The MLS Cup Playoffs is the postseasonelimination tournament of Major League Soccer held at the end of the regular season en route to the MLS Cup, the league's championship game. 10 teams in total from the Eastern Conference and Western Conference qualify for the tournament based on regular-season records, and a tiebreaking procedure exists in the case of equal records. Awarding the league 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 winners with the Supporters' Shield and a direct berth in the CONCACAF Champions League, the continental tournament. The regular season champion must be a U.S.-based club in order to receive direct entry to Champions League.
Since 2012, the top five teams in each conference will qualify for the playoffs, in which the two brackets are entirely separate. The First Round of each conference is a one-off match between the 4th- and 5th-place teams, with the 4th-place team hosting. The First Round winner advances to play the conference's top seed in the Conference Semifinals.
The Conference Semifinals and Conference Finals are conducted in a home-and-away, aggregate-goal format. The team that scores the most goals in the home-and-away series advances to the two-game, total-goals Conference Finals. The away goals rule was adopted for the 2014 season. In both rounds the lower-seeded team hosts Game One and the higher-seeded team Game Two. If the teams are tied after two games (180 minutes) in the Conference Semifinals or Finals, the team which scored more goals away from home advances. If there is still a tie after the away goals rule is applied, a 30-minute overtime period (divided into two 15-minute periods) will be played followed by a penalty kick shootout, if necessary. The away goals rule does not apply to goals scored in the overtime period.