Complaints about the MLS playoff format are as much a part of the American soccer landscape as chants about pies are a part of the English scene. Beneath the hysteria over New York or Salt Lake winning a geographically imprecise conference title, some of the complaints are legit:
- Hosting the second leg of a two-leg series is a middling advantage after a long season.
- Colorado finished seventh in the league and yet will host a conference final.
The league likes to give everyone a home game and put an emphasis on elimination games rather than extended series. Great, but another method works just as well. That method is borrowed from football.
Not that football. The Aussie kind.
The principles are these:
- The top four teams must be beaten twice to be eliminated. The bottom four only get one loss.
- The No. 1 and No. 2 seeds are guaranteed two home games. No. 3 through No. 6 get at least one.
So if MLS had put this system in place this year, the schedule would’ve been as follows (home teams listed first):
- No. 1 Los Angeles vs. No. 4 Dallas
- No. 2 Salt Lake vs. No. 3 New York
- No. 5 Columbus vs. No. 8 San Jose (loser out)
- No. 6 Seattle vs. No. 7 Columbus (loser out)
Second round (both losers out)
- LA-Dallas loser vs. Columbus-SJ winner
- RSL-NY loser vs. Seattle-Clb winner
Semifinals (both losers out)
- RSL-NY winner vs. first 2nd round winner
- LA-Dallas winner vs. second 2nd round winner
MLS Cup: Semifinal winners at highest remaining seed
The system is relatively simple, and it rewards regular-season play. The top teams get an advantage without being idle so long that they might get cold. What else could you want?
(MLS fans will surely think of something, of course!)