The Major League Soccer (MLS) playoffs are upon us, and while the excitement is building, Los Angeles Football Club (LAFC) players are not unanimous in their opinion on the current playoff format. The LAFC, known for their dynamic play and successful campaigns, have seen both triumph and tribulation in recent seasons, leaving players with mixed feelings about the structure of the MLS postseason.
Embracing the Challenge: Giorgio Chiellini’s Perspective
One of the most notable voices in the LAFC locker room is Giorgio Chiellini, the veteran defender who boasts an illustrious career filled with international accolades. Chiellini, who had never experienced a league playoff match until his LAFC tenure, appreciates the unique nature of the MLS playoff format.
“It’s something challenging, something new that gives energy to the league. You have to play until the end,” Chiellini enthusiastically shared.
Despite a prevalent belief in the soccer world that the team finishing atop the league table should be the champion, MLS opts for a different path. The Supporters’ Shield, awarded to the team with the best regular-season performance, merely grants a No. 1 seed in the six-week playoff tournament. This unique system to determine the MLS Cup champion—often regarded as the true league champion—has garnered Chiellini’s admiration.
LAFC’s triumph in securing both the Supporters’ Shield and the MLS Cup last year, especially with a thrilling penalty kick win in the MLS Cup final, exemplified the excitement and unpredictability of this playoff format.
Mixed Feelings on Playoff Restructuring
The 2023 MLS playoffs, however, come with significant changes that have left many players, including LAFC goalkeeper Maxime Crepeau and team captain Carlos Vela, with reservations.
The revamped format introduces a best-of-three conference quarterfinal round, followed by single-game fixtures for the conference semifinals, finals, and the MLS Cup championship. This structural alteration has been met with mixed reviews.
Crepeau candidly expressed his concerns about the best-of-three format:
"Personally, I’m not a fan of the best of three. Soon we’ll play a best of seven and the season’s going to end Dec. 31. But we have to deal with the new format."
Vela echoed the sentiment:
"Honestly, I don’t understand what is the point of three games in the first round and after that three more games to win the championship. I don’t know exactly what they are thinking."
Critics argue that the new format can be taxing, particularly given the demanding regular season that LAFC endured, playing 48 matches across various competitions. However, the playoffs require just six games in 49 days, with a two-week international break inserted between the first and second rounds, leading to a change in focus from endurance to patience.
Momentum Trumps Consistency
Chiellini, a keen student of MLS history, emphasized that the playoff format frequently rewards momentum over consistent regular-season performance. He pointed to the example of FC Cincinnati, which dominated the league during the regular season but could see their successful campaign end abruptly if they lose two of their next three games in the playoffs.
"Cincinnati was the best team, for consistency, all year. And they deserve to celebrate. But at the end if they don’t win the Cup, it’s like they’ve done nothing," Chiellini explained.
LAFC’s Ascent and the Quest for a Second Consecutive MLS Cup
Despite the differing opinions on the MLS playoff format, LAFC enters the 2023 playoffs with momentum on their side. The team rebounded from a mid-season slump to lose just one of its final seven games. Notably, Dénis Bouanga, the Golden Boot winner with 20 goals, has found his scoring touch once again, further boosting LAFC’s prospects.
Bouanga’s resurgence marks a turning point, making him the third LAFC player to lead the league in scoring in the last five years, an achievement unmatched by any other team.
For LAFC, the playoffs represent a golden opportunity to secure a second consecutive MLS Cup—a feat only accomplished by two other teams this century. The uncertainty surrounding Chiellini’s future with LAFC, as his contract expires after this season, adds an intriguing layer to the playoff story.
"These playoffs likely will represent his last chance to win more jewelry since Chiellini’s contract expires when the season does," highlighting the significance of this playoff run.
As LAFC players prepare for the rigorous journey ahead, their mixed views on the MLS playoff format underscore the complexity of a system that combines excitement and unpredictability with logistical and competitive challenges.
In the coming weeks, it remains to be seen whether LAFC can overcome these hurdles to add another MLS Cup to their illustrious trophy cabinet, or if the changing landscape of the MLS playoffs will lead to new narratives and champions.
The mixed perspectives within the LAFC squad reveal that the debate surrounding the MLS playoff format is as intense as the competition itself.
The Controversy Surrounding MLS Playoff Opinions
When did LAFC start playing in MLS?
LAFC made its MLS debut in 2018, marking the beginning of an impressive journey in Major League Soccer. This expansion franchise quickly gained prominence, bolstering its roster with renowned players such as Mexico’s star, Carlos Vela. LAFC’s commitment to excellence was further demonstrated with notable acquisitions like Gareth Bale in the preceding year.
How many matches does the LAFC play in the regular season?
In the regular MLS season, the LAFC participates in a total of 34 matches, evenly split between 17 home games and 17 away games. This season typically spans from the initial kick-off in late February and culminates with Decision Day on October 9, 2022. The LAFC’s journey commences with an opening match against the Colorado Rapids on Saturday, February 26, 2022, at 3:30 PM EST at the Banc of California Stadium.
How many matches will the CF Montréal play in the MLS?
During the regular MLS season, the CF Montréal is scheduled to participate in a total of 34 matches. This includes a balanced distribution of 17 games hosted at their home venue and 17 matches played away. The regular season typically commences with the season opener in late February and concludes with Decision Day on October 9, 2022.
How do the playoffs work in MLS?
In MLS, the playoff system is structured as follows: among the 14 teams in each conference, the top seven qualify for the playoffs. The regular-season conference champions receive a valuable first-round bye, while the subsequent three teams have the advantage of starting their playoff journey with home-field advantage.
What is MLS playoff format?
The format of the AUDI 2023 MLS CUP PLAYOFFS is characterized by a best-of-three series. In this format, the first team to secure two victories, whether in regulation or via a penalty shootout, advances to the Conference Semifinals.
Does MLS Soccer have playoffs?
Following the MLS’s longest-ever season, the league has reinstated a three-game first-round playoff schedule this fall. This marks a return to a format that was initially abandoned after the 2002 season.