New tiebreakers designed to encourage attacking play

As Major League Soccer enters the final third of its 2012 regular season, each match takes on increased importance. Only the top five clubs in each conference will qualify for the MLS Cup Playoffs, which will begin Oct. 31 and conclude Dec. 1 with MLS Cup, hosted by the finalist with the better regular season record.

The approximate schedule of MLS Cup Playoff Matches is below, with pairings based on the standings as of Aug. 8, 2012.

Earlier this year, the MLS Board of Governors approved new tiebreakers to determine the placing of teams tied on points in the 2012 regular season standings. The change was adopted in part because of the switch from a balanced schedule to a conference-based schedule, and in part to encourage attacking play.

When two or more teams are tied in the standings on points (3 points for a win, 1 point for a draw, 0 points for a loss), the following tiebreakers will be used in the sequence below, until one team ranks ahead of the other(s):

  1. Goals For
  2. Goal Differential (GD)
  3. Fewest Disciplinary Points
  4. Road Goals
  5. Road Goal Differential
  6. Home Goals
  7. Home Goal Differential
  8. Coin Toss (2 teams) or Drawing of Lots (3 or more)

Note: Unlike previous seasons, head-to-head records will not be used as a tie-breaker, because teams do not play every opponent an equal number of times.

When the regular season concludes on Sunday, October 28, all 19 teams will have played 34 games. The top five teams in each conference will qualify for the MLS Cup Playoffs, and those 10 teams will compete within their respective conference for a place in the final – MLS Cup 2012 on Dec. 1, hosted by the team with the most regular season points. Full playoff format


  • First Round Knockout: Wed. Oct. 31 or Thu. Nov. 1
  • Conference Semifinals (1st leg): Sat. Nov. 3 or Sun. Nov. 4
  • Conference Semifinals (2nd leg): Wed. Nov. 7 or Thu. Nov 8
  • Conference Championship (1st leg): Sat. Nov. 10 or Sun. Nov. 11
  • Conference Championship (2nd leg): Sat. Nov. 17 or Sun. Nov. 18
  • MLS Cup 2012: Sat. Dec. 1