A lot of people don't like the playoffs system in MLS. It's understandable, as often fans don't like the idea of a football match being unimportant over the course of the season. In the EPL, only a couple of key losses halfway through the season can doom your team to losing out on the title. See: Manchester City this year. I have always been a fan of playoff structures, although in football I'm more keen on the idea of home/away matches in every round, not just the first. Either way, Brian Straus of AOL's Fanhouse sports site has decided to deride the playoffs in an article that was supposed to be about the schedule.
There are quite a few good and bad arguments to be made against playoffs. Personally I think that the MLS should push the Supporters Shield as a much more important trophy than the MLS Cup and keep the playoffs for what is essentially the League Cup - probably best described as "the version of the Open Cup that people actually care about" - in MLS. Brian dedicates a small portion of his article to trashing playoffs as a horrible thing for MLS, but does it in a way that I personally find pretty sub-par.
Take my favorite snippet of the article for instance.
The crushing anticlimax that was November's MLS Cup Final (the ratings were abysmal, down 44%, and the BMO Field stands half empty when Pablo Mastroeni lifted the trophy) was all the proof that should be needed that the league doesn't determine a champion in a manner which captivates fans.
Yep. Any person with half a brain can figure out what's wrong with this picture. Were the ratings down because people were protesting their hatred of the playoffs system? No, they were lower than the last couple of years because the Los Angeles Galaxy and the New York Red Bulls weren't playing in the game! In fact, two of the least supported clubs in the entire league were playing in that game. Bad TV ratings stunk out loud for the World Series this year as well becuase San Francisco was playing Texas as opposed to the Phillies playing the Yankees!
Were the stands empty because nobody showed up? No, the stands were pretty full at the beginning of the game before the Toronto FC fans staged a childish walk-out to protest having to pay for cup final tickets along with their season ticket packages. If that failure of communication isn't enough for you, try the next one.
No one ever questions whether the NFL, NBA, MLB or NHL titlist is deserving, and the conclusion of their campaigns is highly anticipated. Yet year after year, MLS asks fans and sponsors to invest in a lengthy regular season, only to see the league crown a champion with an abbreviated rock-paper-scissors competition that sucks all the meaning out of the preceding seven months of play.
Brian has apparently turned into a College Football BCS fan. If every game doesn't have meaning the entire competition is meaningless? Well, there is a trophy - and quite a coveted one if you talk to an average MLS fan - for the team who has the most points at seasons end. So all the games do in fact matter in the race for the Supporter's Shield. I didn't hear a single Real Salt Lake fan say after the final game against Colorado, "Oh well, who cares about the Supporters Shield anyway?" So disparaging the playoffs system by saying that it makes the games matter less when there is a completely separate trophy out there dedicated entirely to making every game matter... I think I've lost the plot of where the article is trying to go. (And yes, quite a few people have questioned the SF Giants winning the world series, thank you very much Brian.)
Does Brian just want us to replace the Shield with the MLS Cup, giving the league title to the team with the most points? That's just deleting a trophy from the already small pool that North American teams have a chance to get. Is this just sour grapes from a fan of a team who won the MLS Cup partially because of the playoff structure? Not at all. Do you think I was happy when Real Salt Lake performed essentially an even worse version of the same gambit in 2009? I just happen to enjoy the playoff system. Certainly, it needs tweaking and lots of it, probably in the form of a single table so that the Eastern Conference Final isn't played by Colorado and San Jose.
The concept of a playoff for the MLS Cup should change, but not be destroyed because a couple of falsified numbers say so.