Midway through Europe’s top leagues and in some cases the team in first looks destined to be champion. Here’s why adding playoffs isn’t the answer.
There’s nothing like the playoffs. This past weekend’s NFL games had it all — drama, excitement and some controversy.
It’s the type of high-stakes competition that some think is the answer to some of Europe’s top soccer leagues, where it seems like the same teams win every season. Often, it is a fait accompli that’s determined months before the end of the season.
But American-style playoffs aren’t the panacea to what many see as a problem. In domestic leagues around Europe and much of the world, all teams play one another twice and a champion is determined by whoever finishes first.
The playoffs aren’t necessary for Europe’s top soccer leagues
What many don’t understand is that there is a lot to play for over the course of a season and that’s why a postseason isn’t needed. Yes, crowning a champion is a big part of it, but not the only part. Let’s take the Premier League, the world’s No. 1 domestic soccer competition. Europe’s top league competitions reward excellence over the course of the season. It rewards consistency over luck.
Manchester City is currently in first place, a whopping 11 points ahead of second-place Liverpool. The title race, barring an epic Man City collapse, is basically over.
What now? Well, there’s the fight to finish in the top four, teams that qualify for next season’s Champions League.
At the moment, that race is extremely competitive featuring seven teams. In addition to the Champions League, there are also two Europa League spots up for grabs: one going to the fifth-place team and the other to the FA Cup winner.
But the race that is often most exciting, and in many cases determined on the final day of the season, is the relegation battle. The three teams that finish at the bottom drop to the second division, known as the Championship.
Eight teams, nearly half the table, are mired in this fight. At the moment, the bottom three clubs are Norwich City with 13 points, Newcastle with 12 and Burnley with 11.
It will be very interesting to see if a coaching change at Norwich will matter. It will also be interesting to see if Newcastle, under new ownership and already spending money to improve, can amass enough points to stay in the top flight.
You see, the title race isn’t the only game in town. There’s plenty to play for at both ends of the table. It is what makes European domestic league soccer such a long slog.
Playoffs often render the regular season meaningless (we’re looking at you MLS) and that’s something leagues in England, Spain, Germany, Italy and France just can’t afford to do given how much money their leagues are valued it when it comes to international TV rights.
If you want playoff-style competition, that’s what the Champions League is for. And for those of you who enjoy other sports as well, then there’s the NFL to whet your playoff appetites this month.