Seattle Sounders celebrate 2016 MLS Cup Final
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Does having a first-round bye matter in MLS Cup playoffs?

For much of the regular season, teams have been public with their desires to skip out on the Knockout Round chaos midweek after Decision Day presented by AT&T and earn a bye straight into the conference semifinals. It's conventional wisdom: Win all the regular games you can and get as far as you can in the playoffs before having to play. 

But for clubs able to navigate the Knockout Round, the matter becomes a bit more complex, sparking the argument of rest vs. rust. So, what happens when teams who come off a bye play those who won a Knockout Round game?

Since 2011, teams with a bye have gone 9-9 in their first playoff round against teams who won in the Knockout Round. 

Recently, the Seattle Sounders won MLS Cup as a No. 4 seed in 2016, beating the 5th, 2nd and 1st seeds in the West before facing Toronto FC, the No. 3 seed in the East, in the final. 

In 2015, the Portland Timbers won MLS Cup by starting in the Knockout Round as the No. 3 seed in the West, ditto for fourth-seeded LA Galaxy in 2012.

Furthermore, since 2010, MLS Cup has been won by the same number of teams with a seeding of third or worse (4) as by a club with a top-two seeding (4). MLS Cup runners-up have more often been a top-two seed (5) than third or worse (3).