The marathon is over. Now, it's time for the sprint.
The match-ups are set, with the play-in games scheduled to kick things off. The Colorado Rapids travel to face the Seattle Sounders (Wednesday, 9:30 p.m. on MLS Live) and the Montreal Impact head down to face the Houston Dynamo (Thursday, 7 p.m. on TSN and MLS Live).
The weekend brings the conference semifinals. Sporting Kansas City will start on the road against the New England Revolution (Saturday, 7 p.m.* locally on KSMO-TV and nationally on NBC Sports Network). Later that night, the Portland Timbers will face the winner of Colorado-Seattle (Saturday, 9 p.m. on NBC Sports Network).*The field at Gillette Stadium should be interesting. There's a college football game on Saturday at noon (UMass vs. Northern Illinois) and an NFL game on Sunday (Patriots vs. Steelers). Football lines are a guarantee.
The Supporters' Shield winning New York Red Bulls will face the winner of Houston-Montreal (Sunday, 2:30 p.m. on NBC) and Real Salt Lake takes on the Los Angeles Galaxy (Sunday, 8 p.m. on ESPN).
The semifinals will be decided by two-game aggregate series. The lower-seeded team hosts the first leg. If the aggregate series is tied after 180 minutes, two 15-minute extra periods will be play in their entirety before heading to penalty kicks. Unlike the rules in other knockout tournaments, away goals are not weighted.
The return legs will take place on Nov. 6 or 7. The exact dates and kickoff times have yet to be determined.
Tight until the end
How close was the MLS regular season? The last qualifier (Montreal, 49 points) finished just 10 points behind the Supporters' Shield winners (New York, 59 points).
The top four teams? New York (59), Sporting Kansas City (58), Portland Timbers (57) and Real Salt Lake (56). Three points. That’s all.
Cue every Sporting Kansas City fan remembering with regret this moment: