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MLS Playoffs bracket: when are the Conference semi-finals?




After three weeks of thrilling playoff action, Round One of the 2023 MLS Cup Playoffs concluded on Sunday evening with Columbus Crew’s 4-2 victory over Atlanta United.

That win ensured that Columbus would be the eighth and final Conference semi-finalist, setting up an exciting knock-out tie with Orlando City in the next round.

Here is the full list of teams that have booked their place...

MLS Cup Playoffs: Semi-final qualifiers

  • FC Cincinnati (2-0 series win over RB New York)
  • Sporting Kansas City (2-0 series win over St. Louis City)
  • LAFC (2-0 series win over Vancouver Whitecaps)
  • Orlando City (2-0 series win over Nashville)
  • Philadelphia Union (2-0 series win over New England Revolution)
  • Seattle Sounders (2-1 series win over FC Dallas)
  • Houston Dynamo (2-1 series win over Real Salt Lake)
  • Colombus Crew (2-1 series win over Atlanta United)

MLS Cup Playoffs schedule

This year’s post-season will be played across seven weeks, making it the MLS’ longest playoff tournament.

The action began in late October with two Wild Card matches, before the best-of-three Round One from 28 October to 12 November. There will now be a 12-day break for international fixtures before the playoffs resume for the single-game elimination phase.

Here’s how those fixtures look...

MLS Cup schedule, Conference semi-finals

  • Orlando City - Columbus Crew, Saturday 25 November
  • FC Cincinnati - Philadelphia Union, Saturday 25 November
  • Houston Dynamo - Sporting Kansas City, Sunday 26 November
  • Seattle Sounders - LAFC, Sunday 26 November

The Conference finals will then be played across the weekend 2-3 December. The grand finale, the 2023 MLS Cup, will take place on 9 December.

The mid-playoff international break now gives the teams a chance to regroup and prepare for the final assault on MLS Cup, but for some that may not be a good thing. The likes of LAFC and FC Cincinnati were able to wrap up their best-of-three series after the first two games, meaning that they were not required to play their final Round One fixture. Their players, most of whom are not on international duty, will have an awkward three-week gap with no competitive matches to keep them sharp.

Columbus Crew were the final team to book their place in the semi-finals.
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Columbus Crew were the final team to book their place in the semi-finals.Joseph MaioranaUSA TODAY Sports via Reuters Con

This could give an advantage to teams like Houston Dynamo and Columbus Crew, who had to wait until the final weekend of Round One fixtures to confirm their place in the semi-finals.

MLS Cup Playoffs bracket

Unlike the best-of-three series format used in Round One, all remaining games in the MLS Cup Playoffs will be single-legged straight elimination matches. Each game will be decided on the night, meaning that every team will be playing for playoff survival every time they take to the field.

Here’s how the playoff bracket looks...

In each Conference the two victorious semi-finalists will go head-to-head in the Conference final. The winners of the Eastern and Western Conferences will then face off for the 2023 MLS Cup on Saturday, 9 December.

Can players be suspended for yellows cards in MLS Cup Playoffs?

During the course of the regular season, players receive a one-game suspension for reaching five yellow cards (not including the second of two bookings in the same game). But in the playoffs, where fewer games are played, the threshold for a suspension is lowered.

Players will receive a suspension after their third yellow card. The cumulative yellow card count is reset after the Conference semi-final. Players who receive their third caution in the semi-final will be eligible to play in the final.

Cincinnati defender Matt Miazga picked up his third booking of the playoffs for over-celebrating during his team’s penalty shoot-out victory over NYRB. He therefore misses his team’s Eastern Conference semi-final clash against Philadelphia Union.