Audi 2022 MLS Cup – who will play in the playoffs?
Which clubs will join LAFC, Austin, Dallas, LA Galaxy, Nashville, Philadelphia Union, NYCFC and RBNY in the 2022 MLS Cup playoffs?
The 2022 regular MLS season comes to an end on October 9 and will be followed by the Audi 2022 MLS Cup Playoffs, starting on October 15. The MLS Cup final is due to take place on November 5, 16 days before the 2022 World Cup gets underway.
Here we take a look at the confirmed and potential runners and riders. Which clubs are already in? Who’s hopeful of being in? And which teams are in danger of missing out?
Audi 2022 MLS Cup playoffs – how do they work?
14 clubs will participate in the Audi 2022 MLS Cup playoffs, the top seven in the regular season from the Western Conference and the top seven from the Easter Conference. Remember that teams from either conference won’t meet until the MLS Cup final – after the Conferences finals – and that each tie is a one-off match.
The top team from each Conference receives a bye to the semi-finals and therefore won’t feature in the first round, which is made up of the following match-ups (taking place on October 15-17):
|2nd v 7th||3rd v 6th||4th v 5th|
The draw for the semi-finals, which will be played on October 20-23, for each Conference is the following:
|1st v of 4th v 5th||Winner of 3rd v 6th v Winner of 4th v 5th|
The winners of the two semi-finals then meet in the Conference final on October 30, before the MLS Cup final crowns the overall winners on November 5.
As things stand in the Western and Eastern Conferences
Los Angeles FC are guaranteed to finished in top spot and will therefore take part in the Western Conference semi-finals. Their weekend victory at Portland Timbers also means they can’t be caught in the race for the Supporters’ Shield.
Austin FC and FC Dallas had already clinched their places in the playoffs before the international break and were joined this weekend by Los Angeles Galaxy, who have won more MLS Cups (five) than any other club, and Nashville SC, who lost at home to Houston Dynamo but will nevertheless play playoff soccer for the third straight year.
The two places still up for grabs in the Western Conference will be fought out by four teams who, coincidentally, face each other in the final round of the regular season. Real Salt Lake (currently 8th, 44 points) must win at home to Portland (6th, 46 points) to finish in the top seven, while Vancouver Whitecaps (9th, 43 points) need to pick up three points at Minnesota United (7th, 45 points) to leapfrog their opponents.
Philadelphia Union hold a two-point lead over CF Montréal heading into their final league game. A home victory against Toronto FC will ensure they finish top of the Eastern Conference and progress to the semi-finals but dropped points and a Montréal win at Inter Miami would see Wilfried Nancy’s men move above them into first place.
New York City FC and New York Red Bulls secured their playoff spots at the weekend, despite the latter losing at Columbus Crew.
The race for the final three playoffs spots is slightly more complicated in the Eastern Conference as four clubs still in the mix – Orlando City (currently 6th, 45 points), Inter Miami (7th, 45 points), Columbus Crew (8th, 45 points) and Charlotte FC (9th, 41 points) – have two fixtures left to play, while 5th-placed FC Cincinnati (46 points) have only one. Charlotte must beat the Crew in midweek to have any chance of keeping their hopes alive, while the Herons meet the Lions in what could prove to be a decisive clash in Miami in the penultimate game of the regular season.
Those midweek encounters will go a long way to helping clear up the playoff picture in the Eastern Conference as we wait to see who joins Philadelphia Union, Montreal and the New York clubs in postseason phase.