Top Stories

Report: MLS Cup Playoffs to expand to 12 teams in 2015

MLS Cup Trophy 48

Photo by Gary A. Vasquez/USA TODAY Sports


Two more teams will enter MLS in 2015, and two more postseason berths are set to be added as well.

According to a report from, MLS will expand its playoff field from 10 to 12 teams next season. The new format will increase the knockout round from two matches to four in order to make room for the number of clubs that are expected to join the league in the coming years.

A formal announcement could be made as early as this week.

Currently, 10 of the league’s 19 teams reach the postseason, but MLS is set to move to 20 clubs next year with the introduction of New York City FC and Orlando City and contraction of Chivas USA. Twelve of those 20 teams will advance to the MLS Cup Playoffs, meaning 60 percent of next year’s clubs will survive the regular season.

Next year’s format will see the third-placed team in each conference host the sixth seed in a one-off match and the fourth-placed clubs do the same with the fifth seeds. The No. 1 seeds will then play the lowest-ranked opponent in the conference semifinals, which along with the conference finals will remain a two-game series featuring the polarizing away-goals rule that MLS introduced this season.

Like this year and many before it, the MLS Cup Final would still be a one-off game.

The format could be kept through the end of the decade when MLS expects to expand to 24 teams.


What do you make of this news? Like the new format given the influx of teams set to join MLS in the coming years? Think this will make the regular season even less important in 2015?

Share your thoughts below.


  1. I don’t buy this idea it makes the end of the regular season better. We just got through one of the most intense playoff races ever and if these rules were in place, it would have been less exciting.

    I personally believe sacrificing the prestige of making the playoffs is the wrong way to go about trying to make the end of the regular season more intense. And in this case, I disagree this rule change would even make the end of the regular season better to begin with.

    12 out of 20 is lame, IMO.

  2. Not sure how I feel about this. On one hand, investors really aren’t trying to back a team in MLS without a better than 50% chance of making the playoffs. That’s just how it is. So if it encourages more investment, that’s ok seeing as MLS isn’t willing to move from the single entity model anytime soon. On the other hand, 60% of teams in the playoffs dilutes what was already a pointless regular season. This is getting ridiculous.

  3. I’m also ok with it. Although the Fire will find a way to miss out again, until they have a relagation/promotion, this makes the games at the end of the season worth while.
    By the way, the NYRB/NE Revos matches were great. It was great to see good, skilled, passionate, high-paced soccer come from an MLS game. Even my wife was watching and saying how good the game was. Let’s hope for the same tonight.

  4. Nobody has commented yet that this proposal is actually a worse deal for the 3rd place teams in each conference who now have to face a play-in game. Since this means that clinching second is an even greater prize than it once was, this may make for more meaningful competition at the top of the table. It also means that teams like Toronto and Chicago this last year would have more to play for at the very end of the regular season. Since MLS won’t have a pro-rel system, inviting more teams into the post season is about the best we can do to have meaningful games at the end of the regular season.

  5. MLS goes they way of the NHL and NBA and renders the regular season meaningless.

    The playoffs have been excellent this year but the play-in games were meh..

    Id say 8 of 20 (40%) starting right out with 4 home/away quarterfinals is better. 8 of 24 (33%) eventually. Of course its pretty easy to sell the current idea to anyone but regular fans…

    • Completely agreed. The regular season would have far less meaning. Higher chances of a less skilled team getting lucky and winning the Cup. I’d rather see a team who performs the best over an entire season win the championship.

  6. NFL is another league that needs to do more to ensure that the playoff excludes losing regular season teams. For MLS, where ties are more of a factor, no team should ever make the playoffs based on total points unless, in addition, (i) they are above .500 in terms of wins/losses, OR (ii) their number of wins plus number of ties is at least twice their number of losses. So this year, for example, sixth place Philly that went 10-12-12 would be out (22-12), but sixth place Portland 12-9-13 (25-9) would be in. And just to prove the emphasis on winning, ninth place Chicago would meet the secondary qualification at 6-10-18 (24-10) but would not qualify because they did not win enough games to finish higher in the table. Playoffs should never feature losing teams.

    • I actually really like this idea a lot. It puts more emphasis on winning, rather than ties and losses. In the US we have an attitude of tying being worse than “kissing your sister.” So let’s punish it more, especially if we’re going to have 12 teams in the playoffs.

      The only thing I would like to see is Liga MX’s idea: abolish away goals and let the higher seed advance. It puts a little more emphasis on the regular season.

  7. This is such a dumb idea. Unless a team is gunning for the SS, the regular season will be pretty meaningless. Under the new format, the 10-12-12 Union would have made the playoffs this past season. They would have been fighting it out with the 11-15-8 TFC for that 6th spot. The West regular season would have been really meaningless, with playoff spots automatically going to every team other than Chivas, Colorado, and San Jose. What a joke.

  8. I’m not a fan of MLS (would be if Oakland/San Francisco had a team), but really enjoyed watching the Revolution/NYRB series this year. With 60% making the playoffs though, what’s the point of the regular season?

  9. NBA has 30 teams and 16 make playoffs. So it’s not like American sports fans would feel this is beyond the pale.

    If you give the higher seeds enough of an advantage it’s fine. It seems like the top four teams will get a bye and the next 8 have elimination games, to get down to 8 teams total, at which point you have home-and-away series.

    I’m fine with it, and would guess most fans would be too.

    • Also, the NBA has a very long postseason that really is like a second season. The MLS playoffs are like a quick silly little tournament compared to the slog that is the NBA postseason.

      • Very rue… this is a topic with no clear answer.

        Assuming MLS has no plans to expand the playoffs beyond 12 when the league expands to 24, I can probably live with it.

        I think some of the fears about randomness are a bit overstated. I’ve been watching the UEFA Champions League religiously for almost two decades,and I will say it is actually incredibly rare that a clearly inferior team pulls off an upset in a two-legged knockout match, let alone over the course of multiple rounds. Look at the finalists and you rarely see a team that did not deserve to be there.

        Soccer does not seem to have the problem that baseball has…. in spite of letting a lower percentage of teams into the postseason than most any another major team sports, upsets are not at all unsusual, and numerous wild card and bottom-seeded teams have made the World Series (this year was another example).

  10. This is a terrible decision. Do they even care about fans’ opinion on this? In what world is this a good idea? 60% of the league in the playoffs is insane. Garber is really starting to bug me.

  11. I’m not crazy about it but the playoffs have been very entertaining this year. I think the increased focus on the Supporters Shield, the play in/knockout stage format, and the away goals rule have made have meant we have had more important high pressure games for more teams.

    Look, we really got the best of both worlds here. The face off between Seattle and LA for the Supporters Shield, followed by an intense mini-tournament. I fail to see what would be better about a single table, top points wins format. I’m more interested in high quality, entertaining games. And tha’s what we got

  12. I can’t wait until every team makes the playoffs. That way I can talk about our playoff run 20 years from now.
    In a league where every player wins something this makes perfect sense.

  13. With 20 teams, 10 is now a more attractive number to the fan. However, the extra money involved from stadium and broadcasting deals for 12 playoff teams makes sense to the owners.

    • 12 teams is fine, because you’re essentially splitting the 12 teams up into 3 Tiers:

      Tier 1 – Top 4, 1-4, they get a bye.

      Tier 2 – Next 4, 5-8, they get a play-in game, which they host

      Tier 3 – Last 4, 9-12, they get a play-in game, and they’re away.

      I like it. There is still sufficient motivation to finish at the top. If you’re 9-12, it’s gonna be a very tough road.


Leave a Comment