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Kick Off: Columbus, Houston host Conf. Championships | Newcomer of the Year

Here is everything you need to know about MLS and North American soccer this morning:

Crew SC stare down Toronto with East in balance

Having already knocked favored foes Atlanta United and New York City FC out of the Audi 2017 MLS Cup Playoffs, Columbus will now take aim at Supporters' Shield winners Toronto FC when they host Leg 1 of the Eastern Conference Championship on Tuesday night (8 pm ET | ESPN, ESPN Deportes, WatchESPN; TSN1/3/4/5, TVAS). The MAPFRE Stadium bunch are 7-0-1 in their last eight home matches and once dominated the Reds there, but Greg Vanney's boys have managed a 3-2-2 run in Columbus over the last four seasons. PREVIEW

For Crew SC midfielder Wil Trapp, this tie will be a chance ot make his name by out-dueling veteran TFC counterpart Michael Bradley. READ MORE

Seattle invade Houston with return to Cup at stake

Houston will open the gates to MLS Cup holders Seattle for Tuesday's Western Conference Championship opener (9:30 pm ET | FS1, FOX Deportes, FOX Sports Go; TSN1/3, TVAS). While the Dynamo are unbeaten in nine home games against Seattle (5-0-4), they will need to find a way to end the champs' 467-minute postseason shutout streak. PREVIEW

Armchair Analyst Matt Doyle writes that Houston's best shot at an upset involves pulling Seattle center backs Chad Marshall and Roman Torres out of the middle. READ MORE

Atlanta scores again: Newcomer of the Year

Atlanta United's Miguel Almiron was named as MLS Newcomer of the Year on Monday, outpacing probably the finest field in the award's history by a fair margin in the voting. READ MORE

Kenwyne Jones announces retirement

On a day when his contract option was declined by Atlanta United, veteran striker Kenwyne Jones announced on Twitter that he was hanging his boots to cap a 16-year career that saw him score 159 goals. READ MORE

Report: Club America eyeing Rubio

A report on Univision indicates Club America has interest in Sporting KC forward Diego Rubio. READ MORE

Red Bulls pair out of the pen?

According to Metro reporters Kristian Dyer, the New York Red Bulls are ready to move on from defenders Gideon Baah and Damien Perrinelle. READ MORE

Tim Howard, American idol

Young Manchester United and England attacker Marcus Rashford has revealed his rather surprising yet familiar childhood idol as none other than Colorado netminder Tim Howard, who played for the Red Devils from 2003-07. READ MORE

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