MLS playoff system continues to come under spotlight as postseason unfolds

BeckhamHenry (Getty Images)


The Los Angeles Galaxy won the Supporters' Shield, amassing the most points over the course of the MLS season, thus earning any and all advantages heading into the postseason.

Their reward: two cross-country trips in a four-day span for a two-legged tie against the only team in the league that can go head-to-head in a bare-knuckles payroll battle.

And while it's not in the Galaxy's control that it was the New York Red Bulls that captured the league's final playoff berth and won their wild card match Wednesday night to get placed in the Western Conference bracket, the fact remains that the ever-changing MLS playoff system is still very much a work in progress. The other Western Conference semifinal pits Seattle and Real Salt Lake, the second- and third-best teams in the league all season, against each other while five other teams with lower point totals duke it out elsewhere.

"No, I don't agree with the system, but I also accept what it is and recognize that I don't get to make those decisions, so we'll deal with it the best way we know how," Real Salt Lake manager Jason Kreis said on Wednesday.

In theory, Los Angeles is supposed to have the advantage by watching its next opponent have to play an extra game. In reality, that advantage is minimalized by the travel required on its part for the first leg in addition to the short rest in between a second cross-country trip back to the West Coast for the second leg.

Seattle and Salt Lake, meanwhile, might have been better off finishing fourth or fifth in the conference and falling to the wild card round, where the possibility of getting shifted to the Eastern Conference bracket — like where MLS Cup champion Colorado ended up last year and could again with a win over Columbus Thursday night — would make for a more advantageous playoff road.

"After the season that (the Sounders have) had, to turn around and have to play us as opposed to a wild card team is a poor place to be," Kreis said.

There's no simple solution as long as the league continues to maintain its stance on separate conference brackets. Unbalanced conferences happen from year-to-year in all sports, so uneven playoff roads are bound to be a casualty of the process. But when the integrity of a league's playoff system continues to get called into question season after season by pundits, coaches and players, it's a sign that more significant changes to that system may be necessary.  


Do you think Los Angeles got a raw deal by having to travel cross-country for its conference semifinal series? What changes would you make to the playoff system? Do you agree with Kreis' comments?

Share your thoughts below. 

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137 Responses to MLS playoff system continues to come under spotlight as postseason unfolds

  1. Rory says:

    LA gets the lowest remaining team in the playoffs… that’s the Supporter’s Shield payoff. It just so happens to be NY this year but could just as well been Chivas USA a month ago or so.

    So who cares. No system is perfect. At least we don’t have a situation like the NFL had last year where a team with a worse record (Seahawks) hosted a team with a better record (Saints) in a one-game do or die match.

  2. Rory says:

    Not to mention that I’d rather take two trips (there and back) in a four day span than have to play a FULL COMPETITIVE match on Wednesday then turnaround and play another on Sunday. Every team in the league would rather be in LA’s shoes than NY’s right now.

    This is just such a non-story and it’s just out there to allow people to complain about something.

  3. BK says:

    Single table. Top 4 qualify for post-season. #1 and #2 seeds host single game semi-final. #1 seed hosts MLS Cup Final.

  4. BK says:

    I should say…top remaining seed hosts MLS Cup Final

  5. BrianK says:

    I’m just looking forward to the New York Red Bulls being crowned Western Conference Champions for the second time in four years! When the trophy case is bare, you gotta hold onto something…

  6. Chimpotle says:

    If the Galaxy had to play the winner of a west wild card matchup between Dallas and Colorado, they would complain that they would not get to play the lowest seed in the playoffs. Instead they complain about having to travel farther to play the lowest seed. It’s a plane ride, not someone hitting you in the knee with a bat. Man up.

  7. BrianK says:

    1. Single table

    2. Balanced schedule

    3. ‘Top eight’ finishers qualify for the MLS Cup tournament

    4. Suporters Shield/Regular Season Champion plays the #8 seed,…2v7, 3v6 and 4v5.

    The travel is a non-issue. What is the difficulty? Why is MLS making its play-off system so complicated?

  8. kimo says:

    Here’s my play-off schedule…

    1) East and West are separate.

    2) Each division has group play with the top 3 teams automatically in and the 4 and 5 playing off in a one game play-in game.

    3) In group play, instead of playing home and away legs which would constitute a total of 6 games played for each team, I’d have each team play each other team once. The reward for being seeded 1st is 3 home games. 2 home games for seed #2…and so on.

    4) 2 teams get out of each group. Divisions no longer matter with the #1 team from the west playing the #2 team from the east and so forth. These would be home and away games.

    5) The winners would end up in the title game.

  9. RedLine55 says:

    well said, Rory. It’s not perfect, but at least it seems like they’re trying. Not much they can do about match-ups… and in June, not many people would have thought NYRB would have ended up as a wild card.

  10. john.q says:

    lets take a deep breath.. and then agree to get over it. the system isnt perfect, no doubt, but its the best available. it keeps the regular season exciting til the end for most teams. playoffs are necessary without pro/rel.

    only gripe would be why MLS decided to congest the schedule this way? why not have more days between the first and second leg knowing the length of travel some teams need to do? maybe Don should start the season earlier to allow proper time for the post-season.

  11. Ben says:

    The other day someone suggested a group stage, something like top 4 in the west and top 4 in the east, which I liked. Then you could have the team with the best record play all the games at home and the team with the worst record has to go on the road, so there are consequences for the regular season. After the group stage is finished, you could have West 1 play East 2 and East 1 play West 2. Anyhow, I liked the idea, so props to that guy.

  12. Rory says:

    Oh well, the St.Louis Rams play in the NFC West, the Cowboys play in the NFC East. Oklahoma City plays in the Northwest Division of the NBA, Memphis plays in the Southwest. And then there’s college football, which I could go on forever about how unpaid college kids will be missing class to travel from Texas up to Washington for a big Conference game.

    At least your team didn’t have it’s season and any chance of winning the title end because they happened to be stuck in a good conference while crappy teams from the other conference with worse records made it into the post-season.

  13. john.q says:

    i still rock my “Western Conference Champion 2008″ scarf at every rbny game. still funny..

  14. Rory says:

    And then either way if they lose they will complain that they had won the regular season anyway and should be considered the “real” champs.

  15. Matty C says:

    Hey hey hey… we have one shiny, new Emirates Cup to look at! hahaha

  16. Ben says:

    You beat me to it by two minutes. Apparently, I’m a slow typist.

  17. Rex says:

    We live in America. Its huge. There is always a chance to travel across country. It is a home/home so BOTH teams travel cross country. LA is playing the LOWEST SEEDED TEAM. A team that had to travel TO Dallas on Wed, then back TO NY for Sat, then CROSS country TO LA on Wed. What more could you ask for? Defining a champion is the most debated topic in sports. March Madness to the BCS. The grass is ALWAYS greener on the other side.

  18. Rory says:

    Under your system it’s possible a team with a better record in a stronger division gets left out of the playoffs in favor of weaker teams from the other division.

    But an interesting idea nonetheless. It would make the playoffs longer though (7 games to win it all instead of 4 or 5).

  19. Cheswick says:

    Where do you see the Galaxy complaining? The only comments in the article are by Kreis. The rest is editorializing by Avi Creditor. How about a bit of reading comprehension?

  20. Rory says:

    If anything, let the top seed in a playoff matchup decide if they’d rather host the first or second matchup in a series like this. Talk about putting some pressure on the GM! I’m sure some teams would rather open up the playoffs at home then go on the road to park the bus but the looming possibility of Overtime with everything on the line has to play huge. But yes, it is posible that LA would rather NY had to take the double flights this week (plus the one to Dallas and back already).

  21. Rory says:

    Sorry, I meant the fans would complain. You’re right the Galaxy aren’t complaining.

    Funny thing is that for a league that tries not to put too many weeks on the schedule where teams have to play two weeks a game we get that throughout the playoffs. Wild Card teams play midweek this week, then Semifinals Sunday and midweek, then conference finals a week from this Sunday. Then TWO weeks off until MLS Cup on the 20th. That seems odd too, doesn’t it?

  22. Nobby says:

    The fact that MLS still uses divisions instead of a single table is a joke. while I would vote for no playoffs at all, I think a single table is the only way to get rid of these playoff scenarios that regularly penalize the better (by record) teams.

  23. Jason says:

    Thank you. People complained last year that LA had to play teams that were too tough. Now LA is playing the weakest team in the field, and they’re on short rest, and now people are complaining that the Galaxy are getting screwed.

    Apparently the only “fair” system to some people is one where the underdogs have no chance, but then why play the games?

  24. Shane says:

    I think Garber is the only one who likes conferences. Just go single-table, with the top 8 teams making the playoffs, and start the bracket (1v8, 2v7, 3v6, 4v5). Higher seed hosts game, Finals are at a neutral site. Done and done. Playoff system solved in 30 seconds. K-I-S-S.

  25. Primoone says:

    I love that fact that Ream is so Garbage this season.

    One way-ward pass and the Galaxy will make him pay.

  26. Cheswick says:


  27. Rory says:

    I just wish we put all this effort trying to straighten out the playoffs into supporting the US Open Cup. That thing’s got a history a mile long and can involve teams from every part of the nation (where the MLS dare not venture–i.e. the Southeast) and we ignore it and nobody but Seattle takes it seriously. It’s a shame.

  28. Rory says:

    Yes, I was hoping for another rehash of the Tim Ream debate today.

    While we’re at it, can we talk about Freddy Adu (where he should play next year, should he be called up) once more, for old time’s sake?

  29. FF says:

    Clearly you’ve never flown coach… It is like a bat across the knees!

  30. Rory says:

    You know who else has never flown coach? David Beckham.

  31. pd says:

    With two starters hurt or suspended…

  32. hendrix says:

    It’s still an advantage for the Galaxy. They play two games against New York. New York played on Wednesday while the Galaxy sat at home and relaxed. So they should be in good shape for their first road game of the playoffs. They should be able to manage a road tie. Then they come home (and yes, New York has to fly to LA too 😉 where they’ve been dominant all season.

    I’m not sure what the complaint is here.

  33. Rory says:

    You know what we can be happy about? 5 of the 8 conference final games will be on ESPN and the other three will be on Fox Soccer. That means of all the playoffs only tonights Colorado-Columbus match will not be seen on either of the two networks major soccer fans have. Big ups to increasing the coverage to the networks and the league!

  34. JJ says:

    Agree with this EXCEPT I would make the final in Vegas every year. That would be fun.

  35. Rory says:

    And how Awesome is Sunday’s three Semifinals on one day going to be? 6 hours of soccer that really, really matters!

  36. Annelid Gustator says:

    In an ordinary year, if the playoffs were longer, they’d be in competition with *every major sport.* MLS *needs* to find the spaces for tv.

  37. Annelid Gustator says:

    This is probably the correct way to go, if there’s a decent venue. I don’t know that there is, sadly. Maybe in Dallas! 😉

  38. Rapids Donk says:

    What you said. Single table, balanced schedule, top 8 teams make the playoffs. Simple.

    Too bad that in Garber’s perfect world, he’d have 5 divisions of 4 teams each. Every team plays each other 10 times. Top three teams from each division make the playoffs, and the last place team receives a sportsmanship award.

  39. Todd says:

    A team that wins the Supporters Shield should be able to have Home Field Advantage throughout the playoffs. That is only fair. Plus, MLS needs to eliminate the home-and-home series, it is pointless.

  40. Annelid Gustator says:

    Home-and-home is only pointless if you don’t recognize that home-field advantage exists (Jeff Sagarin calculates that home-field advantage amounts to about 0.4 goals per game differential in MLS. That’s huge!). If you want the best *teams* to play in the finals, you want to accurately measure their ability to the best extent possible.

  41. Brian D says:

    +1. The current set-up would work if all series were one game at the higher seeds’ place.

  42. TomG says:

    I think the complaint is that every other league in the world (just about) crowns its champion based on excellence over an entire season while we frequently manage to hand over the title to our 8th or 9th best team. The system is fine compared to other American sports, but when placed in the frame with other football leagues, it just looks odd.

    I think ideally, most of us would love to crown the regular season champion, but without relegation and important International tournament slots, that system would never hold fan interest over an entire season. And relegation ain’t gonna happen, folks. This is the system we’re stuck with.

  43. Pitt Evertonian says:

    It’s pretty bad when over half of the teams in the league make the playoffs. It reminds me of the NHL in the late 80’s/early 90’s.

  44. PetedeLA says:

    Interesting that the article has no mention of Grant Wahl’s solution. I thought for sure there would be a plug somewhere.

    I’m not a huge fan of him, but even I have to admit that his proposal for how the MLS playoffs should be run is pretty sound.

  45. john.q says:

    yeah true. but we can’t hide from those other leagues forever.

  46. jb says:

    I’m curious about the purpose of the “conferences.” Because, as has been stated above, all the problems would be easily fixed by seeding the playoff teams without regards to conference. Are there East and West to help minimize travel during the season? If the conferences must stay, then give the top two seeds to the conference regular season winners, then seed the rest irrespective of conference.

  47. john.q says:

    hey guys remember when Brek Shea was complete garbage for the nats? o the good ol’ times!

  48. C Light says:

    LA gets home-field advantage in the playoffs every year anyway thanks to Garber giving them the finals as a “neutral venue” even though 90% of the league have soccer specific stadiums.

  49. zhm5 says:

    Agreed that single table, top 8 format makes the most sense…but it sure wouldn’t make a lot of difference for LA if you did that this year.

    LA would have a nice close to home match up with…#8 Philly..oh wait, that’s basically the same as going to NY.

  50. zhm5 says:

    Missed the higher seed hosting part, so yeah that would make sense.

    But if it were still a 2 game series there would be really no difference was what I was going for.

  51. Joe says:

    I mean the only real solution is do the playoffs as a straight table for a certain number of teams like such: (and for the record i think it should be 8 teams only, but thats another debate)

    1- LA: 67 pts
    2 – Sounders – 63 pts
    3 – Salt Lake – 53 pts
    4 – FC Dallas – 52 pts
    5 – KC – 51 pts
    6 – Houston – 49 pts
    7 – Colorado – 49 pts
    8 – Philly – 48 pts
    9 – Columbus – 47 pts
    10 – Red Bulls – 46 pts

    Colorado plays Red Bulls at Colorado in a 1 off with winner playing Seattle
    Philly plays Columbus at Philly in 1 off with Winner playing LA

    Play the rest of the the tournament out from the quarterfinal stage as a normal bracketed tournament would go

    Theres no point in keeping the East/West format in the postseason (or regular season if you ask me) if you’re going to get wildcard teams from the East in the West and visa versa … there is literally no point to it … my drunk college friends drew up better playoff brackets back in the day for the Beer Olympics than these idiots at MLS can do.

  52. Rory says:

    I’ll bite…

    What is Grant Wahl’s solution? Free tickets for bald men who dress a little too nice to be sports reporters?

  53. ? says:

    How about you tell what Whal’s solution was, Pete.

  54. Rory says:

    And Donovan is not manly enough to play in Europe!


  55. Rory says:

    Isn’t that how it is in the NBA?

  56. Jeff says:

    +1!!! Yes, you are correct, not one member of the Galaxy has said a word about this.

  57. Poo says:

    exactly. Garber says the fans care about division trophys but its so not true.

    2 things matter if playoffs are in place, supporters shield and mls cup champions.

    Single table, rank ’em for the playoffs, DONE!

  58. Pedrinho says:

    i agree with Joe^^^ it’s really not that hard. travel isn’t a big deal. take the nba, Celtics/Lakers do it in the finals back n forth and back again and those are always pretty exciting games imo. What many of us want is just to see the best 2 teams in the final game, and given the current structure that is not allowed.

  59. scud says:

    You make too much sence. The current system guarantees this year the fifth seed or worse qualifies for the CONCACAF Champions League.

  60. Joamiq says:

    Longer playoffs would be a good thing. Short playoffs are part of the reason lesser teams run off with the Cup so often.

  61. Joamiq says:

    That has nothing to do with his point. If each team gets one home game, the team with the better record doesn’t really have any advantage.

  62. Pitt Evertonian says:

    I don’t know in all honesty. I don’t follow the NBA.

  63. Pitt Evertonian says:

    Although I guess the NHL is at that point still with 16 out of 30 making the PO’s.

  64. dan says:

    Does anyone know if teams are able to charter flights during the post season?

  65. Jya says:

    I’m always surprised that more MLS fans don’t feel the same and justify this crappy system

  66. Rory says:

    I think it has to do with getting better at the right time. The hottest team at the end of the season would probably still be hot during the extra 2 games.

  67. Rory says:

    …and everyone gets a participation trophy.

  68. Joamiq says:

    Possibly, but staying hot for 7 games is much tougher than staying hot for 4 or 5. The more games you play, the more likely it is that the cream will rise to the top. Single elimination and 2 legged ties make it much easier for a lesser team to win. Group play makes it far less likely. There will still be some unexpected results, but with far less frequency.

  69. Cavan says:

    That is the best idea I’ve heard all day. And I’m a DC United fan.

  70. Cavan says:

    There are plenty of other leagues that hold playoffs. Our neighbors to the south have the liguilla. Brazil has playoffs. It’s hardly unprecedented.

  71. Annelid Gustator says:

    Not if you have a fully balanced schedule across divisions. But if you balanced within a division, and had limited interdivision play, that could be the case.

  72. Annelid Gustator says:

    Sure, except from that whole “playing a team that had a worse record” thing. (Not including the weird stuff necessary when you have conferences).

  73. john says:

    i Like how this article fails to mention that NY had to fly to Dallas, play, and then fly home to play LA, then fly to LA to play again. They’re acting like NY is just sitting at home waiting. And NY had to play an extra game.

  74. Joamiq says:

    Right, but his point was about home field advantage specifically. In a home and home series, there really is none. I don’t think there should ever be a point in any playoff series where the team with the lesser record has played more games at home than the team with the better record.

  75. Terry says:

    I think the biggest problem is not the conferences. There will never be a single table regular season. That is fine. Let there be two conferences and two teams a year can put placks on their wall, as champions. The real problem is taking the conference idea into the playoffs. Single table in the playoffs. Just like the NBA. Seems so easy. Does Don Garber make it so out of wack, just to get everyone talking and arguing. Kind of like the BCS. If so, then I think that is a mistake. The system needs validity. Not debate, to win over fans.

  76. Reality check says:

    I guess no one else caught you crowning the Red Bulls western conference champions already. Shame on you. Although last year the Galaxy got beat up by fc dallas, everyone forgets that the galaxy step up to a new level during the playoffs. Just watch what the Galaxy do to the Red Bulls you will have no doubts after this series.

  77. Annelid Gustator says:

    Oh, you know what I didn’t realize they did single game conf champ games (as well as final). Yeah, do away with that then.

  78. Gnarls says:

    If ownership can afford it, why not?

  79. Troy says:

    There should be a group stage and then knockout round to MLS playoffs just like Champions League or the World Cup system. Not only is it more fair and could focus on regions rather than conferences, it is more recognizable to a soccer-savvy public and could have more credibility.

  80. Dimidri says:

    +1. Though apparently MLS has restrictions on how many chartered flights a team could take a year, so maybe not?…

  81. JJ says:

    #2 having to play #3 in the 1st round is ridiculous. In an 8-team playoff it would be bad, but in a 10-team playoff is inexcusable.

    Luckily Seattle has played RSL pretty well for the most part and that was when RSL was in good form. But, I would still obviously rather be playing a Casey-less Colorado.

  82. JJ says:

    NBA does East and West conference playoffs …

  83. Dimidri says:

    4 step process to fix the playoffs, assumes 20 teams-

    a) Single Table-solves part of the randomness of the current setup by accurately having the best teams play the worst teams, accurately rewarding them for the regular season. Feasible if 20 teams, unbalanced only is necessary if it’s 19 teams like next year.

    b) Decrease number of playoff teams from 10/18 to 7/20-the relatively small amount of teams that can make the playoffs now prevent a team from sleepwalking( a la NYRB) and then catching fire-makes it so that only good teams make it from the get go. Values the Supporter’s Shield by giving them and only them a first-round bye.

    c) Award the MLS Cup hosting location to the Supporter’s Shield recipient at the time they clinch the shield, regardless of whether they participate or not-Another way of making the SS more important, rewards them if they make it to the MLS Cup by giving them home-field in a 1 off, even if they don’t it’s still a nice gesture. Solves Garber’s concerns about ‘festivities’ and the ability to sell tickets in advance by choosing the game at least a month ahead of time, probably sooner.

    d) this is the big one-increase the number of games played in the quarterfinals and semifinals from 2 to 3-the 2 legged ties are specifically designed to NEUTRALIZE any home-field advantage, the tiny benefits the higher seed has now are semantic and inconsequential. this would be a best out of three series, where draws are possible, most points @ end wins. If a team wins both the first two games, game 3 doesn’t occur. Higher seed gets 1 and 3-gives the higher seed a material advantage they don’t have now, and provides another check against randomness while at the same time providing great competiton. Makes regular season far more valuable, difference between 4 and 5 is huge, etc. No ‘it would take too long’ issue-we eliminate the play-in games that exist now, game 3 isn’t guaranteed, and can take other measures to ensure a comparable time schedule. If at the end of regulation time in game 3 both teams have the same amount of points, goes to overtime then PK’s.

  84. Gnarls says:

    That makes too much sense.

  85. Gnarls says:

    Yeah, that needs to change too. CCL ticket needs to go to the Supporter’s Shield runner-up, not the MLS Cup loser, who in all likelihood could be the 10th best MLS team.

  86. Gnarls says:

    And I just realized that 10th best is also 8th worst in MLS. God, I hate the playoffs.

  87. Annelid Gustator says:

    Disagree with that. He wrote: “Plus, MLS needs to eliminate the home-and-home series, it is pointless.”

  88. RB says:

    I have to agree with Joamiq on this one, and I think that this is unfortunately a point that is often overlooked. This mixing of single game knockout and home-and-home series and back again is lousy, and does in fact feed the upset machine (with the outcomes many people complain about). Plus you’d get more playoff matches if you just make everything, or about everything, a 2-game series. Maybe just top 8 teams do that from the start, and keep doing it, at least until the final match.

  89. Annelid says:

    MLS already limits the number of charter flights for regular season play. It is unclear whether or not that limit extends to the playoffs… I can’t locate the MLS rulebook anywhere, though. I should think that limit would only apply to the club itself. Should the players wish to charter a flight together, I can’t see what’d stop them aside from the poverty of half the roster.

  90. Brent McD says:

    With a balanced schedule, East/West conferences are meaningless and shouldn’t be a factor in the playoffs. But they are.

    Either play 1v10, 2v9, etc. with a balanced schedule.

    Or unbalance the schedule to play more games against teams in your conference. I wouldn’t even mind if MLS went to divisions within the conferences to build rivalries.

    This bastardized system is bush league.

  91. Charles says:

    Seattle would have been better off falling to 4th or 5th and playing the East, huh ?

    Someone tried that. How did that work out for Dallas in the one game playoff game last night ?

    I would rather Seattle plays two against a better team in Salt Lake than some one game mid week game followed up by the “easier” East coast trip. Which includes playing away in the conference finals, probably against KC.

    Can hardly wait for tonight and Saturday ! Dallas out, 9 more to go…..GO SOUNDERS !

  92. TomG says:

    not unprecedented, no, but the most successful and popular leagues all award crowns to regular season excellence and have relegation.

  93. RB says:

    Got no problem with that system, although it should be

    6 – Colorado – 49 pts
    7 – Houston – 49 pts

    unless you’re swapping the head-to-head and GD tie-breakers. So it would actually be Houston playing NYRB for the right to play Seattle (and interestingly, Colorado playing RSL in the following stage).

    But are the following stages all single elimination or home-and-home series or a mix or…?

  94. RB says:

    If conferences are ignored when it comes to the playoffs, then the only possible reason to have conferences would be un unbalanced schedule focused on those conferences. But people don’t want that, either, it seems. And otherwise, conferences have no purpose whatsoever (except to make it hard to read the table).

  95. RB says:

    “Or unbalance the schedule to play more games against teams in your conference. I wouldn’t even mind if MLS went to divisions within the conferences to build rivalries.”


    I can imagine it working very well, for example, with 2 conferences or 3-4 divisions, geographically oriented (I guess), and more games within those than elsewhere. You could still make sure each team played every other team outside its conference at least once during the year (leaving only the location as a variable). Would probably work wonders at rivalry development, which the league appears to really want.

    But be internally consistent: either keep the conferences and do that or keep the overall balanced schedule and jettison the conferences.

  96. Sgc says:

    Right. Totally don’t get the criticism here. I guarantee that with Donovan, Beckham and Keane all nursing injuries, LA was totally OK with the trade off of having to fly a couple hours longer (the day is basically blown with travel even if they’d only had to fly to Dallas) to not have to play mid week.

  97. john k says:

    keep it the same BUT the ss winner gets every playoff game at home.

  98. anon says:

    Keep the same system, just make it top 5 from each conference, with 4 vs. 5 seed for playoff game. In that case houston would have played new york in the first wild card, and colorado would have played dallas in the other. Fair is fair. Western might be stronger than Eastern, but the AL has been stronger than the NL for years. Same in the NFL, as the AFC was long dominant over the NFC.

    That would eliminate the long plane travel, which is really LA’s only real legitimate complaint.

  99. Joe says:

    i thought the tie breaker was goal differential? … Houston has a +4 and Colorado has +3

  100. Rory says:

    It’s customary for the team to get a handful of first class tickets on these non-chartered flights. Care to guess who gets to ride first class?

    Besides, it’s not like Donovan needs the leg room anyway.

  101. Rory says:

    Oh this day just got better… the thread dedicated to Rossi just about completed my favorite thread topics list!

  102. Rory says:

    And in Norway the title “National Champion” goes to the team that wins the FA Cup, not the full League season.

    Playoffs also in Argentina, I think.

    But if you want to tell Brazil that their version of Soccer is all wrong and we should follow the British model, then go right ahead…

  103. Rory says:

    I think next year 8 of the 10 surviving NBA teams will make the playoffs.

  104. Rory says:

    And NOTHING is more American than devising a way to avoid having to do math.

  105. RB says:

    Head-to-head is first, GD is second (so if still tied after head-to-head). They tied in Denver but the Rapids won in Houston (in that game where Hall blew it on Smith’s free kick from distance).

  106. RB says:

    Sorry – meant to paste in the link:

    link to

  107. Primoone says:

    You all are Welcome!

  108. Mark says:

    MLS hasn’t had an Eastern Conference vs. Western Conference MLS Cup since 2007 (and even then, it was between 2 teams that are NOW both in the Eastern Conference). It would be nice if it finally occurred this year…so I’m rooting for New York to win the Western Conference and Colorado to win the Eastern Conference.

    Let’s see MLS try to explain that one to a casual fan!

  109. WorldCitizen says:

    MLS’s playoff system is an unmitigated freakin’ disaster crossed with the worst joke in world history. There’s simply no better way to put it. How can anyone possibly have the least scrap of respect for a system where the worst sort of grinding mediocrity is rewarded with MLS Cup trophies and CONCACAF berths year after year? It’s not that playoffs themselves are the problem; it’s that MLS’s playoff system is deliberately rigged not to guarantee that the cream will rise, but to ensure that the league’s stinkiest turds will always float on top! For proof, look no further than the defending “champion” Colorado Crapids, or last night’s debacle in Dallas that saw yet another bowlfloater of a team (NYRB) that should’ve been flushed into the non-postseason sewer where they belong weeks ago eliminate a club that actually dares to try to play real soccer in this demolition-derby league with the sorriest style of play this side of a Saturday morning rec game! Seriously, is it any wonder that a sizeable majority of soccer fans in this country laugh their heads off at the very mention of MLS? The league’s TV ratings aren’t visible even with a microscope for good reason – those in charge are too clueless to figure out that you can’t sell fans on a turd sandwich just by calling it filet mignon!

  110. Bryan says:

    Admittedly, didn’t read the entire thread here, but I think some people are missing the MLS’s side of this (not that I agree with it entirely). It’s not that the league thinks its fans care about conference championships, it is that the league thinks that fans care about geographic rivalries, which are in turn created (or, at least, helped along) by a conference system. Yanks-Sox. Mets-Braves/Philly. Giants-Dodgers. Any game between NFC East teams. Bears-Packers. Jets-Miami/Pats. Pittsburg-Ravens. Islanders-Rangers is a great example. Sure, it has a lot to do with geography, but it is more meaningful than, say, Mets-Yanks or Cubs-Sox because they play in the same conference. With conferences, the MLS wants to add juice to, say, RBNY-DC. I can’t fault them, entirely, for trying, but I agree that it can reach a point of absurdity when you’d just like to see the best teams in the playoffs.

  111. RB says:

    A collection of outrageous claims vying for the hyperbole crown, with several dashes of whining thrown in for good measure.

  112. soccerhorn says:

    I think everyone knows what’s about to happen here. NYRB slept-walked through the season. Now they’re going to knock off the MLS most prized tv-commodity, the mighty LA Galaxy. Everyone sees it coming, but like a plane crash, all you can do is grit your teeth. Unfair to the Galaxy? Sure. But in the long run it’s the MLS shootng itself in the foot: for the short-term cash gain of a few extra playoff games, their ratings are going to wind up WAY net-negative thanks to LA’s early exit.

    Oh and let’s all bid a fond farewell to Bex, Keano, Landon, and probably Omar too. Europe awaits!

  113. WorldCitizen says:

    OK, hyperbole yes. But whining? I think not. If I had any vested interest in any of the teams involved, it might qualify as whining, but I don’t; I just like skillful soccer, and Dallas just happens to be one of the very few MLS teams that actually try to play that way. However, it should be noted that I’ll never actually win the hyperbole crown; nobody can top “Mafia Don” Garber in that department, sparky!

  114. WorldCitizen says:

    Let me guess: You’ve seen every installment of the MLS Cup playoffs from 2008 onward, haven’t you?

  115. RB says:

    Whining. Sorry. The sentence that starts with “For proof”, for example. Or the part about trophies and berths. Your mileage may vary.

    I’m not a big fan of the playoff system either, and understand the idea of making it more just, not overly rewarding mediocrity, etc. It all boils down to what kind of system is desired. If you don’t want to risk playoff upsets, don’t have playoffs. The season ended last Sunday and LA won. It’s all a choice.

    But everybody knows the rules going in, so scare quotes are not needed or appropriate around anyone’s accomplishment when they win a cup, earn a berth, or whatever. They did the job as it was laid out better than other teams.

  116. Matt says:

    Kill the 2 conferences.

  117. Adam M. says:

    LA gets to rest and NY takes flights half way across the country and back and plays a full pressure packed game on Wednesday night during which it loses a starter to a card and another comes out injured. Meanwhile, both LA and NY have to take that flight back to LA for the home return leg, so LA is ahead on both those counts also. The problem with the playoffs isn’t any of this–its that it makes no sense to pretend conferences matter if conferences don’t matter.

  118. WorldCitizen says:

    Well, I guess we’ll just have to agree to disagree on that one. Very well, then. Trust me – if you could’ve heard it spoken out loud, there would’ve been no doubt that it was b!tching, not whining!

    I’m fine with playoff upsets, BTW, but far from being an upset, it’s nothing more than dull low comedy when practically every game is a so-called “upset” (oh, and please do forgive the quotes; I know how they tend to offend your pristine sensibilities). And yes, “upsets” deserves mocking qualifier quotes just as richly as “champion” does when assigned to a steaming pile of clumsy oafs like the Crapids, because in MLS, micromanaged single-entity mediocrity is so ruthlessly and systematically enforced that upsets (notice the lack of quotes here) don’t really exist at all. It’s like saying that Stoke beating Wigan is an “upset.” Really? Why? Because one bunch of mediocre hacks finished a couple of places higher in the table than another bunch of (nearly identical) mediocre hacks? Puh-freaking-leeze!

    And needless to say, your assertion about doing the job as it was laid out speaks volumes about how Mafia Don and his moneyed overlords have redefined “doing the job” dramatically downward. It’s all so laughably absurd – win 4-5 games at the end of the season, which requires only dumb luck and maybe a little extra hustle, and you’re the “champion”! Not that we just need to hand it to the Supporter’s Shield winner, but playoffs can actually (gasp!) be made to reward good teams and give them some genuine advantage (unlike the moronic single-game format). See Grant Wahl’s latest for a decent proposal, if you haven’t already. For pissakes, at least make teams play 8 measly playoff games! At least that gives the cream some reasonable chance of rising on merit rather than tilting the table in favor of letting the turds float to the final on cynical, game-ruining tactics and pure dumb luck (which has become an annual ritual by now!).

    And for God’s sake, stop letting over half the friggin’ league into the playoffs in the first place! How can anyone take a league the least bit seriously when a team that won less than a third of its games has a strong shot at the title? You can bleat all you want about how “them’s the rules” or whatever, but the rules have turned the whole thing into a freakin’ clowns-only circus! If you’re OK with that, then you richly deserve the joke of an MLS that you currently have. Me, I’m holding out for something better. If Mafia Don and the myopic billionaires who serve as his enablers ever bother to pull their heads out and actually try to figure out why their TV ratings are in the sewer and most of their markets draw rather poorly at the gate, give me a shout. Otherwise, I’ll have no choice but to cave in and become that which I once hated: A Eurosnob!

  119. Adam M. says:

    The Champions League and Copa Libertadores are playoffs. The World Cup is a playoff past the group stage. So are most domestic cup championships. I think the reason MLS needs the playoff is because the US Open Cup is so far under the radar that it simply doesn’t register for average sports fan. We want the spectacle of a final four/championship game, and there is nothing wrong with that. The problem is getting the system right so that the playoff appear “fair.”

  120. Adam M. says:

    The Brasilian dmoestic championship is not a playoff, its single table. The league cup is a playoff, as are most.

  121. Adam M. says:

    I don’t see c happening. Some of the stadiums aren’t good enough to host a final.

  122. RB says:

    Laughably absurd.

  123. Dimidri says:

    That’s a good point, though I think San Jose and New England are the only teams this really applies to. You could either have them get the right to host it at another, bigger stadium like San Jose did at Stanford for the fourth of July or give it to the second place team as a punishment to the former for not having an adequate venue, though that seems a bit anti the whole point of the change.

  124. John says:

    16-Team World Cup Style Playoff. First part is group stage. Home games depend on how you did during regular season. The better you did, the more home games you get. Quit trying to fit a square peg in a round hole. People actually understand this format. You get the relegation lovers on board. You get more games. You get people invested in the characters and drama of the event.

  125. CrispyST3 says:

    Why can’t it just be, top 5 from west. Top 5 from east. Winner of east plays winner of west in the final for MLS cup……?

  126. Brent McD says:

    I love your point (d)

    Unconventional, but a great idea. Didn’t NASL used to do something like this?

  127. Hahn says:

    Last year’s Seattle/NO game was an anomaly. The NFL system works great. MLS needs to learn from them to keep the integrity of the conferences. Keep the wild cards separate.

    And Supporters Shield winners/top seed remaining should host the final with no mid-week games.

  128. MAC says:

    +1,000,000….There are no divisions in MLS

  129. Gazza says:

    A single table? So next year 36 regular season matches and in 10 years with a 24 team MLS 46 regular season matches? Are we playing games 12 months a year?

  130. Gazza says:


    This is by far the worst comment/post I have ever read on any soccer blog in the history of the sport. And that includes when Tinfoil Ted was on BigSoccer and the current clowns commenting on MLS Talk.

    There are about 20 statements that are laughable but the part that takes the cake is Dallas losing an upset. FCD have been crap for 2 months. Toronto beat them 3-Nil at home with a CCL Quarter-Final berth on the line. NY is better than Dallas. Colorado is better than Columbus. Guess which teams won?

  131. FuzzyDunlop says:

    True, but take a look at their post seasons and see how many of them have conference brackets.

    They all play some kind of balanced schedule + single bracket playoffs.

  132. Neal says:

    This is Grant Wahl’s plan that was referenced in an earlier post.

  133. Neal says:

    NE has hosted MLS Cup on several occasions.
    Foxboro is certainly a big enough venue, although weather can be an issue (see 1996)

  134. Michael says:

    This is the perfect format for when the league has an unbalanced schedule. If we have a balanced, 36-game schedule next year then I’d rather it just be a single table and the top 8 or 10 getting in, but if just the in-conference schedules are balanced, then this is the way to go.

  135. Kevin says:

    My favorite part about the playoffs this year is how FC Dallas had to be a “wild card” team when they had a better record than the three “seeded” teams in the other conference. They all played a balanced schedule. Dallas did better than KC, Houston and Philly but they got to play the wild card game and lost while the three teams with worse records get a few extra days’ rest. Good job MLS!

  136. mikey says: