After twelve clubs qualified for the postseason, four teams remain in the search for the 2016 MLS Cup title. The top seeds in both the Western Conference (FC Dallas) and the Eastern Conference (New York Red Bulls) have been eliminated.
Canadian rivals Toronto FC and the Montreal Impact will determine the Eastern champion, while the Colorado Rapids and Seattle Sounders will battle for the Western crown. Both ties will be a two-leg series, with away goals being a deciding element if needed.
We take a look at how each side reached the conference championship stage and what to expect heading towards the MLS Cup final on December 10th.
COLORADO RAPIDS – SEATTLE SOUNDERS
LEG 1 – TUESDAY NOVEMBER 22ND – CENTURYLINK FIELD – SEATTLE, WASHINGTON
LEG 2 – SUNDAY NOVEMBER 27TH – DICK’S SPORTING GOODS PARK – COMMERCE CITY, COLORADO
The Western Conference final will match two teams in fine form, but who are also missing key players due to injury.
Seattle have been without forward Clint Dempsey since August due to a heart condition, but the Sounders’ attack has come on strong in the second half of the season. Led by Nicolas Lodeiro and Nelson Valdez, a 3-0 home victory against FC Dallas in the first leg of the Western Conference semi-finals was nothing short of impressive.
Colorado required penalty kicks and crucial saves from US international goalkeeper Tim Howard to get past the Los Angeles Galaxy in their Western Conference semi-final series. But an injury sustained in a World Cup qualifier between the USA and Mexico during the international break last week has ended Howard’s MLS campaign early.
The Rapids’ ability to find a positive result within a difficult atmosphere at CenturyLink Field in the first game of the series will be critical to them reaching the 2016 MLS Cup final.
TORONTO FC – MONTREAL IMPACT
LEG 1 – TUESDAY NOVEMBER 22ND – OLYMPIC STADIUM – MONTREAL, QUEBEC
LEG 2 – WEDNESDAY NOVEMBER 30TH – BMO FIELD – TORONTO, ONTARIO
No Canadian club has ever reached the MLS Cup finals. That fact will change in 2016 thanks to dominant performances by Toronto FC and the Montreal Impact in their respective Eastern Conference semi-final matchups.
A 7-0 aggregate victory over NYCFC has Toronto FC coming into the series with Montreal firing on all cylinders. Italian international Sebastian Giovinco is fully recovered from injury late in the regular season and manager Greg Vanney has the Reds poised for a historic triumph.
The Montreal Impact come into this Eastern Conference final after shocking the New York Red Bulls with a comprehensive 3-1 aggregate victory.
The Montreal defence was able to shut down the high-powered attack of the Red Bulls and prevent them from controlling either match in the series. The Impact will look to Argentine midfielder Ignacio Piatti to continue his sparkling form in order to upset their 401 derby rivals.
The MLS Cup playoffs bring about a unique set of circumstances for clubs looking to capture a league title. A long regular season comes down to only a few matches for a team to either bring their best or face elimination.
As the conference finals play out, two more squads will be cast aside in what will surely be an exhilarating set of games leading to the MLS Cup final.