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Does Increasing Number Of Playoff Teams Matter In Sports?

College Football joins Major League Baseball and the National Football League in expanding their playoff rosters and games. The College Football Playoff’s board members voted unanimously to expand playoffs to 12 teams by 2026 and are pushing to implement the change as soon as 2024.


Along with the MLB and the NFL, CFB is another sports association to increase the number of teams to make the playoffs. Thus, increasing the length of their season and adding more playoff games to their schedule.


The new CFP expansion will grow to twelve playoff teams. The top six conference champions in the new system will automatically make the playoffs. The remaining spots will be determined by national rank. The primary goal of the expansion is to give more students and schools the chance to reach college football playoffs, which have always been exclusive.


Adding playoff games gives more teams and fans chances to experience and win championships. It also makes more revenue for sports associations. According to Front Office Sports, the CFP could sign media rights deals that would bring in over two billion dollars annually once it expands to a twelve-team playoff.


CFP is not the first association to add playoff teams and games to its season. Recently, the NFL and MLB have added wild card teams and games to each league’s schedule to increase the number of playoff games.


 This season baseball added a third wild card team in the American and National League. In 2012, the league added its second wild card spot. Along with the third wild card spot, teams competing in the wild card rounds will play in a best-of-three series instead of a best-of-one game.


The winner-take-all, wild card round led to some exhilarating games and playoff runs, such as the Kansas City Royals beating the Oakland A’s in 2014 and going to game seven of the World Series. The Kansas City Royals survived the wild card game with multiple comebacks and ultimately won in twelve innings. One of the most iconic games in recent baseball history.  


A best-of-three series may lose some of the attraction and adrenaline of a single game. Still, it could create exciting comebacks and reverse sweeps.


Adding playoff teams and games to any sport is a win for associations and fans. Playoff games are the most lucrative games for sports. It benefits fans because their teams are likelier to make the playoffs and have a chance to win a championship. Contrarily, fans lose interest in their favourite teams and a sport when their team is eliminated or not in the race for a ring.


But does adding playoff teams and games increase the chances of winning championships for lower-ranked or seeded teams? Do wild card teams even win titles, and if they do, will adding more mediocre teams to a playoff race lead to more Cinderella stories?   


Major League Baseball added the second wild card spot in 2012.  In the first two years following the changes, the World Series Champions were division leaders, not wild card teams. However, in 2014, the San Francisco Giants were the second-place wild card team. They ultimately won the 2014 World Series, beating another wild card team, the Kansas City Royals. The Washington Nationals won the World Series in 2019, but they were the first-place wild card team, so they would have made the playoffs without the changes.


The Nationals and the Giants are the only teams to win a World Series as a wild card team since 2012.  Fans excited by the chances of winning it all when their team sneaks into a playoff should know the likelihood of winning a championship is slim.  With the new three-game wild card series, the difficulty only increases as their team will have to play even more games than previous winners. 


The National Football League has recently changed its playoffs to include an extra wild card team. In the first week of the playoffs, every team besides the number one seed plays in a “winner-moves-on” game, so the new wild spot added two extra games to the first week of playoffs in the NFL. Two more playoff games equal more revenue. However, rarely does a wild card team complete the Cinderella run and win a Super Bowl.


Since 2010, only two wild card teams have won a Super Bowl. The Green Bay Packers won against the Pittsburgh Steelers. The 2020 Tampa Bay Buccaneers recently won Tom Brady his seventh Super Bowl ring in his first year with the organization.


The Buccaneers were barely a wild card team, with an 11-5 record; they were only a wild card team because they lost their head-to-head games with the New Orleans Saints.


Sporting associations and fans enjoy the expanded playoffs, one for money and the other for entertainment. But the expanding playoffs do not significantly increase the chances of mediocre teams winning championships. Instead, it invites them to play in more lucrative games that typically end with the teams going home without a ring.



Edited by- Devnum Nagar

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