I want to start this blog by saying that I come in peace. I’ve been following Tottenham now for about 5 years and I love watching them play when I get the chance. I was hanging on to every second of their Champions League Final game against Liverpool, and nearly got fired for letting out a surprised shriek in the middle of a work day when Lucas Moura scored the game winner against Ajax in stoppage time.
Soccer is the most popular sport in the world, there’s no denying that, and the Premier League is easily the most competitive league in the world, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t have any flaws. If the Premier League is this great, why not try to make it better? Why not add more drama? Why not add more chaos? How do we do this you ask, Playoffs. Yep, that dumb, tired argument that a majority of meatball American soccer fans make at some point in their life, that’s the one I want to present to you.
I’ve been on this Earth for 24 years. 24 trips around the sun, 24 years of watching sports. I’ve grown up, I’ve gone to college, I’ve hiked mountains, I’ve swam in oceans, I’ve seen countless movies, TV shows, and read a few books. I’ve seen tragedies, I’ve seen some of humanity’s greatest joys. Do you know how many Premier League Champions I’ve seen? Six….. SIX!!!
Six total teams have won the English Premier League Title since I was born. Manchester United has won eleven in that time, Manchester City has won four, Arsenal has won three, Chelsea has won five, Blackburn Rovers won one, and Leicester City won one (greatest underdog sports story of all time). That’s it. That’s all of them. That’s the most boring statistic I’ve ever seen. How can the best league in the most popular sport in the world, supply only six championship teams over a 24 year stretch. I’m sorry, but that’s ridiculous. Say what you will about American Playoffs, but man, at least there’s some excitement going into the season. The St. Louis Blues were dead last in the NHL on January 3rd of this past season and walked away with a Stanley Cup on June 12th. That’s insane, that’s awesome, that’s what can happen if you give teams something to work for late in the year instead of mailing it in in early January.
“But in the Premier League you have to play 2 games against every other team, so in essence, every game is a playoff game.” Good Lord. As tired as you may think the “Playoffs in the EPL” argument may be, that argument is as tired as a hungover college student on a Monday after Memorial Day Weekend. Yeah, I know you play every team twice, we get it. That doesn’t make a late-March game between West Ham and Newcastle anymore exciting. At that point, neither team is in danger of being relegated, but they’ve been mathematically eliminated from reaching the top 4 as well. They’re essentially playing for nothing. With an 8 team playoff system, They have something to work for the last month and a half of the season. Both would have the chance to jump up and grab that last spot in the playoff and give themselves a chance of getting hot late in the year to make a run at the Championship. “Why should we reward teams who performed poorly during the regular season with a shot at the title?” Because it’s awesome. It’s awesome to watch a team go on a magnificent run in the playoffs. Everybody loves a Cinderella story. See Florida Gulf Coast in the NCAA Men’s Tournament, see the 2012-2013 Golden State Warriors, see the 2011-2012 LA Kings, see the Kansas City Royals. All of those stories were awesome and they add drama to the end of the season. In the Premier League as it stands now, a team can clinch the title with a month left in the season. No one wants to see that, it stinks, it’s boring, it’s not what sports is all about. Sports should make you say “Wow, that was awesome,” and that’s what a playoff structure in the EPL would do.
“How can we add a playoff system to the schedule? They already play too many games with the Carabao Cup and the FA Cup.” Scrap ’em. They’re stupid. Could you imagine telling the Yankees that on an off day in the middle of June they have to go play the Binghamton Rumble Ponies in the group stage of the “Who Gives A Shit” Cup. I mean it’s just unnecessary. I don’t understand the point of either of those tournaments, and getting rid of them allows the Premier League schedule to be condensed enough to the point where you could free up an extra five to six weeks to hold an 8 team playoff.
The playoff structure itself? I would model off of a hypothetical that FiveThirtyEight did a few years back. They proposed a six team playoff structure, but I want to add two more to add even more chaos. No Byes would be awarded, the 1 seed would play the 8 seed, 2 against 7, etc. Round 1 and Round 2 are home-home series with aggregate as the first tiebreaker, golden goal OT as the second, and PKs as the third. The final is a one game finale played at Wembley with golden goal OT and PKs as the tiebreakers. Every team that makes the Semis qualifies for the Champions League. A little extra motivation for those Bottom 4 teams.
Oh by the way, I know the Champions League is a playoff structure, fully aware of that fact. How awesome is the Champions League? Pretty sick right? Yeah, because crazy things happen all the time in that system. Ajax was in the semis this year, that’s how wild the Champions League is. “So why don’t you just watch Champions League if you want to watch a playoff structure.” I do, and it’s amazing. I want more. Give me more soccer playoffs. Fill my eyeballs with it. If you don’t want to see more drama like that you have a big dump in your pants. Maybe it’s my dumb American brain that can’t handle the thought of no playoffs, maybe it’s my brilliant, freedom-loving, American brain that thinks it can make Premier League soccer even better than it already is.
I want to thank the guys of LADS Podcast for the opportunity to write this blog, and I want to shout out my good friend, Rob Sweeney for putting me in contact with them to write on this platform. If you would like to tell me how stupid I am, or want to poke holes all over my proposal, you can direct angry tweets and DMs to @SportsNThings41 on Twitter. I’d be happy to tell you why you’re wrong.
Author: Brian Thompson