MLS to shorten season, move to single-elimination for 2019 playoffs

MLS has announced an overhaul of its playoff system that will see more teams involved and a single-leg elimination format introduced from the 2019 season. 

Fourteen teams will make up the revised postseason field, up from 12 this year in a nod to the league’s continued expansion – Los Angeles FC joined the league in 2018 and Cincinnati will compete for the first time next term. 

The top seed from each conference will get a bye in the first round and will face the winner of the clash between the fourth and fifth seeds in the conference semifinals. 

Teams will not be re-seeded based on upsets during postseason matches, as they have in the past, and the higher seed will be the host in each round, offering a greater reward for their regular-season performance. 

By eliminating two-legged matches in the conference semifinals and finals, the more streamlined bracket will fit entirely between FIFA’s October and November international breaks. 

The 2019 regular season will conclude on October 6, about three weeks earlier than in 2018, with the playoffs set to start on October 19 and just ahead of the October FIFA international date, giving teams a bit of recovery time between the regular season and the start of the playoffs.  

A date of November 10 has been set for the MLS Cup, which was played on December 8 this year, leaving the entire league schedule nearly a full month shorter.  

The move, according to a league release, is partially targeted at better weather conditions for MLS Cup should it be held in a cold-weather market, where average temperatures are, according to the league, 10 to 17 degrees warmer in early November when compared to early December.  

MLS Playoff bracket

The new format also seems likely to stick around for a while. 

The earlier end date will have MLS in line with the schedule for the 2022 World Cup in Qatar, which is slated to start on November 21.  

Statistics also show that the move to single elimination will actually benefit the home sides, which have advanced nearly 64 percent of the time in single elimination matches while they have won just 55 percent of the time in the two-legged format. 

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PSG matches against Montpellier and Dijon rearranged

Paris Saint-Germain’s Ligue 1 contests against Montpellier and Dijon have been rearranged for February and March, respectively, after they were postponed due to the ‘gilets jaunes’ demonstrations.

France’s civil unrest began in November as people protested against president Emmanuel Macron’s eco-tax on diesel, but it has since developed into an anti-government movement.

Protests and demonstrations have caused havoc and rioting across the country, particularly in the capital Paris, with a host of sporting events being impacted due to the strain on the police and security services.

PSG’s home match with high-flying Montpellier was due to take place on December 8 and then initially rearranged for January 15.

Following an announcement from Ligue 1, that contest will now be played on February 19 or 20, while PSG’s trip to Dijon is set for March 13, having been called off last weekend.

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Arsenal’s Elneny expects easy run against BATE Borisov in Europa League

Mohamed Elneny is expecting an easy run against BATE Borisov after both sides were paired in Monday’s Europa League round of 32 draws.

The Gunners secured a meeting with the reigning Belarusian Premier League champions after they topped Group E with 16 points from six games.

The English side defeated the Borisov Arena outfit home and away last season in the tournament with the midfielder playing a key role in the encounters, scoring in the first leg and he is looking forward to a similar outcome this term.

“We’ve drawn BATE Borisov in the UEL – we beat them 4-2 away and 6-0 at home in last season’s group stage,” Elneny posted on Instagram.

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#Repost @arsenal with ・・・ 🔴 we’ve drawn BATE Borisov in the #UEL – we beat them 4-2 away and 6-0 at home in last season’s group stage. #Arsenal #AFC #COYG

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This season, the Egypt international has featured sparingly under new manager Unai Emery as he has been limited to six games in cup competitions, awaiting for his Premier League debut

He will hope to get involved when the Emirates Stadium outfit take on Tottenham Hotspur in Wednesday’s League Cup tie.

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Mohamed Diame wants to extend his Newcastle United stay

Mohamed Diame has talked up his desire to extend his contract with Premier League side Newcastle United.

The 31-year-old joined the Magpies in August 2016 after agreeing to a three-year contract which expires at the end of the season. He will have a chance to secure a new deal provided he reaches a certain amount of appearances this term.

The midfielder has made 91 appearances since teaming up with the side and under manager Rafael Benitez, he has been a consistent fixture for the Magpies this term featuring in all their league games.

And the former Hull City player is looking forward to a new deal that will keep him at St James’ Park beyond the end of the 2018-19 season.

“It’s very nice for me at Newcastle and I am happy here,” Diame told Chronicle Live.

“Everyone knows I am near the end of my contract. But I am really happy and I hope to stay more years here.

“The situation is weird because I have an option. Right now as we speak, I will be out of contract, but the most important thing is to keep the club in the Premier League.

“I’m happy because I am playing and if I am playing and doing well, Newcastle will extend my contract.”

Mohamed Diame PS

Diame put in a decent performance to help Newcastle secure a 1-0 victory over Huddersfield Town at the John Smith’s Stadium on Saturday.

“It was an important one. Everyone knows that this kind of game against another team at the bottom with us is important to get the result,” he continued.

“To beat Huddersfield is amazing, I think they played well to be honest. They were on top of us but we went back with the three points.”

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‘I’d rather play with Ziyech than Ronaldo or Messi’ – De Ligt focused on Ajax not transfer talk

Matthijs de Ligt has downplayed speculation over his future, saying right now he’d prefer to play with Hakim Ziyech at Ajax than Cristiano Ronaldo or Lionel Messi. 

The 19-year-old defender was in Turin on Monday to receive the Golden Boy award, handed out by Tuttosport for the most promising player under the age of 21 in Europe.

His performances with Ajax have seen De Ligt earn a place on the Netherlands national team as well as links with some of Europe’s big sides.

Juventus and Barcelona have been among those reported to be interested in the teenager but when asked who he preferred to play with, Cristiano Ronaldo or Lionel Messi, De Ligt instead told Sky Sports Italia: “I’d prefer to play with Ziyech at Ajax.”

Though De Ligt put all talk of his future until the end of the season, questions continued for the teenager over his future and whether he would be interested in a move to the reigning Serie A champions.

However, De Ligt, while complimenting Italy, downplayed his current interest in leaving the Dutch giants.

“Juventus? I don’t think about market right now,” De Ligt said. “Italy is a wonderful country to play football, but at the moment I am fully focused on the present.

“I’m not thinking about the possibility to leave Ajax and I’m not thinking about in which league I can play in the future.”

Part of De Ligt’s focus is no doubt on the Eredivisie, where Ajax trail current champions PSV by just two points in the table.

However, unlike their league rivals, Ajax advanced out of the group stage in the Champions League and will now face reigning European champions Real Madrid in the round of 16.

And De Ligt views it as a wonderful opportunity for he and his Ajax team-mates to show their quality by ending Madrid’s hopes of a fourth straight continental crown.

“It will be a very difficult match against the best team in the world, but we are confident,” De Ligt said. “We can beat Real Madrid showing our qualities to the whole world.”

In winning the Golden Boy, De Ligt managed to become the first defender to take home the award – an honor he cherishes.

“It’s a great goal for a defender to win this prestigious award, I am happy to be the first in my role to win this trophy,” he added.

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