Major League Soccer released its postseason schedule Wednesday and it’s one that includes long breaks before the first and last game of the 14-team tournament.
The top seven teams in each conference will advance to the postseason with the first-round matchups determined based on the final standings. The conference champions will get a first-round bye and the No. 2 teams will play No. 7, No. 3 will meet No. 6 and No. 4 will face No. 5, with the lower seed playing at home.
The regular season ends Oct. 6, two days before the start of an eight-day FIFA international break. So MLS will wait until after the break to begin the first round of the single-elimination playoffs, staging two games Saturday, Oct. 19 and four Sunday, Oct. 20.
The conference semifinals will be held Oct. 23-24, meaning the two conference champions, because of the first-round bye, will go at least 16 days between their last regular-season game and their first postseason match.
The conference finals will be played a week later, Oct. 29-30. The six conference finals and semifinals will compete with World Series games if the baseball competition goes a full seven games.
After an 11-day pause, the MLS Cup final will be played Sunday Nov. 10, returning to ABC after an 11-year absence. Univision will also broadcast the game in Spanish. ABC and ESPN have combined to televise 21 of the 23 MLS Cup finals, with eight of the last 10 on ESPN.
The November final will be the earliest MLS Cup since the 2002 championship game, which was played Oct. 20. Last year’s MLS Cup was played Dec. 8.
If the current standings hold, LAFC would finish with the league’s best record, giving it home-field advantage throughout the playoffs. The Galaxy, currently fourth in the Western Conference, would play host to Minnesota United in the first roun,d and if they win that, they would advance to the conference semifinals against LAFC at Banc of California Stadium.
“I think everyone wants to see us play each other in the playoffs,” said Galaxy goalkeeper David Bingham, whose team has never lost to its cross-town rival. “If we play LAFC in the playoffs, that’s the league final right there.”
MLS playoff schedule
Sat. Oct. 19: Two games (Univision)
Sun. Oct. 20: Four games (two each on ESPN/ ESPN Deportes and FS1/Fox Deportes
Wed., Oct. 23: Two games (FS1/FOX Deportes)
Thurs. Oct. 24: Two games (ESPN2, ESPN / ESPN Deportes)
Tues Oct. 29-Wed. Oct. 30: (one on ESPN/ESPN Deportes and one on FS1/FOX Deportes)
MLS Cup final
Sun. Nov. 10, noon PT, (ABC, Univision)