2023 MLS Cup Playoffs

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2023 MLS Cup Playoffs
Tournament details
CountryUnited States
DatesOctober 25 – December 9
Defending championsLos Angeles FC
Final positions
ChampionsColumbus Crew (3rd title)
Runner-upLos Angeles FC
Tournament statistics
Matches played28
Goals scored78 (2.79 per match)
Attendance646,677 (23,096 per match)
Top goal scorer(s)Gabon Denis Bouanga
Colombia Cucho Hernández
(5 goals each)
← 2022
2024 →

The 2023 MLS Cup Playoffs (branded as the Audi MLS Cup Playoffs for sponsorship reasons) was the post-season championship of Major League Soccer (MLS), the top soccer league in the United States and Canada. It was the 28th edition of the MLS Cup Playoffs, the tournament culminating at the end of the 2023 season. The playoffs began on October 25 and concluded with MLS Cup 2023 on December 9.[1]

Los Angeles FC entered the playoffs as the defending MLS Cup champions. FC Cincinnati entered as Supporters' Shield winners, but were eliminated by Columbus Crew in the Conference Finals. Charlotte FC and St. Louis City SC reached the MLS Cup Playoffs for the first time in 2023, the latter qualifying in their debut MLS season.

Columbus Crew won a third MLS Cup title after defeating Los Angeles FC 2–1.


The playoffs featured a new format from previous years with an expanded field of 18 teams—the top nine teams from each conference. The eighth and ninth-placed teams in each conference contested a single wild card match with only a penalty shoot-out occurring if the game was tied. Round One comprised a best-of-three format with higher seeds playing against lower seeds, for the first time since 1999. The round did not have the aggregate score kept, and tied matches proceeded directly to a penalty shoot-out to determine the winner. The remaining three rounds — the Conference Semifinals, Conference Final, and MLS Cup — were single-elimination matches played with extra time and a penalty shoot-out if still tied.[1][2] The higher seed hosted the match in all rounds except for the best-of-three series in Round One, where the lower seed hosted the second of three possible matches. All matches were broadcast globally on MLS Season Pass, a streaming service operated by Apple.[1]

The introduction of a best-of-three round and the expanded field, which allowed 62% of the league's 29 teams to qualify for the playoffs, were criticized for being more confusing and diluting the competition.[3] It was the first major revamp of the playoff format since 2019, when all rounds were switched to single-elimination matches.[4] The format added more matches, including home games for lower seeds, and was developed with fan input according to MLS officials; other outlets noted that new broadcaster Apple TV would benefit from the additional matches.[5][6] The new playoff format was announced on February 21, 2023, shortly before the start of the regular season;[7] earlier media reports indicated that another format with a round-robin group stage was also considered.[8]

Unlike regular season matches, playoff matches did not have a sixth substitute added for periods of extra time. Players were suspended for a match after accumulating three yellow cards; the suspension applied to the next match, whether it was in the playoffs or the 2024 regular season. In the event that a playoff match could not be played and neither team had forfeited or is at fault, the team with the higher points per game during the 2023 regular season would advance.[9][10]

Qualified teams[edit]

The playoffs were contested by eighteen teams. The date listed indicates when each team qualified for the playoffs.

Conference standings[edit]


The higher seeded teams hosted single-elimination matches, with the MLS Cup host determined by overall points in the Supporters' Shield table. During the best-of-three round, the team with higher seed hosted the first match, and the third match if necessary.

Wild Card
single match
Round one
best-of-three series
Conference semifinals
single match
Conference finals
single match
single match
E1 FC Cincinnati 3 1 (8)
E8 New York Red Bulls 5 E8 New York Red Bulls 0 1 (7)
E9 Charlotte FC 2 E1 FC Cincinnati 1
E4 Philadelphia Union 0
E4 Philadelphia Union 3 1 Eastern Conference
E5 New England Revolution 1 0
E1 FC Cincinnati 2
E3 Columbus Crew (a.e.t.) 3
E3 Columbus Crew 2 2 4
E6 Atlanta United FC 0 4 2
E3 Columbus Crew (a.e.t.) 2
E2 Orlando City SC 0
E2 Orlando City SC 1 1
E7 Nashville SC 0 0
E3 Columbus Crew 2
W3 Los Angeles FC 1
W1 St. Louis City SC 1 1
W8 Sporting Kansas City (p) 0 (4) W8 Sporting Kansas City 4 2
W9 San Jose Earthquakes 0 (2) W8 Sporting Kansas City 0
W4 Houston Dynamo FC 1
W4 Houston Dynamo FC 2 1 (4) 1 (4) Western Conference
W5 Real Salt Lake 1 1 (5) 1 (3)
W4 Houston Dynamo FC 0
W3 Los Angeles FC 2
W3 Los Angeles FC 5 1
W6 Vancouver Whitecaps FC 2 0
W3 Los Angeles FC 1
W2 Seattle Sounders FC 0
W2 Seattle Sounders FC 2 1 1
W7 FC Dallas 0 3 0

Wild Card round[edit]

Eastern Conference[edit]

New York Red Bulls5–2Charlotte FC

Western Conference[edit]

Round One[edit]

Team 1 Series Team 2 Match 1 Match 2 Match 3
Eastern Conference
FC Cincinnati 2–0 New York Red Bulls 3–0 1–1 (8–7 p)
Orlando City SC 2–0 Nashville SC 1–0 1–0
Columbus Crew 2–1 Atlanta United FC 2–0 2–4 4–2
Philadelphia Union 2–0 New England Revolution 3–1 1–0
Western Conference
St. Louis City SC 0–2 Sporting Kansas City 1–4 1–2
Seattle Sounders FC 2–1 FC Dallas 2–0 1–3 1–0
Los Angeles FC 2–0 Vancouver Whitecaps FC 5–2 1–0
Houston Dynamo FC 2–1 Real Salt Lake 2–1 1–1 (4–5 p) 1–1 (4–3 p)

Eastern Conference[edit]

FC Cincinnati3–0New York Red Bulls
Attendance: 24,022
Referee: Rubiel Vazquez
New York Red Bulls1–1FC Cincinnati
Barlow 45' Report Boupendza 75'
Attendance: 20,044
Referee: Victor Rivas

FC Cincinnati won the series 2–0.

Nashville SC0–1Orlando City SC

Orlando City SC won the series 2–0.

Columbus Crew2–0Atlanta United FC
Attendance: 20,176
Referee: Lukasz Szpala
Atlanta United FC4–2Columbus Crew
Columbus Crew4–2Atlanta United FC

Columbus Crew won the series 2–1.

Philadelphia Union3–1New England Revolution
Attendance: 19,778
Referee: Pierre-Luc Lauziere
New England Revolution0–1Philadelphia Union

Philadelphia Union won the series 2–0.

Western Conference[edit]

St. Louis City SC1–4Sporting Kansas City
Attendance: 22,423
Referee: Ted Unkel
Sporting Kansas City2–1St. Louis City SC

Sporting Kansas City won the series 2–0.

Seattle Sounders FC2–0FC Dallas
Attendance: 30,741
Referee: Joseph Dickerson
FC Dallas3–1Seattle Sounders FC
Attendance: 19,096
Referee: Rosendo Mendoza
Seattle Sounders FC1–0FC Dallas
Attendance: 33,048
Referee: Fotis Bazakos

Seattle Sounders FC won the series 2–1.

Los Angeles FC5–2Vancouver Whitecaps FC
Attendance: 22,002
Referee: Jon Freemon
Vancouver Whitecaps FC0–1Los Angeles FC
Attendance: 30,204
Referee: Timothy Ford

Los Angeles FC won the series 2–0.

Houston Dynamo FC2–1Real Salt Lake
Attendance: 17,508
Referee: Guido Gonzales Jr.
Real Salt Lake1–1Houston Dynamo FC
Attendance: 20,251
Referee: Fotis Bazakos
Houston Dynamo FC1–1Real Salt Lake
Baird 28' Report Luna 65'

Houston Dynamo FC won the series 2–1.

Conference semifinals[edit]

The higher-seeded team as determined by regular season ranking hosted the match.[1]

Team 1  Score  Team 2
Eastern Conference
Orlando City SC 0–2 (a.e.t.) Columbus Crew
FC Cincinnati 1–0 Philadelphia Union
Western Conference
Houston Dynamo FC 1–0 Sporting Kansas City
Seattle Sounders FC 0–1 Los Angeles FC

Eastern Conference[edit]

Orlando City SC0–2 (a.e.t.)Columbus Crew
Attendance: 25,527
Referee: Jon Freemon

FC Cincinnati1–0Philadelphia Union
Attendance: 25,513
Referee: Ismail Elfath

Western Conference[edit]

Houston Dynamo FC1–0Sporting Kansas City
Attendance: 20,319
Referee: Guido Gonzales Jr.

Seattle Sounders FC0–1Los Angeles FC
Attendance: 33,649
Referee: Ted Unkel

Conference finals[edit]

The higher-seeded team as determined by regular season ranking hosted the match.[1]

Eastern Conference[edit]

FC Cincinnati2–3 (a.e.t.)Columbus Crew
Attendance: 25,513
Referee: Allen Chapman

Western Conference[edit]

Los Angeles FC2–0Houston Dynamo FC
Attendance: 22,221
Referee: Victor Rivas

MLS Cup 2023[edit]

The highest-ranked finalist in the overall Supporters' Shield table (Columbus Crew) hosted the match.[1][23]

Columbus Crew2–1Los Angeles FC

Top goalscorers[edit]

Rank Player Club Goals[24]
1 Gabon Denis Bouanga Los Angeles FC 5
Colombia Cucho Hernández Columbus Crew
3 United States Ryan Hollingshead Los Angeles FC 3
Brazil Elias Manoel New York Red Bulls
5 Argentina Luciano Acosta FC Cincinnati 2
United States Tom Barlow New York Red Bulls
Argentina Álvaro Barreal FC Cincinnati
Morocco Amine Bassi Houston Dynamo FC
Greece Giorgos Giakoumakis Atlanta United FC
United States Diego Luna Real Salt Lake
United States Jordan Morris Seattle Sounders FC
Belgium Logan Ndenbe Sporting Kansas City
United States Christian Ramirez Columbus Crew
Uruguay Diego Rossi Columbus Crew
Slovakia Albert Rusnák Seattle Sounders FC
Hungary Dániel Sallói Sporting Kansas City
Portugal Xande Silva Atlanta United FC


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  13. ^ a b c "How things stand: Major League Soccer". Soccer America. September 21, 2023. Retrieved October 9, 2023.
  14. ^ Brennan, Pat (August 31, 2023). "FC Cincinnati has its playoff berth. Now, it's closing in on MLS history". The Cincinnati Enquirer. Retrieved September 17, 2023.
  15. ^ "Nashville SC clinch Audi 2023 MLS Cup Playoffs spot". MLSsoccer.com. September 30, 2023. Retrieved September 30, 2023.
  16. ^ "New England Revolution clinch Audi 2023 MLS Cup Playoffs spot". MLSsoccer.com. September 23, 2023. Retrieved September 23, 2023.
  17. ^ "New York Red Bulls clinch Audi 2023 MLS Cup Playoffs spot". MLSsoccer.com. October 21, 2023. Retrieved October 21, 2023.
  18. ^ "FC Dallas clinch Audi 2023 MLS Cup Playoffs spot". MLSsoccer.com. October 21, 2023. Retrieved October 21, 2023.
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