The Student Newspaper of Lakeside School

TATLER

The Student Newspaper of Lakeside School

TATLER

The Student Newspaper of Lakeside School

TATLER

The MLS Needs to Change its Playoffs … Again

Recent+changes+to+the+format+of+Major+League+Soccer+seem+to+benefit+Apple+while+harming+the+league%E2%80%99s+reputation+and+fans.
COURTESY OF THE VERGE
Recent changes to the format of Major League Soccer seem to benefit Apple while harming the league’s reputation and fans.

Many Sounders fans hoped to watch their team get beat in the MLS conference semi- finals — until they hit Apple TV’s pay wall. Throughout the season, MLS fans were subjected to one of the worst examples of a sports league using TV rights to make money. Across the world, league champions are crowned based on their regular season performances. Even in knockout tournaments, like the Champions League, teams aggregate their goals through two games to determine the victor. Yet in the MLS’s brand new playoff system, the Columbus Crew beat Los Angeles FC in just one game, crowning themselves MLS Champions for the second time in three years.

Tragically, rather than raising the bar for American soccer fans, its clear purpose has been to secure as much money for Apple as possible. 

This playoff system, announced in February 2023, combined with a league already growing rapidly in popularity, was supposed to bring newfound status to the league. Tragically, rather than raising the bar for American soccer fans, its clear purpose has been to secure as much money for Apple as possible. 

To boost the number of games viewers would have to pay for, MLS added two features to early playoff rounds that were previously unheard of in the soccer world: wild card matches and best of three serieses. Instead of 14 teams competing for the trophy in 13 matches like in 2022, 18 teams now compete in 28 matches. 19 of those games appeared exclusively on Apple TV’s $100 “MLS Season Pass.” The MLS’s greed has upset fans and longtime supporters; many felt the best of three matches were gimmicky, and those who attended games in those series felt the atmosphere was lacking because of it. In past years, teams could pile on the aggregate score to put playoff series’ away in the first game. In the new playoffs, the first game has no impact on the final outcome of the series, making this year’s games much less exciting. The Athletic’s Elias Burke notes that in LAFC’s first round matchup against Vancouver, while the playoff setting should have added to the atmosphere, “There wasn’t the anticipation from the Los Angeles crowd that you might expect.”

In the new playoffs, the first game has no impact on the final outcome of the series, making this year’s games much less exciting.

Additionally, the wild card matchup configuration allowed teams like Kansas City to sneak their way into the playoffs after having a regular season with more losses than wins. This kills all motivation for teams to be anything but average in the regular season, lowering the stakes of games and making them more boring for fans to watch.

Not only did the new format see fans suffer, it also greatly hurt the reputation of American Soccer on an international level. How can the league be respected by the rest of the world when we have basketball and baseball style playoff series? Let alone not even crowning the team with the most points as league champions …  For a league with so much catching up to do, the MLS is blazing its own trail. Unfortunately, however, the trail is specifically designed to funnel cash to Apple TV, rather than excitement for fans. In 2023, MLS held the CONCACAF League Champions for the first time ever, welcomed superstar Lionel Messi to the league, and expanded to include the incredibly popular St. Louis City F.C. franchise. But due to outright selling out, the MLS’s promising 2023 frankly sputtered out, ending in only the eighth best attended playoffs in league history. 

Leave a Comment
About the Contributor
Connor D. ‘27, Tatler writer, is an avid soccer player and fan. He’s been playing for as long as he can remember, now traveling all over the country for soccer tournaments. He follows both the local Seattle Sounders and the EPL team of Chelsea FC. Aside from soccer, Connor’s hobbies include fishing and skiing. He also loves eating the classic mac & cheese and the not-so-classic sauerkraut. And fun fact: this summer, Connor visited his cousins in Illinois who live on a cornfield!

Comments (0)

All Tatler Picks Reader Picks Sort: Newest

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *