The first round of MLS Cup Playoffs is underway and so far home teams are dominating having won eight games, drawn one, and lost one. While it's too early to reach conclusions or have any takeaways from the new format, it is clear that the goal to provide the home sides with a bigger advantage, but the top seeds are holding serve on the road to advance even in away matches. Cincinnati needed penalties to advance but even with Kai Wagner suspended, Drexel Chris Donovan fired the Union on a crash course with former assistant coach Pat Noonan.
With the new playoff format, the first round of the playoffs are a best-of-three series with the first team to two wins moving on. There is no extra time so if a game is level at the end of regulation, it will go straight to penalties to determine the winner which isn't something that the Vancouver Whitecaps will want to hear after Ryan Gauld missed not one but two penalties which would have secured a top four spot and homefield advantage in the first round for the Whitecaps.
After the first round, it will flip back to a single-elimination format for the remainder of the playoffs. Hosting rights for MLS Cup come down to points gained during the season so despite St. Louis City FC winning the West, they won't host MLS Cup if they're pitted against FC Cincinnati, Orlando City or the Columbus Crew.
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All times Eastern, all matches can be streamed on MLS Season Pass
Wildcard round: Wednesday, Oct. 25
New York Red Bulls 5, Charlotte FC 2
Sporting Kansas City 0, San Jose Earthquakes 0 (Sporting win 4-2 on penalties)
Round one schedule
Saturday, Oct. 28
Philadelphia Union 3, New England Revolution 1
Los Angeles FC 5, Vancouver Whitecaps 2
Sunday, Oct. 29
Houston Dynamo FC 2, Real Salt Lake 1
FC Cincinnati 3, New York Red Bulls 0
St. Louis City SC 1, Sporting Kansas City 4
Monday, Oct 30
Orlando City SC 0, Nashville SC 0
Seattle Sounders 2, FC Dallas 0
Wednesday, Nov. 1
Columbus Crew 2, Atlanta United 0
Saturday, Nov. 4
New York Red Bulls 1, FC Cincinnati 1 (Cincinnati wins 8-7 on penalties, wins series 2-0)
FC Dallas 3, Seattle Sounders 1
Sunday, Nov. 5?
Sporting Kansas City 2, St. Louis City SC 1 (Sporting KC win series, 2-0)
Vancouver Whitecaps 0, Los Angeles FC 1 (LAFC wins series, 2-0)
Monday, Nov. 6
Real Salt Lake 1, Houston Dynamo 1 (Real Salt Lake wins 5-4 on penalties)
Tuesday, November 7
Atlanta United 4, Columbus Crew 2
Nashville SC 0, Orlando City SC 1
Wednesday, Nov. 8?
New England Revolution 0, Philadelphia Union 1 (Philadelphia wins series, 2-0)
Game 3's if needed
Friday, Nov. 10?
Seattle Sounders vs. FC Dallas, Lumen Field (10 p.m.)
Saturday, Nov. 11
Houston Dynamo vs. Real Salt Lake, Shell Energy Stadium (4 p.m.)
Sunday, Nov. 12
Columbus Crew vs. Atlanta United, Lower.com Field (7 p.m.)
Conference Semifinals: Nov. 25-26
Schedule and broadcast info TBD
Conference Finals: Dec. 2-3?
Schedule and broadcast info TBD
MLS Cup: Saturday, Dec. 9 (4 p.m.)
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With their stoppage time victory over Nashville SC, the New York Red Bulls not only jumped above the red line to host a wild-card round match but they also made history. Not only do the Red Bulls own the longest active streak of playoff appearances in all of American sports but they now also hold the longest streak of consecutive playoff appearances ever in MLS with 14. For a season that has included many ups and downs including needing to move on from head coach Gerhard Struber, it's an impressive accomplishment for the Red Bulls to make it and considering their form recently, teams won't want to face them.
Welcome to the show
In only their second season in the league, Charlotte FC are now in the playoffs and they did it the hard way by handing Miami their first league defeat in a match that Lionel Messi has started. Scoring an early goal before surviving on heroics from keeper Kristijan Kahlina, this is the progress that Charlotte needed after dropping a midweek match away to the Herons. It feels even better to book your place in the playoffs when Messi had to be defeated to get there.
What a turnaround
It seemed like Sporting Kansas City and the longest tenured coach in the league Peter Vermes would be left on the outside looking in at the playoff picture but in a statement win over Minnesota United, Sporting was able to make it to book a place in the wild-card round. No one will want to face this side in the playoffs, especially St. Louis who lost to the Seattle Sounders on the final day. Sporting will still need another win to make it out of the wild-card round but getting there was half the battle.