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Teaching TFC Fans: So, What is a Playoff Anyway?

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To most TFC fans "playoffs" are just a mythical concept that they never thought were actually real until an x randomly appeared beside their teams name in the MLS Standings.

John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Sports

So, as Toronto FC fans lately, you may have heard a lot about this thing called "playoffs". You may know that Toronto FC clinched a playoff spot earlier this season with a win against the New York Red Bulls, but given your lack of experience with playoffs you may not fully understand what that means.

Play-Off /ˈplāˌôf/ (noun) A series of contests played to determine the winner of a championship, as between the leading teams in different divisions or leagues.

That is the definition of "playoff" one gets when Googling the concept. It is also that thing that the LA Galaxy seem to do every year after Toronto FC stop playing, and here you thought the whole time that was just so David Beckham could play more games, crazy right!?

Toronto FC supporters may also have watched the Toronto Blue Jays play in the playoffs recently, even if they didn't know what they were watching. The Toronto Maple Leafs and the Toronto Raptors have made the playoffs recently too, but we don't like to talk about that much.

Now that you hopefully understand what a playoff is, it is important to take the next step, understanding how the playoff work for Toronto FC. Because of yesterday's loss to the Montreal Impact, Toronto will have to play the Impact again in Thursday's knockout round at Saputo Stadium.

The Knockout Round is the opening round of the playoffs and is skipped by the top two teams in each conference: the Columbus Crew and the New York Red Bulls in the East. Then it is the third placed team (Montreal Impact) against the sixth place Toronto FC and DC United against the New England Revolution.

This is a one game playoff round which is usually decided by some form of controversial decision and probably won't end well for Toronto FC. If it somehow does, however, the club will get a chance to play in what most label the "real playoffs".

This starts with the Conference Semi-Finals, which are a home-and-away series which pits the second place Columbus Crew against Montreal should they win, or the New York Red Bulls against Toronto FC should they win. The Opponent for New England/DC will depend on who wins the Montreal/Toronto game.

The winners of these two games will play each other in another home-and-away series, known as the Conference Finals. On the Western Conference side of things, they do the exactly same thing up until this point, but probably better.

Then it's on to the big event, the one game MLS Cup final that decides who is the league's champion for that season. This is played between the winners of the Eastern Conference and the LA Galaxy (otherwise known as the perma-winners of the Western Conference).

This game is played at the home stadium of the team with the highest point total, as a result there is no chance that Toronto FC will host an MLS Cup this season.

At the end of all of this the LA Galaxy win everything, that's how this all works.

Hopefully this was a valuable lesson in how the Major League Soccer playoffs work, and Toronto FC fans are now ready to cheer on their team when they take on the Impact at 7:00 PM Eastern.