Major League Soccer announced the schedule for the 2021 MLS Cup playoffs on Thursday. The postseason is slated to begin after the completion of the November FIFA international window with the first round kicking off on Nov. 20. The remaining matches in the playoffs will take place throughout November and December with the 2021 MLS Cup Final set to be held on Dec. 11.
The MLS Cup playoffs will consist of seven teams from each conference, reduced from the expanded format in 2020 where 10 teams from the East and eight from the West. The teams that finish between second and seventh place will play in the first round with two matches on Nov. 20, two on Nov. 21 and the final two first-round games on Nov. 23.
That will set up the conference semifinals that feature the No. 1 seeds against the winnesr of the No. 4 vs. No. 5 matchup and the winners of No. 2 vs. No. 7 seeds against the victor from No. 3 vs. No. 6. The conference semifinals interestingly enough will begin on Thanksgiving with a 4:30 pm E.T. kick time.
The conference semifinals will continue with two games on Nov. 28 and the last one on Nov. 30. The conference finals are set to begin on Dec. 4 with the following match on Dec. 5, all leading up to MLS Cup 2021 on Saturday, Dec. 11 at 3 pm E.T. on ABC. While the times and TV channels are finalized, the allocation of which matches are played when won’t be determined until after MLS Decision Day on Nov. 7.
Two years ago, MLS announced this new playoff format of seven teams playing in a single-elimination bracket that was perfectly positioned to begin and conclude between the annual October and November international breaks. In 2020, those plans were complicated with the COVID-19 pandemic that forced the MLS Cup Final to be pushed back to Dec. 12. This year will be the same with the late start of the season forcing the final to once again happen in the winter. In 2022, we can expect the return of an October-November postseason with MLS likely to complete its regular season before the 2022 FIFA World Cup, which is scheduled to start on Nov. 21.
As of now, the Columbus Crew is just outside of playoff positioning with the defending MLS Cup champions currently sitting in eighth place in the Eastern Conference, three points behind seventh-place D.C. United. The Crew has 11 games remaining in the regular season with the next one taking place this Saturday against Inter Miami.
2021 MLS Cup Playoffs schedule
SAT Nov. 20 - 12:00 PM ET - Univision, TUDN
SAT Nov. 20 - 3:00 PM ET - Univision, TUDN
SUN Nov. 21 - 3:00 PM ET - ABC
SUN Nov. 21 - 5:30 PM ET - ESPN
TUE Nov. 23 - Time TBD - FS1
TUE Nov. 23 - Time TBD - FS1
THU Nov. 25 (Thanksgiving) - 4:30 PM ET - FOX
SAT Nov. 28 - 3:00 PM ET - ABC
SAT Nov. 28 - 5:30 PM ET - ESPN
TUE Nov. 30 - Time TBD - FS1
SAT Dec. 4 - Time TBD - FS1
SUN Dec. 5 - 3:00 PM ET - ABC
SAT Dec. 11 - 3:00 PM ET - ABC