MLS Playoffs: Tables, fixtures, results & the race for the 2018 MLS Cup

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The best teams from the Eastern and Western Conferences will face off to decide who gets their hands on the MLS Cup

The regular season of Major League Soccer (MLS) has concluded, but the fun doesn't stop there.

The postseason followed directly after, culminating in the MLS Cup in December.

North America's biggest and best teams have collided for the right to get their hands on the prestigious trophy, with the competition reaching a climax.

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Goal takes a look the MLS playoffs, how it works, fixtures, results and how to watch live.

What are the MLS playoffs?

The MLS playoffs are the post-season elimination phase of the league, which 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 Conferences 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.

Round Date
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?

Aaron Long Zlatan Ibrahimovic LA Galaxy NY Red Bulls 2018

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 2018 MLS Cup playoffs began with a knockout round following the final game of the season on October 28 (dubbed 'Decision Day'), which consists of four single-game elimination matches. These were played on October 31 and November 1.

Following the end of the knockout round, the Eastern and Western Conference semi-final series took place on November 4 and 11 – with four games played on each of the match dates.

Only four teams (two from each conference) progress through to the conference finals, which were held on November 25 and November 29. Two games were played taking into account the aggregate score, which then decided 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 Cup 2018

The 2018 MLS Cup will be contested by Atlanta United, winners of the Eastern Conference section, and Portland Timbers, who came out on top of the Western Conference.

Atlanta overcame New York City and New York Red Bulls in the semi-finals and finals respectively, while Portland came through three rounds, beating FC Dallas, Seattle Sounders and Sporting Kansas City.

The game will be played, as mentioned, on December 8 and it will kick off at 8pm ET (1am GMT, December 9). 

Since Atlanta boasted the best regular-season record, this season's MLS Cup final will be played at their home stadium - Mercedes-Benz Arena.

How to watch & stream MLS Cup live

In the United States (US), the 2018 MLS Cup can be watched live on television on FOX (English coverage) or Unimas/Univision Deportes (Spanish coverage).

US TV channel Online stream
FOX / Unimas / Univision Deportes Fox Soccer Match Pass

In the United Kingdom (UK), the game can be watched live on TV on Sky Sports Football and it can be streamed live online using Sky Go.

UK TV channel Online stream
Sky Sports Football Sky Go

MLS 2018 standings


MLS 2018 fixtures & results


MLS Cup past winners

Toronto FC MLS Cup 2017

Toronto FC is the MLS Cup current champion after winning the final in 2017, beating the Seattle Sounders on its home turf of BMO Field to become the first Canadian team to win both the Cup and the Shield.

TFC winning the Canadian Championship in the same year also handed the club the first domestic treble ever earned by an MLS side.

Despite that, TFC were not in the playoffs in 2018. A disastrous regular season saw the defending champion fail to qualify for the postseason.

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. Both sides are still in the fight to earn a place in the Western Conference playoffs. 

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