Playoff fever hits Germany

What's the best way of ending Bayern Munich's four-year reign as German Bundesliga champion? If you can't beat Bayern in the 34-game league championship, how about getting a second shot in the playoffs?

Former German Football League (DFL) president and Bayer Leverkusen chief executive Wolfgang Holzhauser suggested in an interview with Kicker on Monday that playoffs for the top four teams were "more relevant than ever" and "many people are considering" a playoff system.

What makes them more relevant than ever? It would seem Bayern's perfect start -- 6-0, 2-0 and 3-1 wins -- after winning the Bundesliga each of the last four years is a factor, though Hertha Berlin is also 3-0-0 with promoted RB Leipzig in hot pursuit thanks to a pair of wins and a draw in three games.

"In the long run," Holzhauser said, "the dominance of one club is not good for the competition."

Dortmund's 6-0 win at Darmstadt suggests that it will also be a worthy contender to reclaim the silverware it last hoisted in 2011 and 2012, but BVB coach Thomas Tuchel says he too would support the introduction of playoffs.

"Why not? It would give the runners-up, third and fourth the chance to be champion," he said Monday before Dortmund's game against Wolfsburg. "I do not think playoffs are far-fetched. I am basically very open to rule changes."

Playoffs have been part of MLS and before that the NASL for every year but NASL's 1969 season when it was in survival mode and played a 16-game schedule (a separate eight-game season featured British clubs fronting for the five NASL clubs). Mexico has eight-team playoffs after the Torneo Apertura and Torneo Clausura. Teams are seeded and the higher-ranked team advances in case of a tie in the quarterfinals and semifinals. Playoffs are common in the rest of Latin America though formats vary.

Until recently, they have generally not been used in Europe. Some leagues have promotion-relegation playoffs or playoffs for spots in Europe. Belgium and Scotland are the two biggest countries that have playoffs at the top.

Belgium takes the top six teams, awards them half the points they've earned the regular season and then organizes a 10-game round robin. In 2014, Anderlecht with Sacha Kljestan finished third, 10 points behind Standard Liege, in the regular season, for a five-point deficit to start the playoffs. Sure enough, Anderlecht won seven of its 10 playoffs to beat out Standard, which went 4-3-3, by two points.

In Scotland, the Premiership also sends six teams into a championship playoff. But teams keep all their points from the regular season and play each other only once in the playoff stage for five more games. In both 2015 and 2016, Celtic look an eight-point lead into the playoffs and by the time they were over won by 15 and 17 points, respectively, to claim its fourth and fifth straight league title.

While the value of playoffs is debatable, the dominance of one team is a reality in many leagues. Celtic has won five straight titles, the same as Juventus in Italy's Serie A. Bayern is on four straight, just like Paris St. Germain in France.

Hope springs eternal for their rivals, but nothing indicates they are ready to hand over their crowns. Their combined league records so far this season: 13 wins, two losses and two ties.

5 comments about "Playoff fever hits Germany".
  1. Kyr-Roger St.-Denis, September 19, 2016 at 7:45 p.m.


  2. Joe Linzner, September 19, 2016 at 8:04 p.m.

    that makes the regular season irrelevant. Why not take all the teams into a playoff format?

  3. R2 Dad, September 19, 2016 at 8:39 p.m.

    Installing playoffs won't change the fact that the #2 team in the BL, Dortmund, is effectively a selling team, and they are happy to sell to their biggest rival. THAT'S what needs to change.

  4. ROBERT BOND, September 20, 2016 at 9:45 a.m.

    YAY! More games!! with FCBs depth, not a problem, more playing op to spread around..

  5. Fire Paul Gardner Now, September 22, 2016 at 5:29 p.m.

    The Belgian system is less bad because it still rewards regular season dominance and the "playoffs" are another ten game round robin. Basically, he is saying no one can beat Bayern over the long-haul so let's try to make the "championship" more random and hope another team get lucky. You'll wind up with other teams bunkering and hoping to win on PKs like Sweden at the Olympics. Who wants to watch that?

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