171010 MLS Cup 101

Everything you need to know about the 2017 MLS Cup Playoffs

As Atlanta United heads into the club’s first-ever playoff journey on Thursday, let’s take a look at the playoff picture across the league. Who’s in, where do they stand, when does it all go down?

Everything you need to know about the 2017 MLS Cup Playoffs laid out below:

The Contenders

Eastern Conference

(1) Toronto FC

(2) New York City FC

(3) Chicago Fire

(4) Atlanta United

(5) Columbus Crew SC

(6) New York Red Bulls

Western Conference

(1) Portland Timbers

(2) Seattle Sounders FC

(3) Vancouver Whitecaps FC

(4) Houston Dynamo

(5) Sporting Kansas City

(6) San Jose Earthquakes

How Are The Teams Seeded?

Teams are seeded from #1-6 within their respective conferences based on their season record and finish in the table. First place in the table gets the first seed, second in the table gets the second seed and so on.

How Many Rounds?

The playoffs consist of 4 total rounds:

1) Knockout Round

2) Conference Semifinals (2 Legs)

3) Conference Finals (2 Legs)

4) MLS Cup Final

First Up: Knockout Round

Eastern Conference

(6) New York Red Bulls at (3) Chicago Fire

  • Wednesday Oct. 25th @8:30 p.m. EST
  • TV – FS1, UniMás

(5) Columbus Crew SC at (4) Atlanta United

  • Thursday Oct. 26th @7:00 p.m. EST
  • TV – ESPN2, UniMás

(1) Toronto FC - BYE

(2) New York City FC - BYE

Western Conference

(6) San Jose Earthquakes at (3) Vancouver Whitecaps

  • Wednesday Oct. 25th @10:30 p.m. EST
  • TV – UniMás

(5) Sporting Kansas City at (4) Houston Dynamo

  • Thursday Oct. 26th @9:30 p.m. EST
  • TV – UniMás

(1) Portland Timbers - BYE

(2) Seattle Sounders FC - BYE

How Does Each Round Work?

1) Knockout Round

  • The Knockout Round involves the #3-6 seeds of each conference competing in a single-game elimination match. The #1 and #2 seeds receive a bye through to the next round.
  • The higher-seeded team hosts the match at their stadium (#3 hosts #6 and #4 hosts #5).
  • If the score is tied at the end of regulation, the game will advance into a 30-minute extra-time period with two 15-minute halves. Each team would also receive a 4th substitution that can be used only in extra time.
  • If still tied at the end of extra time, the game will be decided in a penalty shootout.
  • The winners advance to the Conference Semifinals.

2) Conference Semifinals

  • The Conference Semifinals are played in aggregate format over two legs.
  • The lowest seed advancing from the play-in round will match up against the #1 seed, and the higher remaining seed will play the #2 seed.
  • Each team will host a match, the lower seed hosting the first leg, and the higher seed hosting the second.
  • The two-legged aggregate format means that the scores from both matches will be added together and the total score will decide who advances.
  • If the total score is tied between the two sides, the tie-breaker will be based on the most away goals scored
  • If both teams score an equal amount of away goals, the second leg will advance into a 30-minute extra-time period with two 15-minute halves. Each team would also receive a 4th substitution that can only be used in extra time.
  • If still tied at the end of extra time, the game will be decided in a penalty shootout.
  • The winners advance to the Conference Finals

3) Conference Finals

  • The Conference Finals are played in the same aggregate format as the Semifinals (details above).
  • The winners are crowned conference champions and move on to the MLS Cup Final.

4) MLS Cup Final

  • The MLS Cup Final is played in a single match between the Eastern Conference champion and the Western Conference champion
  • The team with the best overall record from the regular season between the two sides will host the match.
  • If tied at the end of regulation, the game proceeds into a 30-minute extra-time period (two 15-minute halves).
  • If still tied at the end of extra time, the game will be decided in a penalty shootout.

When Does It All Happen?

  • The Knockout Round matches will take place on Wednesday, Oct. 25th and Thursday, Oct. 26th
  • The two legs of the Conference Semifinals will take place between Sunday, Oct. 29th and Sunday, Nov. 6th
  • The first leg of the Conference Final will take place on Tuesday Nov. 21st. The second leg will take place between Tuesday, Nov. 28th and Thursday Nov. 30th
  • The 2017 MLS Cup will be played on Saturday, Dec. 9 at 4:00 pm EST
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