Wagman: Re- MLS Playoffs

Discussion in 'MLS: News & Analysis' started by mpruitt, Oct 31, 2003.

  1. mpruitt

    mpruitt Member

    Feb 11, 2002
    E. Somerville
    Club:
    New England Revolution
    http://www.soccertimes.com/wagman/2003/oct30.htm

    A whole lot of writing to say that he thinks that MLS should go to a single table. His analogy with the ACC Conference is flawed in that the whole point of a conference tournament at least in basketball is so that teams can vie for an automatic NCAA bid.
     
  2. Liverpool_SC

    Liverpool_SC Member

    Jun 28, 2002
    Upstate, SC
    Especially since the ACC, like other college conferences (SEC and Big 10) is expanding so that they can add a conference championship game in football. The implications of adding at least Virginia Tech and Miami will make it almost impossible to run the basketball schedule the way they do now. {ed. note. now I see that Wagman accounts for this by just siding with the basketball coaches.}

    Single table is more "aesthetically" pleasing. And it would be nice when the league grows. But the geographical constraints and awkwardness of devising a schedule for a single table, 10 - 12 team league is a pretty tough obstacle. Do you play 36 games (2x home and home against each other team) - which would probably make for too long a season (the bane of most US pro sports) especially considering the time of year that MLS plays its season? Do you cut back to only 18 games (home and home?) or do you go to some other form of unbalanced schedule?

    And travel costs are very high part of the budget for a fledgling league like MLS. DC United can't afford to be jetting to California 6 different times next season. And it would be even worse for the Cali teams.If we had 16 teams, home and home versus each team would make for a natural-length season and a nice balanced schedules. But the system in place now is probably the best unbalanced schedule we could hope for.
     
  3. HalaMadrid

    HalaMadrid Member

    Apr 9, 1999
    Single game is an unfair advantage? Well, maybe the teams at said disadvantage should have freaking finished higher.
     
  4. hoop_crazy

    hoop_crazy New Member

    Oct 31, 2003
    Louisville
    MLS single table

    Indeed I think MLS should go to a single table, it's just the way the game should be played. The rest of the world does it that way, why can't we? Because we're Americans and we have to do everything different.
     
  5. hoop_crazy

    hoop_crazy New Member

    Oct 31, 2003
    Louisville
    Having a single table would be no different than how it is now in my opinion. Of course it will be a lot better when the league grows by two teams in the future. Hopefully we can see the league grow to a 20 team league if not more.
     
  6. Casper

    Casper Member+

    Mar 30, 2001
    New York
    Very convenient of you to think that this year.

    But I agree with the sentiment.
     
  7. HalaMadrid

    HalaMadrid Member

    Apr 9, 1999
    See:
    Mexico
    England (in the days of North/South divisions)
    Germany (lower divisions)
    Italy (lower divisions)
    Chile

    Yeah, no one else uses intraleague divisions.

    And anything the US does for its sports leagues will never work elsewhere. What's that? England used the league system devised by pro baseball when constructing the Football League? Well nevermind then.

    You're not talking about how the game is played. You're talking about how the competition is structured. Every nation has its own way. MLS' may not be perfect yet but it's pretty darn close I think for what's appropriate for us.

    I said the same thing at the start of the season when the format was announced. It has nothing to do with how well Chicago has done. If we were 4th place, I'd be saying the same.

    You want to avoid the disadvantage in the playoffs? Play better in the damn regular season.
     
  8. soccertim

    soccertim Member

    Mar 29, 2001
    Mass
    Re: MLS single table

    How many teams in the rest of the world have to travel about 3500 miles to get to a league game? We have states bigger than most of the european countries.
     
  9. NateP

    NateP Member

    Mar 28, 2001
    Plainfield, NH, USA
    Club:
    New England Revolution
    Nat'l Team:
    United States
    When this came up a month and half ago I thought that MLS could schedule a three round schedule and play 27 games. People keep saying this would cost a massive amount more but I'm not sure that's the case. MLS is almost playing the single table schedule (at least for out of conference games) already, a 3 round single table schedule means only 1 more game against a currently out of conference team per year. The following games woud've needed to be added this year: Chi v Dal, Clb v Col, DC v LA, Met v SJ, NE v KC

    As for how expensive such a change would be I don't think we can truly know until MLS cracks open their books. Teams will drop 4 currently in conference games (2H, 2A) and pick up 1 formerly out of conference game (home one year away the next) for a net change of -3 games. Maybe that will be a big revenue loser, but to know for sure we'd need to know what teams are making or losing per game now and we don't have that info.

    I agree with him that having the best eight make the playoffs rather than the best four from each conference would help make the regular season more meaningful. A single table makes it possible to do that fairly, unlike last year's system IMO. For the same reason I disagree about the semi-final round, there is nothing wrong with rewarding the higher seed by giving them home field for a one game semi-final.
     
  10. SYoshonis

    SYoshonis Member+

    Jun 8, 2000
    Manistee, Michigan
    Club:
    Michigan Bucks
    Nat'l Team:
    United States
    A triple round-robin still wouldn't be a balanced schedule, since some teams will inevitably have an advantage in playing two home games against one or two better teams, and two away games against the Dallas Burn (or, whichever team happens to be the doormat du jour), meaning that they would, by definition, have an easier schedule than other teams. So, a (regular-season) title won by that team would be diluted somewhat, and other teams could still have a claim on the unofficial title of Best Team In The League.

    The main benefits of a single-table, truly balanced schedule are:

    1) Every team has the identical strength of schedule as every other team, and

    2) Every outcome of every league game has a direct effect on who wins the title. It isn't separated by a step like playoff seeding, EVERY game helps determine the champion.

    Aesthetics aren't the issue (or at least shouldn't be). It's all about using the fairest, most conclusive method of deciding which is the best team in the league.
     
  11. Liverpool_SC

    Liverpool_SC Member

    Jun 28, 2002
    Upstate, SC
    The term "aesthetics" in this context refers to the balance, symmetry and inherent fairness of a single table system. Sort of like the term "elegant" when it is used to describe a particularly neat and simple math problem. I hope you didn't think I meant how the listing of teams looks on a webpage!

    There are many aspects that can throw off the balance of a schedule. For instance, if a team plays 8 road games in a row. Or in the NHL where one team may have 3 games in hand (even over another team in the same division) over another team at any given day in the season.

    Whenever possible, a balanced schedule is preferable to a weighted schedule like one sees in the NFL or the Scottish Premier League.

    But at the same time, MLS has to figure out the best way to manage a small league over a proper number of games (around 30).

    As you point out, the three round-robin method is not balanced, because one team has an extra home game in each three game series against a given opponent. A four round-robin method leads to too long a season (36 matchs) and would be untenable once expansion raises the number of teams (would escalate to 44 matches).

    A two round-robin standard single table would be lame (only 18 matches!) unless maybe we went to the "two season" clausura/apertura model for a total of 36 matches (that we see in Mexico) with a 6 - 8 week break around the Summer window. And that probably would ruin attendances by extending the seasons into too many cold weather months and forcing us to fight other popular sports in a more head-to-head fashion. It would also be too unconventional. I am not aware of anything like it in US sports except for some minor league baseball leagues.

    As a result, the division system is the "least" evil compromise.

    Once the league reaches 16 teams, hopefully we can move to the single table system. At that point, the clean, simple system will be a refreshing change from the microdivisions of the NFL, NBA and NHL.

    Until then, I think the current system is about as good as it gets.
     
  12. monster

    monster Member

    Oct 19, 1999
    Hanover, PA
    Club:
    DC United
    Nat'l Team:
    United States
    Re: MLS single table

    The rest of the world doesn't do it that way. A lot of countries do, but the rest of the world doesn't do anything consistently when you are talking about their championship structure.
     
  13. Northside Rovers

    Jan 28, 2000
    Austin TX
    Club:
    FC Dallas
    Nat'l Team:
    United States
    He makes some damn fine points, I think.

    1. Too many games against the same damn opponent.
    2. Reduced end of season drama.
    3. TV ratings maybe taking a hit b/c of games having ZERO impact on another teams playoff chances.

    I'm fine with a Single table or 2 conferences with the de facto single table but his point about ingoring another conferences games is well taken. When games don't matter to another teams fans, they are less likely to watch.

    I don't get that worked up over a balnced schedule as long as it is fairly done, similar to the way MLS has done it the last few years.

    And as for one playoff team being at a disadvantge - who gives a rats ass. Its the only thing that gives the MLS regular season any value. I can't imagine too many NFL-beat writers bitching that their team didn't get to host a game.

    I LOVE the new playoff format. Every goal counts. A single or de-facto single table helps make every game count. Bring it back MLS.
     
  14. bunge

    bunge BigSoccer Supporter

    Oct 24, 2000
    A single table per conference would be nice, once there are more teams of course. Then playoffs for the top X number of teams.

    Whatever happens, I'm kind of tired of playing the same teams over and over. Expansion is getting really necessary.
     
  15. monster

    monster Member

    Oct 19, 1999
    Hanover, PA
    Club:
    DC United
    Nat'l Team:
    United States
    I don't think theproblem is so much the number of games against each team because that's hard to avoid in a small league. The problem is this crap home-and-home clustering of games.
     
  16. MasterShake29

    MasterShake29 Member+

    Oct 28, 2001
    Jersey City, NJ
    Club:
    New York Red Bulls
    Nat'l Team:
    United States
    The main argument against a single-table is that you can't have a "perfect" (i.e. EPL, Serie A, etc.) schedule with 10 or 12 teams? Well it's not like we do in the division setup we have now either.

    You could easily go single table with an unbalanced schedule until you get to 16 teams, at which point you could play each other team exactly twice.

    And balance is not a strong argument when 80% of the league makes the playoffs. So what if you have a couple extra hard games on the road, you still can go under .500 and have a chance at a championship.

    And I agree with monster, playing the same team four times in a row is rediculous.
     
  17. NateP

    NateP Member

    Mar 28, 2001
    Plainfield, NH, USA
    Club:
    New England Revolution
    Nat'l Team:
    United States
    I agree with everything you say about the various systems in your breakdown, as well as your conclusion that a 16 team round robin will be the ideal when we reach that point. But count me out of the current system as "least evil" compromise. I'll take the slightly unbalanced triple round robin over the current setup any day. To me the slight disadvantage of playing some teams on the road twice while others only have to once is far outweighed by the problems with both versions of the divisional setup. Under this year's system you have all the problems Wagman names, and summed up nicely by Northside (1. Too many games against the same damn opponent
    2. Reduced end of season drama.
    3. TV ratings maybe taking a hit b/c of games having ZERO impact on another teams playoff chances.) and under last years system you have the much greater unbalancing effect of one division getting to pad it's record against a weak team (Dallas this year) then getting thrown into the same playoff pot as the other division. Again using this year as the example it's just not right to have LA, KC, Col and SJ get to play Dal four times while most of the East gets to play them three times and Chi only gets to play them twice.
     
  18. HalaMadrid

    HalaMadrid Member

    Apr 9, 1999
    Here's the list of things I would do with regard to the league format, even as the number of teams increase:

    - Qualify conference champs and the next 6 regardless of conference (a de facto single table with regional conferences).

    - Make regular season record the first tiebreaker in the first round home-and-home series (giving the regualr season more meaning).

    That's it! That's the list!

    Though, I wouldn't care one way or another if regular season OT were dropped, or the first round made a single match at the high seed. And a post-MLS Cup playoff between the Shield winner and MLS Cup winner would be great, but I'm not gonna get greedy.
     
  19. Revs007

    Revs007 Member

    Nov 11, 2000
    Boston
    Expanison-Expansion-Expansion

    This league needs to expand. When this league is a 16-20 team league then I believe this playoff setup will be perfect. Top four from each division of ten, as opposed to top four from each division of five that we see now.

    Give it time; I love the changes that have occurred with the playoff structure. Now we need more teams in the league to give more meaning to the regular season.

    More teams in the league = difficulty for teams to reach the playoffs = a more important regular season = no more silly talk about single table which IMHO will never catch on in the U.S. and deservedly so.
     
  20. mpruitt

    mpruitt Member

    Feb 11, 2002
    E. Somerville
    Club:
    New England Revolution
    Yeah i like how wagman discredits the MLS HQ people for being too tied to the NFL, like they're really hurting for excitement or popularity. And that whole divisions w/ wildcard expirament has really worked poorly for MLB too. I swear our soccer community loves to channel Bob Costas far too much. Single table is ridiculous imo. For all the love of seeing which two teams are fighting it out for that last top spot... it just doesn't make sense to me... there's so many more meaningless games in a single table no playoff format especially when you're not comepeting for a UEFA Cup or legitimate Champions League. If you want excitement and promotion. You want all of your fans watching one game not two at a time.
     
  21. The Artist

    The Artist Member+

    Mar 22, 1999
    Illinois
    Club:
    DC United
    Nat'l Team:
    United States
    For one of the more established soccer writers I found the article pretty simplistic.

    MLS doesn't have divisions because of the NFL guys; the NFL and every other American league has divisions because of the size of the country.

    Has the new playoff format caused a hit in TV ratings and newpaper coverage? I'd think the research would be easy to do for a professional journalist. I was under the impression that media interest continued to grow this year.

    Why bring up the fact that most of the world has a single table as a reason if you are going to go against most of the world and have playoffs?

    The comment about playing a single game conference final being unfair to the team with the worse record was just stupid.

    Even if you go to a single table and try to play 30 games you are still going to play each team at least three times. Does that make that big a difference for marketing? Was the fourth game between SJ and LA (and right before two playoff games) the worst attended? No, it was one of SJ's best attended games.

    The answer to all problems seems to me to be expansion. Still, others in this thread have at least made some interesting arguments against the current playoff system. Wagman's arguments are fluff.
     
  22. Sanguine

    Sanguine Member

    Jul 4, 2003
    Reston, VA
    you forget the problem that with a 27-game schedule, some teams will have 14 home games, and some will have 13.
     
  23. voros

    voros Member

    Jun 7, 2002
    Parts Unknown
    Nat'l Team:
    United States
    They could play 13 at home, 13 on the road and then 1 at Lockhart in Miami. :)
     
  24. monster

    monster Member

    Oct 19, 1999
    Hanover, PA
    Club:
    DC United
    Nat'l Team:
    United States
    I think the reason they did this was to cut down on travel. I like it better too, but there was a story on the Rapids this week about how much travelling they did during the playoffs last year. Now, getting away from first-to-five should kill that, but I bet it was a concern. I'm on the fence on this one to be honest. I think having the home-to-homes with regional rivals at the end of the season kills the conference playoff setup.

    This intrigues me, but I want to see how this season plays out first, to see if it's as much of a disadvantage as Yallop and Agoos say.

    Agreed pretty much. Actually I think the MLS Cup and Open Cup winner should playoff at some point for our second Champions Cup slot (with the Shield winner getting the first one).
     
  25. 352gialloblu

    352gialloblu New Member

    Jun 16, 2003
    England
    Club:
    Chicago Fire
    Nat'l Team:
    England
    I'd love to see single table but I've accepted the fact that it won't work in a country this big. What I don't like is the way the games are split now, with 4 games against in-conference teams and 3 and 2 against non-cons. If we had 12 teams, it could be 5 against cons (20) and 2 against non-cons (12) or a total of 32 and we'd at least be a little more symmetric. Of course, it does make the Shield a little meaningless.

    Single table is great for leagues with relegation and cup places to fight for. Playoffs make a lot of the season semi-meaningless for a lot of the teams, because while it is our equivalent of a cup place or relegation fight, winning the season itself doesn't get you much. And until the season is even, you can't award the Supporters Shield without a bit of a caveat. It would be nice to have 16 teams, home-and-away v. each, with a season title. Follow that with a 8 team tournament for the MLS Cup, and award USOC places dependent on table places, and make THAT a more important trophy, too. I mean, from the point of view of the press and the money, MLS Cup is IT, which is why we don't have as much excitement. Or something...

    But as I said, I'm coming around to the playoffs and the conferences. I still have Europe if I want traditional football...
     

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