MLS Playoffs overtime rules state that 30 minutes will added starting from the Conference Semifinals. The first two rounds will be decided on penalties.

The playoffs will begin on October 25, 2023, and will end on December 9, 2023. The thrilling eliminations are barely two months away from us fans.

The playoff berths are still up for grabs and everyone will be eyeing the top spot at the end of the season. The 2023 season now has nine teams from each conference that will head for the playoffs, a new addition to the playoffs.

The playoff rules and regulations are usually simple with only minor changes here and there. The duration of an MLS game is 90 minutes (with stoppage time added in each half). The same is the case with the playoffs.

Lionel Messi's Inter Miami CF are 14th in the Eastern Conference and are unlikely to qualify for the playoffs. Although their recent form and unbeaten streak are the positives and maybe qualify given the other teams above them bottle their chances.

The LA Galaxy have won the most titles and are the most successful team in the MLS. They have 5 titles to their name and Landon Donovan has scored 25 goals which is the most goals in the playoffs.

MLS Cup Winners by Year

Los Angeles FC2022
New York City FC2021
Columbubs Crew SC (2nd)2020
Seattle Sounders FC (2nd)2019
Atlanta United FC2018
Toronto FC2017
Seattle Sounders FC2016
Portland Timbers2015
LA Galaxy (5th)2014
Sporting Kansas City2013

MLS Cup Overtime Rules Explained

Source : twitter

MLS Cup overtime rules say that Round One will be decided on penalties if the two teams finish level after 90 minutes of regular time.

There will be no penalty shoot-outs during the first round of the MLS playoffs. It will head directly to penalties to decide the team that will advance to the Conference Quarterfinals.

The Wild Card round and Round One will not play the extra 30 minutes as overtime or extra time but will directly head toward a shoot-out from the penalty spot.

MLS extra time rules will have a play of 30 minutes with each half being 15 minutes as overtime. It will only be used starting from the Conference Semifinals.

The playoff system as a whole is very different than that of European football and its system. There are no playoffs in the European leagues and the team with the most points at the end of the season wins.

The playoff system that the MLS has adopted is identical to that of the system of almost all major sports played in the country and the region.

MLS Point System

The point system in the MLS has 3 points for a win, 1 point for a match that is drawn, and 0 for losing a soccer match. It is the same as other leagues.

The current MLS Season which began on February 25 has already completed more than half of its season. Most of the teams have completed 25 matches and some have played a game more or less.

Source : twitter

FC Cincinnati are the Eastern Conference table leaders who have won 16, lost 3, and tied 6 out of their 25 games played and have accumulated 54 points. They are followed by the Philadelphia Union who have won 13, lost 7, and tied 4 games with 43 points.

The Union, New England Revolution, and Orlando City SC all have 43 points and are strong contenders to qualify for the MLS Cup playoffs closely followed by Columbus Crew and Atlanta United FC.

While the simple explanation for qualifying for the playoffs is to finish as high as you can in your respective conferences, there are cases when two or more teams finish on the same number of points. There is a provision to break the tie for a leaderboard without a tie.

MLS tiebreaker rules

The MLS has a solution for that and is commonly recognized as the tie-breaking procedure. The tie can be broken by taking into consideration a few variables.

  • Most Wins
  • Higher Goal Differential
  • Higher Goals Scored
  • Fewer Disciplinary Points
  • Higher Away Goal Differential
  • Higher Away Goals Scored
  • Higher Home Goal Differential
  • Higher Home Goals Scored

These are the said criteria that are taken into consideration to break the tie. If two teams are tied with the same number of points, the one with the most wins out of the two will head onto the playoffs.

Even with the first clause already carried out and the teams remaining tied once again, the second clause is the higher goal difference (goals scored minus goals conceded). The same process is followed until a conclusion is achieved.

If two teams remain tied even after all eight of the clauses are considered, the tiebreak will be decided via a coin toss. A very unusual way of deciding one's fate.

In the case of three teams with the same number of points, the same process is followed. A thing to remember is that if during the process, a team advances, then the remaining two teams have to once again start from the first step, i.e. Most Wins.

How Does MLS Playoffs Work?

Source : twitter

The MLS will now have 18 teams qualifying for the MLS Cup Playoffs starting from 2023. Only 14 teams advanced to the playoffs prior to this season.

The qualifiers for the playoffs will be the top 9 teams from the Eastern and the Western Conferences. The 9 teams from each of the conferences with the highest points are awarded the playoff berths.

Earning a playoff berth is not the ultimate goal but to be crowned as MLS Cup winner is the biggest prize for any soccer player in the United States. The playoff system of the MLS has a unique way of functioning and is a trusted and valid system that provides a fair deal for all the teams involved.

MLS Cup Playoff Format 2023

The top 7 teams from each conference will advance directly to the Round One stage and the teams that finished 8th and 9th in each conference will have to play the wild card matches.

Source : twitter

Wild Card Matches

The matches will be hosted by the higher-seeded team (8th) and is a single-game elimination match. The winner of the round will advance to the next stage which is Round One along with the top 7 seeded teams.

MLS overtime rules in the wild card matches will have a penalty shoot out if the game is tied in the first 90 minutes. There will be no extra time.

Round One

The stage can be easily understood as the Conference Quarterfinals and will have 16 teams in this stage. Two teams that lost in the wild card matches will be eliminated.

There is a difference in this round since the matches will have a best-of-three series. The winner of this round will advance to the Conference Semifinals.

  • The team that won the wild card round will face the No. 1 seed in Round One.
  • The higher seed will host the first match. The lower seed will host the second match. The third game (if needed) will be hosted by the higher seed.
  • The team that wins two matches wins the series (first two two or in total).
  • There will be no extra time in this round and will head into penalties like the previous round.

Conference Semifinals

The last eight teams compete in this round of the playoff games. The rules once again change in this round with the addition of overtime rules starting in this stage. This round is played in a single-game elimination format with the higher seed hosting the lower seed.

MLS overtime rules playoffs will only start at the Conference Semifinals. Two halves of 15 minutes each will be played if the match is tied in regular time.

The total duration of the overtime in the MLS Cup Playoffs is 30 minutes. If the deadlock is still not broken after extra time, the match will then only move on to penalties.

Conference Final

The same format as the previous round is followed during the Conference Final. The higher-seeded team will once again host the lower-seeded team like in the rounds before. Even the overtime rule is the same with first the 30-minute add-on followed by penalty kicks if required.


The grand stage in the soccer world is the MLS Cup Final. The two conference winners will fight for the ultimate goal. The team that had a better regular season will host the final match of the entire season.