SOC­CER FEVER TAKES OVER AT­LANTA

Why Ma­jor League Soc­cer has such an un­usual play­off sched­ule,

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution - - FRONT PAGE - By Doug Rober­son drober­[email protected]

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 to­day 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-sea- son record.

Fo­cus­ing solely on to­day’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. “Oth-

ers 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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