Baer: Your early preview of all four Knockout Round matches

The Knockout Round matchups in the Audi 2017 MLS Cup Playoffs are set. After a wild end to the regular season, Toronto FC, New York City FC, Portland Timbers and Seattle Sounders secured byes into the Conference Semifinals while eight teams will battle it out on Wednesday and Thursday for the right to join them.

Here’s the breakdown of each of the four matchups.

Chicago Fire vs. New York Red Bulls

Wednesday, Oct. 25 | 8:30 pm ET: The big off-field storyline in this game is Dax McCarty facing off against his former team with a chance to reach the Conference Semifinals. On the field, the Chicago Fire played the New York Red Bulls twice this season with the Red Bulls winning 2-1 at Red Bull Arena in an early-season matchup. The two teams split the points in a 1-1 draw on Sept. 9 that saw Nemanja Nikolic and Bradley Wright-Phillips trade goals. Chicago were a dominant 12-2-3 at home this year, but New York's five road wins were the fourth-most in the league. The only time these two clubs met in the playoffs was back in 2000, when the Fire advanced past the then MetroStars in a three-game series. Watch on: FS1, UniMás, TSN 3 & 5, TVAS

Atlanta United vs. Columbus Crew SC

Thursday, Oct. 26 | 7 pm ET: Atlanta United limp into the playoffs after having not won any of their last four matches, two of which were at home. Columbus Crew SC, on the other hand, are flying high. Their 2-2 draw at NYCFC on Decision Day (their 16th point on the road this season) extended their unbeaten run to 10 games, and they've won three of their last four. Atlanta won both matchups between the teams this season, winning 3-1 at home on June 17 and 2-0 at MAPFRE Stadium on July 1. Watch on: ESPN2, UniMás; TSN 4, TVAS

Vancouver Whitecaps FC vs. San Jose Earthquakes

Wednesday, Oct. 25 | 10:30 pm ET: Vancouver Whitecaps FC and the San Jose Earthquakes recently faced off on Oct. 15, with the two teams drawing 1-1 at BC Place in a match that helped the Quakes reach the playoffs and helped push Vancouver out of the top two spots in the West. San Jose won the other matchup this season, downing the 'Caps 3-2 all the way back on March 11 at Avaya Stadium. Vancouver hold the edge in the series with a 6-4-8 all-time record against the Quakes. San Jose had a rough go on the road this season, collecting just 11 points away from the Bay. Vancouver weren't exactly a dominant home team, however, with their 32 home points the lowest of any playoff team. Watch on: UniMás (ENG via SAP), NBC Sports California, TSN 1,3,4 & 5, TVAS 2

Houston Dynamo vs. Sporting Kansas City

Thursday, Oct. 26 | 9:30 pm ET: The Houston Dynamo and Sporting Kansas City have a long history in the MLS Cup Playoffs, as they met three straight years earlier this decade. Houston advanced past SKC in 2011 and 2012 on their way to back-to-back appearances in MLS Cup while Sporting KC finally ousted the Dynamo in the 2013 Eastern Conference Championship as they went on to win the title. The two clubs previously met in the 2007 playoffs, with Houston winning the Western Conference Championship and MLS Cup. They also played a regular season home-and-home series just two weeks ago. Houston beat SKC 2-1 at BBVA Compass Stadium on Oct. 11, then picked up a road point in a scoreless draw at Children's Mercy Park on Oct. 15. Houston hold the all-time edge in the regular season series at a mark of 10-5-12. The Dynamo were the second-best home team in MLS in 2017 while Sporting KC managed just two wins on the road. Watch on: UniMás (ENG via SAP), KUBE 57, FOX Sports KC, TSN 4, TVAS


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