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The MLS Cup Playoffs is the annual postseason elimination tournament of Major League Soccer. The final match of the tournament is the MLS Cup, the league's championship game. Under the current format adopted for the 2019 season, 14 teams qualify for the tournament based on regular-season point totals—the seven highest-placed teams from both the Eastern Conference and Western Conference. Audi is the title sponsor of this tournament.

MLS Cup Playoffs
2019 MLS Cup Playoffs Logo.png
Logo of the 2019 edition
Founded1996
RegionUnited States
Canada
Number of teams14
Current championsSeattle Sounders FC (2nd title)
2019 MLS Cup Playoffs

Awarding a championship through a postseason tournament differs from most other soccer leagues around the world, where the team with the most points at the end of the season is deemed champion. MLS awards the regular-season champions with the Supporters' Shield and a direct berth in the CONCACAF Champions League, the continental tournament.

Playoff systemEdit

Since 2019 season, the top seven teams in each conference qualify for the playoffs, playing in separate brackets. The top seed in each conference is given a first-round bye, while the remaining six teams compete in the first round of the playoffs. All rounds are single-match eliminations hosted by the higher seed and there is no re-seeding in subsequent rounds, with the winner of the 4th and 5th place match advancing to face the conference leader and the 2nd–7th and 3rd–6th winners in the other semifinal match. The winners of the conference semifinals advance to the conference finals.[1]

The conference semifinals and conference finals were formerly conducted in a home-and-away, aggregate-goal format. From 2014 to 2018, the away goals rule was used for these rounds.[2][3] In both rounds, the lower-seeded team hosted the first game and the higher-seeded team hosted the second. If the teams were tied after two games (180 minutes), the team that scored more goals on the road advanced. If there was still a tie after the away goals rule has been applied, the teams played 30 minutes of extra time (divided into two 15-minute periods), followed by a penalty kick shootout if necessary. The away goals rule did not apply to goals scored in these extra time periods.

Ties after full-time are broken as follows: two straight 15-minute extra time periods will be played; and if the tie persists, a penalty kick shootout will determine who advances.

QualificationEdit

Fourteen teams qualify for the playoffs: the top seven teams from each conference that have accumulated the most points during the 34-game regular season. The highest-placed team in each conference receives a bye to the conference semifinals, while the second- through seventh-placed teams play in the first round.[1]

Tie-breaking proceduresEdit

If at least two teams finish the regular season with an equal number of points, the following criteria are used to break the tie.[4]

  1. most wins
  2. goal differential
  3. goals scored
  4. fewer disciplinary points
  5. away goal differential
  6. away goals scored
  7. home goal differential
  8. home goals scored
  9. coin toss (2 clubs) or drawing of lots (3 clubs)

Note:

  • If two clubs remain tied after another club with the same number of points advances during any step, the tie breaker reverts to step 1 for the two remaining clubs.
  • Head-to-head competition results have not been used in tie-breakers since the 2012 season.[5]

HistoryEdit

Seasons League teams Playoff teams % of teams Matches played
1996–1997 10 8 80% 19
1998–2001 12 66.7%
2002–2004 10 80% 11
2005–2006 12 66.7%
2007 13 61.5%
2008 14 57.1%
2009 15 53.3%
2010 16 50%
2011 18 10 55.6% 13
2012–2014 19 52.6%
2015–2016 20 12 60% 17
2017 22 54.5%
2018 23 52.2%
2019 24 14 58.3% 13

MLS playoff recordsEdit

  • Records include all knockout playoff matches, individual legs of aggregate-goal rounds, and MLS Cup appearances.

GoalsEdit

Note: Players in bold are still active for an MLS club.

Rank Player Years Goals
1   Landon Donovan 2001–14; 2016 25
2   Carlos Ruiz 2002–08; 2011; 2013; 2016 16
3   Roy Lassiter 1996–99; 2001–02 13
4   Jaime Moreno 1996–2010 12
5   Ante Razov 1996–2009 11
6   Brian McBride 1996–2003; 2008–10 10
  Preki 1996–2005
  Taylor Twellman 2002–10
9   Jozy Altidore 2006–08; 2015–present 9
  Robbie Keane 2011–16
  Bradley Wright-Phillips 2013–19
Legend
Games to be played
Defunct team

RecordsEdit

  • Matches determined by shoot out counted as win-loss, not draw
As of November 10, 2019
MLS Cup playoff club records
Club MLS Cups MLS Cup
Apps
Win Loss Draw
Atlanta United FC 1 1 6 3 0
Chicago Fire 1 3 20 16 5
Chivas USA 0 0 1 4 3
Colorado Rapids 1 2 15 20 3
Columbus Crew SC 1 2 20 24 5
D.C. United 4 5 29 14 5
FC Cincinnati 0 0 0 0 0
FC Dallas 0 1 14 25 6
Houston Dynamo 2 4 17 10 6
LA Galaxy 5 9 43 25 6
Los Angeles FC 0 0 1 2 0
Miami Fusion 0 0 3 7 0
Minnesota United FC 0 0 0 1 0
Montreal Impact 0 0 6 3 0
New England Revolution 0 5 17 18 7
New York City FC 0 0 2 6 0
New York Red Bulls 0 1 19 26 8
Orlando City SC 0 0 0 0 0
Philadelphia Union 0 0 1 5 0
Portland Timbers 1 2 9 6 4
Real Salt Lake 1 2 11 11 5
San Jose Earthquakes 2 2 13 11 1
Seattle Sounders FC 2 3 19 12 5
Sporting Kansas City 2 3 19 23 8
Tampa Bay Mutiny 0 0 2 9 0
Toronto FC 1 3 10 5 1
Vancouver Whitecaps FC 0 0 1 4 2

AppearancesEdit

As of October 6, 2019
MLS playoff appearance records
Club MLS playoff
appearances
Active
streak
Longest
streak
Atlanta United FC 3 3 3
Chicago Fire 13 0 6
Chivas USA 4 0 4
Colorado Rapids 13 0 5
Columbus Crew SC 15 0 4
D.C. United 15 2 4
FC Cincinnati 0 0 0
FC Dallas 17 2 7
Houston Dynamo 8 0 4
LA Galaxy 19 1 10
Los Angeles FC 2 2 2
Miami Fusion 3 0 2
Minnesota United FC 1 1 1
Montreal Impact 3 0 2
New England Revolution 14 1 8
New York City FC 4 4 4
New York Red Bulls 20 10 10
Orlando City SC 0 0 0
Philadelphia Union 4 2 2
Portland Timbers 5 3 3
Real Salt Lake 10 2 7
San Jose Earthquakes 9 0 5
Seattle Sounders FC 11 11 11
Sporting Kansas City 17 0 8
Tampa Bay Mutiny 4 0 2
Toronto FC 4 1 3
Vancouver Whitecaps FC 4 0 2

MLS playoff shootoutsEdit

  Won
  Lost
  • MLS began implementing a shootout to determine the winner of a playoff series in 2004.
  • From 2014 to 2018 the away goals rule was used.
As of December 1, 2018
Longest MLS Cup Playoffs Shootouts
Rank Rounds Home Team Score Away Team Season/ Stage
1 11 Portland Timbers 2–2 (7–6) Sporting Kansas City 2015 Knockout Round
2 10 Sporting Kansas City 1–1 (7–6) Real Salt Lake 2013 MLS Cup
3 7 Real Salt Lake 1–1 (5–4) Los Angeles Galaxy 2009 MLS Cup  
7 Chicago Fire 0–0 (4–5) Real Salt Lake 2009 Conference Finals
5 6 Toronto FC 0–0 (4–5) Seattle Sounders FC 2016 MLS Cup
6 FC Dallas 4–4 (4–5) Colorado Rapids 2006 Conference Semifinals
6 D.C. United 3–3 (4–3) New England Revolution 2004 Conference finals
8 5 Seattle Sounders FC 4–4 (2–4) Portland Timbers 2018 Conference Semifinals
5 D.C. United 2–2 (2–3) Columbus Crew 2018 Knockout Round
5 New England Revolution 2–2 (2–4) Houston Dynamo 2006 MLS Cup  
5 New England Revolution 2–2 (4–2) Chicago Fire 2006 Conference Semifinals
5 FC Dallas 2–2 (4–5) Colorado Rapids 2005 Conference Semifinals
3 Games have been decided in 4 rounds

  Game played at neutral location

See alsoEdit

ReferencesEdit

  1. ^ a b Bogert, Tom (December 17, 2018). "MLS announces new playoff format for 2019 season". Major League Soccer. Retrieved December 17, 2018.
  2. ^ "Major League Soccer to introduce away-goals rule for first time in 2014 MLS Cup Playoffs". MLS. March 7, 2014. Retrieved March 9, 2014.
  3. ^ "MLS adopts away goals rule". ESPN. March 8, 2014. Retrieved March 9, 2014.
  4. ^ "MLS Cup Playoff Format". Retrieved October 29, 2018.
  5. ^ "New tiebreakers designed to encourage attacking play". MLS Communications. MLSSoccer.com. Retrieved October 1, 2012.

External linksEdit