Chris O (follow on Twitter: @COakleyFtbl)
Tue 30 October 2007

MLS play-offs: Could it happen here?

In America as we speak, the MLS season is entering the final straight. Having seen the Eastern and Western Conference competitions completed, the top eight teams now take part in a play-off series where the MLS Cup is at stake for those who can negotiate their way through the tricky knock-out section.

For those of us living outside the States, an end-of-season contest such as this may seem a little alien. In Europe for instance, the league competition is all there is. Whoever finishes at the top of the table after everyone's played everyone else home and away is the outright winner. It's always been like that and probably always will be.

Yet could a play-off series in the style of that used in the MLS be a success for the Premier League? Don't write off the idea for a moment - let's think this through a little…

First of all, play-offs in general. While some of you may think they're surplus to requirements, they do undoubtedly generate much excitement for the watching masses. Anyone that's seen the Football League play-offs over the past decade or so would find it difficult not to agree.

Next, we know what you're thinking - they'd generate more money for the teams involved, and that, of course, means the teams that are among the best in the country anyway. In England, you might argue that they're not short of money in the first place, so by way of a solution let's suggest that all play-off money goes to charity or something. There - that's that little issue sorted…

If you're still in need of a little persuasion, let's loosely apply the MLS play-off model to last season's Premier League table. Obviously the Premier League isn't split into an East and West Conference (although a North and South one might be interesting - discuss), so let's just take the top eight teams and see how the quarter finals would have looked:

Manchester United (1) v Reading (8)
Chelsea (2) v Bolton Wanderers (7)
Liverpool (3) v Everton (6)
Arsenal (4) v Tottenham Hotspur (5)

* Final positions shown in brackets.

Now who doesn't find the prospect of seeing two derby matches mouth-watering, eh? And before you say the other two games would be one-sided, think again: if you take the aggregate scores from the two meetings last season into consideration, Man United would beat Reading 4-3 and Chelsea would beat Bolton 3-2. Even they'd be potentially close encounters.

Continuing the aggregate score theme, you'd then end up with semi-finals that contained Man United, Arsenal, Everton and Chelsea. Whichever way you serve those four up, you'll get a couple of great games to lead into the grand final.

So there it is, the case for play-offs at the end of a Premier League season. Who's ready to sign the petition?

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