Top 5 Sports Playoff Systems

1) NCAA Basketball tournament and the Final Four
2) The World Cup
3) Major League Baseball playoffs and the World Series
4) NFL Football playoffs and the Super Bowl
5) NBA Basketball playoffs and championship series

Should never even be considered a “playoff” nor a “system”: The BCS for College Football

17 thoughts on “Top 5 Sports Playoff Systems

  1. Agree completely with your assessment of the BCS. What a joke.

    I think the world cup should be in the same category with the BCS. I don’t think a team should advance without playing and winning.

    Also, don’t you think the NFL playoffs are screwed up? A team that goes 8-8 can make the playoffs, for crying out loud. And to make it even worse, a team that is 9-7 in a different, tougher division, will stay home.

  2. I’m not sure there are five distinct systems that I would consider good enough to mention. Of those you list, I would leave off the World Cup and the NBA playoffs. Regarding the World Cup, I don’t think goal differentials should play a role in tournaments, nor do I like that you can advance from pool play without ever winning a game. Teams with a losing record can get into the NBA playoffs. Enough said on that.

    A system that is appropriate in some circumstances is that used in the World Lacrosse Championship. They make room for virtually all comers, but make weaker teams play each other for the right to play stronger teams. (Canada and the U.S. are really the only countries that can field credible teams, so this system gives other countries a reason to show up. See for more details)

  3. Japan’s national high school baseball championship. Every high school in the country with a baseball team — which is pretty much every high school — participates in regional tournaments to determine prefectural champions. The 49 prefectural champions then play in a two-week, single-elimination tournament, with every game on national TV.

  4. Before the wild card, baseball had the purest playoff system, simple and straight forward. You won your division, great, you get to play against the winner of the other division to go to the world series. Beautiful. The wild card has given more drama, but lesser quality teams going to the playoffs (like Colorado this year, for example—they were no match at all for the much more talented Redsox), who happen to make a run for the wild card right at the end (then again, if it weren’t for the wild card, the Boston Redsox would not have won in 2004—hmmmm).

  5. I also agree about the goal differentials thing, but the real beauty of the World Cup system (which those of us who are Yanks don’t fully appreciate) is the build up to get in. There’s nothing more exhilirating (or crushing) than the final 1-3 games a country plays to qualify, especially if it’s a country that doesn’t historically qualify for every one.

  6. By my count, four of the last ten World Series champs got into the playoffs via the wild card.

    That said, I still think the old pennant system was superior.

  7. Stanley Cup is out. Almost the entire league gets in the playoffs which basically means the regular season doesn’t mean anything.

    Yeah, not a fan of goal differentials but what else can you do with so many teams and such a propensity to tie? But other than that the system is fabulous, especially when you’re dealing with teams all over the globe.

    NASCAR is disqualified for being the lamest sport ESPN spends way too much time on.

  8. world series is too too long.

    NFL playoffs is way better, because in the NFL every game matters.

    I like the Olympic Basketball series.

  9. Sorry, NASCAR is not really what I would consider a sport. Driving cars around and around? At least the golfers don’t pollute the atmosphere with their non-sport.

    College football is what I call minor league football. No one in the big cities really cares much about it except for the people who refuse to grow up. It’s mostly for the people in the little towns where nothing much else exciting is going on. All these polls and computers and such are mostly nonsense and have been for years (even before the computers were involved). The sad thing is how this corrupt system profits from these exploited athletes, most of whom will never see much of a payday.

    I have to agree that the hockey playoffs deserve to be on the list.

  10. Bill, how can you say that about college football – which I find the best sport around. If they could just have a half-way intelligent playoff system it would be perfect. There’s nothing better than those first games in the last week of August…

    NFL Playoffs are probably the best.

    I like the NHL playoffs, even though I’ve not kept up on Hockey since I moved stateside. (It’s never on TV! – plus no Don Cherry)

    The NBA and the NHL have basically the same kind of playoff scheme. The regular season is important because it determines home field advantage – not as important as the NFL. But then I think the NBA season is way too long as well – which makes many players discount too much the first month or two of the season. But still, anyone remember when the Jazz got that 74 win record? Come on, that was exciting.

  11. Clark,

    What 74 win record is that? The Jazz have never won more than 64 games in a season. The Bulls went 72-10 once, which I think is the best ever. Perhaps the Celtics can beat it this year.

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