NEW YORK: Major League Soccer has unveiled a new single-elimination play-off format that will be used from 2019.

The new structure will see the number of play-off qualifiers increase from 12 to 14 of the league’s 24 clubs. Similar to the National Football League (NFL), the top team from each conference will be given a first-round bye, while the higher-seeded side will benefit from home advantage at every stage of the competition.

The previous format involved an initial, single-elimination knockout round followed by conference semi-finals and finals that were played over two legs, culminating in the MLS Cup final at the home of the team with the better regular season record. The two-leg format had been criticised because it did not do enough to reward teams for performing well during the regular season.

MLS added that the decision to increase the number of teams to 14 has been done with one eye on the league’s plans to expand to 28 franchises.

The scheduling has also been brought forward so that the play-offs no longer clash with the two-week international breaks in October and November, which previously disrupted the rhythm of the MLS post-season.

The 2019 MLS season is scheduled to start on 2nd March with the play-offs commencing on 19th October, while MLS Cup will be held on 10th November.


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