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How many teams make the MLS playoffs?

The playoff format has changed several times in recent years and will be expanded again in 2023.

Jul 26, 2022; Vancouver, BC, Canada;  The Voyageurs cup is displayed as Toronto FC and Vancouver Whitecaps FC enter the pitch before the start of the first half at BC Place. Mandatory Credit: Anne-Marie Sorvin-USA TODAY Sports
Anne-Marie SorvinUSA TODAY Sports

The MLS playoffs have undergone numerous format changes during the past 25 years. During the past two seasons, it has featured the seven clubs who finish in the top seven positions in each Conference (Western and Eastern), who advance to the playoffs once the regular season has been concluded.

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This year, the MLS regular season runs from 26 February 2022 until Sunday 9 October 2022 and features 28 teams - 25 from North American and three from Canada: Montréal, Toronto and Vancouver. There are 14 teams in each Conference, each will play a 34-game regular season - 17 at home and 17 away, with 26 matches within its own conference and eight matches against teams from the opposite conference.

Prior to the 2022 MLS season, the Conferences were imbalanced but the addition of Charlotte FC, who joined the Eastern Conference as an expansion team, means that this year, there both Conferences have 14 teams.

The 2022 MLS playoffs start immediately after the regular season ends with the Round 1 games most likely to be played on the weekend of 15/16 October. The top seven teams in each Conference will progress to the playoffs with each team being seeded in relation to their final position and points tally during the regular season. All games are single, intra-conference, instant knockout ties with the higher seeded team playing at home. In Round 1, the second-place team plays the seventh-placed team, third plays sixth and fourth plays fifth. The winners advance to the semi-finals. This year, the MLS Cup final, the championship game, will be played on Saturday 5 November.

More changes in 2023

The MLS playoff format will be amended again next year when the regular season is expanded to 30 teams. St Louis City will become the league’s 29th franchise and will be joined by another, unnamed club. In 2023, eight teams from each conference will enter the play-offs.