Major League Soccer announced sweeping changes to the league’s playoff format and schedule on Monday. In addition to adding two more teams to the playoffs, every round will now be single-elimination instead of having two rounds of two-legged playoffs.
All changes will go into effect for the 2019 season and the goal of them is put more of an importance on the regular season by giving a bigger advantage to higher seeds.
Another smaller change that has been implemented is that of a fixed bracket. No more re-seeding after the initial round. Here’s how the bracket will look:
As you can see, only the top team in each conference will have the benefit of a first round bye. This is a big change from the top two seeds getting this advantage in previous years, something Atlanta United was able to use in their run to the cup as the second seed in the East.
Single elimination rewards the better team during the league schedule with true home-field advantage. According to MLS research, higher-seeded teams have advanced 67.3 percent of the single-game elimination playoff matches. In two legs, the higher seed advanced 55.1 percent.— Steven Goff (@SoccerInsider) December 17, 2018
Another big change made has been to the scheduling. Instead of having the FIFA international windows causing havoc in the middle of the playoffs, they’ve decided to squeeze the whole thing in between the windows. This means the regular season will end on October 6, followed by the October FIFA window. Once that ends, the entirety of the playoffs will be played with MLS Cup happening on November 10.
In conclusion, getting the highest seed in each conference is now hugely important. No more two-legged playoffs means the top seed would host every playoff game they play in.
What do you think of these changes? Will the help or hurt Atlanta United going forward?