One thing that I have always appreciated about European soccer and something that I can’t stand about the American version (and more or less, something that I am increasingly bothered by with American sports in general), is that regular season dominance is awarded. The real prize goes to whomever played the best over the course of the season, rather than to a particular team that got hot at the right time.
Another thing I appreciate about the way the continental soccer approach works, is that it fold many different national associations into one competition at the end fo the year. Even better, the rules are out there for everyone to see. You know, going into the season, essentially, that you need to finish better in your league to get a place in the continental competition. There’s really no committee that has the nebulous task of seeding or even deciding whether or not you should be in the tournament.
Several years ago, I had the brilliant idea of adapting college basketball to the European soccer model, and implemented it via a Whatifsports simulation. I did that again this year, but I won’t delve too deeply into the simulation itself, but how the tournament was constructed. In Europe, there are two continental competitions, the Champions League and the Europa League, and I am setting up two tournaments here as well. There are 32 conferences in college basketball, which works out nicely into a knockout tournament. It’s as simple as that. The 32 conference champions were seeded based on their RPI in a basic knockout tournament.
The second tournament, the non-Champions tournament, is a little stickier. I opted to make it open to 68 teams, which makes it a little bit messier. The Europe League is open to domestic cup winners, which we will interpret as “conference tournaments” and other best placed teams. How do you find the “best place teams”? In Europe, different national associations get teas in the continental competitions based on their national “coefficient” which is basically just rating their association based on how well they have done in previous international competitions. Though it’s not perfect, this is basically what RPI tries to do. So conferences will get a certain number of teams in based on how their RPI rates against other conferences. Conferences ranked 1-6 get 4 teams in, in addition to their conference champion, 7-10 get 3, 11-20 get 2 and 21-32 get one. Again, the conference tournament champion is assured a spot, and then the final spots are granted to the teams who finished best in conference that didn’t win the the regular season or tournament championship.
Oh, but there’s more. Like I said, the conference tournament champion is guaranteed entry in the secondary tournament. Sometimes, teams win their regular season AND conference tournament championships. It happened 14 times this year. In these cases teams that have won their regular season tournament get entry into the non-Champions tournament upon losing in the Champions tournament. Because of this, we have to do two things with non-Champions tournament. Instead of a regular bracket, we will have a seeded draw. The top half of the teams, based on individual RPI, are randomly selected to play against the bottom half every round. Additionally, they need to start their tournament a round sooner to whittle the field down. The teams are relegated from the top tournament in the secondary tournament as the secondary tournament begins its third round of play.
Because of the inconsistent number of teams, there will also be a team or two that get a bye in the secondary tournament once in a while, also selected at random from the top half of available teams. In the end, the winner of the secondary tournament plays the winner of the Champions tournament for the overall title. Like I said, I ran the tournament through whatifsports over the weekend. You can see how it turned out here (apologies if it’s confusing. I’m sure it is. Let me know if you have questions)
There was no point, really, to this. It wasn’t out to prove anything, but it was simply a way to look at things differently, and see how it would work. This is different from the NCAA Football sim we do every year, because that actually looks to solve some problems. Still, this simulation had a few interesting results. For example:
- Wisconsin – Green Bay made it to the Champions Tournament Final Four by defeating Louisiana Tech, Arizona and Louisville.
- SMU, left out of the actual tournament, beat Indiana State, Kentucky, St. Joe’s and North Dakota State before falling to Duke, a pretty healthy run overall.
- Kansas defeated Florida and Wichita State to win the Champions and overall championships. Kansas!