Atlanta United hosts Columbus Crew SC in the first round of the MLS playoffs. Since the Five Stripes are an expansion side who became just the fourth first-year club to qualify for the playoffs, it’s vital here in Atlanta to offer up the nuts and bolts of how the drive toward the MLS Cup works.

You can click above and hear Atlanta United color analyst Jason Longshore explain the process.

Six teams from each conference qualify for the playoffs, much like the NFL. Also similarly, the top two seeds enjoy a bye while the lower four from each conference battle to move forward.

The first round is a knockout round; one game… winner moves forward.

At the this point, the field in each conference is re-seeded and the winners from the knockout round face off against the two top seeds in each conference. These games will be played as home-and-home series.

After the two games are played in the conference semifinals, the team with the most aggregate goals moves forward. If the teams are tied, away goals will be used to break the tie. If the teams are still tied, extra time and then penalty kicks (if needed) will determine the winner.

The next round — the conference semifinals — will be played in the exact same format as the semifinal round before.

Once a champion is determined from each conference, they will play for the MLS Cup. That is a one-game, winner-take-all battle for the title.


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