Major League Soccer unveiled its 2011 playoffs format on Wednesday afternoon. It will feature a 10-team bracket with tweaks to lower the chance of a conference championship going an out-of-conference team. The top six teams, three from the Eastern Conference and three from the Western Conference, will receive automatic qualifiers for the postseason. The remaining four spots are based on point totals.
The four wild card teams will play in single-elimination games (7 v. 10, 8 v. 9) to advance into the semi-final round. The team with the lowest seed to emerge victorious will then play the Supporters’ Shield winner, the team that had the best overall record/points total. The other team will face the remaining conference champion.
This eliminates the chance of two out-of-conference teams playing for a conference championship. The Colorado Rapids and the San Jose Earthquakes played for the Eastern Conference championship in 2010, though both are in the Western Conference.
The Colorado Rapids won the 2010 MLS Championship and will open their season at Dick's Sporting Goods Park on March 19 against the expansion Portland Timbers.