The regular season of Major League Soccer is nearing its close, though the fun doesn't stop there. The post season follows directly after, culminating in the MLS Cup in December.
Newcomer LAFC has done well to maintain a top-half berth of the Western Conference, while rivals New York City FC and New York Red Bulls are in the tight race that will decide who wins the Eastern Conference alongside Atlanta United.
Goal takes a look the Major League Soccer playoffs, how it works and all the fixtures and results.
What are the MLS playoffs?
The MLS playoffs are the post-season elimination phase of the league that takes place from October through December.
Twelve teams - six each from the Eastern Conference and Western Conference - qualify for the tournament based on regular-season records, and a tie-breaking process is taken into account if needed.
The top-placed teams from the Eastern and Western Conference face each other in the knockout phases, with one from each conference earning a spot in the MLS Cup final.
The nature of the MLS Cup is different to other leagues, in which the winner of the competition is determined by the team that has accumulated the most points by the end of the season.
MLS, however, awards the regular season champion with the Supporters' Shield and direct entry into the CONCACAF Champions League – the regional club championship tournament.
|Knockout round||October 31 – November 1|
|Conference semifinals||November 4 – November 11|
|Conference championships||November 25 – 29|
|MLS Cup||December 8|
How do the MLS playoffs and MLS Cup work?
During the 2018 MLS season, each side will play 34 games, including 17 home games and 17 away games. Teams face each team in their conference (10 in the Eastern Conference, and 11 in the West) twice during the season in a home and away format.
Western Conference sides play an additional intra-conference game while Eastern Conference teams play two, with all teams facing each non-conference opponent once.
Qualification for the MLS postseason (which culminates in the MLS Cup in December) follows the same format that was introduced in 2015 – with the top six teams in both the Eastern and Western Conferences qualifying.
The MLS Cup playoffs begin with a knockout round following the final game of the season on October 28 (dubbed 'Decision Day'), which consist of four single-game elimination matches to be played between October 31 to November 1.
Following the end of the knockout round, the Eastern and Western Conference semifinal series (taking place on November 4 and 11) will take place – with four games played on each of the match dates.
Only four teams (two from each conference) will progress through to the Conference finals, which will take place on November 25 and November 29. Two games will be played taking into account the aggregate score, which will decide the 2018 MLS Cup finalists.
The 2018 MLS Cup, taking place on December 8, will be played at the home stadium of the finalist sporting the best regular-season record.
MLS 2018 standings
MLS 2018 fixtures
MLS Cup past winners
Toronto FC is the MLS Cup defending champion after winning the final in 2017, beating the Seattle Sounders on home turf of BMO Field to become the very first Canadian team to win both the Cup and the Shield.
Toronto's win of the Canadian Championship in the same year also handed the club the first domestic treble earned by an MLS Side.
The Seattle Sounders were the winners of MLS Cup in 2016, the LA Galaxy, the record five-time champions, have not lifted the trophy since 2014.