Thursday, January 22, 2009

I HEART the WPS playoff format

Something that definitely didn't receive a great amount of press - but should have - was WPS Commissioner Tonya Antonucci's announcement regarding the league's playoff format in the "Commissioner's Update" release.

I've pasted the pertinent text here for your review.

The WPS Playoffs will feature the top four teams from the WPS regular season, in a unique format that rewards regular season success while offering the post-season drama which American fans are accustomed to in their sports season:

-- The winner of the WPS regular season will automatically advance and host the WPS Championship Game at their home stadium.

-- The No. 4 team will play at the No. 3 team in the first playoff game with the winner advancing to play at No. 2 in the semifinal game.

-- The winner of the game at No. 2’s host venue will advance to the WPS Championships game on the weekend of August 22nd-23rd.

Wait. It gets better.*

(*I love this league more and more each day. I have a feeling this will be a really fun league to cover come spring.)

By selecting the winner of the regular season to host the Championship Game, we stay true to soccer’s roots and genuinely, and generously, reward the winner of the season table. It also provides for a venue with an exciting championship atmosphere and rooting interest, while giving teams and the league several weeks of preparation and opportunity for ticket sales.

This means that the race to the regular season crown will have added meaning for the public, the media and the players throughout the late part of the 20-game schedule.

By having No. 4 play at No. 3 we offer a home game to another team and reward the second place finisher in the league with a first round “bye”. Similar to Champions League or UEFA Cup qualifications in the European leagues, we wanted the final placings in the league table to have real meaning in WPS.

Lastly, we finish with a winner-take-all one game final like most major Cup competitions – but one that is heavily skewed toward the home team. To win the league title means either a great season performance capped by a final game victory or an incredible run of play in the post-season to overcome the odds. I like those storylines.

I do to. Astonishing. A playoff format that rewards regular season results? What will they think of next: a soccer ball that doesn't need to be filled with feathers? Psshht!

I'll say it right now: this is the best thing to happen to American sports' postseasons since the advent of the wildcard. No diggity. No doubt.

See, you can have an American soccer league without a watered-down, it's-anybody's-title-to-win playoff format (*cough*MLS*cough*). It shouldn't be easy to win an MLS Cup. It should be difficult from First Kick to the Cup, not from late-September until mid- November.

If I'm Don Garber, I'm going to give serious thought as to how MLS can adopt a similar format for its postseason.

Because I don't know what was worse about last season's playoffs - the fact that it took 11 matches to tell us that, yes, our suspicions were confirmed, that Columbus was the best club in MLS, or the fact that New York Red Bulls managed to claim the Western Conference Championship.



Jason D said...

Can I like the playoff format while having absolutely no interest in the league itself? Please tell me that doesn't make me sexist.

BrianTheOC said...

You can like whatever you want, Jason!

You don't have to like the league but - BUT - if you're ever find yourself near Boston, I'm leaving you a complimetary ticket for a Breakers game at the will call window.