The final weeks of the MLS regular season always strike me as frantic. Teams are jockeying for playoff spots, Supporters Shield honors and seeding and the home field advantage that goes along with it. This year was no different.
Now that is all behind us, and the actual playoffs have begun. Well, the play-in games have taken place (Seattle Sounders bested Colorado Rapids last night in the Western Conference play-in, and Houston Dynamo defeated Montreal Impact in the Eastern Conference version earlier tonight). With all the playoff teams decided, the real, two-legged playoffs begin (Is it any wonder I find the MLS Cup playoff structure annoying). Conference semi-final followed by conference final followed by MLS Cup final.
Unlike other club soccer competitions like Uefa’s Champions League and Europa League, the MLS Cup Playoffs actually are a complete toss-up. Any of the 10 teams that make it to the post-season can lift MLS Cup when all is said and done (Contrast that with the Champions League, where only a handful of – very wealthy – teams has a realistic shot at winning – or even making the final).
The first year I followed the MLS Cup Playoffs closely (2010), I watched New York, Los Angeles and other “fancied” teams lose early, then watched FC Dallas (the favorite heading into the final) lose to the Colorado Rapids in what turned out to be a truly awful final game. (It wasn’t awful because it featured no teams I was rooting for; the quality of the soccer was terrible).
All of which is to say, I won’t be predicting a winner at any level of this competition because it is way too hard to predict. But the table is set for some truly intriguing matchups.
- New England Revolution vs. Sporting Kansas City
- Seattle Sounders vs. Portland Timbers
- Houston Dynamo vs. New York Red Bulls
- Los Angeles Galaxy vs. Real Salt Lake