MLS Cup playoffs schedule: Games, results, bracket for 2023 Major League Soccer postseason

While FC Cincinnati wrapped up the league’s regular-season title weeks ago, the Major League Soccer playoffs will determine who has the honor of hoisting the most coveted domestic U.S. trophy: the MLS Cup.

Teams first had to qualify for the postseason by finishing high enough in their respective conference standings to secure a place in the tournament.

Once there, the teams then play through five rounds of matchups, needing to emerge victorious from a minimum of five games (and a maximum of seven) to triumph above all others and claim the MLS Cup. The winner not only earns the right to reign as league champion, but secures a spot in the coming CONCACAF Champions Cup, with a bye through to the Round of 16.

Lionel Messi and Inter Miami fell short of the goal, failing to qualify for the postseason, but defending champions LAFC will be involved, as will the Seattle Sounders, Philadelphia Union, and many other popular MLS staples. Along with them, St. Louis City SC will be gunning for a strong finish in their first playoff journey in their first-ever season in Major League Soccer.

The Sporting News brings you all the participating teams and their fixtures through what will surely be a memorable tournament.

MORE: Taylor Twellman, Bradley Wright-Phillips, and Sacha Kljestan make their picks for MLS playoffs

2023 MLS Cup playoff format

In 2023, Major League Soccer unveiled a new playoff format that received mixed reviews when first revealed prior to the start of the regular season.

The top nine teams in each conference reach the playoffs, with the top seven earning a bye to Round One, leaving the final two teams to play a one-off Wild Card Round, thereby rewarding those who finish more comfortably in the postseason positions.

The format of Round One features the biggest change, as MLS will debut a best-of-three series for these matchups. All teams will contest two legs, one home and one road, with a winner required in both games, meaning all draws will advance directly to a penalty shootout without extra-time. Should one team win both matchups, they would advance to the conference semifinals, but if they should split, they would return to the stadium of the higher seed to play a third and final deciding match.

From that point on, the playoffs will progress as usual, with the conference semifinals, conference finals, and final all played as one-off matchups.

Which teams qualified for 2023 MLC Cup playoffs?

Teams must finish ninth or higher in their respective conference to reach the MLS Cup playoffs. Teams in eighth and ninth will contest the Wild Card round, while those seventh and above earn a bye into Round One.

In Major League Soccer, the top tiebreaker is NOT goal differential, but instead most victories through the season. Goal differential is second, followed by goals scored.

z – clinched Conference regular season title
y – clinched bye to Round One
x – clinched playoff spot

Only teams with a chance to make the playoffs entering Decision Day shown.

Eastern Conference

Pos. Team Pts W-D-L GD
1. FC Cincinnati-z 69 20-8-6 +18
2. Orlando City-y 63 18-9-7 +15
3. Columbus Crew-y 55 15-10-9 +20
4. Philadelphia Union-y 55 15-10-9 +16
5. New England Revolution-y 55 15-10-9 +12
6. Atlanta United-y 51 13-12-9 +13
7. Nashville SC-y 49 13-11-10 +8
8. NY Red Bulls-x 43 11-11-13 -3
9. Charlotte FC-x 43 10-13-11 -7
—————- ———
10. CF Montreal 41 12-5-17 -16
11. NYCFC 41 9-14-11 -4
12. D.C. United 40 10-10-14 -4
13. Chicago Fire 40 10-10-14 -12

Western Conference

Pos. Team Pts W-L-D GD
1. St. Louis City SC-z 56 17-5-12 +17
2. Seattle Sounders-y 53 14-11-9 +9
3. LAFC-y 52 14-10-10 +15
4. Houston Dynamo-y 51 14-9-11 +13
5. Real Salt Lake-y 50 14-8-12 -2
6. Vancouver Whitecaps-y 48 12-12-10 +7
7. FC Dallas-x 46 11-13-10 +4
8. Sporting KC-x 44 12-8-14 -3
9. San Jose Earthquakes-x 44 10-14-10 -4
—————- ———
10. Portland Timbers 43 11-10-13 -12
11. Minnesota United 41 10-11-13 -5

2023 MLS Cup playoffs fixtures, schedule, bracket

In each round except Round One and the Final, the highest seed in each matchup will host the game.

For Round One, the higher seed hosts game one and a potential game three if necessary. For the MLS Cup Final, the team with the higher standing in the overall Supporters’ Shield table will host.

Wild Card Round

No. Date Time (ET) Fixture
1. Wed, Oct. 25 7:30 p.m. #8 NY Red Bulls 5-2 #9 Charlotte FC
2. Wed, Oct. 25 9:30 p.m. #8 Sporting KC 0-0 #9 San Jose
Sporting KC advanced on pens 4-2

Round One

*Game 3 is only if necessary should the teams split games one and two. All times Eastern. Higher seed listed first in all scores.

No. Matchup Game 1 Game 2 Game 3*
1. #1 FC Cincinnati 2-0 #8 NY Red Bulls 3-0 1-1
(8-7 pens)
2. #2 Orlando City vs. #7 Nashville SC 1-0 1-0
3. #3 Columbus Crew vs. #6 Atlanta United 2-0 2-4 4-2
4. #4 Philadelphia vs. #5 New England 3-1 1-0
5. #1 St. Louis City 0-2 #8 Sporting KC 1-4 1-2
6. #2 Seattle Sounders vs. #7 FC Dallas 2-0 1-3 1-0
7. #3 LAFC 2-0 #6 Vancouver Whitecaps 5-2 1-0
8. #4 Houston Dynamo vs. #5 Real Salt Lake 2-1 1-1
(4-5 pens)
1-1
(4-3 pens)

Conference Semifinals

Date Time (ET) Fixture
Nov. 25 5:30 p.m. #2 Orlando City 0-2 #3 Columbus Crew (a.e.t.)
Nov. 25 8 p.m. #1 FC Cincinnati 1-0 #4 Philadelphia Union
Nov. 26 7 p.m. #8 Sporting KC vs. #4 Houston Dynamo
Nov. 26 9:30 p.m. #2 Seattle Sounders vs. #3 LAFC

Conference Finals

No. Date Time (ET) Fixture
1. Dec. 2 6 p.m. #1 FC Cincinnati vs. #3 Columbus Crew
2. Dec. 3 TBD Sporting KC/Houston vs. Seattle Sounders/LAFC

MLS Cup Final

Date Time (ET) Fixture Location
Sat, Dec. 9 TBD East Conference Champion vs. West Conference Champion TBD
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