As an avid American soccer fan I am tied to the fate of the pro league here, Major League soccer. For better or worse, I will be a fan regardless of what stupid policies the league institutes. The current playoff system is one of the stupider policies I’ve seen. Wedded to a nonsensical conference system, the playoffs have matched eight nearly inseparable teams in a confusing and unfair way. The last two years a conference champion has been a team from the opposite conference. It doesn’t have to be this way.
First off lets take off the table what won’t happen. MLS will never have a single table, even if they use one to denote playoff standing. This is America, we have conferences. If you don’t like it I hear the quality of soccer in Europe is pretty awesome. With that in mind here is a minimally different system which I think is more fair and workable.
Keep the conferences. Regular season winner of the conference is the conference champion. Enjoy the t-shirt. 18 teams in league next year and more on the way make 8 teams qualifying for playoffs fair. This number should not be increased. This is soccer, playoffs can be anticlimactic. It should get harder to qualify not easier. Conference champions get top two seeds in playoffs. Yes I know RSL was better than NYRB this year but I feel we should throw the conference champion a perk. Remember we are in America, not Europe. After that top 6 qualify. 1v8, 2v7, 3v6, 4v5 aggregate series. Then one game semifinals (higher seed hosts), then MLS Cup. Probably would be fairer for higher seed to host this but if MLS wants a big nuetral site, that doesn’t bother me.
This probably doesn’t go as far as many hardcore soccer fans want but that’s why it’s plausible. This is a good way for MLS to keep conferences while making the playoff system fairer and easier for the causal fan to follow. Hopefully some changes will be instituted this off season.