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. Report: AZ Alkmaar speaking with Werder Bremen about Aron Johannsson

    Aug 3, 2015, 7:55 PM EDT

    Johannsson Getty Images

    Could the USMNT forward be thinking about a move to the Bundesliga?

  2. Brighton brings back club hero Bobby Zamora, fans explode with joy

    Aug 3, 2015, 7:05 PM EDT

    Zamora Getty Images

    Bobby Zamora has returned to his old club 12 years after leaving, and Brighton fans couldn’t be more excited.

  3. Agent says Gonzalo Higuain rejected Napoli contract extension

    Aug 3, 2015, 6:20 PM EDT

    Higuain Getty Images

    Gonzalo Higuain won’t be leaving Napoli this summer, but he’s not impressed by the club’s feeble attempt at a contract extension.

  4. Juventus lose Sami Khedira for 2 months to hamstring tear

    Aug 3, 2015, 5:35 PM EDT

    Khedira Getty Images

    A massive blow to Juventus puts them on alert for midfield cover.

  5. Will this year’s Liverpool spending spree work better than the last?

    Aug 3, 2015, 5:00 PM EDT

    FirminoBenteke Getty Images

    Liverpool has spent big for the second straight summer, but it appears the Reds may have learned a valuable lesson.

  6. Lyon announces deal for Manchester United wing-back Rafael

    Aug 3, 2015, 3:48 PM EDT

    Rafael Getty Images

    Rafael’s rocky seven-year tenure with Manchester United is over as he heads to France.

  7. Premier League Goalkeeper preview: Who’s in our Top Five, and who switched clubs?

    Aug 3, 2015, 3:00 PM EDT

    <> at Emirates Stadium on July 28, 2015 in London, England. Getty Images

    Not a great deal has changed in the world of Premier League goalkeepers this offseason, but among the differences is a huge one: Petr Cech has moved from Chelsea to Arsenal.

  8. Best starting lineups for all 20 Premier League teams – Do you agree?

    Aug 3, 2015, 2:25 PM EDT

    PST selects the strongest XI’s for each PL team ahead of the 2015-16 season. Let us know what you think.

  9. Cristiano Ronaldo, Karim Benzema out injured for Real Madrid

    Aug 3, 2015, 1:00 PM EDT

    Real Madrid v Schalke 04 - UEFA Champions League Real Madrid v Schalke 04 - UEFA Champions League

    Forwards both left off Real’s Audi Cup squad after training ground injuries.

  10. Monday’s Transfer Rumor Roundup: Van Dijk to Southampton, Benzema to Arsenal

    Aug 3, 2015, 12:15 PM EDT

    All of the latest gossip from around the PL, right here.

  11. VIDEO: Watch Arsene Wenger snub Jose Mourinho handshake. Who is in the wrong?

    Aug 3, 2015, 11:30 AM EDT

    Arsenal v Chelsea - Premier League Preview Getty Images

    Wenger and Mourinho’s feud continues, but should both manager’s bite the bullet and make up?

  12. Paris Saint-Germain a “step up” from Manchester United for Angel di Maria

    Aug 3, 2015, 10:42 AM EDT

    FBL-FRA-LIGUE1-PSG-NICE Getty Images

    PSG’s skipper Silva is risking the wrath of United’s fans around the globe.

  13. Cristiano Ronaldo buys his agent a Greek island… as a wedding gift

    Aug 3, 2015, 9:40 AM EDT

    Cristiano Ronaldo Signs Contract Renewal For Real Madrid Getty Images

    Real Madrid superstar is a baller on and off the pitch.

  14. MLS Snapshot: Chicago Fire 2-0 FC Dallas (video)

    Aug 2, 2015, 9:15 PM EDT

    Accam Getty Images

    David Accam helped lead Chicago Fire over FC Dallas to end the visitors five-game winning streak.

  15. WATCH: Ex-Barcelona midfielder Xavi scores a wonderful free-kick on debut for Qatari club

    Aug 2, 2015, 8:06 PM EDT

    Xavi Getty Images

    Xavi gets up for preseason friendlies, and in his first match for his new club, the 35-year-old rips a classic free kick.

  16. MLS Snapshot: San Jose Earthquakes 0-0 Portland Timbers (video)

    Aug 2, 2015, 7:03 PM EDT

    Valeri Getty Images

    Diego Valeri missed a penalty as neither side could take advantage of its few big chances.

  17. Premier League friendly roundup: Southampton draws, Stoke swallowed

    Aug 2, 2015, 6:36 PM EDT

    Hughes Getty Images

    It was a tough day for a number of Premier League teams who suffered losses and setbacks, most notably Mark Hughes and Stoke City.

Featured video

What can we expect from PL new boys?