Major League Soccer announced the structure for the 2011 playoffs today. Ten of the league's 19 teams will qualify. The playoff bracket will work as follows:
- Automatic berths will go to the top three finishers in each conference (six teams total), based on regular season points
- The next best four clubs based on regular season points, irrespective of conference, will get wild cards.
- The four wild cards will play single elimination games against each other, with higher seeds hosting. The top-ranked wildcard will play No. 4 and No. 2 will play No. 3. After those matches, there will be a total of eight teams remaining.
- The lowest remaining wild card seed will face the Supporters’ Shield winner in what the league still refers to as the Conference Semifinals. The other remaining wild card will face the No. 1 seed in the opposite conference from the Supporters’ Shield winner.
- The Conference Semifinal matches will be two-game aggregate series. The league's press release makes no mention of whether away goals will count, so I will asume based on past years' playoffs that they will not.
- The Conference Championship matches will be single games hosted by the high seed on each side of the bracket.
- The MLS Cup Final will be a single game, and will again be held at a neutral site. That is newsworhty, as there were rumors over the winter that this year's final might be held at the highest remaining seed.
What do you think of the format? I think it gives the Union a very good chance to make the playoffs. But you can also argue that having so many teams qualify cheapens the value of the postseason.