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Petke critical of MLS playoff schedule: “It’s mind blowing”

Mike Petke

Photo by Howard C. Smith/


HANOVER, N.J. — You can add Mike Petke to the list of people unhappy with the current MLS playoff format.

Speaking to reporters on Thursday ahead of the first leg of his New York Red Bulls’ Eastern Conference semifinals series, Petke made it clear he was not the biggest fan of the condensed postseason schedule that his and other teams are facing this year.

Petke was not only critical of the format that can see clubs play as many as four games in 10 days (or in the Red Bulls’ case, three in seven), but also of the fact that he has to wait until Thursday night to see who he has to prepare for between the Montreal Impact and Houston Dynamo for Sunday’s Eastern Conference semis first leg.

“The only thing that becomes tricky is playing nine months one game a week pretty much and now all of a sudden playing hopefully three games in (seven) days,” said Petke. “We’re playing two games in three, three-and-a-half days and then if you’re fortunate enough to advance then we’re playing Sunday, Wednesday, Saturday.

“It’s mind blowing, mind blowing, for any coach in this league so that’ll be interesting for the teams who advance. Hopefully, it’s us. Hopefully, it’s a situation that we’re faced with.”

Petke later added that he did not want to be overly critical of the schedule because he understands that MLS does things for a reason. But he also reiterated his stance that it is less than desirable to have to play so often in such a short span of time.

“It’s not ideal. It’s not ideal at all to go to through a 34-game season, playing pretty much once a week, and then everything is crunched in so tightly,” said Petke. “But you’ve got to deal with it. We’re fortunate that we’re in the playoffs, we’re happy we’re in the playoffs and that’s a good problem to have because we’re in the playoffs.”

The current MLS playoff format has been criticized by several across the league since it was released. Earlier this week, a report stated that MLS was considering changing the schedule so as to try and avoid midweek games before ultimately deciding to stick with the one it has in place.


What do you think of Petke’s comments about the condensed playoff format? Does he have a point?

Share your thoughts below.


  1. He’s right. This schedule really is mindblowing. The MLS Playoffs is a largely meaningless crapshoot anyway, but this just adds another whole layer of randomness to everything.

  2. The problem would be ameliorated if there were just fewer playoff teams and fewer playoff games. I love the idea of giving the conference winner a bye to the conference final. 2 vs. 3 in a two-leg series, then the winner vs. the regular-season conference champion.

    • Fewer teams is OK, but not fewer games. Fewer games makes winning the thing even more meaningless. For example, part of the reason the NBA playoffs tends to produce deserving victors is because it’s a huge slog – truly a second season where the last team standing has fought enough battles to prove their worth. I always thought it would be a weird feeling to root for an MLS team that plays mediocre for 30 something games and then gets hot and wins a few games to win the trophy.

      I would reduce it to four teams per conference, three game aggregate goal ties for both rounds of the conference playoffs, team with more regular season points gets first and last games at home. Wed-Sat-Sat matchdays for one conference and Thurs-Sun-Sun for the other. Then you’ll truly have the best in each conference squaring off in the Final.

  3. NY and Porterland have an advantage…the advantage is that the team they are playing is playing mid week…in addition to the schedules Petke is complaining about. The playoffs started yesterday and everyone will play MLS cup on the same day if they make it. SAME amount of rest for everyone..except the teams that they play of course.

  4. Don’t get me wrong, i love MLS but the league needs to grow up and make changes by 2015 when nycfc joins.
    So i repeat, why have playoffs to win to your conference.
    Therefore, give the TEAM with the most points IN THEIR CONFERENCE THE CONFERENCE TITTLE.
    Then, give them a direct semifinal spot for the MLS CUP PLAYOFFS.
    So top team in each conference wins the conference automatically and also gets a direct semifinal spot.
    Then make knock out games, not two leg because the season is a long one.

    • Interesting – or keep them 2 leg series to satisfy traditionalists.

      – Conference winner – bye to Semis
      – then 2 game for 2v5 and 3v4
      – conf winner plus other 2 team = commence a 3 rd CL style after a week break between end of first round.

      That sounds awesome and we could actually get the MLS Cup not on the SEC title game. I know the fan overlap isn’t guaranteed, but I’d like to watch both dammit.

      • My idea gets better when MLS gets 24 teams and beyond, like 28.
        Just have single table winner for conference, then give each conference winner a direct semifinal spot. But it has to be top 7 from each conference, minus the conference winner.
        As for the games, make them knock out games and that would make the long season very intensive and interesting.
        its a long season, and once MLS gets 24 or more teams, this is the way to go.
        And you still have the supporter shield.

  5. Petke is 100% correct. There should be a week layover between rounds. I can understand short turnaround on the second leg of a series, but there should be cushion after that. Why should RBNY, and Portland have to be punished for finishing at the top of the table? Also, schedule the freaking first leg game for mid week, 2nd leg weekend. Easily done.

  6. The sched is shyte. We know. It’s shyte for all. But that’s it’s shyte to the teams that are supposed to have won an advantage by being the best in the regular season is the cherry on top of the shyte. We get it. The sched is shyte. And with the backlash the league is receiving, hopefully it’s a mistake they never make again, and hopefully they stop forgetting they asked for SSS’s to be mandatory to be granted expansion. That’s part of our problem here.

    Strategically, this benefits the teams that are in the best shape, the youngest, and that have the most depth. My beloved Metro arguably at least has one in the depth.

    Unforttunately, this also favors the underdogs more than they should, by making luck of the schedule draw that much more important. MLS promoting parity, even in the playoffs.

    *sigh*. Good on Petke saying his peace, whatever it costs us with the league and the refs.

    • PTFC should benefit with Sounder 3rd game in 7 days, so the homefield works out (play all conf foes 3 times, you know the scouting thru and thru plus minor tweaks). Other teams have to deal with it as well, it’s fair for all and if you don’t have depth, well, you learn. Luckily, PTFC is healthy and clicking on all cylinders right now after a severe rough patch in late July and all of August and it looks like – minus maybe Oba and for sure Zakuani – it should be an all-charges-at-the-deck type of match.

  7. I don’t think people are taking this as seriously as they should be.

    The MLS playoff schedule is going to force teams to not be able to use their starting lineups. No player can play 3 games in 7 days. No player can operate that way.

    How is that fair? Imagine if the NFL said… oh hey you’ve got to play Thursday, Sunday, Thursday. Nonsense. People would riot.

    • NFL is much more dangerous – everyone would go Meriwether and just “try and ruin careers, tear they ACLs, ya know?” Seriously, someone referenced CCL and midweek playoff games being apples and oranges, this is pomegranates and chemical warfare man!:-)

      • Okay, better comparison: imagine a UFC fighter having 3 fights in 7 days. That would be crazy.

        And that is proof that MLS should not have 3 games in 7 days.

      • That is not “proof”. That might be your argument but certainly not proof. MMA fighters deal with blows to the head, broken noses, etc. It’s not the same.

      • Okay, you hate MMA. Here’s an even better analogy:

        Imagine a cardiac patient receiving 3 heart transplants in 7 days. That would be crazy. Thus, *undeniable* proof that MLS should not have 3 games in 7 days.

      • undeniable? you must be on crack. Cardiac patients undergo so much trauma that you can’t even begin compare that to the mls playoffs. A better analogy would be this:
        A mother sends her 3 year old son skydiving alone without the help of professional divers. Then after a miraculously safe landing, the mom sends him on a rowboat across the atlantic by himself.

        A mother would never do that. Its just mean. Need I say more?

      • Bigmaczac: interesting. Apparently you hate babies, rowboats, heart patients, and the King. I’ll use an analogy from your own experience:

        Imagine the sun going supernova and engulfing the earth in 3 solar flares in 7 days. That would be tragic. Thus, INCONTROVERTIBLE proof that MLS should not have 3 games in 7 days.

  8. This must be one of the mandatory topics in Intro to MLS Coaching. Others are complaining about the Refs after a loss and belly aching during National Team Call ups.

  9. The worst part would be for the top seeds going into the conference finals. If Portland and NYRB advance they will play 2 road games in that 7 day span.

  10. No home field advantage when you have to play 3 games in 7 days and your home games are midweek fixtures. That’s a home field disadvantage…

  11. It doesn’t matter who you support, this playoff schedule was created by bozo the clown impersonators. Any footballer knows you can’t play three games in a week and expect a quality product. Add that to the travel time, especially when you don’t know who you’re playing until three days before the match, which gives the lower seed the advantage since they don’t have to travel and will have a weekend crowd.
    I think the ONION could do a better job with this.

      • The most critical games? For the wild card teams they could be playing 4 games in 10 days. That’s too much.

      • Guys, it’s a good point about the depth of rosters (which is more attributable to MLS’s rules on salary cap than its scheduling), but European teams do play must win games in short bunches.

        Here’s Barcelona’s spring schedule from last two years (Real Madrid had a fairly similar schedule):

        2012-2013 (3 games in 8 days)

        Apr 23 Bayern Munich – Barcelona UEFA Champions League (Semi-finals)
        Apr 27 Athletic Bilbao – Barcelona – La Liga
        May 1 Barcelona – Bayern Munich UEFA Champions League (Semi-finals)

        2011-2012 (3 games in 7 days – El Classico and two UEFA Champions league semifinals).

        Apr 18 Chelsea – Barcelona UEFA Champions League (Semi-finals)
        Apr 21 Barcelona – Real Madrid La Liga
        Apr 24 Barcelona – Chelsea UEFA Champions League (Semi-finals)

      • Not trying to defend MLS, but MLS clubs are not the only clubs that face with tight schedules (3 games in one week or 10 games in 4 days). Here are some recent schedules from Europe:

        Barcelona (4 games in 10 days):

        Oct 19 Osasuna 0-0 Barcelona – La Liga
        Oct 22 AC Milan 1-1 Barcelona – Champions League
        Oct 26 Barcelona 2-1 Real Madrid -La Liga
        Oct 29 Celta Vigo 0-3 – La Liga

        Real Madrid (4 games in 11 days):

        Oct 19 Real Madrid 2-0 Malaga – La Liga
        Oct 23 Real Madrid 2-1 Juventus – Champions League
        Oct 26 Barcelona 2-1 Real Madrid – La Liga
        Oct 30 Real Madrid 7-3 Sevilla – La Liga

        Bayern (3 games in 7 days):

        Oct 19 Bayern Munich 4-1 Mainz – Bundesliga
        Oct 23 Bayern Munich 5-0 Viktoria Plzen – UEFA Champions League
        Oct 26 FT Bayern Munich 3-2 Hertha Berlin – Bundesliga

      • Please reread the depth bit. Barca’s and Real’s 2nd teams are as good as or better than most. Most top flight sides are three deep so they can handle the cramped schedule. Ad that to the travel times. SKC and RB have 3 hour flights at minimum, not the short hops.

      • Look, I am not a big fan of the “English” week when it comes to scheduling. But the lack of depth in MLS squads is self-inflicted by the league. You don’t have to fly to Euroupe to find good depth teams – just look at the depth of Mexican clubs, which are not subject to salary cap. By the way, you are correct that Barcelona and Real have excellent second teams, but they did not field their second teams in the Champions league semis or in el classico two years ago, when they had to play three fixtures in these competitions in the span of one week. Yes, it sucks to play on a tight schedule, but it’s been done before by non-MLS clubs in big competitions.

  12. The only thing that I am concerned about is that Will Johnson stops using his face as a weapon. Look how he used his face to attack Alonso’s elbow a few matches ago.

    • At least our captain isn’t a punk whiner like Ozzy. Hey, why isn’t he wearing the armband? Oh, so Sigi isn’t an idiot and sees that the petulance of Alonso and EJ (though nice gesture last night) was becoming a pervasive, blackberry-like problem.

      That said, Timbers have our hands full with a playoff tested team. Should be a good one.


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