The cup playoffs are finally here
Decision Day has come and gone in the MLS. That means we know which teams will be in the playoffs come November 20. We’ll take a look at who’s made it and what to look for in the early matches, but first, let’s see what the 2020 MLS Cup Playoffs format looks like.
Like every sport, the 2020 playoffs are different the most years. MLS has also had some rapid expansion in the sports world perspective. This has led to a lot of change in the playoffs in the past half decade.
Currently, MLS has 14 teams in the Western conference and 12 in the Eastern. The playoffs accommodate for this imbalance of teams. In the west the top 8 teams all automatically qualify for the playoffs. In the East, 1-6 qualify automatically as well. Then, teams ranks 7-10 qualify for a play-in round against each other.
Unlike some other popular soccer playoffs around the world, MLS will not have a group stage. Instead they will stick with just the bracket stage.
One more accommodation that was made for games missed due to COVID. Each team was scheduled to play 23 games. Every team in the East reached 23 games, but several West teams missed games. In these cases, their position was adjusted for. However, these adjustments didn’t cause any teams to be bumped out of the playoffs, but it did change the rank of some of the teams.
Let’s look at the teams who made in the East. At the top is the Philadelphia Union and winner of the Supports Shield with 47 points. Behind them in order is Toronto FC, the Columbus Crew, Orlando City, NYCFC, and the New York Red Bulls. As a reminder, these top six are automatically qualified.
Qualifying for the play-in in order of rank are first year franchise, Nashville SC, the New England Revolution, the Montreal Impact, and the other first year franchise, Inter Miami.
In the west, the top spot was a battle. The top three teams in order, Sporting KC, the Seattle Sounders and the Portland Timbers all finished with 39 points. However, Sporting KC got those 39 points in 21 games, Seattle in 22, and the Timbers in 23. This is where missed games really came into play.
The next five spots in order belong to Minnesota United FC, the Colorado Rapids, FC Dallas, LAFC and the San Jose Quakes. Colorado was another team especially affected by missed games. They only played 18 of 23 games. Their 28 points would have barely got them in the 8th rank spot, but they were bumped up to 5th place instead.
A fair bit of movement and big news came out of Decision Day. Sporting KC secured their number one spot in the West in a win over Real Salt Lake that took place in the snow, a rare site in MLS. As mentioned before, they were ranked just above Seattle, last year’s MLS cup winner.
Minnesota United moved into 4th giving them a home game in the first round. Come game day, we might get to see another snow game this season thanks to the chilly Midwest weather.
Other big news would be Philadelphia securing the number one spot. This is the first Supports Shield for the team who has also yet to make it to an MLS Cup.
Montreal and Miami snuck into the 9 and 10 spots in the East that day as well edging out the Chicago Fire and DC United.
The two play-in games will be on Friday, November 20th with the rest of the round one matches being played though Tuesday the 24th. As in most brackets, the high ranks will play lower ranks.
One of the key matches to watch in round one will be LAFC (7) versus Seattle (2). LAFC fell late in the season, meaning they are extremely strong despite being ranked 7th. They met 3 times this season with Seattle taking 2 wins, both at home.
Both four versus five matches are looking pretty competitive as well. Minnesota and Colorado in the West both met just a couple of weeks ago with Minnesota barely winning 2-1. Colorado is one of the few teams sporting a winning away record at 5-3-1. In the East, it’s Orlando City versus NYCFC. These two met once already tying 1-1.