Saturday, October 29, 2011

'Two Out of Three Ain't Bad'; MLS Playoffs Should Replace Aggregate Scoring

'Two Out of Three Ain't Bad'-A Meatloaf song
Aggregate scoring are foreign words to U.S. sports fans.  Generally speaking, they have no idea what it means and its existence is one more distance marker between them and Soccer.

Aggregate games are a home and home series being played in the Semi-finals of the MLS playoffs, starting tonight. They are the general consensus for playoff Soccer for many other leagues around the globe.

A win in the first game has no bearing on the outcome of which team moves forward to the next round of the playoffs.  This is strange because it's not an American ideal to play games and decide the winner after the second game is completed, but that is exactly what occurs with aggregate scoring.

The casual U.S. sports fan is accustomed to an odd-numbered maximum game series, where the winner is decided by majority wins, such as two out of three, three out of five or four out of seven.  It's how American team sports (with the exception of the NFL) have designed their playoff methods for generations.

The reason for why Soccer doesn't convert to a series method is due to only 14 possible players (Starting 11 + 3 = 14) having a chance to play for all games.  Only three subs are possible per game.

There are 22 roster spots, but eight of the 22 never get the opportunity to play on gameday because MLS follows FIFA's sluggish, archaic rules and is afraid to deviate from them for fear of ghostly (FIFA) reprisals and fear for lack of respect by others who think they know the game better.

The eight best players (Starting 11-3 subs =8) for each team play the whole match and need days of rest for the bodies to recuperate before the next match.  With more substituting available, it wouldn't be necessary to have so many days between matches.  One idea is to increase the number of subs from three to five for the playoffs for each game.

Depending on how much substituting would be possible, games could be played on consecutive nights or at least every other night.  With games being played with less time between them, there is less chance for sports fans to forget about them.

A two out of three series could be played with one game at home for the lower-ranked team and the next two (the third game is only, if necessary) at home of the higher-ranked team.

Aggregate scoring can be fun for the Soccer enthusiast who really gets into things at all levels of pro Soccer.  It seems to work well for CONCACAF Champions League play because in these scenarios, it is hard to determine who gets the higher seed, other countries are already used to the aggregate system and teams are crossing international boundaries to play each other.

American fans, though, will never completely respect first leg/second leg aggregate scoring, not cause its a foreign way of doing things, but because it doesn't make sense in the landscape of American team sports.

Also, it's not as easy to follow.  Fans are required to keep up with goals scored instead of who's won or lost.  During the second game played, in order to follow who is ahead, fans must balance scoring from both games and it becomes confusing.

Games in the playoffs at the professional level are meant to be played to win, ultimately, only being judged by who won and who lost.


  1. I actually like aggregate scoring, but I hate how it's implemented. Why do both games start at 0-0? If the first game ends 2-1, why couldn't we simply start the second game with 2-1 on the scoreboard? This would make things far less confusing, and eliminate having to remember what the score of the first game was.