Eight teams remain in the MLS Cup Playoffs following Wednesday and Thursday first round one-and-dones.
As we bid adieu to San Jose, Sporting KC, Atlanta, and Chicago, let’s rank the favorites for the run to December’s MLS Cup Final.
8. New York Red Bulls – This has little to do with the mettle of Jesse Marsch’s men, and more to do with their path. RBNY will have to best Toronto FC over two legs before even reaching its conference final. Toronto took four of six points from RBNY this season.
7. Columbus Crew – There’s a lot of talent here, but each win will only make the relocation news scream louder. Maybe it’ll make Gregg Berhalter’s men band together, but it seems a big ask. #SaveTheCrew.
6. Houston Dynamo – Hasn’t lost in six matches, and will like their chances of springing an upset on Caleb Porter’s unpredictable Timbers.
5. Vancouver Whitecaps – While we wouldn’t dream of ruling out Carl Robinson’s men, the playoff dismantling of San Jose was just their second win in six outings. Vancouver has the talent to win the whole thing, but it’s alarming that the Caps took just four of 15 points to finish the season when, as it turns out, just six would’ve been enough to finish first in the West.
4. Portland Timbers – The Cascadia Cup champs boasts the likely MVP in Diego Valeri, spent portions of their schedule without Darlington Nagbe, and have won this thing before. One note: the Timbers haven’t shut out a Western Conference team since a 2-0 win over FC Dallas on June 10.
3. New York City FC – David Villa appears to be a man on a proverbial mission, but NYCFC’s threat goes deeper than the Spanish legend. Alex Ring and Jack Harrison have been big parts of City’s season.
2. Seattle Sounders – The reigning champs may be on level footing with NYCFC in terms of talent, but Seattle would not have to face Toronto FC over two legs to win a title. And there’s that matter of winning in Toronto just last season.
1. Toronto FC – The best single season run in MLS history means the No. 1 seed, with health, depth, and home field in Toronto’s favor. Oh, and Sebastian Giovinco. Betting odds? Several books call it as clear cut as 9:4.