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What happens in the event of a tie in the MLS Cup 2023 Final? Extra Time and Penalty Shootout Rules

Columbus Crew face off against defending champions LAFC at Lower.com Field in Ohio on Saturday 9 December.

Columbus Crew face off against defending champions LAFC at Lower.com Field in Ohio on Saturday 9 December.
John David MercerUSA TODAY Sports via Reuters Con

After nine-and-a-bit long months, the 2023 MLS season reaches its conclusion on Saturday, with Columbus Crew taking on LAFC for the MLS Cup on Saturday (9 December). The Crew will enjoy home advantage at Lower.com Field in Ohio after finishing the regular season five places and five points better off than their upcoming opponents.

Follow Columbus Crew - LAFC live online: MLS Cup Final 2023 | Score, stats and updates.

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LAFC bidding for back-to-back MLS Cups

Carlos Vela’s LAFC are, of course, the defending champions following their dramatic extra-time victory over Philadelphia Union in 2022. The Californians will be hoping to become the first team since city rivals Los Angeles Galaxy to win back-to-back MLS Cups (2011 and 2012).

Columbus Crew gunning for MLS Cup hat-trick

Columbus Crew, meanwhile, are no strangers to title success either. The MLS charter club, who are three-time Supporters’ Shield winners, have also lifted the MLS Cup on two previous occasions, most recently in 2020.

Different tiebreakers in Wild Card round and Round One

With the post-season playoffs bringing together the best teams in the country, there is always a reasonable chance of matches ending in a tie, which several already have done this year. Depending on the round, different tiebreakers are used, especially in the early part of the knockout stages.

In the one-off Wild Card matches, for instance, matches which finished level after 90 minutes skipped extra time and went straight to a penalty shootout (as happened in the Western Conference clash between Sporting Kansas City and San Jose Earthquakes).

Round One was a best-of-three series, with each match in the series producing a winner. Again, games that were tied after 90 minutes had no extra time and went straight to penalties.

MLS Cup Final tiebreaker rules

For the Conference Semifinals, the Conference Finals and the MLS Cup Final itself, the tiebreaker rules are the same. In these rounds, matches that are all square after 90 minutes to go to extra time, which is played across two periods of 15 minutes. If the teams in question still can’t be separated, a penalty shootout will follow to determine the winner.

Columbus Crew have twice needed extra time to progress in the 2023 playoffs, defeating Orlando City 2-0 in the Eastern Conference Semifinals after a goalless 90-minute game, before coming from two goals down to beat FC Cincinnati 3-2 in the Conference Final.