Playoff path

Staff Writer
Columbus Alive

It's been a while since the Columbus Crew last made the playoffs, so don't be ashamed for drawing a blank as to how MLS runs its postseason.

But at long last the playoffs begin this week, so it's time to reacquaint yourself with the way this tournament works. Here's how the schedule will play out for the Black and Gold as long as they keep winning.

Round 1: The conference semifinals pit teams in a two-game, home-and-home series decided by aggregate score -- that is, they add the score from both games and whoever comes out ahead advances.

Adopting this traditional soccer setup is one of the many ways MLS has moved closer to the international game and further from the Americanized version the league started out with.

For Columbus, this means a trip to Kansas City to open the playoffs. Starting on the road might not seem like much of a home-field advantage for the top-seeded Crew, but it means the Crew will go into their home leg knowing exactly what they need to do. And should the series end in a draw, the overtime period will happen in Columbus.

Round 2: MLS crowns its conference champions with a one-game playoff. Should the Crew advance past the Wizards to take on New England or Chicago in the Eastern Conference final, Columbus will host the match.

Round 3: Since the beginning, the league has decided its victor with a single match at a neutral site, the MLS Cup final. This year's finale is at the Home Depot Center in Los Angeles.

Crew playoff schedule

Saturday, Nov. 1: Eastern Conference semifinal first leg vs. Kansas City Wizards at CommunityAmerica Ballpark, Kansas City

Saturday, Nov. 8: Eastern Conference semifinal second leg vs. Kansas City Wizards at Crew Stadium

If the Crew advances

Nov. 13 or Nov. 15: Eastern Conference final vs. TBA at Crew Stadium

Sunday, Nov. 23: MLS Cup final vs. TBA at Home Depot Center, Los Angeles