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MLS adopts new playoff format: What that means for Toronto FC

The playoffs will look very different next season.

MLS: MLS CUP-Seattle Sounders vs Toronto FC Kevin Sousa-USA TODAY Sports

After heavy rumours over the past few weeks, MLS confirmed today that they’ll be changing the playoff structure from the 2019 season onward, with changes intended to accommodate league growth and shorten the playoff calendar.

Starting next year, 14 (rather than 12) teams will make the playoffs, with only the top seed in each conference getting a bye through the first round. The tournament will now follow a single-elimination format throughout (rather than its current two-legged format in the conference semi-finals and finals), with the higher seed getting home field advantage.

The playoffs will now begin two weeks after Decision Day with an international break in between, which the league hopes will improve ticket sales for first-round matches. The calendar will wrap up before the next international window, with MLS Cup 2019 set for November 10. The league’s official release also points out that an earlier playoff schedule should allow for warmer weather (especially if TFC are back in the mix).

This will be a bit of a polarizing move, but it probably works out in Toronto FC’s favour. The shortened schedule is nice, since the playoffs do seem to drag on when they’re stretched over an international break. And, the 14-team format will look better once the league expands again, which it inevitably will.

We won’t have to stand outside in December anymore, which is cool. Also, a heavier emphasis on home advantage is probably good for the Reds, who definitely performed better at BMO Field in their past two playoff appearances. The pessimists among us might also say this makes it easier for TFC to make the playoffs, but ideally they won’t be struggling just to make it next year — this might make it more likely we see the Montreal Impact in there, though!

A single-knockout format (and fewer byes) may leave the door open for more upsets, which could be a good or a bad thing, probably depending on what team you’re cheering for. Not having to worry about away goals will be cool, although more penalty shootouts is decidedly not cool.

So, what say you? Are you in favour of the change? Do you hate it? Do you not care, as long as Toronto FC get back in the picture next year?


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