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MLS Conference Finals: what happens if there is a tie at the end of regulation time?

Games can be tight, but no matter what, there will always be one winner when the final whistle eventually blows.

Portland Timbers logró imponerse a Real Salt Lake, mientras que New York City FC venció a Philadelphia Union para conseguir su boleto a buscar la MLS Cup.
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The Audi 2022 MLS Cup Playoffs have been hard fought and have brought us to the conference finals, one step away from the showpiece title game. We take a look here at how the format has worked through the post-season, and what happens when there is a tie between the sides.

How do ties work in the Audi 2022 MLS Cup Playoffs?

Round 1

For starters, Round 1 of the playoffs consisted of six single-elimination games that featured six teams from both the Eastern and Western Conferences, making it 12 teams in total. The teams ranked No. 2 - 7 will competed in the first round, while the No. 1 seeds benefited from a first-round bye. To be clear, the aforementioned matchups saw the higher seeded teams taking on the lower seeded ones.

Any of these matches ending tied after the regulation time of 90 minutes, had two 15-minute periods of extra time played. If the two teams were still locked together when extra time concluded, then the victor was decided by means of the ever-unpredictable penalty shootout. As is always the case, the spot kick lottery consists of five alternate kicks for each team, followed by sudden death if necessary.

Interestingly, there was no away goals tiebreaker. It’s simply a case of the six winners - three from each conference - advancing to the Conference Semifinals.

The Conference Semifinals tweaked

Here’s where the No. 1 seeded teams were introduced. Having enjoyed their bye, they entered into a round of four single-elimination games - two matches in either conference - where they hosted the winner of No. 4 vs No. 5 from Round 1, while the winner of No. 3 vs No. 6 took on the winner of No. 2 vs No. 7. The higher seeded teams always playing host.

As was the case with Round 1, tied matches headed into extra time, followed by penalties and sudden death if necessary. Again no away goals tiebreaker.

Conference Finals

By now you can probably guess that the format will remain the same in the Conference Finals, which will consist of two single-elimination games, one game in each conference. One point to note, is that the higher seeded team will be on hosting duty.

Aside from that, it’s essentially the same as before which is to say, 90 minutes, two 15-minute periods of extra time if necessary and penalties followed by sudden death, if necessary. Once again, no away goals tiebreaker and with that, the newly crowned Conference Champions will advance to the MLS Cup.


Single elimination baby, which is to say in the MLS Cup, the winner takes all. MLS Cup will be a single championship match. There are no changes to the aforementioned formats seen in previous rounds. From the issue of match time played, to penalties and possible sudden death, everything remains the same. When that final whistle blows, it’ll be celebration for one team and tears for the other.

* The official website of MLS was used as a resource for this article.