MLS change playoff structure to 14 team, single elimination, tournament

On Monday, December 17th, MLS released changes that will alter the league moving forward. A change to the playoff system has been made; this includes a 14 team (seven from each conference) single elimination tournament.

MLS Cup Champions Atlanta United lifted MLS Cup December 8th, 2018.

It’s only been nine days since Atlanta United lifted MLS Cup, and now the major organizational changes are coming for next season. This Playoff format change is one that was rumored to happen. Now that there is confirmation, let’s take a look at what change will come of this!

Change in overall season/postseason structure:

This change in the playoff system, will bring with it a change to the regular season as well!  Since the playoffs will take place sooner than usual the MLS regular season will also start sooner. The 2019 season will take place from March 2nd and run until October 6th.

This new playoff schedule helps change something that has taken the luster and intrigue away from the playoffs. The season ends just before the FIFA international break. This international break is usually in the last three weeks of the MLS season, and now will be avoided. There is a second FIFA international break as well. With this new format, the MLS Cup champion will be crowned before that break. In years past that FIFA international break has split the conference championships killing the buzz of crucial playoff matches.

Now that the season will start in early March and end in early October, the playoff matches will be played in a more reasonable amount of time!

Playoff Schedule:

The playoff schedule makes much more sense in this updated format. Now teams will have over a week to prepare for their playoff matches. There is no more weekend matches to end the season, and wildcard matches the next midweek This will allow teams the rest they deserve after a long season.

This playoff schedule is also much shorter. Since the playoffs will now be single elimination, the playoffs will only stretch three weeks. This will allow for three rounds of games (Round 1, Conference Semifinals and Conference Finals) as well as, MLS Cup.

This schedule bodes well for the intrigue and intensity playoff matches can bring.

Tournament Bracket:

This new playoff structure creates a new playoff bracket. The top overall seed in each conference will be the only team to get a bye to the conference semifinals in this new playoff bracket. Then teams two through seven will play in round one.

This new format adds a seventh team to each conference. Now more than half of the teams will make the playoffs. While this means that more than half of the league makes the playoffs, it creates a great dynamic for playoff drama. To add to that MLS has created another nuance to their new format.

The higher the seed the better the advantage in this new playoff system. The highest seeds that advance in each round of the playoffs will host the playoff games. This give the teams that do well in the regular season an advantage in the playoffs. That was not always the case in the old format.

As MLS moves to adding more teams to their league, this new playoff format helps to move the league forward. Who knows how things will turn out, but one thing is certain, MLS playoffs are sure to be a spectacle!

Be sure to come back to Philly Sports Network for more Philadelphia Union, Steel FC, and other soccer content!

Follow our writers on Twitter:

Tim Lovenguth

Matt McClain

Jeff Green

Peace out Union fans!

Mandatory Credit: Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports