Major League Soccer’s 17th playoff season begins Wednesday with the Eastern Conference, one-game knockout contest. The West version falls on Thursday. Here’s how things work:
- The first round, the “knockout round” is a one-game elimination between the 4th- and 5th-place finishers. Part of the concept behind adding the additional post-season slot two seasons ago (taking the playoff field from 8 to 10) was providing incentive to avoid this very match. It’s not just the extra chance to fall out contention; it’s the compressed schedule this midweek match creates. It really does supply a disadvantage to the team that has to play twice this week.
- The conference semifinals are a home-and-away, two-leg set beginning Saturday. The series winner is determined by total score; think of each match as “halves” of one game.
- The lower seeds host opening legs; the higher seeds get the second contest, the “return” match in our game’s vernacular.
- If the teams are tied after two legs, two 15-minute extra time periods will determine the winner, followed by penalty kicks, if necessary. That means “advantage higher seed” in the event the teams are level after 180 minutes.
- There is no “away goals” rule. That means away goals do not count double as they do in some international competition.
- The home-and-away format applies for the conference semifinal and conference finals.
- When it’s down to two teams, the higher seed hosts MLS Cup 2012. This is the new wrinkle – and a wonderful one.
Here is the schedule:
Despite sitting at the top of the table in the Premier League, things are not going well for Manchester City.
Star striker and leading goalscorer Sergio Aguero suffered a torn hamstring while playing for Argentina, and now he is joined by David Silva on the injured list.
Silva lasted nine minutes in Spain’s EURO qualifying match against Luxembourg, forced off after taking a bad challenge from behind. Silva went down in pain and tried to play on, but asked for a substitution just minutes later.
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Spanish news outlet AS is reporting that Silva has suffered “lateral internal ligament damage in his right ankle,” and could face 2-3 weeks on the sidelines.
With Aguero set to miss at least a month, Silva’s injury could leave Manchester City without two of their top players in the coming weeks.
Silva has arguably been the best player in the Premier League this season, the quarterback of the City attack, which has scored a league-leading 19 goals through eight matches.
City travels to Old Trafford for the Manchester derby on October 25, which falls into that 2-3 week range for Silva’s recovery. In a match that could decide who sits top of the table, Manuel Pellegrini would be very shorthanded without Silva and Aguero.
Alejandro Bedoya will not feature for the United States in the CONCACAF playoff against Mexico on Saturday, and has been replaced on the roster by Bobby Wood.
Bedoya traveled to Los Angeles from his club team Nantes in France, but Jurgen Klinsmann has announced he will be unable to play after falling ill.
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Without Bedoya, Union Berlin midfielder Bobby Wood has been added to the USMNT side. Wood scored the first two goals of his international career this summer in wins over the Netherlands and Germany, and has scored four goals in ten matches for Union Berlin this season. Wood has been training with the U.S. camp throughout the week for the upcoming friendly against Costa Rica.
Bedoya has played well for the USMNT, discounting his short performance against Brazil in September. In that match, Klinsmann played Bedoya out of position against a potent Brazil attack, and he was substituted before halftime. However, playing in his more natural role as a winger or attacking midfielder, many believed Bedoya could be in line for a start against Mexico.