Sunday’s final weekend of the season was labelled Decision Day and it was just that with all 22 teams in action at the same time and playoff spots and first round byes up for grabs in both conferences and an MLS points record at stake.
When the dust settled in the Eastern Conference we already knew that Toronto FC had locked up top spot overall and the Supporters Shield but a late equalizer in Atlanta gave them the best ever points total in MLS history at 69 (LA Galaxy 68 pts) and home field throughout the playoffs. That late goal also allowed New York City a first-round bye and sent Atlanta into one of the two Eastern conference knockout games where they’ll host the Columbus Crew in a one game showdown for a semifinal spot. The other knockout stage game sees the Chicago Fire host the New York Red Bulls. The lowest ranked survivor of these two will then face Toronto FC in a 2-leg semifinal with New York City FC facing the other knockout stage winner.
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Over in the Western Conference Sunday proved to be a dramatic day throughout as Vancouver entered the final day with top spot but a loss to Portland not only dropped them out of top spot but into the knockout stages after a Seattle 3-0 win against Colorado. Vancouver will host San Jose Earthquakes who needed a 93rd minute goal to win 3-2 and take the final spot away from Dallas FC who had won 5-1. The second knockout stage will pit the Houston Dynamo as they host Sporting KC and once again the lower ranked survivor of these two knockout stage matches will play Portland with the other winner facing last year’s MLS Cup winners Seattle.
MLS Cup Predictions:
The Eastern Conference and the league itself has been dominated practically from start to finish by a Toronto FC side that have played with a chip on their shoulder after last season’s Cup Final loss at home in penalty kicks. Another final appearance and at home at BMO field seems like an almost certainty and of the 5 other Eastern Conference sides their likely toughest challenge should be a NYCFC side that has a talented front line up in Jack Harrison and David Villa. The knockout stages should be two tightly contested fixtures and you can find more information and preview/predictions closer to game time.
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The Western Conference is bound to be much more competitive as it has all season and home field advantage may not play as big a role as it will in the East. The Vancouver Whitecap’s will have to put Sunday’s disappointing result behind them as they host an Earthquakes side that are on an absolute high after a final minute goal to qualify on Sunday while Houston and Sporting KC will meet in Houston where the Dynamo were almost unbeatable this season while putting together the conference’s best home record. Previews and Predictions for these two knockout stage games will be available at Wagertalk.com closer to game day. Ultimately can the Sounders of Seattle make it back to defend the MLS Cup or will their neighbors and bitter rivals Portland Timbers have something to say about that. We’ll find out on December 9th.