MLS 101

MLS 101: How is the Major League Soccer season structured?

MLS 101

When does the 2022 MLS season run?

The 2022 Major League Soccer season began on Saturday February 26, when Charlotte FC played its first-ever competitive game at DC United

Charlotte’s final regular season match is scheduled at New York Red Bulls on Sunday October 9. Every team will play their final regular season match on this day, which is known as ‘Decision Day,’ as it settles the final standings going into the postseason (more on that shortly).

Games are played on weekends, with the exception of five, or fewer, midweek matches.

How many teams are in MLS?

Charlotte FC are the 28th team to join the league. In 2023, St Louis City will become the league’s 29th franchise.

Is the league divided into conferences?

Yes, the league is divided into two conferences.

Charlotte FC plays in the Eastern Conference, while LA Galaxy—the opponents for the inaugural MLS game at Bank of America Stadium on March 5—are in the Western Conference.

How many games does each team play?

Every team plays 17 games at home and 17 away, for a total of 34 regular season games.

All teams play everyone in their respective Conference twice—at home and away—and an additional eight matches against teams in the other Conference. 

The team that accrues the most regular season points across both Conferences is awarded the Supporters Shield, and the best performers progress to MLS Cup Playoffs...

When do MLS Cup Playoffs take place?

MLS Cup Playoffs typically run through November and December. However, they will be played slightly earlier in 2022, in order to accommodate the 2022 World Cup, which begins in Qatar on November 21.

This season, MLS Cup Playoffs will begin the weekend after Decision Day, and run for three straight weeks. MLS Cup, the league’s championship game, will follow on November 5.

Who qualifies for the playoffs and how do they work?

Although the format for 2022 MLS Cup Playoffs has yet to be confirmed, the top seven teams in each Conference qualified for the postseason in 2021.

All rounds—the First Round, Conference Semifinals, Conference Final—are intra-conference single-elimination games hosted by the higher seed. The winners of each Conference get a bye to the Conference Semifinals. Hence, in the First Round, the second-place team plays the seventh-placed team, third plays sixth and fourth plays fifth.

MLS Cup is played at the home of the team with the better regular season record. 

Why is the MLS schedule different from the European schedule?

Most major European leagues run through winter, while MLS runs through summer. Harsh winter weather in certain parts of the United States and Canada would make a winter schedule difficult, and the current schedule also ensures a limited amount of crossover with the National Football League.  

Does MLS observe international breaks?

FIFA, the world’s governing body for soccer, allocates international windows throughout the year, where players report to their respective national teams for tournament qualifiers and friendlies.

MLS will seek to avoid scheduling matches during the international windows in March, June and September 2022.

Is there an All-Star Game?

Yes there is! The 2022 All-Star Game is scheduled for August 10 at Minnesota United’s Allianz Field. The format has yet to be announced, but the 2021 edition saw a team of MLS All-Stars take on the Liga MX All-Stars from Mexico’s top division.

Will Charlotte FC play in any other competitions during the season? 

The US Open Cup is expected to return in 2022, after being postponed due to Covid-19 in 2020 and 2021. The knockout cup competition features teams from across the American professional soccer pyramid from MLS, the USL Championship, USL League One, USL League Two and the National Independent Soccer Association.

Charlotte FC will be in the pool of 103 teams, 71 of which are professional.

In 2023, Charlotte FC will also participate in the newly reimagined Leagues Cup, a month-long summer tournament that will feature all teams from Liga MX and MLS.

And in future seasons, Charlotte FC will have the opportunity to play in other competitions, based on MLS performance. The United States is offered four berths in the CONCACAF Champions League, the annual continental competition in the CONCACAF region (North America, Central America and the Caribbean). Additionally, the reigning MLS Cup champions are invited to play in the annual Campeones Cup, a single match against the champions from Liga MX.

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