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Volume 26 No. 28
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MLS Ups Broadcast Distribution For Playoffs; Final Heading To ABC

This year's MLS Cup will be decided via a new playoff format featuring single-elimination knockout matches

This year’s MLS Cup will see its widest North American distribution ever, as the league announced today that the championship match for the first time will be broadcast across four networks, airing on ABC and Univision in the U.S., and on TSN and TVA Sports in Canada. The championship match on Nov. 10 will also be available to stream live on the ESPN+ and ABC apps. “We’re setting ourselves up to make the content and make the games available to as many people as we possibly can and cast this wide net,” MLS Senior VP/Media Seth Bacon said. This year marks the debut of a revamped format for the MLS Cup, which is now comprised entirely of single-elimination knockout matches. In previous years, the conference finals and semifinals were two-match series determined by goal differential. The new format will allow the playoffs to take place within a three-week span, reducing the total number of matches from 17 to 13. “We’re constantly looking at ways we can evolve the product,” Bacon said. “We want to find ways to take what we believe is an exciting playoff and find ways to make it more exciting to drive more value for fans. We believe it will just create more engaging and compelling narratives and storylines for our fans to follow, for our media partners to cover, and for our teams.”

PAYOFF OF NEW FORMAT: Bacon said one of the issues with the previous playoff format, which stretched from October through December, was the 10-day mid-playoff break caused by teams releasing players to participate in international FIFA events. Now, the league will be able to avoid the interruption and Bacon hopes it will allow for more compelling post-season storylines. “Now you have this complete narrative that goes straight through,” Bacon said. “We believe that by creating this more compelling narrative, we’re going to be able to draw more people in to attend the matches and to watch the matches.” The return of this year’s championship match to ABC will mark the first MLS Cup broadcast on the network since '08, while the tournament’s first three rounds will remain on ESPN, FS1 and Univision in the U.S., and on TSN and TVA Sports networks in Canada.