Skip to content

NFL playoff construction right; MLS construction, not so much

Jan 6, 2013, 8:30 AM EDT

Sounders FC Sporting Kansas City Soccer

I’m watched the NFL playoffs yesterday, taking a wee break from our game. But I’m never very far from thinking about soccer. So …

I could not help but think about how the ratio of NFL teams that qualify for the playoffs is spot-on perfect, whereas Major League Soccer’s more lenient qualification policy continues to leave me feeling a tad underwhelmed.

And that’s frustrating, because there are so many areas where Major League Soccer simply cannot compare to the mighty NFL. In any measure of public appeal, it’s no contest, so there’s little cause for comparison.

But in terms of procedures and policies, there’s no reason why MLS cannot match its much bigger “football” brother.

In NFL, 12 of 32 teams make the playoffs. That’s 37.5 percent, or slightly more than a third. Combine that with the fact that NFL teams get just 16 cracks at regular season success, every single game day is a biggie.

By contrast, Major League Soccer’s more forgiving format provides safe playoff passage to 10 of 19 teams. That’s more than half.

And that’s still too many.

The result is too many regular season matches that still don’t carry sufficient weight. (Yes, it would help if there was a promotion-relegation structure – but that’s not going to happen, so let’s not wander down that rabbit trail just now, please.)

Think about this: in the NBA, 16 of 30 teams qualify for the “tournament.” That’s about the same as in MLS, right around 53 percent. They play a whole bunch of regular season games (82), which is the primary reason the regular season is sometimes reduced to a punch line, due to that lack of weight attached to each individual contest.

While the NBA condition is mostly about having so many regular season games, it is also about a playoff format that allows safe post-season passage for too many mediocre teams.

Want to identify one way to instantly make MLS games a little more exciting through the bulk of the season? Go back to the days when just 8 clubs made the post-season. That would certainly help.

Latest Posts
  1. Thursday’s Europa League preview: Spurs go Greek, Everton faces Lille

    Oct 22, 2014, 10:10 PM EDT

    Britain Soccer Europa League AP

    The pair of Premier League clubs remaining in the competition face quite different tests on Thursday.

  2. PST’s MLS Rookie of the Year: Shipp, Hagglund, Akindele or Birnbaum?

    Oct 22, 2014, 9:25 PM EDT

    Nick Hagglund; Michael Bradley AP

    Perhaps it isn’t the sexiest year for rookies in Major League Soccer, but there’s a quartet of names set to stick around for a while.

  3. Arsene Wenger: We went big and it paid off against Anderlecht

    Oct 22, 2014, 8:30 PM EDT

    Belgium Soccer Champions League AP

    “I had hope, it maybe didn’t look like it, but it happened,” Wenger said.

  4. It’s official: World No. 3 Colombia to face USMNT in London on Nov. 14

    Oct 22, 2014, 7:23 PM EDT

    James Rodriguez AP

    “So overall, it’s a squad with a lot of experience playing at the highest level, and this will be another great benchmark for us,” Klinsmann said.

  5. Brendan Rodgers remarks on Balotelli and Pepe’s halftime shirt swap

    Oct 22, 2014, 6:30 PM EDT

    Britain Soccer Champions League AP

    Of course many are claiming this “is the beginning of end” for Balotelli on Merseyside. That seems a bit much.

  6. VIDEO: Top 10 goals of the MLS season (heading into the final weekend)

    Oct 22, 2014, 5:40 PM EDT

    Erik Hurtado AP

    Here’s the bar, Week 33 of Major League Soccer: Please feel free to raise it.

  7. UEFA Champions League roundup: Madrid clubs, Borussia Dortmund roll

    Oct 22, 2014, 4:47 PM EDT

    Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, AP

    We are at the halfway point in Groups A-D, and some English clubs are concerned about their fortunes to be sure.

  8. Three things we learned as Real Madrid rout Liverpool

    Oct 22, 2014, 4:41 PM EDT

    It was a night to forget for the home side, as Real ruled at Anfield. Here’s what we learned.

  9. Arsenal’s Podolski, Gibbs break Belgian hearts in left-for-late win

    Oct 22, 2014, 4:36 PM EDT

    Belgium Soccer Champions League AP

    The 21-year-old Honduran international did what a dangerous Alexis Sanchez couldn’t, but Arsenal was rescued late.

  10. Michel Platini denies making ebola comments which angered African Confederation

    Oct 22, 2014, 2:54 PM EDT

    Platini Getty Images

    The CAF claimed Platini said something he didn’t, and it hurt his feelings.

  11. Setting the scene at Anfield, as Liverpool host Real Madrid in UEFA Champions League

    Oct 22, 2014, 2:14 PM EDT

    FBL-EUR-C1-LIVERPOOL-REALMADRID FBL-EUR-C1-LIVERPOOL-REALMADRID

    Here’s what it’s like at Anfield, as Liverpool host Real Madrid in the UEFA Champions League.

  12. FOLLOW LIVE – Champions League returns for Wednesday slate

    Oct 22, 2014, 1:58 PM EDT

    Ronaldo Getty Images

    With yesterday’s goal frenzy, will today give us the same excitement?

  13. Robinho being investigated for sexually assaulting teenager

    Oct 22, 2014, 1:34 PM EDT

    Robinho Getty Images

    This is the second time Robinho is under investigation for such an alleged incident.

  14. David Villa’s time in Australia could be up already

    Oct 22, 2014, 12:17 PM EDT

    Villa Getty Images

    NYCFC’s first Designated Player will be returning to the United States to fulfill commercial and marketing obligations, and it’s unclear whether he will make his way back to Australia to finish out his loan.

  15. WATCH: Geoff Cameron says he’s fighting for a central position

    Oct 22, 2014, 11:36 AM EDT

    Cameron Getty Images

    Now that he’s back from a hernia problem, the American told Stoke’s YouTube channel that he is no longer a right-back and the club is aware of where he wants to play.

  16. Men in Blazers podcast: Whiplash from QPR-Liverpool, Klinsmann-Garber, plus Josh Lambo

    Oct 22, 2014, 10:51 AM EDT

    meninblazers

    Rog and Davo gain whiplash from QPR-Liverpool, and the Jurgen Klinsmann-Don Garber saga.

  17. Portland Timbers out of CONCACAF CL after loss in Honduras

    Oct 22, 2014, 9:20 AM EDT

    TimbersOlimpia Getty Images

    The MLS side was eliminated from group stage play on an away goals tiebreaker as Honduran side Olimpia goes through.

  18. FA investigating racial abuse in Championship match

    Oct 22, 2014, 8:42 AM EDT

    BellusciJerome Getty Images

    Norwich striker Cameron Jerome complained to Mark Clattenburg that a Leeds player was racially abusing him, and the matter is being investigated.

Featured video

PST Extra: Can United beat Chelsea?