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MLS to expand playoff field for 2015

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SI.com's Brian Straus reports MLS Playoffs expanding to mirror NFL playoff structure.

Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

With the addition of two new clubs into MLS, the league has apparently responded by expanding the playoffs as well.

Seven points separated the Philadelphia Union from a playoff birth this past season, as the team finished as the top non-playoff team in the Eastern Conference. Under the new expansion of the playoffs, the U's season would have been defined as the last team in - not the last out (it would have been such a rewarding end to the season to have earned that final, new, sixth playoff spot by a single point over Toronto FC).

With both Conferences now divided into ten teams a piece (Sporting Kansas City and Houston Dynamo move West to welcome Orlando City and NYCFC to the East), the playoff format has now been adapted to accepting the top six teams from each Conference.

These six teams will presumably be formatted into a bye for the top two clubs, with the bottom four matched (3 v. 6, and 4 v. 5) in a single knockout game.

The addition of an extra knockout game for each Conference has been met with mixed reviews. As the league stands with twenty teams, twelve playoff teams result in 60 percent of the league participating in the playoff. In a sport that commonly ends after its regular season (under a single table), having more than half of the current MLS squads in a playoff seems redundant - the season itself could easily just name a champion if most are allowed in a postseason anyways.

On the other hand, the extra playoff games should bring in more revenue for the league. Also, MLS is still expanding, so under this new format, that ratio of 60 percent will certainly decrease as teams are added.

The idea of being able to make the postseason despite going through two coaches and three goalkeepers without a striker makes it very difficult for this Union supporter to criticize this expansion - I just hope limping into the sixth seed doesn't become a common theme.