MLS Cup Playoffs
Logo of the 2016 edition
|Number of teams||12|
|Current champions||Seattle Sounders FC (1st title)|
|2016 MLS Cup Playoffs|
The MLS Cup Playoffs is the postseason elimination tournament of Major League Soccer held at the end of the regular season en route to the MLS Cup, the playoff championship game. Twelve 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 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. The regular-season champion must be a U.S.-based club in order to receive direct entry to Champions League. Since 2015 Audi is the official sponsor.
Since 2015, the top six teams in each conference qualify for the playoffs, playing in separate brackets. The first round of each conference has two play-in matches between the fourth- vs. fifth-place teams and the third- vs. sixth-, with the two higher seeds hosting. The lowest-seeded winner advances to play the conference's top seed, and the next-lowest playing the second in the Conference Semifinals. (This format matches that of the NFL Playoffs.)
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 or single-game MLS Cup Final, respectively. Since 2014 the away goals rule is used. In both rounds the lower-seeded team hosts the first game and the higher-seeded team the second. 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, 30 minutes of extra time (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 extra time.
12 teams qualify for the playoffs: the top six teams in each conference that have the most points in the standings at the end of the 34-game regular season.
The seeding is as follows:
- The top six teams in each conference are seeded first to sixth in their respective six-team playoff conference brackets.
- Top two teams get byes; third through sixth place teams in each conference play in the first round.
If two teams finish the regular season with an equal number of points, the following system is used to break the tie:
- most wins
- goal differential
- goals for
- fewest disciplinary points
- away goal differential
- away goals
- home goal differential
- home goals
- coin toss/draw of lots
- Unlike past seasons, head-to-head competition results are not used in tie-breakers, since the 2012 season.
- 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 of the two-club format.
- Tiebreaker #7 (home goal differential) isn't used because if tied teams have the same goal differential (#2) and the same away goal differential (#5), then they must also have the same home goal differential. Similarly, Tiebreaker #8 (home goals) isn't used in breaking ties.
|Seasons||League teams||Playoff teams|
MLS playoff records
- Win–Loss–Draw records include all knock out playoff matches, individual home–and–home playoff matches, and MLS Cup appearances.
- Matches determined by shoot out counted as win-loss, not draw
- As of December 11, 2016
|Club||MLS Cups||MLS Cup
|Atlanta United FC||0||0||0||0||0|
|Minnesota United FC||0||0||0||0||0|
|New England Revolution||0||5||17||17||7|
|New York City FC||0||0||0||2||0|
|New York Red Bulls||0||1||15||22||8|
|Orlando City SC||0||0||0||0||0|
|Real Salt Lake||1||2||9||9||4|
|San Jose Earthquakes||2||2||13||10||1|
|Seattle Sounders FC||1||1||11||10||4|
|Sporting Kansas City||2||3||18||21||6|
|Tampa Bay Mutiny||0||0||2||9||0|
|Vancouver Whitecaps FC||0||0||0||3||1|
- As of October 24, 2016
|Atlanta United FC||0||0||0|
|Columbus Crew SC||13||0||4|
|Minnesota United FC||0||0||0|
|New England Revolution||13||0||8|
|New York City FC||1||1||1|
|New York Red Bulls||17||7||7|
|Orlando City SC||0||0||0|
|Real Salt Lake||8||1||7|
|San Jose Earthquakes||8||0||5|
|Seattle Sounders FC||8||8||8|
|Sporting Kansas City||15||6||6|
|Tampa Bay Mutiny||4||0||2|
|Vancouver Whitecaps FC||3||0||2|
- Miami Fusion and Tampa Bay Mutiny folded after completion of the 2001 season
- Chivas USA folded after completion of the 2014 season
MLS playoff shoot outs
- MLS began implementing a shoot out to determine the winner of a playoff series in 2004.
- Since 2014 the Away goals rule has been used.
- As of December 10, 2016
|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 1|
|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||New England Revolution||2–2 (2–4)||Houston Dynamo||2006 MLS Cup 1|
|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|
|2 Games have been decided in 4 rounds|
1 – Game played at neutral location
- "Major League Soccer to introduce away-goals rule for first time in 2014 MLS Cup Playoffs". MLS. March 7, 2014. Retrieved March 9, 2014.
- "MLS adopts away goals rule". ESPN. March 8, 2014. Retrieved March 9, 2014.
- 2015 Competition Rules and Regulations, MLS, retrieved March 20, 2015
- "Competition Rules and Regulations". Retrieved August 6, 2016.
- "New tiebreakers designed to encourage attacking play". MLS Communications. MLSSoccer.com. Retrieved October 1, 2012.