With several teams destined to finish the regular season without playing all of their scheduled games, Major League Soccer announced Thursday that qualification and seeding for the playoffs will be determined on a points-per-game basis.
Normally, total points (three for a win, one for a tie) are the only consideration, but the 2020 season has been anything but normal. The long-anticipated announcement was just the latest adjustment the league has made, as several teams -- most notably the Colorado Rapids -- have lost games to COVID-19 issues and will not be made up by the end of the regular season on Nov. 8.
The Rapids missed a month of games following a coronavirus outbreak that affected at least a dozen players and staff members, and will wind up five matches short of the 23-game schedule.
As a result, Colorado (5-6-4, 19 points) is averaging 1.27 points over its 15 games -- which would give the team the last playoff spot in the Western Conference. Just behind the Rapids are the Vancouver Whitecaps (8-13-0, 24 points), who are averaging 1.14 points per match over their 21 games.
The Eastern Conference apparently will not be impacted, since all teams are still on track to play their 23rd game on Nov. 8. In the Western Conference, six games will not be rescheduled: five Rapids games against five different opponents, and a Minnesota-Dallas match.
After the first two games of the season back in March, the COVID-19 outbreak shut down professional sports around the country. Four months later, the league reopened in a Disney World bubble with the MLS is Back Tournament, and then resumed in August.
Also, the league expanded the postseason to include 10 teams from the Eastern Conference and eight from the West, and Canadian teams Montreal, Vancouver, and Toronto have had to play home games at sites in the United States.
With playoff seedings to be figured by the points per game calculus, the league is hoping the traditional Decision Day drama will hold on Nov. 8, when all games in each conference kick off at the same time. Higher seeded teams get home games throughout the playoffs.
--Field Level Media