Soccer fans across North America get fired up for the MLS Playoffs every fall. You can follow your favorite club throughout the postseason with an MLS Playoffs bracket sheet. Track your favorite team’s run to the MLS Cup with the instantly downloadable and complimentary sheet.
MLS Playoffs Format
The top five clubs in each conference have secured a spot in the MLS Playoffs every year since 2012. The fourth and fifth place teams in each conference meet in a knockout match to open the postseason. The conference semifinals and finals employ an aggregate-goal, home-and-away format. The conference champions will then advance to the MLS Cup Final. The winner of the postseason tournament earns a berth in the CONCACAF Champions League tourney.
History of the MLS Playoffs
The MLS Cup playoffs began in the inaugural year of the league in 1996. In the first ever MLS Cup final, D.C. United dropped the Los Angeles Galaxy in extra time, 3-2, in front of over 34,000 fans at Foxboro Stadium in New England. D.C. United went on to successfully defend its title by beating the Colorado Rapids in the 1997 MLS Cup final, 2-1. That match was played in in front of more than 57,000 fans at RFK Stadium.
D.C. United made a return trip to the final match in 1998, but suffered a 2-0 loss to the Chicago Fire. However, D.C. United bounced back in 1999, notching a 2-0 win over the Los Angeles Galaxy in the final match.
After the first two years of the league, there would not be a repeat MLS champion until the Houston Dynamo won back-to-back titles in 2006 and 2007. The Dynamo beat the Revolution in both final matches and won their first title in a penalty kicks shootout.
After losing their first three final matches, the Galaxy ran through the MLS Playoffs and hoisted the cup for the first time in 2002. The Galaxy also won again in 2005 before capturing consecutive crowns in 2011 and 2012. The Galaxy defeated the Dynamo is both of those final matches.
While the Galaxy has collected an MLS-best four titles, the Revolution is 0-4 all-time in final matches.
The first MLS Playoffs Most Valuable Player award went to D.C. United midfielder Marco Etcheverry. The first goaltender to take home MVP honors was Tony Meola, who captured the honor while with the Kansas City Wizards in 2000. Entering the 2013 season, the only multiple time MVP winner is Landon Donovan, who first won the award while with the San Jose Earthquakes in 2003. Donovan won again with the Galaxy in 2011.
Download: MLS Playoffs