MLS executives are considering an expansion and restructuring of its current playoff system, which would debut in 2023 and consist of around 30 postseason games instead of 13.
The reorganization would alter the current format of seven-team playoffs per conference, according to the athleticand it would happen during St Louis City SC’s first year in the league after the MLS board of governors approved an expansion to Missouri three years ago.
The change would also come at the start of a 10-year, $2.5 billion broadcast with Apple TV, the largest broadcast rights deal to date for American soccer in its history.
MLS executives are considering expanding the playoffs to 30 games instead of the usual 13.
The top 8 teams from both conferences would be in 4 groups of 4 before the round of 16
For now, a scenario involving a ‘World Cup-style playoff tournament’ seems to be the most promising option. It consists of the first eight teams in both conferences to advance to the playoffs and then be seeded in four groups of four (two per conference).
The teams that finish as the top two seeds in each group advance to the knockout stage after three group stage matches. Elimination games will also be split by conference, resulting in the Western conference champion playing the Eastern conference champion in the MLS Cup final.
As of late, and since 2008, the current playoff system only promotes knockout games, with the top seed in each conference being awarded a first-round bye.
The eventual champion, currently New York City FC, has to play a total of 13 matches, including the cup final, to lift the trophy.
The MLS team has already discussed the new format amongst themselves since last summer, The Athletic reports, with “senior MLS owners and officials” appearing to approve of it “favorably.”
The final would consist of the Western conference champion playing against the Eastern one.
The league’s board of governors would still have to vote on it in Brooklyn in November.
However, even if all 28 team owners (soon to be 29 with the addition of St. Louis) approve the playoff shakeup, the league’s board of governors would still have to vote on it in Brooklyn in November.
The league is also looking to expand into a new market, number 30, which would benefit the proposal due to increased competition.
However, there is a fear that the players will run out when the MLS Cup starts, as the current MLS regular season already consists of 34 games. In addition to that, the US Open Cup (seven games, including the final) and the League Cup (also seven games, including the final) are included in each team’s schedule.
The current format of the MLS Cup differs from most of the world’s soccer leagues, which consider the club with the most points at the end of the season to be the champion.
MLS honors that achievement with the Supporters’ Shield, currently held by LAFC.
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