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MLS Announces Big Changes To Playoff Format Starting In 2019

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More teams, single elimination, and an earlier end to the season

MLS: Eastern Conference Knockout Round-New York Red Bulls at Chicago Fire Kamil Krzaczynski-USA TODAY Sports

When you’re writing a post for Hot Time using Vox Media’s proprietary content management system, you have to set a lead image. You can search for photos from several news wire services; USA Today usually has the best selection of MLS photos, and thus more relevant to the work we do at HTIOT.

Here’s what you get when you search “Chicago Fire playoffs.”

Which is to say: I realize how silly and futile it is to write about the MLS Cup Playoffs for a website that covers the Chicago Fire.

Nevertheless, it’s relevant to the team, in at least an abstract sense.

Earlier today Major League Soccer announced some significant changes to the format and schedule of the MLS Cup Playoffs that, perhaps someday in some distant and unknowable future, will be relevant to Fire fans.

Here’s the lowdown on the changes:

  • The regular season will now end in early October, several weeks earlier than usual. Decision Day in 2019 will fall on October 6th. The start of the regular season will not be changed, and the first slate of games is scheduled for March 2nd.
  • The playoffs will begin immediately after the October FIFA international break and end before the November international break. The MLS Cup Final is scheduled for November 10th.
  • 14 teams will qualify for the playoffs in 2019, up from 12. That means the Fire will need to finish in 7th place in order to compete in the postseason next year.
  • Two-legged ties are over. All playoff games are now single-elimination.
  • Only one team in each conference (the #1 seed) will receive a first round bye. There will be no reseeding of teams after each round.

In theory the new format will make it easier for the Fire to qualify for the playoffs. In practice, we all know this team will find new and innovative ways to fail.

What do you think of the new format? Let us know in the comments below.