This season, with two teams from the Western Conference switching to the Eastern Conference playoff bracket, there has been much talk about possible changes to the MLS playoff format. On Saturday evening at halftime of the FC Dallas-Real Salt Lake Western Conference Semifinal match at Pizza Hut Park, MLS Commissioner Don Garber confirmed those changes are coming.
“It is kind of odd when you have teams moving from conference to conference and we're looking at making some changes,” he told Fox Soccer Channel. “We're going to have more teams in the league over the next couple of years, and I think there are many more exciting ways that we can do this. Everything in the past worked well—it might continue—but let's open it up to making it even better.”
Commissioner Garber speaks to FSC
In recent seasons, teams from one conference have switched brackets. In 2008, the New York Red Bulls switched brackets and wound up winning the Western Conference playoff crown and a trip to the MLS Cup. Real Salt Lake repeated that feat in 2009, winning the Eastern Conference playoff title and eventually beating Los Angeles in the MLS Cup.
This year, the Colorado Rapids and San Jose Earthquakes, who finished 5th and 6th in the Western Conference, respectively, are taking part in the Eastern Conference playoffs.
One of the options often mentioned is going to a single table, a move Garber rejected, just as he has many times when asked the same question.
“Everyone around us pushes the single table,” he acknowledged. “At the end of the day we want to create more rivalries. We like the fact that you can be crowned a conference champion. We like the fact that as the league gets bigger and we spread across two different countries that we can keep these local rivalries. And conferences are, in our view, the way to do that.”