Major League Soccer is supposedly looking into ways to change the playoff structure for next season. The Athletic reports the league wants to add more teams, and thus significantly more games, to the playoff picture.
The current MLS playoff format consists of 14 teams. As the league has 28 total clubs at the moment, half of the teams actually advance to the playoffs. These 14 teams play a single-elimination tournament until a champion is crowned. This means that there are 13 total playoff matches for the 2022 MLS Cup Playoffs.
Beginning in 2023, the addition of St. Louis City SC brings the total number of clubs in the league to 29. The aforementioned report suggests the league focuses on creating more playoff matchups. Sources told the outlet MLS wants to try to get to at least 30 postseason games next season.
While nothing is set in stone just yet, there have been suggestions on how the league can reach this number of games. Sixteen total teams qualify for the postseason under the proposed format. Therefore, more than half the MLS clubs make the playoffs. The consequence of this is a regular season that grows increasingly meaningless.
MLS interested in a new playoff format
These 16 clubs would be separated in half by conference. However, the single-elimination style would disappear. Instead, MLS places the teams into four groups of four teams each. Much like the World Cup, each team plays the other three clubs in its group once. Then, the top two teams from each group advance to a single-elimination knockout phase. This portion of the playoff structure mirrors the one currently in place.
If completed, MLS joins other American major sports leagues in expanding playoff structures. Although not always popular with fans, National Football League, Major League Baseball, and National Basketball Association all added more teams/games to their postseason schedules in recent years. The increased games leads to increased revenue for the league and its owners.
Any potential change to the MLS playoffs needs ownership approval. Discussions on the change surely take place at an MLS board of governors meeting next month.
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