MLS playoff preview and predictions: Western powers favored by staff

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One of the best seasons in the history of Major League Soccer reaches its second season come Wednesday in Texas.

FC Dallas and Vancouver will wage a one-night battle for the right to face the Supporters Shield-winning Seattle Sounders, and Thursday will see New York and Sporting KC square off to determine who gets a pair of matches against East-winning DC United.

It should be a blast, with match-up intrigue everywhere and beginning right away. Let’s get into said storylines before we get a quartet of predictions from our staff.

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The drama starts right off the bat with Sporting KC putting its hopes of repeating on the line with a big city battle against New York in what could be Thierry Henry’s last game in Major League Soccer… and maybe even ever.

New York is also still searching for its first MLS Cup title, and that holds true for New England as well. Can Gregg Berhalter continue to work his magic, or are the playoffs the end of his remarkable turnaround in Columbus? And DC United, worst to first and still alive in the Lamar Hunt US Open Cup after last season’s unlikely run? Most excellent.

In the West, many are anticipating a Seattle and Los Angeles final, but will someone step in the way of that ratings bonanza? Dallas has been brilliant at home but will have to get past a Vancouver Whitecaps team that at times has looked like a team of destiny. Between Carl Robinson and Oscar Pareja, it’s hard to say for sure which first-year boss has done a better job.

And then there’s Real Salt Lake, battle-tested with veteran savvy. Who could rule them out?

Knockouts
Joe Prince-Wright: DAL over VAN, NY over SKC
Nick Mendola: DAL over VAN, NY over SKC
Mike Prindiville: VAN over DAL, NY over SKC
Duncan Day: VAN over DAL, KC over NY
Kyle Lynch: DAL over VAN, NY over SKC

Conference semifinals
Joe Prince-Wright: NE, NY, LA, SEA
Nick Mendola: NE, NY, LA, SEA
Mike Prindiville: NE, NY, LA, SEA
Duncan Day:  NE, DC, LA, SEA
Kyle Lynch: NE, NY, LA, SEA

Conference finals
Joe Prince-Wright: LA over SEA, NY over NE
Nick Mendola: LA over SEA, NE over NY
Mike Prindiville: SEA over LA, NE over NY
Duncan Day: SEA over LA, DC over NE
Kyle Lynch: LA over SEA, NY over NE

MLS Cup
Joe Prince-Wright: LA over NY
Nick Mendola: LA over NE
Mike Prindiville: SEA over NE
Duncan Day: SEA over DC
Kyle Lynch: LA over NY