Yes, MLS fans’ dreams might be about to come true: Pitch Invasion has learned that the MLS Board of Governors are seriously considering a complete overhaul of the MLS playoff structure, that would both enliven the playoffs and ensure the regular season beomes a meaningful contest for first place with serious advantages gained for the post-season.
Here’s the new proposal:
- The top four teams in each conference would qualify for the playoffs, with the first stage now a round robin setup in two groups of four
- Each match in the group stage would be played at the home venue of the highest seeded team based on regular season performance — so the regular season winner would have three home games and no away games
- The top two from each group would qualify for the semi-finals
- Semi-finals would be one match, with again the highest seeded team from the regular season hosting
- The final would be hosted not at a neutral venue as in the past, but at the home of the highest seeded team
At a stroke, this ensures winning the Supporters Shield for the best regular season record would give a far greater advantage than the present convoluted set-up, which does not give any real home advantage at the first round two-legged stage. Winning the regular would mean the possibility of playing every playoff game at home, a huge reward on and off the field. Suddenly, every regular season match would really matter, and the final would be something to saviour with a partisan crowd.
Does this sound familiar? Perhaps MLS has been a sneaking a peak at WPS, which has an even more favourable set-up for the regular season winner, who advances directly to host the WPS final in the playoffs.
From what I understand, the proposal on the table is being taken extremely seriously. At worst, it’s good to know MLS is committed to finding a way to make the regular season matter more. Every regular season game should feel like it really counts, and this proposal would go a long way to ensuring that.