Five of eight Canadian Premier League teams set to make playoffs this season

The game ball sits on a pedestal ahead of the soccer match of the Canadian Premier League between Forge FC of Hamilton and York 9 in Hamilton, Ont., Saturday, April 27, 2019. (Aaron Lynett/CP)

The Canadian Premier League is expanding its playoffs to include a fifth team.

Previously the top four clubs in the eight-team league made the post-season, with No. 1 facing No. 4 and Nov. 2 taking on No. 3 in the semifinals.

Starting this season, which kicks off April 15, the top two in the regular-season standings will get a more direct path to hosting the CPL final.

The playoffs will start Oct. 11 with the fifth-place team visiting the fourth-place club. The winner will face the third-place finisher on Oct. 14.

That same day, the CPL regular-season champion will host the runner-up with the winner advancing directly to host the CPL final. The loser of that match will face the winner of the matchup between the third-place team and the club that moves on from the No. 4-5 contest. The victor will advance to the championship game.

The final is scheduled for the weekend of Oct. 28-29.

The top four seeds are guaranteed to host at least one match. Four of the five playoff matches will be knockout affairs, with an opportunity to host the CPL final on the line in the lone non-elimination game.

“We are excited about this new format because it provides additional incentive to perform well during our regular season and makes every single playoff match essentially a final,” commissioner Mark Noonan said in a statement. “Win and advance or lose and go home.”

For the first time this season, playoff matches tied after 90 minutes of regulation play will go to extra time — two 15-minute halves played to completion. If a match is still tied after 30 minutes of extra time, the game will be decided in a penalty shootout.

The 2023 playoff champion will earn one of the league’s two spots in the newly expanded CONCACAF Champions League, with the other spot going to its regular-season champion. The new Champions League, which will now include 27 clubs, will kick off in 2024.

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