It may not be perfect but I do believe this is an improvement. Major League Soccer (finally) announced their playoff structure and format today. As we knew from back in the fall 10 clubs would make the playoffs in 2011, two more than the eight clubs that had always made the post season dance.

Conferences remain but with a bit of a twist. The wild card play-in games add a decent twist to the playoffs and could give conference and Supporter’s Shield winners a bit of an edge for a change. It makes little sense in my mind though that they kept the conference semifinals to a two-game series while the rest of the playoff is single elimination.

Still the whole idea of a ten-club playoff format seems odd to me and the new wild-card format cheapens the regular season a good deal too.

Below is the format from the league.

Ten clubs will qualify for the 2011 MLS Cup Playoffs:

  • The top three finishers in each conference, based on regular season points (six automatic berths)
  • The next best four clubs based on regular season points, irrespective of conference (four wild cards)
    • The four wild cards will play single elimination games against each other, with higher seeds hosting (1 vs. 4; 2 vs. 3). These play-in games are part of the MLS Cup Playoffs.
    • After the two play-in games conclude, the lowest remaining seed will face the Supporters’ Shield winner in the Conference Semifinals; the other will face the No. 1 seed in the opposite conference from the Supporters’ Shield winner.

The four Conference Semifinals will be decided by two-game aggregate series, with each club hosting one game. The two Conference Championships will be single games hosted by the higher seed. MLS Cup will again be a single championship match hosted at a predetermined site to be announced at a later date.

The 2011 MLS regular season concludes Oct. 23. The dates for the MLS Cup Playoffs and MLS Cup will be announced at a later date.

Update: To get a better sense (if you can) as to what this will look like, here ya go: