Recent comments from Leverkusens chief executive Wolfgang Holzhäuser and Thomas Tuchel have put the idea of adding a playoff format for the Bundesliga-title back on the table as a possibility.
While many see it as a good chance to break Bayern’s dominance and add an additional monetization opportunity to the league, I personally think it's a bad idea and here's why.
Playoffs would destroy what the Bundesliga stands for
Since its creation, the Bundesliga has always been about crowning the absolute best team over the course of a year. It isn't about being good over a short period of time but it’s about being consistently great.
Introducing a playoff-series where the first four teams battle it out for the ultimate glory would certainly add excitement (for those games) but it would almost definitely devalue the rest of the season. Regular Bundesliga games would lose intrigue simply because a win or a loss wouldn't mean as much.
As an example you can take Dortmund's loss to Leipzig. I'm worried about that loss, I was angry when it happened and I'm concerned because it means that we're already three points behind Bayern. If there were playoffs I would not care at all about that loss, I'm 100% sure that BVB will finish in the top four this season and while many could argue that this means less stressing out about those games, I would counter with: Isn't that exactly what makes those games so exciting?
Comparisons to US-sports just don't work
I love American sports, well, at least most of them. Sorry Baseball.
Most US-sports are fantastic and end in crowning the champion after a long playoff-series and an even longer regular season. The NBA, NFL, NHL and MLB are all amazing leagues but they all need the playoffs to add entertainment and the Bundesliga doesn't.
Every single US-sport consists entirely out of one competition, there is no Cup, no Champions League and no Europa League. If any of those leagues would have the same format as the Bundesliga, with one team dominating for several years, the sport would become relatively boring. Basically every European soccer league has multiple national competitions (League+Cup) in addition to the international competitions (Champions League+ Europa League), all of those combine to create a near perfect combination of different challenges.
Like I mentioned before the national leagues are more of an endurance test, that apart from determining the champion, create many different story-lines. If the champion is clear early on, there are still multiple different things that can capture your interest, like who will qualify for international competitions and who will get relegated? Of course the race to the title will always be in the forefront of the league but it isn't the only reason why the Bundesliga is such an entertaining brand. At the same time the Cup-competitions, national or international, are basically a season long playoff-series. They already create the excitement of do or die games. US-Leagues just aren't that diverse apart from the title-chase.
In addition, you can make a very compelling argument that it is never actually clear if the best team won if you determine the winner in a playoff-system. At the end of every single Bundesliga season it is very clear that the absolute best team won. A playoff-system randomizes the sport to a degree where sometimes luck can win you a championship.
The difference between elite teams is often so narrow that a final or even a series of best-of-three/five/seven might be decided by pure luck. Sometimes it's injuries, refereeing mistakes or a streak of bad or good form that can determine the winner of a playoff-series. The Bundesliga format balances those issues out by itself simply by the longevity of the season as opposed to playoffs that take place over the course off 2-3 weeks.
The 2007 New York Giants won the Superbowl even though the Patriots were clearly the best team that year. Same thing with last years Golden State Warriors. While Eli beating the undefeated streak, and Lebron bringing a trophy to Cleveland are compelling stories they seem just unfair to me.
Are there problems with the Bundesliga? Absolutely. Are those problems related to the format or the huge spread of the clubs financial means? In my opinion it's the latter. The Bundesliga is a great competition, it is fair and gives us the rightful champion every year and if that's Bayern every year for the foreseeable future, so be it.