I am sure some of you when reading the headline were thinking “It must be some American! He probably doesn’t know anything about football!” Yes, I am an American and I am going to call it soccer, so deal with it, and yes, I do understand and quite well actually. However, hear me out on this because you may actually like the idea as much as I do.
I love watching the Premier League as it’s undoubtedly the best soccer league in the world. I love the drama and watching all the great talent on the field, but as an American who loves watching sports drama, I can’t help but think that such a great league that possesses incredible sports drama, doesn’t have the most dramatic thing about sports, playoffs. Yes, you won’t see the same type of drama like Sergio Aguero’s game winning goal that helped earn Manchester City the championship on the last day of the season, but that could happen in the playoffs too! Heck it already happens in rugby as the Aviva Premiership has one and it’s pretty great to watch. And Super Rugby does too and that might even be better.
A playoff at the end of the season could be a really great addition to the season as it would add more excitement, bring more money into the league, and it gives teams more incentive to play harder at the end of the regular season. So theoretically it could really prove whether Leicester City was truly the best team in 2015-16. Heck, even for this past season, it could have proven whether Manchester City was really as good as advertised. In an article that I found that was trying to make the same argument about introducing a postseason to the Premier League found a great statistic that would suggest having playoffs at the end of the season actually makes sense. It showed of the champions from 2006-07 to 2015-16, how many points earned were from against the top eight teams in the league. Here is what he found:
- 2011/12 Manchester City 41.5%
- 2007/08 Manchester United 38%
- 2006/07 Manchester United 33.7%
- 2013/14 Manchester City 33.7%
- 2010/11 Manchester United 31%
- 2009/10 Chelsea 29%
- 2014/15 Chelsea 28.7%
- 2012/13 Manchester United 27%
- 2015/16 Leicester City 26%
- 2008/09 Manchester United 22%
So as you can see there, outside of Manchester City’s championship in 2011-12, each of the winners won the championship by getting points from most of the teams outside of the top eight. That’s unfair. A postseason would be a better indicator who is the best team that season. When it’s the same top five clubs vying for the championship every year, it creates a very stagnant and boring competition to watch where as here in the United States, every team has a realistic chance. Seeing Leicester City win in 2015-16 actually made the competition so worth watching that even non soccer fans legitimately were interested in what happened. It get’s boring just to see Manchester United, City, Arsenal, Chelsea and Liverpool contend year and year out just to see who is the top dog in the competition (maybe it’s also because I’m an Everton fan and I want them to realistically have a chance of winning the championship). It might even finally allow Tottenham to win the title finally.
Here in the United States we have Major League Soccer. It’s our top domestic league. While the quality is not quite the same as the Premier League, MLS has something the Premier League does not, a postseason. I don’t usually watch MLS, but when I do it’s during their playoffs as it’s one of the most dramatic and most fun things in soccer. If Premier League had such a thing, I guarantee it will automatically be the most fun thing to watch for the sport. Maybe even more so than the World Cup (bold statement, I know).
So what should the playoffs in the Premier League look like? Well I have a few different proposals. My first proposal is that the top six teams advance to the playoffs with the two best sides getting byes. The three seed would play the six seed and the fourth would play the fifth as those matchups are single elimination. Then in the semi-finals and finals, the teams would play two matches (or legs if you want to call it that) and advance/win the championship based off of aggregate goals. Another simpler version of the proposal that I just proposed is having the whole tournament as single elimination.
My third proposal is just like the one above which was also used in the article I reference (the bracket is actually the same one used in the same story) as the top ten sides advance to the postseason. I like this idea only because there is absolutely no parity in the Premier League and if a team like Stoke City in the above bracket gets hot, they theoretically have a chance of winning the championship that year. However, in my opinion, that’s too many teams in the postseason. While it could be more fun and would bring in more money, it waters down the competition. This is the Premier League after all and the postseason should be the most premier soccer playoffs.
My fourth proposal is that it’s a best of eight clubs advancing to the postseason with in the first two rounds there are two matches played in each matchup with the winner advancing based off aggregate goals with the championship round being single elimination. And with my final proposal is to have the same thing that I just mentioned except every matchup is single elimination.
There are some complications here as the most important one is how do you fit it on the calendar. That’s why a single elimination tournament for a postseason would work best as it would not affect anything during the offseason that would conflict with international matches. While I personally would like to see a postseason with two legs per round, single elimination actually would be better logistically, possibly economically, and in terms of drama.
I think a lot of people from outside of the United States will be automatically resistant to the idea of a postseason, but trust me, here in America, we really love postseasons as they are so much fun to watch. We live and breathe in it as so much drama occurs, but there are also benefits to it as well as more money is brought into the sports because of playoffs. I also guarantee more Americans would become more interested in soccer if the Premier League introduced such a thing. And who knows, the people who follow the Premier League who live outside of the United Kingdom and the residents of the U.K. might fall in love with the idea as well. I think the drama of the knockout stage of this World Cup has even proven that this concept could work. Just give it a thought and better yet give it a chance.