Major League Soccer says playoff changes are possible, but no timeline at this point
A Major League Soccer spokesman said Tuesday that, as reported by SI.com this weekend, the league could potentially make tweaks to the postseason structure before the start of the regular season in March, but there is currently no timeline for any such changes to be decided or announced.
SI.com’s Brian Straus reported Sunday that the league is considering making an interesting alteration to the current playoff setup that will allow the higher seed of a two-leg series the option of hosting either the first or second leg.
MLS Commissioner Don Garber spoke about potential changes during the MLS SuperDraft last week in Philadelphia and said that any changes for the postseason this year have not been determined yet.
“Not in the short-term,” Garber said when asked about plans for revising the playoff schedule. “We’ve spent a lot of time looking at a major schedule revamp, and I think until we get into the major change or the total shift, we’re tweaking our playoffs and opposed to changing them.”
The report on SI.com cites an unnamed source that says the playoff tweak will ultimately be passed and “I think it’ll be finalized before the start of the season.”
Another source in the article, however, insists that the potential change could face more backlash because the move lacks overwhelming consensus or approval.
Any changes will have to approved by the league’s board of governors and the competition committee.
Since the league made a change from a best-of-three series in 2002, the higher-seeded team plays on the road in the first leg before hosting the series finale, a structure that has provided mixed results through the years and sometimes brought into question whether the higher-seeded team truly holds an edge by hosting the second leg.
During the 2012 postseason, for example, five higher-seeded teams lost their series after losing or drawing the first leg on the road. The top-seeded teams from both conferences -- Sporting Kansas City and the San Jose Earthquakes -- were both eventually eliminated after losing in the opening legs on the road.
But higher-seeded teams largely held serve last year, with only the New York Red Bulls unable to advance out of the conference semifinals against the Houston Dynamo. The Portland Timbers -- who held the top seed in the Western Conference -- were eventually eliminated in the conference championship after losing the opening leg 4-2 on the road at Real Salt Lake.
Garber said last week he was concerned about the two-week break before and after the conference finals last season, part of which was mandatory because of World Cup qualifiers on Nov. 16-17.
"I thought that took away the momentum that we had," Garber said. "This is a square-peg in a round-hole problem, and it's going to take awhile to solve it properly."