Major League Soccer is expanding the playoffs to 14 teams in 2019, which means the Philadelphia Union can finish worse in the standings than they did in 2018 and still make the playoffs.
The addition of two playoff teams isn’t the only change to the playoff structure announced by the league on Monday afternoon.
Only one team per conference will be given a first-round bye and all rounds of the playoffs will be single game elimination. The bracket will also be set regardless of results in each round (higher seed teams will still host each game).
Games will be played between the October and November FIFA international breaks with the first round kicking off 13 days after Decision Day and MLS Cup being played on Sunday, November 10. The regular season will kick off on March 2.
The Union finished with a franchise record 50 points in 2018, but only finished four points above the playoff line in sixth place after losing to NYCFC in the season finale at Yankee Stadium. They lost to NYCFC three days later in the first round of the playoffs at Yankee Stadium. It was the team’s first playoff appearance since 2016 when they also finished sixth and third overall.
FC Cincinnati joining the Eastern Conference means the same number of teams (5) will miss out on the playoffs in 2019. One fewer team will miss out on the playoffs in the Western Conference.