Minnesota pro sports fans are getting accustomed to the postseason lately, with the Lynx, Twins, Vikings, Wild and Wolves all having qualified in succession while Minnesota United is attempting to make a late rally and reach the postseason this year.
As such, it struck me recently that each of the six teams' leagues have different postseason formats in one way or another. Here, then, is an attempt to rank all six formats in order of best to worst. Note: This is not a ranking of which league has the best postseason, just which one has the best format. Here we go:
I wasn't sure I was going to like the wild card when it was initially added, and I certainly wasn't sure about the second wild card. But now I'm completely sold.
Having two wild-card teams compete in a one-game playoff adds significance to winning a division title while still keeping plenty of teams in the playoff race. And MLB accomplishes this while still having the lowest percentage of teams (10 of 30, 33 percent) make the playoffs of any of the six top U.S. leagues.
Football is a close second with a pretty straightforward process. Six teams in each conference make it, the top two in each get first-round byes — a huge reward in terms of rest and automatic advancement — and the bracket is reseeded after each round.
With 12 of 32 teams (38 percent) making the postseason, just getting in is still an accomplishment, while excellence is definitely rewarded.
I like that the league takes conferences out of play and gives the top eight teams regardless of conference their playoff berths. And the format — double bye for the top two seeds into the semifinals, single bye for the next two and single-elimination playoffs for Nos. 5-8 — definitely rewards the best teams.
What I don't love is that the second round, between the winners of the 5-8 games and the 3-4 seeds, is also single-elimination. And it seems excessive that eight of 12 WNBA teams (67 percent) make the playoffs.
It's very similar to the NFL in that the top six in each conference make the playoffs and the top two teams get byes.
What's strange is that the conference semifinals and finals are both two-match, aggregate-goal series, while the league final — the MLS Cup — is a single match. That facet needs some rethinking. MLS also has more than half of its teams (12 of 23) currently make the playoffs.
The league could take a cue from the WNBA and seed playoff teams 1-16, regardless of conference instead of clinging to the top eight in each conference.
And with 53 percent of teams (16 of 30) making the postseason, the NBA has the second-highest percentage of teams that reach the playoffs of the six leagues.
The NHL is very similar to the NBA, with eight teams in each conference making it, but with the bizarre insistence on the top three in each division plus two wild cards making it, as well as brackets determined along division lines.
The league with arguably the most compelling playoff action has arguably the worst format, which is a shame.