As Major League Soccer has grown over the years, so has the number of teams that entered the playoffs.
With the season extending in length over recent years, MLS is reportedly looking into another change to its current playoff format, according to FourFourTwo USA.
The report states that the MLS regular season would extend roughly an extra week to two weeks in order to sync up with the FIFA international break that always runs during November. In doing so, the MLS Cup playoffs would then start after that break, but the postseason would be condensed down to three weeks.
Under one proposal, the biggest change to the actual format of the playoffs would be that each matchup would be single-elimination, thus doing away with two-legged affairs where clubs play home-and-home fixtures.
The biggest question is; does the MLS playoff format need a makeover or should the league leave its current situation intact?
A notable issue with MLS playing into November and December is the international break that occurs during the former. Clubs have been hampered by getting hot to start out the postseason only to be slowed down by the time off.
By starting the playoffs after the break and moving to single-elimination, the league would be putting greater emphasis on the regular season, which benefits the top-seeded teams — who would ultimately host each match instead of having a home-and-home series.
The proposed format wouldn’t drastically change the length of the season, and more importantly, MLS would have a bigger buffer during the regular season so that it could potentially have teams avoid playing during over international breaks throughout the season.
Here’s a look at how the proposed format would look using the 2017 calendar as a blueprint.
All matches are single-elimination
FIFA break (November 6-14)
First round — (November 18-19)
- Top two teams in each conference have a bye
- Teams seeded third host sixth-place, fourth place takes on fifth
Conference semifinals — (November 25/26)
- First-seeded teams in each conference host highest-seeded team, 2nd place takes on lowest-seed club
Conference finals — (December 2)
- Best-seeded teams remaining host
MLS Cup — (December 9)
- Team with most points from regular season hosts the final
- Final remains on a Saturday to avoid competing with NFL football