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New tiebreakers designed to encourage attacking play

With Less Than Three Months To Go, MLS Clubs Eye Postseason Berths
New tiebreakers designed to encourage attacking play
NEW YORK (Wednesday, August 8, 2012) – As Major League Soccer enters the final third of its 2012 regular season, each match takes on increased importance. Only the top five clubs in each conference will qualify for the MLS Cup Playoffs, which will begin Oct. 31 and conclude Dec. 1 with MLS Cup, hosted by the finalist with the better regular season record.
The approximate schedule of MLS Cup Playoff Matches is below, with pairings based on the standings as of Aug. 8, 2012.
Earlier this year, the MLS Board of Governors approved new tiebreakers to determine the placing of teams tied on points in the 2012 regular season standings. The change was adopted in part because of the switch from a balanced schedule to a conference-based schedule, and in part to encourage attacking play.
When two or more teams are tied in the standings on points (3 points for a win, 1 point for a draw, 0 points for a loss), the following tiebreakers will be used in the sequence below, until one team ranks ahead of the other(s):
  1. Goals For (See column labeled GF on
  2. Goal Differential (GD)
  3. Fewest Disciplinary Points (Posted here)
  4. Road Goals
  5. Road Goal Differential
  6. Home Goals
  7. Home Goal Differential
  8. Coin Toss (2 teams) or Drawing of Lots (3 or more)
Note: Unlike previous seasons, head-to-head records will not be used as a tie-breaker, because teams do not play every opponent an equal number of times.
When the regular season concludes on Sunday, October 28, all 19 teams will have played 34 games. The top five teams in each conference will qualify for the MLS Cup Playoffs, and those 10 teams will compete within their respective conference for a place in the final – MLS Cup 2012 on Dec. 1, hosted by the team with the most regular season points. The full playoff format is listed HERE.
If the season were to end with teams in their current places in the standings, which do not account for disparity in games played, the playoff matchups would look like this (home teams listed first):
MLS CUP PLAYOFFS                           EASTERN CONFERENCE                     WESTERN CONFERENCE
First Round Knockout:             D.C. United (4) vs. Chicago Fire (5)        Vancouver (4) vs. LA Galaxy (5)
   Wed. Oct. 31 or Thu. Nov. 1
Conference Semifinals (1st leg):           DC/CHI winner vs. Houston (1)               VAN/LA winner vs. San Jose (1)
   Sat. Nov. 3 or Sun. Nov. 4                   New York (3) vs. Sporting KC (2)            Seattle (3) vs. Real Salt Lake (2)
Conference Semifinals (2nd leg):           Houston (1) vs. DC/CHI winner               San Jose (1) vs. VAN/LA winner
   Wed. Nov. 7 or Thu. Nov 8                  Sporting KC (2) vs. New York (3)            Real Salt Lake (2) vs. Seattle (3)
Conference Championship (1st leg):           at team with fewer points                       at team with fewer points
   Sat. Nov. 10 or Sun. Nov. 11
Conference Championship (2nd leg):          at team with more points                        at team with more points
   Sat. Nov. 17 or Sun. Nov. 18
MLS Cup 2012 (single game final):                                           at team with more points
   Sat. Dec. 1
Note: Each MLS team has 10-15 games remaining to change their position in the standings before the playoff brackets are set; the above pairings are simply intended to illustrate the playoff qualification and seeding.