Atlanta United midfielder Miguel Almiron (center) raises the MLS Cup as they celebrate after their 2-0 win over the Portland Timbers during the 2018 MLS Cup at Mercedes-Benz Stadium on Saturday, December 8, 2018. HYOSUB SHIN / HSHIN@AJC.COM

Sweeping changes to MLS playoff format


Bracket format.

Bigger field.

Greater home-field advantage.

Three uninterrupted weeks.

Sweeping changes came to the Major League Soccer playoff structure, the league announced Monday.

Atlanta United had to endure two two-leg playoff series, interrupted by a one-week break for international competition, and a one-game championship format in capturing the MLS Cup last week. That will change for the 2019 season.

Starting next season, the playoffs will consist of a straight-bracket format that will reward regular-season performance with a greater homefield advantage. The playoffs will be positioned between the October and November FIFA window culminating in three weeks.

In the new single-elimination format, the higher-seeded club will host the playoff game.

The 2019 MLS season will begin on March 2 and conclude Oct. 6. The postseason will begin on Oct. 19 with the MLS Cup on Nov. 10.

The league also announced that the playoff field will be increased to 14 teams, up from 12. The top seven teams in each conference will qualify for the postseason. The top team in each conference will receive a first-round bye.

The new format will mean the playoffs in 2022 will conclude before the World Cup in Qatar on Nov. 21.

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