A look inside the 2011 MLS playoffs

October, 26, 2011
10/26/11
11:17
AM ET

For the second year in a row, the Los Angeles Galaxy finished the MLS regular season as the top team in the league. However, this season, Landon Donovan and his squad do not yet know whom they will face in their playoff opener. For the first time in the 16-year history of the MLS, four wild-card teams will play a single-elimination qualifying round for entry into the conference semifinals. In the inaugural MLS wild-card round, 2010 runner-up FC Dallas hosts the New York Red Bulls at Pizza Hut Park on Wednesday. In the second game, the defending champion Colorado Rapids take on the Columbus Crew in Commerce City on Thursday night.

• In case you missed the changes, 10 teams qualify for the postseason in the revamped playoff system, with the top three in each conference earning a bye to the conference semifinals. The next four teams with the most points are seeded wild cards and play one single-elimination game to advance to the semis. Sporting Kansas City joins Los Angeles as the other conference winner and will face the best remaining seed in the Eastern Conference semifinal.

• The Red Bulls squeaked into the playoffs as the last wild card, finishing the season with a league-record 16 draws, yet boasting one of the league's most productive offenses, scoring the second-most goals in the league (50) and putting the third-most shots on goal (153). Former French national team captain and current Red Bulls skipper Thierry Henry has scored the second-most goals in the league this season with 14. New York has only two wins on the road this season, but one was against Dallas on Sept. 17.

• FC Dallas finished the regular season with 52 points and 15 wins, the most among the four wild-card teams, earning the top seed. The Texas club is led by exciting young U.S. international Brek Shea, who leads the team with 11 regular-season goals. However, Dallas' 42 goals this season is the fewest of any playoff team.

• Last season, Colorado upset Columbus in the conference semifinals, going on to surprise everyone by winning the MLS Cup. This year, the Rapids enter the playoffs with the most goals-against of any team coming out of the West, and they are tied for second-most among all postseason teams with 41. The Rocky Mountain club hasn't allowed that many goals since conceding 44 in 2008. Colorado is the only wild-card team that doesn't have a single player with more than seven goals this season.

• Columbus is the only team carrying a negative goal differential into the playoffs (minus-1). Although the Crew are entering the postseason with the second-fewest goals scored of any playoff team, Peruvian striker Andres "El Condor" Mendoza's 13 regular-season goals ranked third in the league, one behind Henry.

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