OBETZ, Ohio – When Wil Trapp was a young player aspiring to be a professional, he remembers watching Michael Bradley play central midfield in some of Europe's top leagues.

"He was someone who was playing overseas who you got to watch consistently,” Trapp said. “He’s a great player.”

Fast forward several years, and the two will meet as captains of their respective sides in the MLS Eastern Conference Championship, which begins Tuesday (8 pm ET | ESPN, ESPN Deportes; TSN, TVAS).

Trapp is an emerging franchise figure for Columbus Crew SC, who has already played in an MLS Cup Final and been given the captain's armband at 24 years old. Meanwhile, Bradley is a 30-year-old veteran for Toronto FC, a marquee MLS name and the unquestioned leader of the US national team. 

Josh Williams, who watched Trapp grow up in Columbus before playing with Toronto and Bradley for two seasons and then returning to Crew SC, said the similarities are clear.

“There’s a certain dedication and a certain fire in people’s eyes that you don’t see often,” he said. “Michael, I think, is the ultimate in that. I’ve never been around someone else who gives 100 percent of themselves in everything they do, on and off the field. … That’s something that I notice with Wil.

“Just last night he called me to ask, ‘Hey, do you want to get out early and get extra touches in?’ I was like, ‘Absolutely.’ That’s just him. That’s how you become a Michael Bradley – that next level. Doing stuff when no one else is watching, when no one else is looking.”

Despite the extra edge Williams says both possess, Trapp says there's also a shared respect, especially after getting to know Bradley "quite a bit" during his own limited experience with the national team.

“He’s certainly a guy off the field who does a great job of incorporating younger players and getting to know those guys,” Trapp said.

And while Trapp said he’s far beyond being star-struck by players, he admitted the matchup is one he “welcomes as a battle.”

Columbus coach Gregg Berhalter said the pair possessed similar intelligence, though he shied away from going further in attributing similarities to the two midfield generals.

“It’s tough to compare them right now, but they’re definitely both intelligent players and captains of their teams who mean a lot to how their group plays,” he said. ”When Wil plays good, we generally play well and vice versa.”

For Williams, the comparison is easy.

“Wil is just a younger version (of Bradley),” he said.