Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Whither EPL Playoffs?

Manchester United is a giant Jurassic-sized mosquito in my life. The club is too big for me to nonchalantly swat away, the resulting damage from its bite has left me pale, sallow, weak, and it is generally sucking my will to live.

Or, at least, the club is bleeding out any enjoyment of the EPL (suck it, Barclays!) season. I just wish some club named Off! would come around to rid us of this pest.

Sunday was likely the climax of the season when previously impotent road team Manchester City held an uninspired Liverpool to a 1-1 draw at Anfield. Ironically, the Manchester Blues handed hated city rivals the Manchester Reds a seven point advantage at the top of the table and given the Borg-like efficiency of the Red squad likely will never relinquish.

The next twelve EPL (suck it, Barclays!) matches are just the denouement of this year’s story tying up the loose ends of what seemed such a promising story in December.

Give Manchester United its due, Blackburn did its best Bilbo Baggins performance wounding the previously impenetrable (at least for the past umpteen matches) United scales with a Roque Santa Cruz strike, but ManU still prevailed 2-1 keeping Rovers in the drop zone. The Paraguayan’s manager last season is the current (checks internet, yup still there) Citeh manager and was Santa Cruz’s suitor this January transfer season managed to stay his execution with Sunday’s draw. Really, all that seems to be of interest anymore is the relegation battle and European slots.

To help maintain interest, and to obtain executive support earn a bit more revenue, it might be time for the EPL to consider a playoff system. It may not be Game 39, but it would certainly add some drama to season’s end. Plus, it could serve a dual purpose of making the Jurassic-mosquitoes extinct or at least less common.

In the US, soccerphiles have long proselytized on the greatness of the relegation system. So, it seems appropriate that EPL borrow a staple of the US sports systems (sans college football, of course)—the playoffs. Surely, the EPL (suck it, Barclays!) could wring a few more ducats out of it.

What kind of system would it be? I can envision four different formats—with 2, 4, 6, or 8 teams—each with pluses and minuses.

Two teams—only the top two point totals in the regular season make the playoff. It could be a home-and-away or one-off at Wembley. It has the benefit of not adding much to the season, but really doesn’t affect the power structure.

Four teams—the top four point totals get in with the title and the top CL qualifying spot up for grabs. These could be home-and-away series or just one-offs with the higher seed with homefield advantage in the semis and the final at Wembley. Again, this doesn’t really affect the current power structure, but at least it keeps the title alive until the end of the season and more teams have an incentive to play in the final weeks.

Six teams—top six point totals qualify with the top two getting a bye to the semis while the next four play one-offs with the highest point totals getting homefield. This format would only add two weeks to the season if the first round is played midweek, semis on the weekend and the final at Wembley a week later. Plus, the winning team would get the top qualifying CL spot and the title, potentially shunting the fourth place regular season squad to the UEFA Cup, which would bring all sorts of excitement to the competition. This has the potential to be the best option not adding too many games or time to the season but including enough teams to potentially disrupt the current power structure.

Eight teams—essentially the same as the six-team format without the byes. The drawback with this format is that you are getting to NBA-numbers for playoff inclusion, which cheapens the regular season a bit too much adds too much time to the season.

Would the EPL ever extend the season for playoffs? The Cola-ship already has them and I think it has been a success. Other European leagues have playoffs as well. I think it is workable with two caveats of working within the CL framework to prevent fixture congestion if an EPL club progresses to the final stages and the worry of having too long of a season.


Eladio said...

Here's why I think playoffs work (and in fact, are a necessity) in the US but not in European football. In US sports, teams don't play every other team they're competing against. Or in some sports, they play the teams only once, either home or away. In European Football, everyone plays everyone else twice: home and away. Count up the most points at the end and name the winner. How could there be a more fair way to crown a champion than that?

Mike Georger said...

No English player has scored in the league against United this year (Wes Brown doesn't count). Fun fact.

Eladio said...

I beat Georger to the comments first! Woo Hoo! (The only victory a Gunner will have over a Scouse this year, I'm guessing.)

Ibracadabra said...

eladio: well said. it is a bit anticlimactic THIS season - but last year The Chelsea/Man United final day was brilliant...

and this year the relegation battle will surely come down to the final day.. i love the structure, though i commend the creative thinking in this post..

come on zlatan.

(my word verification is exkokk, as in formerly a cock)

Precious Roy said...


Goat said...

Won't someone please think of the children! Any extra games will take them away from their studies--and during final exam week, no less. Also, Gabriel Marcotti wrote a terrific piece about the insanity of TFA's plan.

The NY Kid said...

@Goat - well, if you loved it so much why don't you hang out over there?

The Fan's Attic said...

not sure if Goat's serious or not, if serious link please, if not, well played.

Goat said...

No, not serious. Unless Marcotti reads you guys and has already posted a FJM-style takedown. Also, I'm too stupid to actually link to anything. It's strictly cut and paste for me.