By Michael Lewis
So, 18 teams will reach the MLS Cup Playoffs this year, huh?
I mean, I feel I’m watching Oprah Winfrey on her show:
“You get a playoff berth! You get a playoff berth! And you get a playoff berth!”
Let’s do the math.
Eighteen out of 24 teams will qualify for the post season – nine teams from each of the two 12-team conferences. In other words 75 percent of the teams. They’re playing the schedule to eliminate six teams from the postseason.
Kind of reminds me of what transpired during the early years of Major League Soccer, when they eliminated two teams out of the original 10 for the playoffs. Yep, the top four teams in each of the pair of five-team conferences book a spot in the postseason. You almost had to go out of your way to miss the playoffs.
Let’s do some more math that was left over from last year, when seven teams reached MLS’ promised land. No team with a sub-.500 record made it, the poorest mark being held by the New England Revolution (11-11-12, 45 points).
Let’s assume the 2020 playoff regulations were in effect for 2019, and we have four teams will under-water records.
From the Eastern Conference, we have the Chicago Fire (10-12-12, 42) and Montreal Impact (12-17-5, 41).
And from the Western Conference, we have the San Jose Earthquakes (13-16-5, 44) and Colorado Rapids (12-16-6, 42).
More mediocrity, anyone?
No, I am not just picking on MLS. Any other league that adds a ridiculous amount of playoff berths has watered down the quality. Major League Baseball has a ridiculous – what? – 16 teams making the postseason.
Listen, I understand what we are going through with the COVID-19 pandemic. Sports, like everyone’s lives have been thrown way out of whack. But watering down the playoffs?
And listen, I love a good Cinderella sports story as anyone else, but in the 21st century world of sports, no sub-.500 team should wind up winning a professional league championship, unless there were some real crazy league standings.
What’s next? A participation trophy for every player showing up?