The North American Soccer League remains a work in progress. In its fourth season, kicking off on April 12, the continent’s other professional league will expand its playoffs from the one-off winner-takes-all Soccer Bowl to a four-team “Championship,” the league announced on Thursday.
Rather than pitting the Spring season champion directly against the Fall season champion, as it had in the past, those two title winners will now be joined by whatever other two teams hold the best overall records across the two periods. The champions will each host a semifinal in the post-season labeled “The Championship” – the champion with the best combined regular season record will play the qualifier with the lowest overall points. The top-seeded semifinals winner will then host the final, which will no longer go by Soccer Bowl, although the prize will still be called that.
The NASL, a “free-market league” – Commissioner Bill Peterson’s words – that gives its clubs almost total autonomy, sharply contrasted by the centralized Major League Soccer, envisions growing to 18 teams from its present footprint of 10. But it plans to keep the playoff format as laid out above. “When we look at where we’re going and what we want to be, one of the components of that final plan is the post-season tournament that we’re announcing today,” Peterson said in a conference call.