Oddity of MLS playoffs: One game for championship

Atlanta United’s Greg Garza during a recent training session.

Atlanta United’s Greg Garza during a recent training session.

One game for it all.

After playing two-leg playoff series in the conference semifinals and finals on the way to the MLS Cup, the championship comes down to a single game. Atlanta United will host Portland on Saturday at Mercedes-Benz Stadium for the crown.

It’s certainly an oddity in professional sports here in the United States, including a week break during the playoffs to allow for international competition.

Atlanta United will host Portland due to its better regular-season record.

Focusing solely on Saturday’s MLS Cup, Atlanta United’s players didn’t seem too concerned that the league will reportedly alter the playoff schedule starting with the 2019 season.

“Whatever happens, happens,” Atlanta United fullback Greg Garza said.

The Athletic reported last month that MLS is considering shortening the playoff schedule by reducing the two-legged conference semifinals and finals to one game each, hosted by higher seed. The MLS Cup would be held in early November before the FIFA international break.

“Some might complain about two legs and having one game be just one game,” Garza said. “Others might have an opinion on just one game.”

This year, the playoffs started on Oct. 31. The first game of the semifinals was Nov. 4. Most of the second games were Nov. 11. The playoffs stopped for two weeks because of the FIFA window, starting again with games on Nov. 25 and 29.

The MLS regular season starts the first weekend of the March and finishes the last weekend of October. Combined with the playoffs, it is the longest schedule among the team sports in North America. The proposal the MLS is considering would end the regular season by early October, which could mean an increase in mid-week games during the regular season from four to six.

As the league expands, The Athletic also reported that the playoffs will expand by one more team, six to seven, from each conference, starting next year.

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