Monday, June 2, 2008

New Playoff Format for 2008 Season

Now that we will have fourteen teams in the USCL, the playoff format will undergo a dramatic change for the 2008 Season. Below are the new features, followed by the explanations for them.

1. There will now be four teams from each division qualifying for the playoffs instead of three.
2. The first round bye for the Division Champions will be eliminated, with the 1 seed playing the 4 seed and the 2 seed playing the 3 seed in the Quarterfinals.
3. The Championship Match will take place on a weekend, starting in the early afternoon.
4. In playoff matches prior to the Championship Match, when a team has a seeding that is at least two seeds higher than their opponent, that team will receive not only draw odds, but also will have the right to choose colors. (i.e. if 1 plays 2, 1 receives draw odds, but 2 chooses colors. If 1 plays 3 or 4, 1 receives draw odds AND chooses colors).
5. This is a minor rule, unlikely to be utilized, but if one team will be receiving draw odds and the other team will be choosing colors, the team receiving the draw odds has the option of instead giving those draw odds to the opponent for the right to choose colors.

So as you can see there will be quite a few changes for the post-season. I'd like to make sure everyone understands the reasoning behind these new rules:

First, we believe that it's very important that a good number of teams make the playoffs. This is not the NFL, where players are being paid extravagant amounts of money to play. It's important to ensure that in the final few weeks of the season, most teams still have something serious to play for. If we were to allow fewer teams into the playoffs, then in the last weeks of the regular season, some teams could have no chance to compete in the post-season which could result in some uninteresting and boring matches, where teams might have no reason to play their top players.

Secondly, we realize that without receiving a first round bye, it will be more difficult for the Division Winners to make it the USCL Finals. However, we also felt that in the format used in both 2006 and 2007, it was perhaps a bit too easy (three of four made it in those seasons). In order to somewhat compensate for the loss of the first round bye, we have given the Division Winner draw odds and color choice in the Quarterfinals (as is outlined in Rule 4 above), and they will also receive both of those advantages in the Semifinals should they face the third seed. We hope that the balance of these factors will give the Division Winners a big enough post-season edge to properly award their regular season excellence, yet not so large that the lower seeds can't overcome it a reasonable amount of the time.

What does all of this mean? Based on the statistics of what percentage of USCL matches have turned out to be drawn in the first three seasons, along with considering the choice of color to be a very moderate advantage, if all four playoff teams were actually equal in playing strength (unlikely), the first seed would make the Championship Match between 45% and 50% of the time, the second seed would make it between 25% and 30%, the third seed would make it about 15%, and the fourth seed would make it about 10% (these are of course not exact figures, but we believe them to be reasonably close estimates).

We feel that the above percentages are pretty good in terms of adequately awarding those who performed best in the regular season while still giving those who performed well, but not best, a good fighting chance.

Lastly, the Championship Match will now be held on a weekend afternoon to avoid the situation where the match starts late and drags on until two in the morning due to the long tie-break procedure (as has happened the last two years). The tie-break procedure has always been extremely exciting for the fans so we don't wish to eliminate it and felt that this would be the best compromise. The match may still go until around ten or eleven, but it will never go as late as it has in the past.

USCL Commissioner Greg Shahade