Mark McKenzie, Alex Ring - Philadelphia Union, NYCFC - Close up
USA Today Sports Images

Baer: Your early preview of all four Knockout Round matches

The Knockout Round matchups in the Audi 2018 MLS Cup Playoffs are set. After a wild end to the regular season, the New York Red Bulls, Atlanta United, Sporting Kansas City 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.

New York City FC vs. Philadelphia Union

Wednesday | 7 pm ET | UniMás, FS1 in US | TSN, TVAS in Canada

For the second time since the inception of Decision Day presented by AT&T, two teams will face off on the final day of the regular season and in the Knockout Round. In 2015 the Montreal Impact beat Toronto FC twice as they advanced to the Conference Semifinals. The Philadelphia Union will have to do what the Reds were unable to, bounce back from a tough loss. NYCFC beat the Union 3-1 on Decision Day with goals from Maxime Chanot and David Villa, along with an own goal. It was just their second win over the past two months, while the Union stumble into the postseason with two straight losses.

In the other matchup between the two clubs this season, the Union beat the Cityzens 2-0 at Talen Energy Stadium with goals from Cory Burke and Ilsinho. The Union have never won at Yankee Stadium and will have to do so (or at least push the match to penalty kicks) after there appeared to some beef between Burke and Borek Dockal. Adding to that difficulty, the Cityzens have just one loss at home this season.

FiveThirtyEight.com projection: NYCFC win 74 percent; Philadelphia win 26 percent

D.C. United vs. Columbus Crew SC

Thursday | 8 pm ET | UniMás, FS1 in US | TSN, TVAS in Canada

D.C. United have been one of the stories of the season, riding Wayne Rooney and Luciano Acosta to an incredible postseason berth after starting the season 2-7-5. They will host Columbus Crew SC in their first playoff game at Audi Field after a ho-hum scoreless draw against the Chicago Fire on Decision Day. Columbus enter the postseason on a high, clinching a playoff berth on the season’s last day thanks to a 3-2 win against Minnesota United FC.

The two sides have not met since the arrival of Rooney so there is little to take away from their previous meeting this year, but United are favorites as they are currently on a 10-match unbeaten run. The two MLS originals surprisingly have not met in the playoffs since the 1999 Eastern Conference finals.

FiveThirtyEight.com projection: D.C. win 63 percent; Crew SC win 37 percent

LAFC vs. Real Salt Lake

Thursday | 10:30 pm ET | UniMás, ESPN2 in US | TSN, TVAS in Canada

Real Salt Lake are lucky to have any nails left when they make their trip to LA to take on expansion side LAFC. Mike Petke’s team sat out Decision Day, hoping the Houston Dynamo could come through for them and get a result against the LA Galaxy. They did just that, winning 3-2 at StubHub Center, to put RSL into the No. 6 spot in the Western Conference. LAFC had been hoping to avoid the Knockout Round, but a 2-1 loss at Sporting Kansas City cost them that opportunity.

They should be happy to host RSL at Banc of California, as the Claret and Cobalt have the worst road record of any West playoff team. LAFC beat RSL 2-0 at home on Aug. 15 behind two goals from Christian Ramirez, who has played just 36 minutes since Aug. 24, and destroyed RSL 5-1 at Rio Tinto Stadium in the second week of the season thanks to two goals and three assists from Diego Rossi.

FiveThirtyEight.com projection: LAFC win 71 percent; RSL win 29 percent

FC Dallas vs. Portland Timbers

Wednesday | 9:30 pm ET | UniMás, ESPN+, ROOT Sports NW in US | TSN, TVAS in Canada

FC Dallas limp into Wednesday night’s match against the Portland Timbers after a surprising 2-1 loss on the road in Colorado. A win would have put them into the Conference Semifinals as the West’s No. 2 seed. They face a Portland side that should be well rested, as head coach Giovanni Savarese decided to sit many of his starters against Vancouver Whitecaps FC with the Timbers almost assuredly locked into the No. 5 seed.

The teams drew both their 2018 matches but the Timbers can look back fondly on the playoff history against FCD, as they beat Oscar Pareja’s in the Western Conference Championship on their way to winning MLS Cup in 2015. Portland’s only win at Toyota Stadium came in 2014, with their overall record sitting at 1-6-5 all-time, but they did earn a draw in the second leg of the series in 2015.

FiveThirtyEight.com projection: Dallas win 65 percent; Portland win 35 percent