MLS revamps playoff format to feature a single-elimination bracket and condensed schedule

Major League Soccer's playoffs are going to look quite different moving forward. On Monday, the league announced a new format -- a single-elimination playoff structure that will be implemented next season. Here's what to know about the changes, of which there are several. 

Straight-bracket format 

It's win or go home. No second legs, just one game to determine who is the winner. The new format gives more of a home-field advantage to teams that finished the with the best record during the regular season. This season, we saw Portland Timbers (fifth seed in the Western Conference) make the final, losing to Atlanta United (second seed in the Eastern Conference). 

More teams join the dance

As MLS has grown with expansion franchises, the playoff participants will also increase. The playoffs will move from 12 to 14 teams, with the top seven from each conference getting into the postseason. The No. 1 seed in both conferences will get a bye to start the postseason, while seeds 2-7 will play in the first round. Previously, the top two seeds in each conference got byes and the top six from each conference qualified. 

Three-week race to MLS Cup

All of the MLS playoffs will take place between the October and November FIFA windows as a three-week race to MLS Cup. The 2019 playoffs will start Oct. 19 and MLS Cup 2019 will take place on Nov. 10, nearly a month earlier than normal. MLS Cup 2018 took place on Dec. 8.

How would it have looked in 2018?

This is how the format would have looked for this past season, with the top seeds getting a bye. 

Eastern Conference

Bye: No. 1 NY Red Bulls

No. 7 Montreal Impact at No. 2 Atlanta United
No. 6 Philadelphia Union at No. 3 NYCFC
No. 5 Columbus Crew at No. 4 D.C. United

Western Conference

Bye: No. 1 Sporting Kansas City

No. 7 Los Angeles Galaxy at No. 2 Seattle Sounders
No. 6 Real Salt Lake at No. 3 LAFC
No. 5 Portland Timbers vs. No. 4 FC Dallas

So the opening round match-ups between the No. 3 and No. 6 seeds and the No. 4 and No. 5 seeds remain the same, with just the addition of one game -- the No. 2 seed against the newly appointment playoff spot of seventh place. 

You can watch catch primetime MLS games on fuboTV (Try for free). 

For news, stories, results and more, follow us:

- @CBSSportsSoccer - @RGonzalezCBS - Facebook

CBS Sports Writer

Roger Gonzalez is an award-winning writer based in Virginia that has covered pro soccer from Europe's top clubs to Argentina's first division. Roger started out his pro soccer writing career with Full Bio

Our Latest Stories