they don't even need a point on the road, so they have nothing to lose by going for the away win. For the lower seeded team, playing for a tie isn't enough, because, without an away win, they will still need to go to the series overtime and maybe penalties, or they will need two away ties, and playing for two ties over 200 minutes is not likely to be a successful strategy.

    How is the second game meaningless? Is there no difference between going into game three needing only a draw to advance, and going into game three needing a win just to force 20 more minutes of extra time? A game 1 tie just creates a two-game home-and-away that so many say they long for. Is the first game of a two game series meaningless, since no matter what happens a 2nd game is assured?
     
  6. Rocket

    Rocket Member

    Aug 29, 1999
    Chicago
    Club:
    Everton FC
    Nat'l Team:
    United States
    You should read more carefully, Noah. I said all but meaningless.
     
  7. ThreeApples

    ThreeApples Member+

    Jul 28, 1999
    Smurf Village
    Club:
    San Jose Earthquakes
    Nat'l Team:
    United States
    You don't explain how the difference between entering game three needing only a draw, and needing a win just to force 20 more minutes of overtime is all but meaningless. I ask again: Is the first game of a two game series all but meaningless, since you know that no matter what happens, game 2 is assured?
     
  8. John Galt

    John Galt Member

    Aug 30, 2001
    Atlanta
    If the first game is a draw, the higher seeded team, playing an away game, does not have a complete incentive to win. Another draw sends them back home needing the same result -- a win or tie at home Three is more than one, so of course it's never completely meaningless. But, in a first to five scenario, there's always the possibility that in the late stages of a game a team can play bunkerball to tie.

    Admittedly, that's true in the round robin format as well, but perhaps the fact that you leave your fate to others when you tie in a round robin is more incentive in the waning minutes to go for a late goal than playing for the next game in a best-to-five scenario.
     
  9. Quaker

    Quaker Member

    FC Dallas
    Apr 19, 2000
    Nat'l Team:
    United States
    I don't think any playoff game in the first-to-five scenario could be considered all but meaningless.

    Now the proposed group playoff system does have the potential to create an all but meaningless game three (at least for one team) if winning the group or failing to finish in the top two has already been guaranteed after two matches.
     
  10. Rocket

    Rocket Member

    Aug 29, 1999
    Chicago
    Club:
    Everton FC
    Nat'l Team:
    United States
    Granted, "all but meaningless" was probably a bit too strong of a statement on my part.

    But, in a "first to five" series that's tied after the 1st match, no matter who wins, loses, or ties the 2nd match, the team that wins the 3rd match will either advance in the playoffs or at worst have to play series overtime. So in that respect the 2nd game is considerably less important than the 3rd.

    Now granted, it would be nice to win the 2nd match after a 1st match tie, so that you'd enter the final match needing only a tie to advance. But how smart is it really to enter any match playing for a tie? From what I've seen, it's often a sure fire way to find yourself trailing in a game and thus increases the chance your team ends up losing the match.

    And besides, do we really want teams entering what should be a dramatic 3rd game of a playoff series playing ultra conservatively for a tie? I should hope not.
     
  11. Quaker

    Quaker Member

    FC Dallas
    Apr 19, 2000
    Nat'l Team:
    United States
    I'm not sure I follow your logic here. If game one of a first-to-five-points series ends in a tie, then it becomes a two-game series, and both games are equally important. You can't say the first of these is "considerably less important" than the second one. It's like saying the first half of a soccer game is considerably less important than the second half.
     
  12. ThreeApples

    ThreeApples Member+

    Jul 28, 1999
    Smurf Village
    Club:
    San Jose Earthquakes
    Nat'l Team:
    United States
    Also, the team that wins the 2nd match will either advance in the playoffs or at worst have to play series overtime. So in that respect the 2nd game is equally important as the 3rd.
     
  13. Mr Hanki's Throne

    Mr Hanki's Throne New Member

    Mar 13, 2001
    Wellington, Colo
    For a group breakdown, you should make it easier for the #1

    1,4,6,8
    2,3,5,7


    For first to five, I'd prefer to see the lower seed get the first home game, then the higher seed host the last two games. This was the way in 1996, when the playoffs were once well-attended.

    If the top seed wins the first game on the road, then the home game can turn into a "coronation" and people turn out to game 2 to watch. Under the present system the top seed hosts the first game, but game one hardly has the tension to build up a large attendance.

    If the top seed loses on the road in game one, then there is a fight for their lives. Either people respond and show up for game two or not. If it gets to a game three, the situation is pretty much the same as with the present system. But that game two has a chance for a big draw, but the equivalent game for the top seed today is game one for which there is no tension.

    I should lay out this proposal better, but it is motivated by the excitement in RFK in 1996 for the DC/NY and DC/Tampa series.
     
  14. Rocket

    Rocket Member

    Aug 29, 1999
    Chicago
    Club:
    Everton FC
    Nat'l Team:
    United States
    You're right, mathematically the 2nd and 3rd matches would have the same importance.

    But psychologically the 3rd match is more important the 2nd.

    Win the 2nd, and you're apt to play for the tie in the 3rd, lose that match, and go into series overtime disheartened and headed for elimination from the playoffs.

    Win the 3rd, and the all important momemtum's yours, and you'll undoubtably win the series overtime should it come down to that. ;) See last year's Galaxy/MetroStars series overtime and the Kansas City/LA series overtime in 2000 for perfect examples of this phenomenom.
     
  15. BlueLightning

    BlueLightning New Member

    Sep 7, 1999
    pesto of all cities
    Club:
    Seattle Sounders
    Nat'l Team:
    United States
    They should can the play-offs all together and just give the title to the regular season points champion.







    ....







    Sorry, it had to be said.
     
  16. CaCTuS[14DT]

    CaCTuS[14DT] Red Card

    Apr 2, 2000
    that would make too much sense and would be in keeping with the spirit of global football. Why would MLS ever want that? Nah...lets get back to really important issues like which will be the next bobblehead doll to be issued, or how cool it would be to resurrect the NASL, or everyone's favorite party topic "it's unfair for europeans and mexicans to look down upon our joke of a league".
     
  17. BenReilly

    BenReilly New Member

    Apr 8, 2002
    "Global football" I don't think so, unless you equate Europe with the World and conveniently forget that the regular season in Europe is now designed entirely to determine who makes the European playoffs.
     
  18. Hattrix

    Hattrix Member

    Sep 1, 2002
    Chicago
    What about a group phase with two three-team groups. Highest seed plays two home games, lowest two away games, middle splits. Group A has teams 1, 4, and the winner of a single playoff between 5 and 8 played at 5. Group B has teams 2, 3 and the winner of 7 at 6. Semifinals then are 1st A vs. 2nd B and 1st B vs. 2nd A. Then a final.

    So there's a play-in for the right to play two away games in the final tournament. Each team that makes the playoffs gets at least two games (as it is now), and the eventual champion plays a total of four games--less than the current situation, but enough to really count as winning a tournament. Crap teams don't automatically get any home games in the postseason, which makes being in the bottom of the league suck--this addresses the whole "8 out of 10 is too easy" line of thinking .

    I think one of the best things about first to five, though, is that it allows for some damn good rivalries to build--something our young league needs, plus, this article is starting to convince me that first to five is OK.
     
  19. CaCTuS[14DT]

    CaCTuS[14DT] Red Card

    Apr 2, 2000

    Nice try Cinderella. Your theory is so flawed it's sad.

    According to you, the regular season champion (which in the wacky euro-way...is actually the real champion! go figure!) isn't celebrating their championship...instead they are celebrating what will happen the following year. Was that what the likes of Valencia and Arsenal were so overjoyed about back in May??? "YES!!! WE'VE WON THE CHANCE TO PLAY IN THE CHAMPIONS LEAGUE!" I doubt it....

    And yes... the regular season champion is a global concept. And by global what I really mean is the elite leagues in the world. Just because you can name me an obscure country that has a round robin playoff system to determine which 10 teams get into a second three-leg playoff to whittle down the competitors to two who play a series of 9 games over the span of 2 weeks to crown a champion....doesn't mean it's a justifiable model to follow.

    Or are you telling me that you are actually happy being an isolated, lonely offshoot of the rest of the soccer world?
     
  20. hangthadj

    hangthadj BigSoccer Yellow Card

    A.S. Roma
    Mar 27, 2001
    Beacon, NY
    Club:
    Columbus Crew
    I really don't mind.
    Face it, the playoffs, for now at least and probably a long way into the future are neccessary for MLS. The final is the one game a year (maybe two if you count the allstar game) that gets promoted on ABC which gets the league about as much exposure as the rest of the year combined.
    In addition the battle to get into the playoffs has been whats kept NE and DC fans coming to the stadium long after they should have stopped caring. Relegation is a long ways off. The players don't seem to mind the playoffs, the fans (for the most part, you an obvious exception) enjoy it. We're a league in its 7th year in a nation that hadn't had a succesful world cup since 1930 or 50 before this one came by. If you think its only the MLS playoff system that keeps us a "isolated, lonely offshoot of the rest of the soccer world" I really think you made need to put a little more thought onto this.
     
  21. krolpolski

    krolpolski Member+

    Very well written, Dan. Except

    "aw, who am I kidding." should have a "?" at the end.
     
  22. Jambon

    Jambon Member

    Mar 3, 2000
    Austin, TX
    Single Elimination with home field determined by seeding.

    Problem solved.
     
  23. Wizardscharter

    Wizardscharter New Member

    Jul 25, 2001
    Blue Springs, MO
    There is no problem, it's a great system.

    *The reg season matters. Game 3's have been won mostly if not all by home teams.
    *This system has more games. MLS isn't a 10-month league. I don't want a shorter season, it's too short as it is.
    *One-offs are for the USOC. Different competitons are better with differing formats. Less games and no home games for 4 teams. One bad game or bad call and a league champ is out to the 25-point lesser 8 seed. No thanks. Nobody wins, everyone loses here; fans, owners, teams, TV...yuck.
    *Two legs are just plain unequitable regardless of seed. Anytime a team can play specifically for a tie to advance is a travesty to the concept of sport. This isn't chess.

    The nature of soccer is such that accepting ties is a necessary evil - to a point. The "first to 5" system limits the acceptance of ties, fluke weather, and penalties. It maximizes the necessity of wins, even if it comes down to the mini-game.
    *3 games with tiebreakers in every game only puts more emphasis on the tiebreaker. I want it solved on the field, clearly, unargueably, playing the same game in minute 130 that is played in minute 1.
    *The highly touted pool systems being mentioned would only distance the average fan from this league. More change, more having to learn, more figuring out that MLS will not have the same draw as WC and UEFA CL. The WC is about neutrality and leveling the playing field. The CL is a complete other season based on home and away pool play. MLS playoffs shoud have a signifigant home advantage for a higher seed, they shouldn't be pool play. Team vs team is playoffs. It's not called one-offs. It's not called pool-offs.

    What's next? Three years from now we get yet another new format unlike any in American sports that the general public(not us)doesn't understand. Every year this league changes something major. Every year. Stay the same and start to build some continuity. It's way past time.

    Nobody has had any arguements that the losing team was better than the winning team at the end of the series.

    Wake up, "first to 5" is what you want as a fan: limited acceptance of flukes, no penalties unless it simply has to be (it hasn't yet), a series to properly determine a clear difference between teams, seeding determined by season standing, an actual reward for a higher seed, and something that builds not only rivalry, but dramatic tension as series and playoffs drive to a crescendo.

    Outside of signing Lothar, the installation of this or any differing playoff system would be the biggest mistake this league has made, period.
     
  24. CaCTuS[14DT]

    CaCTuS[14DT] Red Card

    Apr 2, 2000
    OK then, enjoy being to world soccer what the Canadian Football League is to NFL/College ball... the silly foreign league with the cute rule changes they think will enhance their entertainment-value.
     
  25. tcmahoney

    tcmahoney New Member

    Feb 14, 1999
    Metronatural
    I wasn't aware that MLS had 12 players to a side or extra-wide goals.

    Let alone the rouge, for that matter.
     

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