Following the regular season, the Major League Soccer (MLS) playoffs are held to decide the MLS Cup winner for that season. The playoffs are contested by a total of 14 teams (seven from each conference) and normally take place from early to mid-October to early November, starting the week after the regular season finishes for a three-week period.
The winners of each conference in the regular season receive an automatic bye to the conference semi-finals, while the teams in second to seventh progress to the first round, in which they face off to decide the other three conference semi-final spots. The team that finished second plays the team that came seventh, third plays sixth, and fourth plays fifth, with the team that finished higher in the conference regular season standings awarded home advantage.
From the conference semi-finals onwards, the playoffs are a straight knockout bracket, with the same home advantage rule applying throughout. The two conference semi-finals winners then contest the Conference Finals, and the two Conference Finals winners face off in the MLS Cup Final for the chance to be crowned champions for that season. For the Final, whichever team finished higher in the overall MLS standings that season gets to play the match at their home stadium.
The MLS Cup playoffs use a one-leg format throughout, meaning if the game is tied after 90 minutes, extra time and then a penalty shootout are used to determine the winner.