⚽️ Making Sense of the New Playoff Format

+ Messi Is No Gazdag?

Photo courtesy of the Philadelphia Union

LAST MATCH: Union 1 - New England Revolution 2

NEXT MATCH: vs. New England Revolution, Saturday, October 28, 5 p.m. | Apple TV - MLS Season Pass

Good morning. The countdown is on to Saturday. Have you gotten your playoff tickets?

In the email today:

  1. Making Sense of the New Playoff Format

  2. 🐐 Messi Is No Gazdag?

  3. 🔁 Meme of the Day: Revolution Again

  4. 💧Water Cooler: Playoff Prediction

  5. 🔗 Link Roundup

1) ⎶ Making Sense of the New Playoff Format

Last year’s MLS Cup was considered the best in the history of the league. The format that produced the top two teams in the league made for a barn-burner of a final. Sadly, the Union were on the wrong side of the final score but it hardly showed that the playoff system needed fixing.

Enter Apple TV and the need to add more games to an already congested season that had a month off for an expanded Leagues Cup. Expanded Leagues Cup, expanded playoffs, expanded Champions Cup for next year…See the trend?

Though there’s a lot not to like about the format, it’s what the Union need to navigate for now. Here are some key points:

  • The Union will play Saturday at home and Nov. 8 on the road. They play back at home on Nov. 12 if needed.

  • If they win the first two games, they’ll have three weeks off. If they win in 3 they’ll have two weeks off.

  • Tie games after 90 minutes go straight to penalties.

  • Single-elimination conference semifinals are Nov. 25-26, single-elimination conference finals are Dec. 2-3 and the MLS Cup final is Dec. 9.

  • Only St. Louis City SC would have priority to host an MLS Cup final over the Union.

Our take: The first round playoff format isn’t ideal but it will certainly be wacky. The Union need to survive, regroup during the international break and from there on the competition will look identical to last year.

2) 🐐 Messi Is No Gazdag?

With the Best-of-3 format including a straight to penalties if the game is tied after 90, American Soccer Analysis dove into the data.

Unsurprisingly, Union midfielder Daniel Gazdag is the king with 26 out of 28 PKs converted (this includes in-game penalties and shootouts) and an estimated conversion rate of .88. Messi’s by comparison is .795.

Messi and Inter Miami are of course not in the playoffs so his addition is only “because no article on MLS can be written without mentioning him.” But it ends with a masterful quote: “Messi is clearly no Daniel Gazdag.”

Our take: As automatic as Gazdag has been, penalty shootouts are different than regular penalty kicks and since Gazdag has missed twice (he slipped in the MLS Cup final and had an inconsequential miss in Leagues Cup) it’s still going to be preferred that the Union not go to penalties.

3) 🔁 Meme of the Day: Revolution Again

4) 💧 Water Cooler Playoff Prediction

What's Your Union v Revolution Prediction?

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Have additional thoughts? Reply directly to this email to comment, and see if we include your response tomorrow.

Results from our last poll Union Playoff Mood:

5) 🔗 Link Roundup:

The newsletter today was written by: Matt Ralph @MattRalph_

Thanks for reading!