2023 MLS Cup playoffs format
The GIST: No, Lionel Messi’s Inter Miami CF didn’t make the postseason this year, but there’s still some great footy to come, with 18 (!!!) squads beginning their very long quest for the MLS Cup. Let’s kick it.
How it works: The playoffs look quite different this year, notably featuring the expanded 18-team field (up from 14) and a spicy new single-elimination Wild Card round, which kicks off tonight. The No. 8 and No. 9 seeds in both the Eastern and Western Conferences will battle on their respective coasts to clinch the final two spots in the round of 16, now called “Round One.”
- And that Round One will be a best-of-three series, beginning on Saturday and potentially lasting until November 12th. The winner of each Wild Card game will face the top seed in their conference, the No. 2 seed will play No. 7, and so on.
- After Round One, it’s back to single-elimination for the Conference Semifinals and Conference Finals, with the winning teams from the East and the West set to battle for ultimate glory on December 9th. Told you this would take a while.
Tonight’s Wild Card games: It’s the old dogs vs. the new tricks in the Eastern Conference: the No. 8 NY Red Bulls will make their fourth consecutive postseason appearance when they host No. 9 Charlotte FC, who are celebrating their postseason debut, tonight at 7:30 p.m. ET.
- Then at 9:30 p.m. ET, the action shifts to the Western Conference, where No. 8 Sporting Kansas City takes on the No. 9 San Jose Earthquakes. After heroic Decision Day performances, both squads will be looking to transform that magic into a true postseason run. Vamos.