An Overview of the 2018 MLS Playoff Schedule
Earlier this week, Major League Soccer announced the 2018 Cup Playoff schedule and format. Just like in previous years, all the games will be broadcast on ESPN and FS1 in the United States, as well as TSN and TVA Sports in Canada. Let’s take an in-depth look at the schedule, and brush up on some playoff predictions.
MLS Decision Day – October 28
The regular season ends on October 28 with MLS Decision Day, the final day of regular-season play when every team in the league plays. This is the only time all year that this happens, and it’ll lead to some of the most intense soccer you’ll get to watch as multiple teams will be fighting for playoff position. This is one day of the MLS that you won’t want to miss.
Knockout Round – October 31 – November 1
The knockout round will take place over two days and feature four single-elimination matches. This round involves the third through sixth place teams from each conference, as the top two teams get byes.
Conference Semifinal Series – November 4 & November 11
After the knockout stage is complete, two teams from each conference will move on to their respective conference semifinal series to face the top two seeds that received byes. Four games will be played on each of these Sundays and, after each two-game, aggregate goal series, four teams will advance to the Conference Championships.
Conference Championships – November 25 & November 29
Just like the Semifinal series, the conference championships will be two-game, aggregate-goal series with one game at each team’s home venue. There will be a doubleheader on both game days.
2018 MLS Cup – December 8
The season culminates in the MLS Cup, which will be hosted at the venue of the finalist with the best regular-season record. This one, final game will determine which team wins the championship and hoists the coveted MLS Cup.
Cup Playoff Predictions
If the current standings were to hold in the Eastern Conference, it would be the New York Red Bulls, Atlanta United, NYF FC, Columbus Crew, Philadelphia Union, and Montreal Impact making the Cup Playoffs. The Red Bulls and Atlanta would receive the byes through the knockout round and it would certainly seem like these two teams would likely face off in the Conference Championship.
Currently, just a single point separates the Red Bulls and Atlanta United, but Atlanta actually has fewer losses and more goals so far this season. However, New York holds the lead in the season series, beating Atlanta 3-1 back in May.
The 2017 runner-up Seattle Sounders currently sit in the 5th playoff spot. However, the team’s separated by a mere six-goal differential from the 6th place Portland Timbers and just a single point from the 7th place Vancouver Whitecaps. In the 8th spot sit the LA Galaxy, three points behind Toronto. With six matches remaining in the regular season, the final two playoff spots are within reach of four different teams. If things stay as close as they are right now, three – maybe even four – of the Western Conference playoff seeds could be determined on Decision Day.
Despite being the newest franchise in the MLS, Los Angeles Football Club is having a fantastic year. The current 2nd seed is just three points behind Dallas and actually has a better goal differential. Dallas has gotten the better of LAFC this season, tying their first meeting and winning their second. However, LA forwards Carlos Vela and Marco Urena are no strangers to tough competition and, if these two teams were to meet on the road to the Cup Final, we predict that Los Angeles would come out on top.
Who Wins the Championship?
Thus far, the New York Red Bulls are the only team to clinch a playoff spot. Bradley Wright-Phillips, currently with 16 goals, will continue to be clutch for the team throughout the rest of the year and in the postseason. And if Alejandro Romero Gamarra (14 assists) continues to create the way he has so far in 2018, the Red Bulls will hoist the Cup on December 8.