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Report: MLS updates playoff format for 2023

The new format will see more teams qualify for the postseason and a best-of-three series in the first round.

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Philadelphia Union v Los Angeles Football Club: - 2022 MLS Cup Final Photo by Jason Allen/ISI Photos/Getty Images

With the MLS 2023 season starting this weekend, we now have details of the new playoff format that will be used starting this year.

According to Pablo Maurer and Jeff Rueter of The Athletic, the new format will see nine clubs from each conference qualifying for the Audi MLS Cup Playoffs, with an opening “wild-card” round in which the eighth-place finishers will face the ninth-place finisher of their conference in a one-off match hosted by the higher seeded club.

The new conference quarterfinal format will feature the top seed of each conference playing the wild-card winner, No. 2 against 7, 3 against 6 and 4 against 5. Each of these teams will play in a best-of-three series with the higher seed hosting games one and three (if needed). None of these games will be allowed to end in a tie, so the team that wins two games advances to the conference semifinal.

After that, the remainder of the tournament will be the same as last year with one-off games for the conference semifinal, conference final and MLS Cup final hosted by the higher seed.

The last time MLS updated its playoff format was back in 2019 when it switched to the 14-team, single-elimination tournament that had been used up until MLS Cup 2022. According to The Athletic, this change will be the fourth time the league updates its playoff format in its 27 years of existence.

So why update the format now? There are two main reasons I can see: first, the league’s broadcast deal with Apple means that they’ll want to give potential subscribers who are on the fence more games for their buck. Secondly, with the league adding more clubs each season, they are able to include more teams in the playoff bracket and therefore increase revenue for club owners. This is especially true now that each team that qualifies for the playoffs (except the wild-card loser) going forward will be guaranteed to host at least one playoff game.

What do you think about this new playoff format? Let us know in the comments below!