Twelve teams entered the Audi 2018 MLS Cup Playoffs, only seven remain.
It’s Friday and I’m barely alive after Thursday night’s “What the hell just happened?” Western Conference semifinal second leg, so let’s keep this simple. There are 12 MLS Cup possibilities left ahead of Sunday's remaining Conference Semifinal games. Let’s rank them, from a neutral perspective.
You will, undoubtedly, disagree with my rankings. Every game will be good, so don’t take it personally if you don’t agree. It’s not that serious, and this isn’t a dissertation. Leave your ideal matchup in the comments.
12. NYCFC vs. Portland Timbers
11. Atlanta United vs. Real Salt Lake
10. NYCFC vs. Real Salt Lake
9. Sporting KC vs. Columbus Crew SC
8. Sporting KC vs. NYCFC
7. New York Red Bulls vs. Portland Timbers
6. Atlanta United vs. Portland Timbers
5. Columbus vs. RSL
Justen Glad and Gyasi Zardes in action. | USA Today Images
Team Chaos. Plus, it’s the only way Columbus can host the final after a year of upheaval, and it’s almost certainly Gregg Berhalter’s final game with Crew SC. I was there in 2015, and it was legit. Imagine the playoff ridiculousness it would take to get here. Upset central.
4. RBNY vs. Sporting KC
Alex Muyl and Yohan Croizet square off. | USA Today Images
Lots of wrinkles here.
- U.S. Open Cup final rematch from 2017.
- MLS’s original pressing team (Sporting) vs. the club that made pressing their core ethos (Red Bulls).
- Red Bulls going for their first-ever MLS Cup at home against a team that could very well deliver more heartbreak.
3. Portland vs. Columbus
Timbers vs. Crew SC at the 2015 MLS Cup. | USA Today Images
I’ve never been to Providence Park. This would fix that. Imagine an MLS Cup in front of the Timbers Army. Goosebumps. The city would be all-in on everything MLS Cup.
Again, this would probably be Berhalter’s final game, and it would mean the world to Crew SC supporters for obvious reasons.
This is a true MLS Cup rematch, too. Portland would be going for Cascadia bragging rights. Columbus would be going for legend status.
2. Atlanta vs. Sporting KC
Sporting head coach Peter Vermes and Atlanta manager "Tata" Martino shake hands. | USA Today Images
To stay with a theme, this would be "Tata" Martino and likely Miguel Almiron’s last game for the Five Stripes, and a championship would launch them into another stratosphere that only comes with the ultimate prize.
1. RBNY vs. RSL
Oh, the narratives. Red Bulls legend Mike Petke returns to New York at the head of an underdog Real Salt Lake team à la 2009. Petke’s quotes alone would be epic.
Add into that the Curse of Caricola, “That’s so Metro” and the Red Bulls’ 23-year quest for MLS Cup. I’m all in. C’mon Soccer Gods, give me this matchup.