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MLS Playoffs vs Other Playoffs

Is it too easy to get into the MLS playoffs? At the moment, over half the league makes the post season, so by definition, some pretty average teams will be competing for the MLS Cup. This has led some to suggest that the MLS playoffs should be trimmed to four teams.

But how do the MLS playoffs compare to the other professional leagues? Here's the playoff picture for MLS and the "Big Four":

League Teams In Playoffs Percentage
MLS 15 8 53.33%
NBA 30 16 53.33%
NHL 30 16 53.33%
NFL 32 12 37.50%
MLB 30 8 26.67%

So, yes, at the moment MLS is in that group of extremely forgiving leagues where more teams make the playoffs than not. But that's just for the moment. If the playoff format stays the same, next year MLS will allow 50% of its teams in to the post season and in 2011, only 44.44% of the league will be admitted to the postseason. Don Garber has stated that he expects the league to increase to 20 teams by 2018, and others have speculated that MLS may even rise to 24 teams at some point. If this latter scenario comes to pass and the playoff format doesn't change, MLS would be the second most stringent league in the US, with only MLB allowing a smaller percentage of its teams into the championship round.

So, if MLS is too permissive with the playoffs, that's a temporary condition. And as far as playoffs go, the MLS system is probably the best in assuring that the teams selected are really the top teams in the league. Because half the field are wildcards, it's almost impossible to have a top team excluded from the playoffs. That's not something any other league can say, and it's definitely something MLS should be proud of.

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