MLS shortens season by month, goes to all-knockout playoffs

Major League Soccer is shortening its season by a month, going to single-elimination playoffs and scheduling its 2019 MLS Cup final for Nov. 10 in its earliest finish since 2002.

The league announced the change Monday and will have an all-knockout postseason in place of a two-leg format for the conference semifinals and finals. MLS had started using a two-leg, total-goals format in 2003.

After then-U.S. coach Jurgen Klinsmann criticized the league’s season as being too short, MLS stretched in schedule into December each year starting in 2012. Klinsmann was fired in November 2016.

MLS says the new format will reward teams with top regular seasons with greater home-field advantage. Only the top two teams in each conference will get first-round byes.

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The league will finish before the November international break — and before the start of the 2022 World Cup in Qatar that Nov. 21. The October break will be between the end of the regular season and the start of the playoffs.

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