Gone are the MLS days of the top-seeded side in each conference getting a bye to the postseason semifinals, with the new format pitting the No. 1 team in each against the winners of the No. 8 vs. No. 9 Wild Card game.
In the Eastern Conference, FC Cincinnati stormed to the Supporters’ Shield title with a regular-season performance for the ages – made even more impressive when you consider FCC picked up three straight Wooden Spoons in their first three years in MLS (2019-21).
They will face the perennial playoff merchants in the New York Red Bulls. RBNY made it to the postseason on a dramatic final day against Nashville SC, where John Tolkin’s late penalty propelled them into the playoffs for the 14th season – the longest active streak in American men’s sports.
The Red Bulls then dispatched Charlotte FC in fine style in the Wild Card game to set up a series against Cincy.
This is Jack Collins from The Game Day to look at the Audi MLS Cup Playoffs series between Eastern Conference champions FC Cincinnati and Wild Card winner New York Red Bulls, starting on Sunday, Oct. 29.
FC Cincinnati vs. New York Red Bulls MLS Cup Odds
MLS lines used for FC Cincinnati vs. New York Red Bulls were current on Thursday, Oct. 26 at 10 am EST on Bet365 Sportsbook.
- FC Cincinnati to win MLS Cup: +333
- FC Cincinnati to reach MLS Cup Final: +162
- New York Red Bulls to win MLS Cup: +3300
- New York Red Bulls to reach MLS Cup Final: +1600
FC Cincinnati vs. New York Red Bulls Series Prediction
FC Cincinnati Win Series 2-0
The Red Bulls’ 5-2 win over Charlotte in the Eastern Conference Wild Card was exceptional. They hit the front early on and never looked back, with Elias Manoel’s hat-trick and John Tolkin’s brilliance leading the charge for RBNY.
In a game expected to be tight and without too many goals to chew over, the Red Bulls lit up Harrison with a performance that people will be talking about for some time.
Tolkin was the hero of Decision Day, and that seems to have spurred the New Jersey native on, with a dominant display from the left back that saw him score once more, as well as provide two sublime assists.
This was the kind of performance that head coach Troy Lesesne has been calling for, especially after their playoff qualification, where he stated it wasn’t enough and there needed to be more from this time. He might just have found it.
And yet, playing a Charlotte side making their debut in the postseason is a far different challenge to what awaits them – a series against Supporters’ Shield winners FC Cincinnati with the home-field advantage for their opponents.
FC Cincinnati have been stellar all year. They cantered to the Supporters’ Shield title, have match-winners spread across their squad, and are rightly favorites to do the double.
The spoils might be even across the season – and the Red Bulls were one of just two teams to win at TQL Stadium in the regular season. Still, even that needs context, with the victory coming just days after Cincy had secured their regular-season silverware.
If the Red Bulls perform as they did on Wednesday night, then there is a chance of an upset here, but the question remains if they will be allowed to by a Cincinnati side who knows they have a chance of cementing their place in history. Cincinnati in two.
FC Cincinnati MLS Cup Future
FC Cincinnati to Win MLS Cup (+333) • Bet365 Sportsbook
Put simply, FC Cincinnati are favorites to win MLS Cup for a good reason – they’ve been far and away the best side throughout the regular season. In Luciano Acosta, they have the leading candidate for the Landon Donovan MLS MVP award as well.
They also can spread the goals around and create from various areas. Wingbacks Santiago Arias and Álvaro Barreal have been in impressive form throughout the campaign, with Barreal’s production through the roof in his new role, storming up and down the left-hand side of Pat Noonan’s 3-5-2 system.
In Brandon Vazquez and Aaron Boupendza, the Orange & Blue have goalscoring pedigree, supplemented by the experience of Dominique Badji and Sergio Santos, who can be called upon if necessary and relied upon to deliver solid performances.
And with Matt Miazga, Yerson Mosquera, Nick Hagglund and Ian Murphy comfortable rotating in the back three, there is depth across the pitch and a real sense of belief with all roads to MLS Cup having to come through TQL Stadium.
On this ground, Cincy have won 13 of 17 games this season. The ball is in their court.
There remains the old taboo that it’s tough for sides to win both the Supporters’ Shield and MLS Cup in the same season – only eight of the 27 teams to have topped the regular-season standings have gone on to complete the double – but LAFC accomplished that just last year.
Without the wild card of Lionel Messi’s Inter Miami in the mix, FC Cincinnati are rightly favorites.