(Reuters) – Major League Baseball and the union representing its players agreed on Thursday to an expanded playoff field for this year that will feature 16 teams instead of 10 following a regular season shortened due to the COVID-19 outbreak.
The 2020 postseason format, which was unanimously approved by all 30 MLB clubs, will begin in late September with eight best-of-three Wild Card Series preceding the Division Series.
“This season will be a sprint to a new format that will allow more fans to experience playoff baseball,” said MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred. “We look forward to a memorable postseason concluding a year like no other.”
The agreement, announced in a joint statement by the league and union, was reached on a conference call ahead of MLB’s season-opening games in Washington and Los Angeles.
MLB was originally scheduled to begin its 162-game regular season in late March but postponed the start due to the virus. It will now play a 60-game campaign using a schedule that will put an emphasis on geographical proximity to limit travel.
“The opportunity to add playoff games in this already-abbreviated season makes sense for fans, the league and players,” said MLB Players Association Executive Director Tony Clark.
“We hope it will result in highly competitive pennant races as well as exciting additional playoff games to the benefit of the industry and all involved heading into next year.”
Since 2012, MLB’s playoff format has featured the six division champions and two wild cards from each of the American League and National League.
(Reporting by Frank Pingue in Toronto; editing by Richard Pullin)