The ideal MLS playoff format, 2015 edition

“Get rid of the away-goal tiebreaker!”

“Have a minigame after the second game!”

“I miss shootouts!”

Yes, it’s that time of year. Even the commissioner, Don Garber, has fretted about the away-goal tiebreaker.

So, once again, I’m going to say MLS should use a modified Page playoff system. But I’ll tweak it this year, going up to 10 teams.

In each conference:

Play-in round
#5 at #4

4-5 winner at #3
#2 at #1

3-4-5 winner at 1-2 loser

Semifinal winner at 1-2 winner

Yes, the 1-2 quarterfinal loser gets another chance. That’s a perk of finishing in the top two.

And that’s the beauty of this system. The higher the seed, the more of an advantage a team has.

No more griping about the top seed gaining little advantage in a two-leg series. No more coasting once a team has wrapped up a playoff berth.

The top seed gets home field and another chance with a loss. The second seed gets a second chance and will host its second game, either the semifinal or the final.

The third seed gets to skip the play-in game and host a quarterfinal. The fourth seed gets to host the play-in game.

The fifth seed is a long shot.

Here’s how it would’ve worked this year:


#5 Los Angeles at #4 Seattle. This game was actually played, with Seattle winning 3-2.

Seattle at #3 Portland
#2 Vancouver at #1 Dallas

Seattle-Portland winner at Vancouver-Dallas loser

Semifinal winner at Vancouver-Dallas winner


#5 New England at #4 D.C. United. In the real world, D.C. won this game 2-1.

D.C. at #3 Montreal
#2 Columbus at #1 New York

D.C.-Montreal winner at Columbus-NY loser

Semifinal winner at Columbus-NY winner

The advantages of this system:

  • Regular-season performance is rewarded.
  • Fewer games than current system.
  • No awkward two-leg series. Every game advances one team; most games eliminate one team.

Disadvantages: None.

So there you have it. Again.

Published by

Beau Dure

The guy who wrote a bunch of soccer books and now runs a Gen X-themed podcast while substitute teaching and continuing to write freelance stuff.

One thought on “The ideal MLS playoff format, 2015 edition”

  1. “Yes, the 1-2 quarterfinal loser gets another chance. That’s a perk of finishing in the top two.”

    Biggest critique I have is that sometimes the 2 seed gets slaughtered in the QFs, then comes back nips the 1 seed in the Final in a close game. They were a lower seed going in, and their performance over two playoff games was worse, but they’re still champions.

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