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MLS will expand playoffs again, effectively mimic NFL

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Two more teams will reportedly qualify for postseason in 2015.

Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

Major League Soccer will expand the playoff field in 2015, according to a report in Sports Illustrated. Two more teams will make the playoffs next year, with one from each conference, bringing the total to 12 teams, the same number of teams that make the playoffs in the 32-team NFL. MLS will have 20 teams next year, is expected to have 22 in 2017 and has plans to expand to 24 by 2020.

The format of the playoffs will also mimic the NFL, with the Nos. 3 and 6 and Nos. 4 and 5 seeds from each conference playing single-elimination games with the winners playing the Nos. 1 and 2 seeds. The teams will be re-seeded after the Knockout Round games with the top seed playing the worst remaining team. This year, that would have meant the Philadelphia Union and Portland Timbers would have qualified.

Although MLS has changed the playoff format numerous times since the league's inception 19 years ago, the number of teams making the postseason had remained at eight from 1996-2010 with as much as 80 percent of the league qualifying. After going from 16 to 18 teams in 2011, though, MLS expanded the playoffs to 10 teams. The last time at least 60 percent of teams made the playoffs was in 2007 when 8 of 13 teams qualified.