2014 MLS CUP PLAYOFFS: Explaining the two-legged playoff format

On Wednesday night, FC Dallas clinched their spot in the MLS Western Conference Semifinals with a 2-1 win over Vancouver Whitecaps FC in the wild card round match and with that brings a new playoff format.

Those of you who are UEFA Champions League die-hards will know exactly what a "two-legged aggregate" playoff means, but for those of who you follow FC Dallas either casually or fanatically, we're here to explain the ins and outs of the system.

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Two games, one winner

Over the next week and a half, FC Dallas and Seattle Sounders FC will play twice, at Toyota Stadium on Sunday, November 2nd at 8:00PM and at CenturyLink Field in Seattle on Monday, November 10th at 9:30PM. The two games will be normal 90-minute MLS matches, but it's the combined score of the two matches that will determine who moves on to the Western Conference Finals. Let's go through a few scenarios:

FC Dallas wins the "first leg" in Frisco 2-0 and loses the "second leg" in Seattle 1-0. FCD would advance to the conference finals because the combined, aggregate score is 2-1 FC Dallas.

FC Dallas and Seattle Sounders FC draw 0-0 in the "first leg" in Frisco and Seattle wins 2-0 in the "second leg." Seattle would advance to the conference finals with a 2-0 aggregate win.

That make sense? Well let's talk about ties.

Away goals

Should FC Dallas and Seattle be tied in aggregate score after the games in Frisco and Seattle, one of two things will happen.

First off, let's talk about "away goals." Again, those of you who watch the UEFA Champions League are familiar with this rule and basically it means if the game is tied after 180 minutes, two games, whoever scored the most goals in the other team's house will advance to the conference finals. Again, let's go through a couple scenarios:

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FC Dallas wins the "first leg" in Frisco 2-1 and loses the "second leg" in Seattle 1-0. Despite being tied 2-2 on aggregate, Seattle would advance to the conference finals because they have one "away goal" to FCD's zero.

FC Dallas and Seattle draw 1-1 in the "first leg" in Frisco and draw 2-2 in the "second leg" in Seattle. Despite being tied 3-3 on aggregate, FC Dallas would advance to the conference finals because they will have two "away goals" to Seattle's one.

Extra time and shootout

If the teams are tied after both games and also tied on away goals, the match will go to 30 minutes of extra time and if it is still tied, we will go to penalty kicks. You saw both of those scenarios in the Lamar Hunt US Open Cup semifinal against Philadelphia Union earlier this year. Away goals is not in effect once you get to overtime. Basically, if both games finish with the same score, we're going to overtime.

FULL 2014 MLS CUP PLAYOFF SCHEDULE

Again, let's go through scenarios:

FC Dallas wins the "first leg" in Frisco 2-1 and Seattle wins the "second leg" in Seattle 2-1. The teams would go to 30 minutes of extra time after the second game in Seattle as the teams are tied on score and away goals. If neither team scores in overtime, it goes to penalty kicks.

FC Dallas wins the "first leg" in Frisco 3-1 and loses the "second leg" in Seattle 2-0. The Sounders would advance despite being tied 3-3 on aggregate as they lead 1-0 on away goals.

Does that all make sense? Score more goals than the other team over two games, you win. Score the same amount of goals and more goals in the other team's house, you win.

 

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