After the LA Galaxy lost in Houston 3-1 on Sunday to close out the MLS 2011 season, the field was set. With the new playoff format, all the Galaxy can do is wait. They'll begin post-season competition on Sunday.
Under the rules of last year, eight teams made the MLS playoffs. There were two autobids from each conference, and then four wildcards placed in match-ups based on seeding. The lower seeds would be placed in the opposite conference if there were no more spots in their, own. This led to events like the Colorado Rapids winning the Eastern Conference last year on the way to their first MLS Cup championship.
This year an attempt was made to fix both problems, admitting ten teams to the post-season instead of eight. While this means that once again in MLS, more teams make the post-season than don't; it also means that fewer wildcards get into the quarterfinals. So it's still, truly, an eight team tournament with a play in game for the last two spots.
When Houston defeated LA on Sunday, they clinched the second spot in the east. This means the four wild card teams are:
One plays four and two plays three, with the high seeds hosting. The lowest remaining seed after the play in round will play the Supporters' Shield winner (the LA Galaxy) and the other seed will play the winner of the Eastern conference.
This means the Galaxy will open their post-season play on the road, on Sunday October 30th, for a home and home series with the lowest seeded wildcard. The return leg of that series will be played Thursday, November 3rd, 8:00pm at the Home Depot Center. Both games will shown on ESPN or ESPN2. The game on Thursday, due to an agreement with Cal State Dominguez Hills was capped at 15,000 attending.
If the Galaxy are able to advance to the Western Conference Championship, that will be held on November 6th at full capacity. The Home Depot Center has already been designated the site of the MLS Cup final. This is the fourth time the HDC has hosted the MLS Cup.
-The LA Galaxy played a reserve squad on Sunday, and reportedly sent home eight players to Los Angeles to begin recuperation early.
-David Beckham went the full 90 mins in the Galaxy's CCL match Wednesday that sent them through to the knockout stage. Landon Donovan came in with half an hour to go.
-Robbie Keane is likely out until the MLS Cup, but also has to captain the Irish team in a Euro playoff play in game, the week before the Cup game.
-In the last year of his five year contract, this may be David Beckham's last chance to win a championship in MLS.