The MLS playoffs are upon us, as 12 teams now vie for the league’s ultimate prize.
Postseason play kicks off on Wednesday, beginning a month-and-a-half long chase towards MLS Cup. That chase begins with the 12 remaining teams, and will conclude on Dec. 10 with a new champion following the shocking end to the Portland Timbers season.
Leading the pack of favorites is FC Dallas, who enter the playoffs with two trophies in hand already. However, an injury to Mauro Diaz leaves FC Dallas lacking one of the league’s elite playmakers, opening the door for a Colorado Rapids team that finished second in the West largely without Jermaine Jones. The U.S. Men’s National Team midfielder is back, and he will now look to help boost an attacking unit that pairs with one of the league’s strongest defenses.
In the East, a pair of New York clubs earned byes, as the New York Red Bulls and NYCFC finished atop the conference. Golden Boot winner Bradley Wright-Phillips and assist king Sacha Kljestan will look to lead the Red Bulls to their first MLS Cup, while David Villa leads an NYCFC team set to taste the playoffs for the first time.
Still, the door is open for each of the teams playing in the midweek knockout rounds. Two of the last four MLS Cup champions have had to navigate the opening matches, showing that it is possible for the lower-seeded teams to make a run.
The West is loaded with contenders, including a well-rested LA Galaxy team. In their path will be a Real Salt Lake team with an attacking group that could give any team in MLS fits. In the other Western Conference clash, Nicolas Lodeiro will lead the resurgent Seattle Sounders against a veteran Sporting KC group that was robbed by a double post last season against the eventual champions.
Eastern Conference action is led by Toronto FC and Sebastian Giovinco, who take on a slumping Philadelphia Union team that is looking to recapture early-season form. The Montreal Impact are also in a bit of turmoil given the recent Didier Drogba drama, but remain a scary proposition thanks to the play of star Ignacio Piatti. They’ll have to beat a team that may be the league’s most in-form, though, as midseason acquitions Patrick Mullins and Lloyd Sam have ignited D.C. United.
With that said, who do you see as MLS Cup favorites? Which team do you see lifting the trophy in December?
Have your say in SBI’s Question of the Day and state your reasoning in the comments below.