MLS NEXT Pro Playoffs: Top seeds select their opponents in groundbreaking new format

MLS NEXT Pro playoff format thumb

MLS NEXT Pro announced on Tuesday the schedule for the first round of the 2023 MLS NEXT Pro Playoffs, which begin this Friday, September 29. After a thrilling Decision Day on Sunday, the intense competition continued off the field as part of the League’s first-ever pick-your-opponent playoff format.

MLS NEXT Pro’s new playoff format allows the No. 2 and No. 3 seeds in each conference to choose their opponent from the No. 4-7 seeds and host that team in the Conference Quarterfinals. Following the second and third seed selections, the remaining two teams in each conference are slated to face each other, with the higher seed hosting. 

The No. 1 seeds in the Eastern and Western Conferences – Crown Legacy FC and Colorado Rapids 2, respectively – receive a first-round bye and automatically advance to the Conference Semifinals, where they will select their opponents from the two lowest seeds remaining in their Conference after the Quarterfinals.

In the Eastern Conference, No. 2 New England Revolution II chose the customary bracket opponent, No. 7 Philadelphia Union II, while No. 3 Columbus Crew 2 – defending MLS NEXT Pro Cup Champions – broke from tradition by selecting No. 5 Orlando City B.

In the West, after No. 2 Tacoma Defiance opted for No. 7 Houston Dynamo 2, Sporting KC II selected No. 4 Austin FC II, who had spent much of the season towards the top of the Western standings.

Conference Quarterfinals schedule

Eastern Conference
Sunday, October 1

New York Red Bulls II (No. 4) vs. Chicago Fire II (No. 6) – MSU Soccer Park (1 pm ET)
Columbus Crew 2 (No. 3) vs. Orlando City B (No. 5) – Historic Crew Stadium (5:30 pm ET)
New England Revolution II (No. 2) vs. Philadelphia Union II (No. 7) – Gillette Stadium (8 pm ET)

Western Conference
Friday, September 29

Sporting Kansas City II (No. 3) vs. Austin FC II (No. 4) – Rock Chalk Park (8 pm ET)

Sunday, October 1
St Louis CITY2 (No. 5) vs. Earthquakes II (No. 6) – CITYPARK (6 pm ET)
Tacoma Defiance (No. 2) vs. Houston Dynamo 2 (No. 7) – Starfire Sports Complex (10 pm ET)

Following this weekend’s Eastern and Western Conference Quarterfinals, the 2023 MLS NEXT Pro Playoffs will continue the weekend of October 6 with the Conference Semifinals. The Conference Finals will take place the weekend of October 13, with the postseason culminating on October 22 with MLS NEXT Pro Cup. All matches will air live on MLS Season Pass on Apple TV.