Summer means European football is over until August. Those words are scary, but hopefully my written rants can at least alleviate that pain for a few minutes each week until then :)
I’ve only seen a few people publicize this take - The Premier League is pointless without a playoff. I’m not entirely sure how many people feel this way or if it’s even close to worthy of writing an entire blog about, but it’s worth writing about how that is one of the silliest ideas anyone has ever had about how to improve a sport.
This take is very American - every major sport (even our own soccer league) has a playoff. In fact, college football is so trendy they’ve added a playoff within the last 5 years. It may work for the MLS - there’s no promotion/regelation, there are two conferences that can produce champions who meet in a final, there’s a draft, and it allows for Cinderella runs in the playoffs. For the sake of the Premier League playoff argument, there is no harm in foreign leagues having a playoff system. This is the big difference - The MLS is an Americanized soccer league whether we like it or not. There are fundamental differences that set the league up differently than European leagues, even if they’re all playing the same sport at the end of the day.
European leagues also reap a benefit almost nearly impossible in America - since their countries are so much smaller, traveling is far easier. It makes it easy enough for any two teams to be able to play with a couple days break. With relegation, leagues are also able to cap at 16/20 teams in the first division, allowing for any team to play all opposition once each home and away. Think of the domestic league as 19 two-leg playoff series against all your league opponents. This is a fundamental difference that American’s may struggle to wrap our brain around - LeBron made 8 straight finals partially because he was in a weaker conference, therefore playing a weaker schedule than the west. It would not have been a fair representation if LeBron was crowed a champion because he had the best regular season, but Manchester City’s 99 points this year justify them as champions.
The biggest one - while I’m saying there can’t be a “playoff” in the domestic leagues, we already have a playoff for all intents and purposes, and it’s called the Champions League. To Americanize this process, think of domestic leagues as divisions/conferences and think of the UCL as the playoffs. The top teams in all divisions are going to qualify for the “playoffs”, putting a massive emphasis on the end of the season. Teams can’t just tank or coast at the end of the season - finishing in the top 4 is important (Similarly to how teams can’t tank for the worst spot in the league, man I wish every American sport had relegation too). The financial differences between qualifying for the Champions League or Europa league is massive, so teams have a legitimate incentive to finish in a certain position.
Seriously, if you want to fight me on this slide in my DM’s. I’m this passionate about a rule change that won’t ever be implemented. The MLS has playoffs, the Premier League doesn’t. Appreciate the pros of each and accept their differences instead of trying to push a rule change to Americanize a sport.
Author: Living in Southern California, Robert Sweeney has been a fan of soccer since he played as a young child. Since then, he’s become a diehard Tottenham and US National Team fan. Rob enjoys writing about the impact soccer has had on his life in hopes that it betters others as well. Twitter: @robsweeney11