The English Premier League and Major League Soccer are two very different leagues. One is the league of class and superiority. Some of the best footballing talent in Europe’s top leagues ship off to England to prove their talent is legitimate. The MLS, on the other hand, has been known for receiving Europe’s best talent after their prime.
The EPL has many of the biggest and most successful clubs in Europe. The MLS doesn’t quiet have the same monetary or international success but it’s growing in domestic adoration. From different kinds of players to different styles of play, there are many distinctive aspects of both the English and American game.
One of those aspects for the EPL is history. The league is rich with it. For over a century, England’s top division of football has produced the highest quality of soccer and players. Compared to the rest of Europe’s domestic leagues, the competition for the English league title and the excellence of every English team from top to bottom is arguably the best.
Stateside, if the MLS is anything, it’s exciting and unpredictable. Whereas a game between Chelsea and Burnley will probably be lopsided, virtually any MLS matchup could turn out any result.
One of the main differences between the two leagues is the season format. The EPL’s format is a simple point system over 38 fixtures against every team, home and away. Three points for a victory, one for a draw, zero for defeat. While the MLS uses the same point system, the regular season is capped off with a tournament style playoff, the way all major American sports leagues are ended. It has always been the highlight of the MLS season and with good reason. After all, these are the best teams playing on the main stage in American soccer.
This past week, the Montreal Impact traveled to play their closest foes in the Eastern Conference Finals. Toronto FC and the Impact had a cracking first leg, with Montreal beating Toronto 3-2 after getting out to a three-goal lead.
Toronto went into half of the second leg up 2-1, holding the edge on away goals with the score level on aggregate (4-4). The Impact would score another and subsequently go in front, only for Toronto to follow with anothera��leveling the score on aggregate once more. Oh, and both sides were on two away goals. This meant overtime, when Toronto would score two more to seal the victory. And, their spot in the MLS Final.
It was a great night for American soccera��between two Canadian clubs, incidentally. One which will probably be remembered as one of the best in MLS history. It was a cold night in Canada, with rain coming down most of the evening. Yet the atmosphere (and nerves) would reach new levels.
How much more epic would that night have been if you were to replace Toronto and Montreal with, say, Arsenal and Tottenham Hotspur? Imagine a night where two of England’s most fierce rivals met for one memorable night. A night for one to be crowned kings of the Premier League.
For fun, as of Saturday, December 3, matches in the PL Playoff would be:
- No. 1 Chelsea vs. No. 8 Watford.
- No. 2 Liverpool vs. No. 7 Everton.
- No. 3 Manchester City vs. No. 6 Manchester United.
- No. 4 Arsenal vs. No. 5 Tottenham.
We can do away with Chelsea/Watford, but the rest of the matchups are primetime. Besides this being a very large hypothetical, it would be incredible to watch a Merseyside Derby, Manchester Derby and North London Derby on the same weekend. The PL could also take a page out of the League Championship’s book and have the bottom four battle in a playoff to determine who remains.
But if Derby Mania would be so awesome, why wouldn’t a playoff work in England?
For starters, this year’s title race is prime example number one. This past weekend, just on Saturday alone, there were three different leaders. Following Saturday’s early action, Pep Guardiola’s City were top. Following Liverpool/Sunderland, Jurgen Klopp’s Reds were top. And Saturday’s final match would see Antonio Conte’s Chelsea go top.
All the while Arsenal, Spurs and Manchester United were within seven points before that Saturday. With Chelsea’s win over City, the top four remain separated by only six. And with most domestic, European and international competitions already in full swing, it doesn’t look like the title race will slow down any time soon. The playoff would eliminate title races like these. And, would take the drama out of Championship Sunday.
Another reason why a playoff wouldn’t work is the grueling schedule. City, Arsenal, United, and possibly Spurs are all playing in European competitions. All PL teams still have to play in the F.A Cup. So, top clubs are currently playing in at least two different tournaments. Some are even playing in three (EFL Cup). Last season, Everton played in the F.A Cup semifinal; United played in the F.A Cup final; Liverpool played in the Europa League final. And, City played in a Champions League semifinal. All took place from late April to mid-May, when the season was coming to a close.
Adding another tournament would only create more problems for managers and players alike. Due to the demanding schedule, a playoff would need to be played at the end of April. This is because domestic cup semifinals and finals take place in May. The playoff could not be played in June because of international competitions. The players still need a break.
But maybe most crucially, not every team would make the playoff. The teams who wouldn’t qualify would lose out on too much money. But on the other side of the argument, the playoff system could benefit more than just fans.
It’s obvious that Derby Mania would be fun, may be great, in England. But it could actually benefit other European leagues as well. The ever-traditional points system is not as exciting as the playoff system. Every year, the super teams of Europe ultimately run away as champions of their league. Bayern Munich, Juventus and Paris Saint-Germain have been reigning champions four years running while Barcelona have won three of the last four titles.
Since its inception in 1992, the Premier League has only seen six different champions. A tournament could finally give another team a fighting chance. The domestic leagues are suffering from lack of parity and competition, and fans tire of watching the same teams dominate year after year. With a playoff, forgotten sides like Leverkusen, Napoli, Lyon, Sevilla, Everton, etc… could finally get a better shot of winning the league.
Maybe then league titles wouldn’t become an afterthought.