Quillz

What pro sports league has your favorite playoff structure?

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Let me just say I absolutely hate how the NBA structures its playoffs. In addition to letting in too many teams (seriously, more than half the league?) they keep muddling it. As of now, there is zero incentive to winning a division. It just means the division winner is another playoff contender. I have no idea why the NBA does this and they may as well get rid of divisions entirely and just have two 15-team conferences (no divisions).

 

I think MLS does a better version of NBA's playoff structure. They completely eschew the concept of conferences and divisions and just seed the best teams based entirely on regular season record, which seems to be what the NBA does. The only problem is this leads to odd setups where the "Eastern Conference" might win with a team from Colorado. I think the NBA would benefit from a setup like this. Just seed the playoff teams 1-16 and forget about conferences and divisions.

 

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By contrast, I've really warmed up to the present MLB playoff structure. I think they've found a good balance between teams and format. The first structure, 1969-93, might have properly placed a big emphasis on regular season record, but it also meant that many good teams never got to play in the postseason (such as the '81 Reds and '93 Giants). The divisional/wild card era improved on this, but I never liked the rule that division rivals couldn't meet until the LCS. I like that this was changed with the present format (since 2012), and the wild card team effectively has to win an additional game to "prove" themselves. I'm still on the fence about the wild card game being one-off. I think a best-of-three might be better, although I don't know what format would work (1-1-1 or 2-1?)

 

I also like NHL's present format. In a total contrast to the NBA, NHL playoffs focus heavily on division rivalries and play, with the first two rounds being division semis and finals. Then the two effective division winners advance to the conference finals. The main downside to this format is that is inherently limited, as it takes away the more wide open seeding structure that the NBA has (and the NHL used to have).

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I think the NFL does the best job as a whole. Playing 16 with 6 being intra division the emphasis on winning a division is key and havin two wild cards is ideal for instances when a team has a losing record but still wins the division. The only complaint is the extra week in between conference chanpionships and the super bowl.

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MLS. Every league needs to follow them and dump divisions. Just my opinion but the NFL is the most flawed. Anyone remember the 7-9 Seahawks making the playoffs?

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AFL. Something about giving the top teams that second chance really resonates with me.

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There is currently no league that does playoffs right.

 

The best system was baseball's from 1901 through 1993. In this system, both before divisional play and after, you had to come in first in order to have a chance to win the championship. The fact that some great teams did not make the playoffs (such as the 1980 Orioles) did not bother me. The regular season is the first round of the entire championship competition. Coming in first in your division is how you win that round. After the next expansion, they should go to four 4-team divisions per league and allow only the divisional champions into the playoffs.

 

The next best system was in the NFL in the days when it had two wild cards per conference. The inclusion of wild card teams is justified by football's very short season. And, when you had two wild cards who had to play one extra game, those teams were at a significant disadvantage in the playoffs relative to the division winners.

 

MLS has recently improved its format by weighting the system against teams 3 through 6 in each conference. However, one flaw is that there is no difference between finishing fifth and sixth, between finishing third and fourth, and between finishing first and second. Another flaw is that the two-legged ties erase the advantage that the higher seed has earned. A better system would have three teams per conference: no. 3 visits no. 2, the winner visits no. 1, one match a piece. This way each finishing place would mean something different. Best of all would be a split into four or six divisions, and allowing only the first-place teams to advance to the playoffs.

 

The NBA and NHL systems are so far gone that there is almost no point in thinking about them. Both of those leagues have managed to drain all meaning from their regular seasons, seasons that are long enough to justify allowing only divisional winners into the playoffs.

 

But, to be honest, the league with the best playoff system is the Premier League, and all the other European football leagues. Which is to say: the best playoffs are no playoffs. Just play the damn season, and the top team is the champion.

 

Playoffs by their nature undermine the legitimacy of the regular season, unless they pit only champion against champion, as baseball's World Series did from 1901 through 1968, and as its playoffs did from 1969 through 1993.

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8 hours ago, Quillz said:

I think MLS does a better version of NBA's playoff structure. They completely eschew the concept of conferences and divisions and just seed the best teams based entirely on regular season record, which seems to be what the NBA does. 

 

Not true anymore. For a period they tried that, or at least for some of the spots. I guess travel was too much.

 

Now it's just top six in each conference get in. Top two of each get a bye past the (single-game) first round.

 

I find the MLS system close to good, but a little confusing. It feels arbitrary to start with a single-game round, then a two-leg round, then another two-leg round, then a single-game final again. (There's also a host of scheduling issues but I'm not sure that's on-topic.)

 

MLB was always my favorite but the Wild Card play-in thing makes a mockery of the whole season, if you ask me.

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I think it's easily the NFL.

 

12 of 32 teams get in, so it's less than 40%, which is high enough to keep lots of teams into it until the very end, but not so high that the regular season is worthless.  You do get the occasional crap with a 7-9 division winner making it, but that's more a function of having so many divisions rather than the playoff structure.  It doesn't happen often enough to warrant any kind of rule change.  Win your division and you're in.  Granted, if a 7-9 or 8-8 team won the SB, it would be a total farce, but we'll worry about that when it happens.  I think those two crap Giants teams are the closest we'll see to that.  The only change I'd be OK with is a division winner opening up on the road, but I really don't think that's necessary.

 

The first round bye keeps even the elite teams playing hard up until the end, usually only resting for one game (if at all.)  How often - if ever - does a team lay down two or more weeks?

 

I'm not sure there's anything I'd change about the NFL system, short of giving the previous year's Super Bowl champion an automatic bye to the current season's conference championship game.  I think that's only fair.

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4 hours ago, Digby said:

I find the MLS system close to good, but a little confusing. It feels arbitrary to start with a single-game round, then a two-leg round, then another two-leg round, then a single-game final again.

 

The two-legged ties were originally a means of guaranteeing every playoff team a home game. The fact that this undermined the seeding advantage was disregarded.

 

Since they've gone to six teams per conference, it is no longer true that every playoff team is guaranteed a home game, as the teams seeded fifth and sixth play a one-game opening round on the road.

 

If every playoff team is no longer guaranteed a home game, then the rationale for two-legged ties no longer exists. This, then, would have been a good reason to drop the two-legged ties altogether. Doing so would allow the season to end in November, rather than having it stretch into December and face a greater likelihood of bad weather for the Final. But the league has unwisely elected to keep the two-legged ties.

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The NHL system is so stupid, yet somehow NHL playoffs are generally more exciting than the playoffs of other leagues.

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12 hours ago, Kaz said:

The NHL system is so stupid, yet somehow NHL playoffs are generally more exciting than the playoffs of other leagues.

That's because hockey is generally more exciting than other sports. Plus hockey has a greater chance of seeing an underdog beat a favored team. I mean you only need to outscore the opponent (Duh...), and it takes less in hockey. I mean 3 shots on goal could be 3 goals, while the other team puts up 40+ and only scores twice. All you'd need is the puck to bounce the right way, and a hot goalie. I mean for the Miracle on Ice, the US only had 16 SOG, while the USSR had 30+. The US still won 4-3. 

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For me it's the NHL, 8 teams, and a consistent best of 7 in each round. My least favorite is easily the MLB, I already didn't like the 5/7 game series, but now they added that stupid 1 game playoff and I absolutely hate it.

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The NHL and MLB are the most exciting to me. NHL puts a huge emphasis on Division rivals which can lead to some great matchups.

I’ve warmed up to the MLB Wild Card game and prefer it being a single game. Really puts a lot of added pressure on the 2nd (or 3rd) place teams. They can no longer just get by, now they really have to fight for it. 

NFL is also good but it bothers me that teams under .500 can win the division and host a playoff game while the 10 win team can miss the playoffs. 

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WAIT JUST A GODSDAMNED MINUTE.

 

I just looked up the MLS playoff system - what the holy hell is going on there?  How on all of the Gods' green Earth does that make any sense?

 

"2-leg cumulative-goal matches, where ties are determined by goals scored on the road?????" ??????????????????????????

?????????????????

??????????????????

 

But the final is a single game with a shoot out?

 

1. If it's cumulative score, then each "match" is basically just a half, and each half is just a quarter.  So it's just a long game.

2. Why are road goals worth more than home goals?  It kind of flies in the face of the very notion of competition, where you might be down by one, but in reality it's two, even though the scoreboard says one.

3.  Why would the championship game only be one match with a shootout rather than another series?

 

Does this really guarantee a true champion?  I don't know anything about soccer, but does anyone else in the rest of the world do a championship tournament like this?  And is this one of those things that if I asked someone who's a soccer fan they'd just roll their eyes and say "if you don't get it, then I'm not even going to waste my breath explaining it to you because you're not sophisticated enough to understand the beauty of FOOTBALL DON'T CALL IT SOCCER"?

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24 minutes ago, BringBackTheVet said:

WAIT JUST A GODSDAMNED MINUTE.

 

I just looked up the MLS playoff system - what the holy hell is going on there?  How on all of the Gods' green Earth does that make any sense?

 

"2-leg cumulative-goal matches, where ties are determined by goals scored on the road?????" ??????????????????????????

?????????????????

??????????????????

 

But the final is a single game with a shoot out?

 

1. If it's cumulative score, then each "match" is basically just a half, and each half is just a quarter.  So it's just a long game.

2. Why are road goals worth more than home goals?  It kind of flies in the face of the very notion of competition, where you might be down by one, but in reality it's two, even though the scoreboard says one.

3.  Why would the championship game only be one match with a shootout rather than another series?

 

Does this really guarantee a true champion?  I don't know anything about soccer, but does anyone else in the rest of the world do a championship tournament like this?  And is this one of those things that if I asked someone who's a soccer fan they'd just roll their eyes and say "if you don't get it, then I'm not even going to waste my breath explaining it to you because you're not sophisticated enough to understand the beauty of FOOTBALL DON'T CALL IT SOCCER"?

 

That's how the Champions League does it. From what I've heard from soccer people, that's a much more common system than the World Cup system of single elimination.

 

The rationale I've always been told is that it rewards who played best throughout the entire series and doesn't want to punish a team who dominated a game. So, if a team were to win 8-0 but then lose 1-0, in theory the team that played 8-0 was better in the series and deserves to move on.

 

Whether that's actually true is a different story.

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8 minutes ago, Lafarge said:

The rationale I've always been told is that it rewards who played best throughout the entire series and doesn't want to punish a team who dominated a game. So, if a team were to win 8-0 but then lose 1-0, in theory the team that played 8-0 was better in the series and deserves to move on.

 

Whether that's actually true is a different story.

I don't think that's true. I remember the 2002 World Series, where the Giants scored something like 16 runs on the Angels in Game 6, but still lost Game 7. Imagine if MLB said, "the Giants might have lost four games, but they outscored the Angels, so technically they played better, so they're the champions."

 

I guess I kind of see the logic, in that they're trying to evaluate who played better on average. But that's the problem with sports, they're not played on paper and it doesn't matter who is better "most of the time," it's who is better in the games that are deemed the clinching games. (Yes, sometimes it sucks that a poorly played Game 7 is ultimately what determines a championship, but that's how it goes).

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5 minutes ago, Quillz said:

I don't think that's true. I remember the 2002 World Series, where the Giants scored something like 16 runs on the Angels in Game 6, but still lost Game 7. Imagine if MLB said, "the Giants might have lost four games, but they outscored the Angels, so technically they played better, so they're the champions."

 

I guess I kind of see the logic, in that they're trying to evaluate who played better on average. But that's the problem with sports, they're not played on paper and it doesn't matter who is better "most of the time," it's who is better in the games that are deemed the clinching games. (Yes, sometimes it sucks that a poorly played Game 7 is ultimately what determines a championship, but that's how it goes).

 

Oh, I agree 100%. It also completely ruins the second game when a team scores a lot in the first leg. The number of times I've seen a team win 4-0 in the first game and then just back into a heavy shell defense in the second game because they know they only need to avoid giving up 4 goals is staggering.

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9 hours ago, Lafarge said:

 

That's how the Champions League does it. From what I've heard from soccer people, that's a much more common system than the World Cup system of single elimination.

 

The rationale I've always been told is that it rewards who played best throughout the entire series and doesn't want to punish a team who dominated a game. So, if a team were to win 8-0 but then lose 1-0, in theory the team that played 8-0 was better in the series and deserves to move on.

 

Whether that's actually true is a different story.

 

If that's true, then why would the final be 1 game?

 

They're changing the rules of the game as they go... kinda like the NHL.  A game in the playoffs (except the final) has 4 long quarters, rather than 2 halves, and the road team gets a bonus.  That's absurd.

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1 hour ago, BringBackTheVet said:

 

If that's true, then why would the final be 1 game?

 

They're changing the rules of the game as they go... kinda like the NHL.  A game in the playoffs (except the final) has 4 long quarters, rather than 2 halves, and the road team gets a bonus.  That's absurd.

 

Well, it's a home and home thing. The idea is that it's harder to play on the road, so if there is a tie, whichever team did better on the road gets the win. I agree, it's overly complicated and stupid.

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You forgot that in MLS, there's a play-in for the third through sixth seeds to get to the home-and-home games.

 

I don't mind home-and-home, but I do think the higher seed should be able to choose whether they have game one at home or on the road. The Sounders have made a playoff strategy of being the lower seed, building a big lead at home in game one, and then parking the bus in game two.

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I think the NBA playoffs are probably the best. Pro sports are entertainment-driver leagues, so I think a greater portion of the league making the playoffs is just fine. I think the old first-round best-of-five was pretty fun for a while and I wouldn't mind them going back to that. But otherwise, seeding 1-8 and doing a tournament is simple, and simple is generally better.

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48 minutes ago, DG_Now said:

You forgot that in MLS, there's a play-in for the third through sixth seeds to get to the home-and-home games.

 

I don't mind home-and-home, but I do think the higher seed should be able to choose whether they have game one at home or on the road. The Sounders have made a playoff strategy of being the lower seed, building a big lead at home in game one, and then parking the bus in game two.

--

I think the NBA playoffs are probably the best. Pro sports are entertainment-driver leagues, so I think a greater portion of the league making the playoffs is just fine. I think the old first-round best-of-five was pretty fun for a while and I wouldn't mind them going back to that. But otherwise, seeding 1-8 and doing a tournament is simple, and simple is generally better.

I liked the old NBA structure. Division winners get 1-4, but second place in a division could get 2-4. Needs to be some real incentive to winning a division. 

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