(Reuters) – Major League Soccer (MLS) will introduce a single-elimination playoff structure next year that will shorten its season by a month and wrap up all action before the November international break, it said on Monday.
More importance will be placed on the regular season since higher-seeded clubs will host all playoff matches, which will now consist of 13 single-elimination games.
The new playoff format is compatible with the schedule for the next World Cup finals which are due to start in Qatar on Nov. 21, 2022, MLS said.
The number of clubs qualifying for the playoffs will rise to 14 from 12, with seven teams representing each conference and the top seeds in each getting a first-round bye. Under the old format, the top two seeds from each conference had a bye.
MLS previously used two legs to decide the conference semi-finals and final ahead of a championship decider that has been played in December for the last seven seasons.
In 2019, the season will conclude on Nov. 10. With the bulk of playoff action occurring in October and early November, MLS should be able to avoid playing critical games in winter weather in its colder markets.
Reporting by Frank Pingue in Toronto, editing by Ed Osmond