Skip to content

Why MLS teams are so desperate to avoid fourth- and fifth-place (with league playoff dates)

Oct 21, 2013, 10:10 PM EDT

MLS Cup trophy

We know for certain that teams can and have advanced out of the those yucky fourth- or fifth-place playoff spots, all the way to MLS Cup. Houston and Los Angeles did it last year, after all. So, case closed.

But that doesn’t make it the easier path, of course. And that certainly doesn’t mean any team wants to try it. Here is exactly why MLS players and managers are desperate to dodge fourth- and fifth-place, willing to lay a lot on the line to finish third, at worst, in the East or in the West:

Clearly, the most obvious answer is that an extra chance to lose is, well, just that … one extra chance to lose. Purely statistically speaking, a club with sights set on reaching the MLS Cup final sees its success percentages tumble with that additional round, that added opportunity to fail.

Past that, it’s all about the scheduling, which gets seriously jammed up for teams pushed into that early elimination contest.

Here is the playoff schedule:

  • Single-elimination games (4th vs. 5th place): Oct. 30-31 (Wed.-Thurs.)
  • Conference Semifinals, Leg 1: Nov. 2-3 (Sat.-Sun.)
  • Conference Semifinals, Leg 2: Nov. 6-7 (Wed.-Thurs.)
  • Conference Finals, Leg 1: Nov. 9-10 (Sat.-Sun.)
  • Conference Finals, Leg 2: Nov. 23-24 (Sat.-Sun.)
  • MLS Cup: Dec. 7 (Sat.)

So here’s what a potential bugger of a playoff schedule might look like for some club. We’ll use Seattle as an example, since the Sounders and their implausible tumble are topical:

Let’s say the SigiSounders cannot get a sufficient result this Sunday against Los Angeles. That’s a Sunday night match. Late Sunday, no less.

Sigi Schmid’s team (one without much playoff success as it is) might then have one day before traveling to Colorado (most likely, although it could be Los Angeles) for a mid-week match on Wednesday or Thursday.

If they survive, they would travel back home before a conference semifinal first leg contest on Saturday or Sunday, against a better-rested club. The conference semifinal second leg (more travel) then happens a few nights later, again on a Wednesday or Thursday. Add it up, counting that regular season finale, that’s now four matches in 12 days, with potentially significant travel between each stop.

(MORE: MLS Week in Review for Round 34)

By the way, that’s four matches in 12 days and counting. Because the conference final first legs are scheduled for Nov. 9 and 10. That could mean five matches in 15 days plus travel before a big (and quite quirky) break before the conference finals second leg.

One more thing, that additional match is one more chance to lose a player for the final to yellow card accumulation. And who wants to get all the way to MLS Cup – only to play without your top midfielder or your best center back or whatever?

Latest Posts
  1. USWNT 6-0 Haiti: Wambach braces US in 90 minute demolition of Haiti

    Oct 20, 2014, 9:28 PM EDT

    Lloyd AP

    Meghan Klingenberg bagged a laser beam for her first US goal and Abby Wambach grabbed two as the Americans will move on to the semifinals.

  2. Manchester Police arrest man for flying drone over City vs Spurs match

    Oct 20, 2014, 8:42 PM EDT

    Photo credit: Greater Manchester Police Photo credit: Greater Manchester Police

    Manchester Police confirmed a man was arrested after flying a drone over the match that entertained 45,000 people.

  3. Americans Abroad: Johannsson, Cameron, Boyd all return

    Oct 20, 2014, 8:00 PM EDT

    Cameron AP

    Aron Johannsson bagged a penalty in his return from groin surgery, while Juan Agudelo continues to search for a new club.

  4. Adel Taarabt jabs back after Redknapp’s scathing comments

    Oct 20, 2014, 6:55 PM EDT

    Taarabt Getty Images

    Adel Taarabt says the harsh words from manager Harry Redknapp are not only untrue but damaging as a professional.

  5. New York Cosmos reportedly sign Spanish legend Raul, will play and coach

    Oct 20, 2014, 6:16 PM EDT

    Raul Getty Images

    The New York Cosmos completed a massive signing, beating out a few of his former clubs to nab the Spanish legend as a player and coach.

  6. Report: It will be Colombia – not Croatia – for USMNT in November

    Oct 20, 2014, 5:36 PM EDT

    Jurgen Klinsmann

    Despite a solid confirmation from Croatia, the friendly will reportedly not be happening.

  7. WATCH: West Brom 2-2 Manchester United: Blind earns draw for Red Devils on road

    Oct 20, 2014, 4:56 PM EDT

    WestBromUnited Getty Images

    Manchester United came from behind twice but still must settle for a disappointing result away from home.

  8. Teen Lazio striker totals his Lamborghini in Rome

    Oct 20, 2014, 4:35 PM EDT

    Lambo

    19-year-old Lazio striker Keita Balde Diao somehow walked away from what looks to be a major accident. His Lamborghini, however, didn’t.

  9. UEFA fines Wales and Galatasary, spare Arsenal

    Oct 20, 2014, 3:20 PM EDT

    Arsenal FC v Galatasaray AS - UEFA Champions League Getty Images

    Unruly fans will cost Wales and Galatasary as UEFA continues to crack down on off-the-pitch incidents.

  10. 2014 Homeless World Cup kicks off in Chile

    Oct 20, 2014, 2:35 PM EDT

    FBL-CHILE-HOMELESS WORLD CUP Getty Images

    The yearly tournament organizes five-a-side matches for people that are homeless or living in extreme poverty.

  11. Transfer talk: Multiple PL clubs interested in Andre Ayew

    Oct 20, 2014, 1:30 PM EDT

    FBL-FRA-LIGUE1-GUINGAMP-MARSEILLE Getty Images

    Liverpool, Everton and Swansea City are just a few of the Premier League clubs reportedly looking to sign the Marseille winger.

  12. Lukas Podolski: ‘Hell will freeze over’ before playing for Spurs

    Oct 20, 2014, 12:37 PM EDT

    FBL-ENG-FACUP-ARSENAL-HULL Getty Images

    With transfer rumors swirling, the Arsenal forward made it clear that he is #AlwaysAGunner.

  13. South Africa rules out hosting Africa Cup of Nations

    Oct 20, 2014, 11:51 AM EDT

    FBL-AFR2015-SUD-RSA Getty Images

    Amidst the Ebola outbreak, South Africa has ruled out hosting the continent’s premier tournament should Morocco back out.

  14. Indian player dies after goal celebration

    Oct 20, 2014, 11:00 AM EDT

    Sad news out of India as a young player died after injuring his spinal cord during a celebration.

  15. CSKA Moscow striker says Manchester City are ‘very weak’

    Oct 20, 2014, 10:15 AM EDT

    FBL-EUR-C1-CSKA-BAYERN Getty Images

    Ahmed Musa stirred the pot ahead of his club’s Champions League clash this week, calling out City’s form.

  16. Premier League Preview: West Brom vs. Manchester United

    Oct 20, 2014, 9:30 AM EDT

    FBL-ENG-PR-MAN UTD-WEST BROM Getty Images

    Watch the Baggies take on Manchester United today, live at 3:00 p.m. ET on NBCSN.

  17. Petr Cech is giving Thibaut Courtois safety tips

    Oct 20, 2014, 8:40 AM EDT

    Chelsea v Arsenal - Premier League Getty Images

    The Chelsea backup is teaching his replacement how to stay safe from head injuries, which have affected both keepers.

  18. Premier League Playback: Liverpool can’t get rid of Luis Suarez hangover

    Oct 20, 2014, 8:00 AM EDT

    Queens Park Rangers v Liverpool - Premier League Getty Images

    PST’s Lead Writer and Editor takes an in-depth look at the PL during Week 8.

  19. Neil Warnock says Chelsea players influenced referee

    Oct 20, 2014, 7:43 AM EDT

    Crystal Palace v Chelsea - Premier League Getty Images

    In a game that saw both sides reduced to ten men, the Crystal Palace manager believes the referee could have done better.

  20. MUST SEE: Wesley Sneijder scores two wonder goals

    Oct 19, 2014, 11:38 PM EDT

    Galatasaray AS v RSC Anderlecht - UEFA Champions League Getty Images

    The Dutch midfielder scored off two ridiculous strikes to lead Galatasary over rivals Fenerbahce.

Featured video

Week 8: Saturday PL recap