“If the Playoffs Started Today…”: Mysteries Revealed

UPDATE: A hat-tip goes to Goose, who caught a rather significant error in this post. Check the comments to see how the playoff picture really shapes up; what I have in the main body of the post reflects the first draft of the playoff rules.

Of all the games sports fans like to play, few, in any, top the hoary standard that begins with “if the playoffs started today.” Silly on a couple levels, not least because the playoffs won’t start that day, the urge to play today arises from a fairly sound impulse: I didn’t really know how the playoff seedings actually work till I sat down to work this out.

So…let’s play – and, with any game, it’s always wise to start with the rules:

4 teams:
1) Conference Champ with highest point total (Supporters Shield Winner)
2) The other Conference Champion
3) Conference runner up with highest point total
4) Conference Champ runner up with the point total lower than the other Conference Champ runner-up

Of the remaining 9 teams, an additional 4 teams will qualify as follows:
5) Team with the highest point total (regardless of conference)
6) Team with 2nd highest point total (regardless of conference)
7) Team with 3rd highest point total (regardless of conference)
8) Team with 4th highest point total (regardless of conference)

In the first round, the match-up’s shall be: 1 v. 8; 2 v. 7; 3 v. 6; 4 v. 5.

So, consulting the current playoff standings, here’s what would happen, if the playoffs started today (which, of course, they won’t):

DC United (1) v. Chicago Fire (8)
Chivas USA (2) v. Kansas City Wizards (7)
New England Revolution (3) v. Red Bull New York (6)
Houston Dynamo (4) v. FC Dallas (5)

Those are some interesting pairing in there – notably, New England v. Red Bull and DC v. Chicago. Speaking for myself, the current pairings involving the Western Conference would improve if Houston overtakes Chivas, though that’s mainly a factor of my belief that the Dynamo will win almost any two-game series over FC Dallas; make it a one-game affair and I think Dallas has a shot.

At any rate, all of this can change or none of it can. But, if the playoffs started today…

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3 Responses

  1. Er, not quite. According to the playoff standings page:

    • The four wildcard teams will be seeded according to conference first.

    • If more than four teams qualify from one conference, those finishing lower than fourth in their conference will shift over to the other conference bracket.

    This bit was added in after the original official rules were drawn up, so they’d actually be:

    DC (E1) vs KC (E4)
    NE (E2) vs NY (E3)

    CHV (W1) vs CHI (E5)
    HOU (W2) vs DAL (W3)

    This is, of course, lame. If you’re going to seed teams, logic would dictate that the best team plays the worst team and so on, but no. Not in MLS.

  2. But then, I’m a DC fan, and if the grand muckity mucks at league HQ want to set it up so DC gets no parts of the Chicago Fire in the playoffs, then who am I to second guess them. 🙂

  3. Nice catch, Goose. Shows what I get for just reading the rules on the main page.

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