THE PEOPLE’S GAME: MLS playoffs kick into high gear
The time all MLS fans have been waiting for has finally come – the 2009 playoffs.
This year’s playoff field was not settled until the final weekend, of the season, with six teams vying for the final two spots. This made for an exciting end to the closest playoff race in MLS history, with Real Salt Lake and the New England Revolution making the cut.
Teams will stay in their respective conferences until the championship game ‘- an unpopular format with fans, since the two best teams do not face off until then. Here are the games fans can look forward to in the upcoming weeks.
The L.A. Galaxy secured the No. 1 seed in the West after a remarkable turnaround that saw them go from worst to first in the conference. The Galaxy will play No. 4 seed Chivas USA in the first round.
Houston, the West’s second seed, will play the No. 3 seeded Seattle Sounders FC. Seattle is a dangerous opponent for the Dynamo, as the Sounders have a respectable home-field advantage and a dedicated fan base. Qwest Field in Seattle is set to host the championship game, which probably’ gives the Sounders extra motivation to advance.
In the East, the Columbus Crew, which was first in points for the regular season and is seeded first, will play wild-card entrant Real Salt Lake, the No. 4 seed.
The other side of the bracket will see the No. 2 seed Chicago Fire play the Revolution. New England has been a Cinderella story heading into the playoffs, earning a postseason spot after beating top-seeded Columbus 1-0 in stoppage time Sunday.
The action starts Thursday when the Dynamo travel to Seattle to play the Sounders. The game will broadcast on ESPN2 at 9 p.m. Houston will then play at home Nov. 8 at 2 p.m.
The opening round consists of a two-game series based on aggregate goals. This means after the two games are played, each team’s total goals will be tallied, and whoever has the most will advance to the conference finals. The team with the better ranking for the regular season will have the advantage of hosting the second game.
In the conference championship round, the team with the higher seed will host a single-elimination match. This winner-take-all format places importance on the regular-season results, with teams being rewarded for consistently winning games.
ESPN will broadcast the MLS Cup Final, which will take place at 7:30 p.m. Nov. 22 at Qwest Field.