New Single-Elimination MLS Playoff Format Yields Desired Effect
MLS this weekend debuted a new, single-elimination playoff format, and the league "got this one right," according to Larry Stone of the SEATTLE TIMES. MLS "ditched the home-and-away, cumulative-score playoff format which never resonated with an American audience." The new format pushed clubs to an "urgency, bordering on desperation, that was palpable." It was a "far cry from the often-mysterious cat-and-mouse game that prevailed in the previous two-match format." Sounders GK Stefan Frei said, "This is great for the league, I think it's great for football in this country." Stone wrote Saturday's Sounders-FC Dallas game was "playoff soccer the way it was meant to be" (SEATTLE TIMES, 10/20).
GOLDEN GOAL: SI.com's Avi Creditor wrote it is "hard to find many negatives with the new playoff format given how everything played out this weekend." Now, there are "no cagey first legs, with teams afraid to really go for it for fear of either conceding an away goal or leaving themselves without a chance in the second leg." It is "desperation soccer, which lends itself to an exciting product." The "early returns ... are promising" (SI.com, 10/20). ESPN.com's Arch Bell writes the new format "is a winner." The games were "open and teams were forced to be proactive, meaning everyone was spared the 0-0 snoozers that plagued first legs in years' past." Bell: "MLS got this one right" (ESPN.com, 10/21). The Athletic's Sam Stejskal tweeted "New playoffs kick ass. Big fan. MLS is crazy. Totally weird league." Fox' Alexi Lalas: "Told ya. @MLS Playoffs ... they’re fantastic." SI's Grant Wahl: "MLS regular season 😐. MLS playoffs 😍😍😍." Former USMNT D Jimmy Conrad: "MLS should scrap the regular season and just start with the playoffs! All of these games have been incredible." YES Network's Ian Paul Joy: "This new @MLS playoff structure of 1 and done is fu**ing fabulous" (TWITTER.com, 10/21).