MLS Cup Playoffs: How the topsy-turvy postseason has not rewarded common season success

When the MLS Cup Playoffs started with Jakob Glesnes scoring the latest-ever aim in league playoff historical past, it was clear that this yr’s street to the championship can be something however regular. His dipping shot from outdoors the field within the 123rd minute started a run that now sees the Philadelphia Union getting ready to tackle NYCFC within the Japanese Convention finals. However that is simply an appetizer to this countless meal.

The insanity continued as Minnesota United misplaced by permitting targets to the Portland Timbers on both facet of halftime. However issues took off in a penalty shootout victory by Actual Salt Lake. Lacking one in every of their greatest gamers (Albert Rusnak) as a consequence of COVID protocols, Actual Salt Lake bunkered down, permitting 21 photographs to the Seattle Sounders and never even making an attempt a shot of their very own. Sure, you learn that accurately, they did not try a single shot via over 120 minutes of soccer earlier than successful a shootout 6-5 to undergo to the subsequent spherical.

Salt Lake adopted that up by knocking off the third seed within the West, Sporting Kansas Metropolis, on a late aim from Bobby Wooden to maintain the playoff adrenaline pumping on the way in which to the Western Convention Finals. Their opponents, the Timbers, took down the top-seeded Colorado Rapids as effectively as a result of what you do within the common season means nothing within the playoff gauntlet.

No group is aware of that higher than the New England Revolution as they had been rewarded for successful Supporters Defend and breaking the MLS single-season factors report with… a 23-day layoff earlier than their first match going through NYCFC. For comparability the Rapids, in an identical boat, had an 18-day break between their matches. No group ought to have a break that lengthy the place they’ll lose rhythm by not enjoying matches because the rustiness confirmed.

New England fell asleep defending on as NYCFC scored within the third minute and did not appear to be the group that set the factors report till they had been enjoying up a person after Valentine Castellanos’ crimson card within the 113th minute. These layoffs are a part of the explanation why the Supporters Defend curse exists. From 1996-2002, the Supporters’ Defend winner received MLS Cup 4 out of seven occasions. From 2003 to now, the protect winner has solely received MLS Cup thrice. 

Just one different time has the protect winner even made it to MLS Cup, and in that timespan they’ve normally been knocked out through the convention semifinals. Final yr, the Philadelphia Union even misplaced to the Revolution within the first spherical after defeating them 4 occasions throughout a COVID-adjusted season. The imbalances assist make for topsy-turvy playoff matches however do not do sufficient to reward the groups that win their respective conferences.

But when the purpose is to make for a extra entertaining playoff format, the league has delivered. Three matches have gone to penalty shootouts thus far. 5 have seen greater than three targets scored mixed by the groups participating and solely 4 matches have ended with a number of groups being shutout, and a type of was the epic shootout between Seattle and Salt Lake. So perhaps the Supporters’ Defend is for the perfect group, however the MLS Cup is for the most popular group.

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