For years I’ve written a story like “The MLS Cup Playoffs are Broken” or “The MLS Cup Playoffs are Still Broken.” Well no more! And I hate to say I told you so (who am I kidding, I don’t hate that at all), but I told you so.
In past seasons, outside of the mid-week knock-out round to open the playoffs, it was mostly home and away games that essentially forced teams to play ugly soccer. Then, when the playoffs would finally kick into the gear, there was an international break and all momentum was lost.
Well finally MLS took my advice and made sweeping changing to their playoff format. The 2019 version of the playoffs have been nothing short of amazing. Nearly every game has been awesome as everything is on the line in the single-elimination format. The only shame for Sporting Kansas City fans is that this would have really favored them in 2018 when they were the one-seed and would have gotten the only bye week. But alas, it came a year too late.
So what is wrong?
Mid-Week Games Need to Go
Even though the games in the middle of this past week were still fantastic, it took the spotlight off what a weekend game allows. People may have still been at work when some of these games were starting. I personally arrive home in the middle of both the Atlanta United and Philadelphia Union game and the New York City FC and Toronto FC games. On the weekends, many more people don’t have to work or at least can stay up and watch games that run deeper into the night.
One would assume that MLS played mid-week games this week because they needed to cram in another game this weekend, but that’s not the case. Instead, they will again play mid-week next week on Tuesday and Wednesday. Oh, and that’s not because the finals are on the following weekend. They aren’t. No, there is then an 11-day break before the MLS Cup Finals are played.
Instead, simply make it weekend after weekend of joy. On the 2019 calendar that would mean the opening round stays where it was (October 19th-20th). Then, instead of playing all those teams (outside of the teams with a bye) three to four days later on short rest, they’d be playing this weekend (Oct 26th-27th). Then the following weekend (November 2nd-3rd) would be the Conference Finals and a week later on Sunday the 10th (as it is now) would be MLS Cup.
You got so close to perfection MLS. There is always next year. And Sporting KC fans will hope that they aren’t forced to watch from the sideline.