The Audi 2021 MLS Cup Playoffs are finally here, and the 14 qualified teams are set to pursue their MLS Cup dreams.
Here's everything you need to know about how the postseason will work and how to watch every match.
Fourteen teams total qualified, with the top seven from both the Eastern and Western Conferences. Just over half the league (51.8% to be precise) could lift the Philip F. Anschutz trophy at season's end.
All matches will be broadcast live on national TV, including ABC, ESPN, ESPN Deportes, FS1, FOX Deportes, Univision, UniMas and TUDN, as well on MLSsoccer.com and the MLS app. In Canada, games will be shown on TSN and TVA Sports.
Full broadcast info for every playoff match can be found on our TV & Streaming page.
The playoffs are single-elimination throughout, a format that was instituted prior to the 2019 season in place of the two-legged series of years past.
It all starts with Round One, which begins Nov. 20 and continues through Nov. 23. As the top seeds in their respective conferences, the New England Revolution (East) and Colorado Rapids (West) have each earned Round One byes, meaning they have an automatic ticket to the Conference Semifinals and a longer rest period. The winners of their Round One matches will advance to the Semis, where they'll play in the Conference Finals that will decide the MLS Cup participants.
Hosting rights for all games are determined by virtue of who finished as the higher seed. If a match finishes in a draw after regulation time, it will move to two 15-minute extra-time periods. If a match is still tied after extra time, the matches will be decided on penalty kicks.
- A player receiving a yellow card in Round One and a yellow card in the Conference Semifinal will be suspended for the Conference Championship. For clarification, a player who earns a second cumulative yellow card in the Conference Championship is eligible to play in MLS Cup.
- If a player’s club does not advance to the next round of the Audi MLS Cup Playoffs after the player receives a second yellow card in consecutive matches, the suspension will not carry over into the next MLS Regular Season.
- A player who is issued two yellow cards in the same match is suspended for the next match for which he is eligible, including an Audi MLS Cup Playoffs round match, MLS Cup, and/or his next MLS Regular Season match.
- A player who receives a red card in any Audi MLS Cup Playoff match, whether it is a straight red card or two yellow cards, is suspended for his next match.
Eastern Conference Round One
- No. 2 Philadelphia Union vs. No. 7 New York Red Bulls (Nov. 20, 2:30 pm ET)
- No. 4 New York City FC vs. No. 5 Atlanta United (Nov. 21, 3 pm ET)
- No. 3 Nashville SC vs. No. 6 Orlando City SC (Nov. 23, 8 pm ET)
Western Conference Round One
- No. 3 Sporting Kansas City vs. No. 6 Vancouver Whitecaps FC (Nov. 20, 5 pm ET)
- No. 4 Portland Timbers vs. No. 5 Minnesota United FC (Nov. 21, 5:30 pm ET)
- No. 2 Seattle Sounders vs. No. 7 Real Salt Lake (Nov. 23, 10:30 pm ET)
In the Conference Semifinals, the No. 1 seed plays the 4/5 winner, while the 2/7 winner plays the 3/6 winner, with the higher seed hosting. Those matches are also single-elimination affairs, utilizing the same extra time and penalty kick deciders should teams be tied following regulation time.
The Conference Finals feature the Semifinal winners, again with the higher-seeded team hosting and the extra time provisions in place.
After the Conference Finals, the marathon will be decided with the winner-take-all MLS Cup Final on Dec. 11 at 3 pm ET. The grand finale will be broadcast on ABC and UniMas, with the league title and a bid for the 2022 Concacaf Champions League awarded to the victor.
Like the previous matches, the same extra-time and penalty kicks protocol applies. One of the participants will have a chance at capturing the glory on their home field, with hosting rights awarded by placement in the 2021 MLS Supporters' Shield standings. New England, then Colorado and so forth get hosting priority – provided they're still in contention.