With less than two games remaining for each team in the regular season, the race for MLS playoffs has never been tighter. Five teams from each conference aim to be above that red line by October 26th and 27th and make the journey to the MLS Cup Final.
The road to win the MLS Cup was announced by MLS when the league released the dates for each playoff game Thursday afternoon. The schedule for the playoffs is as follows:
Play-in Round: October 30-31 (Wednesday and Thursday)
Conference Semifinal Leg 1: November 2-3 (Saturday and Sunday)
Conference Semifinal Leg 2: November 6-7 (Wednesday and Thursday)
Conference Final Leg 1: November 9-10 (Saturday and Sunday)
Conference Final Leg 2: November 23-24 (Saturday and Sunday)
MLS Cup Final: December 7 (Saturday)
Attendance and television viewership may take a hit during the play-in round when teams face off on the night before Halloween and Halloween night. For the two teams that win the play-in round, they may play as many as four games in a span of eleven days before a two-week layoff between the first and second leg of the conference finals. If the highest three seeds in each conference advance to the conference final, they will play three games in a seven-day span.
While MLS has allowed time off for the international break after the November 9th and 10th games, it has also left higher seeded teams to play their conference semifinal home game in the middle of the week. The higher seeded teams will be punished when they play the first leg away during the weekend where attendance is most likely higher and return home Wednesday or Thursday to a smaller crowd. Obviously it is impossible for MLS to create a schedule that will please everyone, however it gives more fodder to the rumors about MLS adopting the European calendar in 2014.