The MLS Playoffs are just around the corner. With the 12-team single-elimination tournament starting in mid-November, we have news about the postseason MLS schedule.
Among notable differences from previous years, there will be a game on Thanksgiving for the first time.
Additionally, ABC will air four consecutive weekends of MLS coverage. ABC and the network’s of ESPN will cover all four rounds of the MLS Playoffs. Their over-the-air network coverage includes every round from every weekend of the tournament.
Unlike the majority of professional soccer leagues in the world, Major League Soccer determines their season champion with a tournament. The top seven teams in each conference qualify.
For both the eastern and western conference, the top teams in each side of the bracket receive a bye to the second round. The other 10 teams begin their single-elimination tournament based off their regular-season seeding.
For example, if the MLS Playoffs were to start right now (Sep. 9), the New England Revolution and the Seattle Sounders would receive first-round byes. Essentially, they begin their tournament after four teams are knocked out.
Formerly, MLS used two-leg ties to advance teams throughout the playoffs. Starting in 2019, the single-game elimination rule came into effect.
Moreover, the MLS tournament used during 2020 differed significantly from that which we will see in 2021. The effects of the COVID-19 pandemic caused MLS to base playoff seeding off of points earned per game. This season, they revert back to the total points accumulated during the regular season. Moreover, there will not be a play-in round as there was in 2020. The top-team in each conference does receive a bye. Yet, the bottom teams do not play to qualify for the MLS Playoffs.
There is one change that could cause some controversy similar to 2020. MLS outlined mechanisms for postseason qualification. Among them, there is a certain minimum number of games played required for a team to qualify for the playoffs.
Playoff TV Coverage
All 12 of the single-elimination playoff matches in the tournament will air on national television in the United States. To start, the four opening-round games are on the weekend of Nov. 20/21. ABC and ESPN doubleheaders will bring coverage of the first round and the conference semifinals. Additionally, FOX will carry a portion of these games.
READ MORE: Where to watch MLS on U.S. TV.
FOX is making history with the MLS Playoffs as they bring a first for the league. A Thanksgiving Day showdown will air on the FOX broadcast network and FOX Deportes.
Together, FOX and the ESPN/ABC family of networks provide coverage of each game on national television.
For Spanish-language coverage, ESPN Deportes and FOX Deportes will also carry complete coverage of the MLS Playoffs. Univision will also have coverage, marking the 10th-consecutive year Univision network’s will broadcast the MLS Championship over the air.
Canadian coverage of the MLS Playoffs is available through TSN and TVA Sports. TSN and TVA Sports will provide comprehensive coverage of the postseason with coverage of every match. Channels are set to be announced at a later date.
Coverage of the tournament begins on Saturday, Nov. 20. Over the ensuing four weekends, the tournament culminates in the 2021 MLS Cup. On Dec. 11, the two conference champions play one game. The host is whichever team earned more points in the regular season. Consequently, the winner is the 2021 MLS Cup Champion.
The MLS Cup Final will be on ABC on Dec. 11 at 3 p.m. ET.
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