While my colleagues have spent the week coming at you with every important pre-game storyline ahead of Sunday's MLS Cup rubber match between Seattle and Toronto FC, I've been thinking about what we'll all discuss after the final whistle blows (3 pm ET | ABC, Univision, TUDN in US; TSN, TVAS in Canada).
What would victory mean to each club, their players and their city? Lacking any superpower that allows me to see into the future, I have prepared a short list of potential discussion topics specific to each team, plus a bonus one that will apply to whomever raises MLS Cup to officially close the 2019 season.
Salute the General
As spelled out by Andrew Wiebe on Thursday, Michael Bradley is among the cream of the all-time American midfield crop. And as he gets set to chase another MLS Cup crown, it's also worth noting that he has a knack for leading teams to tournament finals. Since coming up with the then-MetroStars 15 years ago, Bradley has now played a sizable part in his club and country teams reaching 15 title matches. A Reds victory on Sunday would give him a winning finals record and give his ever-vocal naysayers yet another championship to explain away.
Gonzo the great
Combining all silverware won across all their club and international stops, both Bradley and Jozy Altidore could notch their eighth career championship in Seattle. While that sum is impressive, they'd still have some catching up to do to match the ravenous title diet of Omar Gonzalez. If TFC claims MLS Cup on Sunday, the veteran defender will become just the fifth American with 10 total top-level winners' medals in his collection, joining DaMarcus Beasley (15), Landon Donovan (13), Jeff Agoos (11) and Frankie Hejduk (10). The Reds' clubhouse staff best cue up "All I Do Is Win" just in case.
Hogtown on a roll
The Toronto Maple Leafs have not managed to get past the first round of the NHL playoffs in 15 years and haven't drank from Lord Stanley's Cup in over a half-century, building up several metric tons of frustration in The Big Smoke. Even without their help, the city has suddenly been piling up championships. The Raptors claimed their first NBA crown in June and the CFL's Argonauts celebrated their 16th Grey Cup victory just a couple weeks before Toronto FC raised the 2017 MLS Cup. Another Reds conquest this weekend will have the locals feeling like they live in title town, continuing Maple Leafs swoon or not.
Life of Brian
Despite all his success, for some reason, Sounders sideline maestro Brian Schmetzer has yet to finish high in the Coach of the Year balloting. Even with three MLS Cup trips, one road underdog championship, a few Western Conference titles and back-to-back Cascadia Cup crowns won while weathering major injury crises and star player departures, it seems he is rarely brought up in discussions about the best American head coaches. I'm not sure why, because the local boy made good is as strong tactically as he is at creating tight-knit clubhouses. A victory on Sunday should put his name smack dab in the middle of these "best boss" conversations, and I have no doubt former player Steve Zakuani would agree.
The little engine that could
We've already noted how a Toronto FC win on Sunday would further cement Bradley's legacy. Now it's time to flip that coin, because the guy he'll be charged with slowing down, Nico Lodeiro, is also well on his way to being hailed as one of the all-time MLS greats in the center of the park. The economy-sized playmaker's 2016 arrival inspired their run to that year's title and now he's back to avenge their championship game loss the following year. With six goals, four helpers and a successful do-or-die MLS Cup shootout conversion already on his playoff résumé, and enough midfield energy to power Seattle, the Reds best buckle up. The Sounders' driving force is coming for you, and he won't stop until the rave green confetti is flying.
Home sweet homers
In large part thanks to the Sounders, Seattle have gotten a regular taste of championship celebrations in recent years. The thing is, Emerald City teams almost never clinch league glory in front of their home fans. The Sounders' 2016 MLS Cup win came in Toronto, and the last time they kicked off a house party by winning a league title occurred when they treated a mere 4,500 Starfire spectators to a USL championship bout victory back in 2007. It's not just a soccer thing; the Seahawks scored their only Super Bowl win in New Jersey, the old Supersonics sealed their lone NBA title in Washington D.C. and both of the Storm's WNBA crowns during this decade were also bestowed on the road. Forget the March to the Match. Just imagine the post-game scene around CenturyLink if deserving Seattle fans actually get to witness a trophy ceremony first-hand this time.
Up for grabs
The D word
Now, I'm not one to throw the term "dynasty" around lightly. My absolute minimum requirements state that a club should win at least three league crowns in a short span, along with some other title trinkets, to qualify for such flattery. That means that MLS has only seen two teams fit the bill: the D.C. United group that won three MLS Cups in the league's first four seasons and the LA Galaxy side that matched that championship run earlier in this decade. That also means that Sunday's winner will be one glorious step from a dynasty in my book.