Major League Soccer is one of the most unique leagues in the world when deciding a champion of the league. Instead of following suit with many of the other leagues in the world, MLS added an American tradition to the mix — playoffs.
Most soccer leagues around the world are structured quite similarly in terms of determining a champion. It is common to see the mass majority of leagues utilize the “table” structure throughout the season. Take the English Premier League (EPL) for example. There are twenty teams who play in the EPL every season. Each team plays every other opponent in the league twice (once home, once away) for a total of 38 matches. At the end of the season, the team who has the most points has one won the league. Very simple.
Determining a champion through the table structure has plenty of benefits. For one, it makes every single game vitally important. Every single point counts, and one missed opportunity could result in a team not winning the championship. The structure also helps create an equal qualifying ground for the four UEFA Champions League spots available.
MLS borrows some of this drama and structure when determining their Supporters' Shield winner which is given to the team with the most points at the end of the season. Winning the regular season is a big point of emphasis for many teams, as seen this season with the New York Red Bulls and FC Dallas fighting for the coveted piece of hardware down he stretch. However, MLS takes it another step by following up the end of the regular season with a postseason tournament to determine the true MLS Champion.
The MLS playoffs bring a whole different dimension to the world’s game. Having a playoff system gives every team a chance to win the Championship. As long as a team makes the playoffs, they have a chance. This is the beauty of not only MLS, but American sports in general. If a team has a rough spell of games through the middle of the season, their chances at a championship do not disappear as they would in Europe.
Also, the intensity and drama is amplified to a level seen in popular tournaments like the Champions League. Playoff soccer is an edge of your seat experience unrivaled in all of sports. Just take a look at some of the incredible moments from this year’s MLS Cup Playoffs so far — seriously, just watch this.
So while MLS’s playoff format is different that anything you might see in the world of soccer, it provides an uniquely brilliant experience for fans from around the world. The drama will continue this weekend in the second leg of the conference championships.