Major League Soccer today announced that the 2016 MLS Cup final will be played on Saturday, December 10 during primetime and will be televised live on FOX broadcast network, Univision Deportes and UniMas in the United States.
By broadcasting the game at 8pm ET on the over-the-air FOX network, MLS ensures that the league will stem the tide of declining TV ratings for the pinnacle game of the US league’s season.
The Saturday night primetime broadcast means two things. One, it’s the first time in the league’s 21-season history the championship match will be played on a Saturday evening in primetime on network television. Two, it means that the MLS playoffs will stretch for a total of 6.5 weeks, which is far too long to drag out the playoffs, which won’t help build anticipation or suspense for the games.
The broadcast on the over-the-air FOX network is the first time that the FOX broadcast network will televise the MLS Cup final.
Joining FOX for MLS Cup are Spanish-language broadcast partner UniMás and UDN as well as Canadian broadcast partners TSN (English) and RDS (French). Once again, all games in the 2016 MLS Cup Playoffs will be broadcast nationally across the league’s domestic partners FS1, ESPN and UniMás with select matches on the TSN and RDS family of networks. Canadian broadcast information for the playoffs will be announced at a later date.
Following the same playoff competition format implemented last season, the top six teams in the Eastern and Western Conferences will qualify for the Audi 2016 MLS Cup Playoffs.
The playoffs kick off with two Knockout Round games on Oct. 26-27, during which the third and sixth seeds, and fourth and fifth seeds from each conference, will face in a single-game elimination match. Just as in 2015, the Knockout Round matches will be aired on UniMás, however, this season, ESPN and FS1 will each broadcast one Knockout Round game as well.
Knockout Round winners advance to the Conference Semifinals — a two-game, aggregate-goal format, home-and-home series held across the next two consecutive weekends. Each conference’s top seed will face their respective conference’s lowest-seeded Knockout Round winner. Each conference’s No. 2 seed will face their respective conference’s highest-seeded Knockout Round winner. The higher-seeded team will host the second leg of the two-game series. Four teams, two from each conference, will advance to the Conference Championships.
After a break in play to observe the international FIFA window from Nov. 7-15, playoff action will resume with the two-game, aggregate-goal format, Conference Championship series to be played between Sunday, Nov. 20 and Wednesday, Nov. 30.
The two conference champions advance to 2016 MLS Cup, which will be played at the home venue of the finalist with the best regular-season record, as it has been since the 2012 season.