In the annals of sport, there are few things that set tongues to wagging like a big upset, and there's nothing quite like the rep-molding intensity of the playoffs.
When those two spine-tingling concepts collide in the same game, it creates reminiscent magic. With no live action set to grab our attention for a spell, let's enjoy a leisurely stroll down that memory lane to rank the greatest upsets in Audi MLS Cup Playoff history.
Before we get to the magnificent seven, let's give a nod to the honorable mentions: Houston Dynamo over Sporting KC (2012), Real Salt Lake over LAFC (2019), Sporting KC over Chivas USA (2007) and Toronto FC over NYCFC (2019)
No. 7: FC Dallas over LA Galaxy (2010)
FC Dallas enjoyed a good regular season, finishing with the fourth best record. They still finished nine points back of the Galaxy, who were Supporters' Shield winners obviously still a year away from truly kicking off their small dynasty.
One great ingredient for cooking up an upset is to have that one player who can take over a game. League MVP David Ferreira produced a great goal and a clever assist as the visitors booked their first (and, to date, only) MLS Cup place with a surprising 3-0 cruise.
No. 6: Chicago Fire FC over D.C. United (2007)
The Fire were a scrappy side sparked by the divine madness of Cuauhtemoc Blanco, and still they finished 15 points behind the back-to-back Supporters' Shield winners. D.C. had unfinished business as they started the playoffs, what with the previous season's early ouster.
As it so happened, they went out easier and earlier this time. Chris Rolfe capitalized on a flub at the D.C. United back to give Chicago the front foot at home. They stayed on it to bag a pair of first-half goals in the RFK return, while Chris Armas, Jim Curtin and Bakary Soumare kept the highest-scoring team quiet until D.C. could only grab a late pair of score line-flattering goals on their way out.
No. 5: Real Salt Lake over Columbus Crew SC (2009)
In retrospect, it doesn't feel like such a shock result. That Real Salt Lake were strong and balanced, and only sat nine points shy of table-top Columbus in the regular season standings.
At the time, though, it was big. The Crew were the class of the league, and aiming to complete a second straight Supporters' Shield/MLS Cup double. Jason Kreis' eighth-seeded underdogs, who'd never won anything, snuck into the playoffs on goal differential.
Robbie Findley's late strike earned RSL a 1-0 home win in the opener. In the deciding leg at Columbus, Real Salt Lake fell behind to a Guillermo Barros Schelotto brace before scoring three unanswered goals to pull off the first of three upsets that would take them to the title.
No. 4: Houston Dynamo over New York Red Bulls (2013)
HIGHLIGHTS: New York Red Bulls vs. Houston Dynamo
The Dynamo were definitely a team in transition following key departures from the group responsible for repeat MLS Cup runners-up finishes. The Red Bulls were first-time Supporters' Shield winners led by Tim Cahill and Thierry Henry that, despite leading the league in goals, added Bradley Wright-Phillips at the summer transfer deadline.
Houston fell behind two in the home leg, but clawed back to eventually gain a 2-2 share on Omar Cummings' stoppage-time tally. The Red Bulls regained the edge after just 23 minutes at their house, with Wright-Phillips notching his first playoff goal in New York thanks to a Tally Hall fumble.
The lead only lasted 13 minutes before Brad Davis picked off an ill-conceived Ibrahim Sekagya pass to fire home. Hall would recover from his gaffe to make a trio of huge saves, setting the stage for more heroics from Cummings. The Houston striker barely nudged the ball over the line about midway through extra time to stun the Red Bulls.
No. 3: New York Red Bulls over Houston Dynamo (2008)
Big twist reveal: The upset described above was actually revenge for what occurred five years prior. Back then, the Dynamo were two-time defending champs at the height of their powers.
The Red Bulls, who finished the regular season 12 points back of Houston, squeaked into the playoffs by a point despite losing on the last day of the season. A Colorado win at home to Real Salt Lake would have snatched the last postseason ticket, but Yura Movsisyan denied the Rapids with a 1-1 equalizer in the 90th minute.
Houston rallied late through Kei Kamara for a 1-1 draw in the Conference Semifinal opener at Giants Stadium, but their three-peat mission shockingly fell apart at home a week later. Dane Richards and Juan Pablo Angel scored first-half goals, and John Wolyniec capped the upset in the waning moments.
No. 2: Montreal Impact over New York Red Bulls (2016)
EXTENDED HIGHLIGHTS | New York Red Bulls 1-2 Montreal Impact | 4-minute Highlights
Another top season for the Red Bulls brought another postseason letdown. The Impact banked 12 fewer points during the regular season, but played well during this Conference Semifinal.
Matteo Mancosu's rocket on the run decided the Montreal leg, but they could have easily lost that edge early in the return. Impact 'keeper Evan Bush knocked down Gonzalo Veron in the area, and immediately atoned for his foolishness by stonewalling Sacha Kljestan's spot kick try.
Instead of being dragged level, the Impact padded their lead with a pair of second-half Nacho Piatti crackers. The Red Bulls squandered a host of chances until Wright-Phillips stabbed home a little late consolation.
No. 1: LA Galaxy over New England Revolution (2005)
One could certainly argue the Galaxy's opening round defeat of Supporters' Shield winners San Jose (19 points difference in the table) was a bigger upset. After all, the boys from Carson only ended up 14 points below the Revs.
However, this was arguably the peak time for a New England outfit that made four MLS Cups in six seasons. The Galaxy were basically Landon Donovan and a workmanlike corps of veterans. Things didn't mesh right away, and the club ended a roller coaster regular season just one point ahead of Sporting KC for the last playoff invite.
By the time MLS Cup arrived, the teams were ready for a fight. Despite plenty of chances at both ends, a hard-fought title bout remained scoreless until the second overtime session had begun.
In the 107th minute, Matt Reis punched away a Donovan corner kick, but only as far as the most unlikely MLS Cup MVP winner to date. The clearance sat up perfectly for sub Guillermo Ramirez, who promptly drilled it between some lunging Revs to claim the crown. El Pando played just 25 mostly disappointing games for the Galaxy, but he definitely saved his best for last.