MLS playoffs: Schedule, dates & teams in the race for the MLS Cup

The MLS regular season has drawn to a close and the playoffs are underway.

North American soccer’s most exciting time of year promises to be as entertaining as ever this season, with the likes of Sebastian Giovinco and Clint Dempsey locking horns for the MLS Cup.

Goal has your complete guide to this year’s MLS postseason.

WHEN ARE THE MLS PLAYOFFS?

Bradley Wright-Phillips New York Red Bulls MLS playoffs

The MLS Cup playoffs began with knockout-round ties on Wednesday, Oct. 25, and Thursday, Oct. 26. They conclude with the MLS Cup final on Saturday, Dec. 9.

The full playoff schedule is reproduced below.

KNOCKOUT ROUND:

Date Game Time (ET) TV
Oct. 25 Chicago Fire 0-4 New York Red Bulls 8:30 pm UniMas/FS1
Oct. 25 Vancouver Whitecaps 5-0 San Jose Earthquakes 10:30 pm UniMas
Oct. 26 Atlanta United 0-0 (1-3 pens.) Columbus Crew 7:00 pm UniMas/ESPN2
Oct. 26 Houston Dynamo 1-0 (ET) Sporting KC 9:30 pm UniMas/FS1

CONFERENCE SEMIFINALS:

Date Game Time (ET) TV
Oct. 29 Vancouver Whitecaps 0-0 Seattle Sounders 8:30 pm ESPN
Oct. 30 New York Red Bulls 1-2 Toronto FC 7:00 pm FS1
Oct. 30 Houston Dynamo 0-0 Portland Timbers 9:30 pm FS1
Oct. 31 Columbus Crew 4-1 New York City FC 8:00 pm ESPN
Nov. 2 Seattle Sounders 2-0 Vancouver Whitecaps 10:30 pm FS1
Nov. 5 Toronto FC 0-1 New York Red Bulls 3:00 pm ESPN
Nov. 5 New York City FC 2-0 Columbus Crew 5:30 p.m. ESPN
Nov. 5 Portland Timbers 1-2 Houston Dynamo 7:30 p.m. FS1

CONFERENCE FINALS:

Date Game Time (ET) TV
Nov. 21 Columbus Crew 0-0 Toronto FC 8 p.m. ESPN
Nov. 21 Houston Dynamo 0-2 Seattle Sounders 9:30 p.m. FS1
Nov. 29 Toronto FC 1-0 Columbus Crew 7:30 p.m. FS1
Nov. 30 Seattle Sounders vs. Houston Dynamo 10:30 p.m. ESPN

MLS CUP FINAL:

Date Game Time (ET) TV
Dec. 9 Toronto FC vs. Western Conference Champion 4:00 p.m. ESPN

WHICH TEAMS ARE IN THE MLS PLAYOFFS?

David Villa New York City FC

The top six teams from each conference qualified for the playoffs. The top two teams in each conference qualify directly for the conference semifinals, while the other eight teams go into one-off, winner-takes-all knockout round matches.

Toronto FC won the Supporters’ Shield and was the first team to confirm its place in the postseason, as well as a bye through the knockout round. The Reds then faced the New York Red Bulls after Jesse Marsch’s side defeated the Chicago Fire .

TFC ultimately advanced to the Eastern Conference final on away goals after a 2-2 aggregate draw with the Red Bulls before seeing off the Columbus Crew to return to the MLS Cup final.

New York City FC joined TFC in going straight to the conference semifinals by claiming second place and took on the Crew , who used a shootout victory to bounce Atlanta United . The Crew then managed to upset Patrick Vieira’s side, cruising in the series opener before holding off a furious comeback in the second leg to triumph 4-3 on aggregate.

In the Western Conference, the Vancouver Whitecaps were the first team to secure their place in the playoffs but later slipped down to third, missing out on a bye. It mattered not, as Carl Robinson’s team thrashed the San Jose Earthquakes in the knockout round.

The Whitecaps were then ousted by the Seattle Sounders in the West semifinals on a 1-0 aggregate. The conference table-topping Portland Timbers met the Houston Dynamo , who got a winner in extra time to top Sporting Kansas City in the knockout round before eliminating the No. 1 seed with a 2-1 aggregate win.

Toronto will face the winner of the Seattle-Houston tie in the final at BMO Field, with the Sounders 2-0 up on aggregate after the first leg.

The regular-season standings in full are reproduced below.

EASTERN CONFERENCE:

Pos Team Pld W L T GF GA GD Pts
1 Toronto FC (SS) 34 20 5 9 74 37 +37 69
2 New York City FC (PO*) 34 16 9 9 56 43 +13 57
4 Chicago Fire (PO) 34 16 11 7 61 47 +14 55
3 Atlanta United (PO) 34 15 9 10 70 40 +30 55
5 Columbus Crew (PO) 34 16 12 6 53 49 +4 54
6 New York Red Bulls (PO) 34 14 12 8 53 47 +6 50
7 New England Revolution (E) 34 13 15 6 53 61 -8 45
8 Philadelphia Union (E) 34 11 14 9 50 47 +3 42
9 Montreal Impact (E) 34 11 17 6 52 58 -6 39
10 Orlando City (E) 34 10 15 9 39 58 -19 39
11 D.C. United (E) 34 9 20 5 31 60 -29 32

WESTERN CONFERENCE:

Pos Team Pld W L T GF GA GD Pts
1 Portland Timbers (PO*) 34 15 11 8 60 50 +10 53
2 Seattle Sounders (PO*) 34 14 9 11 52 39 +13 53
3 Vancouver Whitecaps (PO) 34 15 12 7 50 49 +1 52
4 Houston Dynamo (PO) 34 13 10 11 57 45 +12 50
5 Sporting Kansas City (PO) 34 12 9 13 40 29 +11 49
6 San Jose Earthquakes (PO) 34 13 14 7 39 60 -21 46
7 FC Dallas (E) 34 11 10 13 48 48 0 46
8 Real Salt Lake (E) 34 13 15 6 48 55 -6 45
9 Minnesota United (E) 34 10 18 6 47 70 -23 36
10 Colorado Rapids (E) 34 9 19 6 31 51 -20 33
11 LA Galaxy (E) 34 8 18 8 45 67 -22 32

(SS) = Supporters’ Shield winner
(PO*) = playoffs secured with knockout-round bye
(PO) = playoffs secured
(E) = eliminated from playoff contention

HOW CAN I WATCH THE MLS PLAYOFFS?

Diego Valeri Portland Timbers

In the U.S., the playoffs will be split across Fox Sports, ESPN and UniMas and can be streamed via Fox Sports Go, WatchESPN and Univision.com. You can see a full rundown of what channel each game will be on in the fixture list above.

In Canada, the playoffs will be broadcast on TSN in English and TVA Sports in French. Those channels have exclusive rights and are likely to broadcast all games involving Canadian teams as well as selected others, including the MLS Cup final.

Both provide streaming of games via TSN Go and TVA Sports En Direct.

In the UK, Sky Sports hold the rights to MLS and are likely to broadcast most, if not all, games, including the MLS Cup final. Those games can be streamed via Sky Go.

WHERE WILL THE MLS CUP FINAL BE PLAYED?

Greg Vanney Toronto FC

As has been custom since 2012, the MLS Cup final will be hosted by the finalist with the higher regular-season finishing position.

That means it is going back to Toronto for the second year in a row after the Reds, as Supporters’ Shield winners, saw off the New York Red Bulls and Columbus Crew to book their spot in the final once again.

They could well be set to welcome the Seattle Sounders back to Canada for a rematch of the 2016 final.

WHO ARE THE MLS CUP FAVORITES?

Toronto FC Supporters' Shield

Toronto has put together a dominant regular season and is now a heavy 2/5 favorite to go one better than last year and win the MLS Cup, according to dabblebet .

For the full MLS Cup outright market, click here to visit dabblebet.

WHAT HAPPENED IN LAST YEAR’S MLS PLAYOFFS?

Stefan Frei Seattle Sounders

The Seattle Sounders are the reigning MLS Cup champions, having beaten Toronto in last year’s final.

Seattle did not manage a shot on target through 120 minutes in Canada but were able to hold the Reds to a 0-0 draw and win the penalty shootout, with Roman Torres the hero.

Stefan Frei was named the MLS Cup final MVP after making a miraculous save to deny Jozy Altidore what would have almost certainly proven to be the winning goal in extra time.

Both clubs returned to the playoffs this year, with TFC top of the East — and, indeed, MLS as a whole — and Seattle in the second spot spot in the West.

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