MLS Cup trophy

MLS Cup 101: Everything you need to know about Toronto vs. Seattle

More than nine months after the season opened, Major League Soccer will crown its 2016 champion on Saturday, Dec. 10 when Toronto FC host the Seattle Sounders in MLS Cup at BMO Field.

Whether you’ve been following along all year, or if you’re a newcomer to the MLS scene, it’s time for a quick refresh on the league's title game. Here’s all you need to know:

HOW’D THEY GET HERE?

Two of the biggest clubs in the league, Toronto FC and the Seattle Sounders are both making their first appearance in MLS Cup.

Nearly two-thirds of the way through the season, most Sounders supporters would’ve laughed in your face if you’d told them their club would make it to MLS Cup. Seattle were listless almost all the way through the end of July, recording just 20 points in their first 20 games of the season to fall way back in the Western Conference playoff race.

A pair of midseason moves changed everything, however, with the arrival of star midfielder Nicolas Lodeiro and the hiring of Brian Schmetzer to replace Sigi Schmid as head coach kick starting the Sounders. They were the best team in the league over the last three months of the regular season, climbing up the West table and eventually claiming the conference’s fourth-seed. They started the postseason by dispatching Sporting Kansas City 1-0 in the Knockout Round, then topped overall No. 1 seed FC Dallas in the Conference Semifinals before beating the Colorado Rapids in the Conference Championship.

Toronto had a much, much smoother ride through the regular season, finishing the year as the No. 3 seed in the East. TFC then made history in the playoffs, beating Philadelphia in the Knockout Round to record their first postseason win, dismantling New York City FC by an aggregate score of 7-0 in the Conference Semifinals and outlasting rival Montreal in a Conference Championship series for the ages.

WHERE WILL IT BE PLAYED? 

As the finalist with the higher regular season point total, Toronto FC -- who had 53 points to Seattle's 48 -- have the honor of hosting MLS Cup at BMO Field. Located just outside downtown Toronto, the stadium usually sits 30,000 but will be expanded to fit 36,000 for the final. Toronto were solid at BMO Field this year, posting an 11-3-6 home record between the regular season and playoffs. 

WHAT’S THE FORMAT?

Unlike the Conference Semifinal and Conference Championship series, which were two-legged contests, MLS Cup is a winner-take-all one-off. Away goals will not count as a tiebreaker. If the teams are level after regulation, the match will move to two 15-minute extra time periods. If they’re still deadlocked after extra time, MLS Cup will be decided in a penalty kick shootout.

WHICH TEAMS HAVE WON MLS CUP?

10 teams have won MLS Cup prior to 2016. The LA Galaxy lead the pack with five titles (2002, 2005, 2011, 2012, 2014), followed by D.C. United with four (1996, 1997, 1999, 2004). Three clubs have won two MLS Cups: Houston Dynamo (2006, 2007), Kansas City (2000, 2013) and San Jose Earthquakes (2001, 2003). 

Five teams have won the Cup once: Chicago Fire (1998), Columbus Crew SC (2008), Real Salt Lake (2009), Colorado Rapids (2010), and most recently the Portland Timbers (2015).

Three teams have reached the MLS Cup final but not yet won the game. FC Dallas and the New York Red Bulls have done it once, while the New England Revolution have the distinction of playing in five MLS Cups with no wins.

HOW DO I WATCH?

The match is scheduled to kickoff at 8:00 pm ET – that’s 5:00 pm PT for you Seattle fans – and will be broadcast nationally in the US and Canada. American viewers can watch MLS Cup on FOX and UniMas, while Canadian fans can tune in on TSN 1, 3, 4 and RDS in Canada. Each network’s plan for pre- and postgame coverage will be announced at a later date.