MLS Announces New Playoff Format, Will Move to Single-Elimination in 2019

Rob Goldberg@TheRobGoldbergFeatured ColumnistDecember 17, 2018

ATLANTA, GA - DECEMBER 08:  Atlanta United celebrates with the MLS Cup after their 2-0 over the Portland Timbers during the 2018 MLS Cup between Atlanta United and the Portland Timbers at Mercedes-Benz Stadium on December 8, 2018 in Atlanta, Georgia.  (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

The MLS Cup playoffs will have a different look in 2019, with 14 teams all competing for a title in an elimination bracket.

The league announced the changes Monday, also providing a bracket that shows just one team in each conference getting a first-round bye.

Additionally, the entire postseason will be played between Oct. 19 and Nov. 10 to avoid the FIFA international breaks.

The new rules will give more teams an opportunity to come away with a title, with 14 of the league's 24 teams reaching the playoffs. There will also be more uncertainty once the postseason begins, with a top team potentially eliminated after one bad game.

Under the previous format, 12 teams made the playoffs but only the bottom eight teams competed in an opening knockout round. The conference semifinals and conference finals were then decided in a two-match battle where the team with the best aggregate score would advance.

This is similar to Champions League and other European tournaments, with only the finals coming down to one match.

However, the adjusted system becomes more like the NFL, with the higher seeds hosting one winner-take-all game in each round.

Fans can expect more focus during the regular season on getting the highest seed possible to host more games, with the No. 1 seed and first-round bye becoming especially important.

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