The Conference Championships are set. After the Portland Timbers ousted the Seattle Sounders on Thursday, Sporting Kansas City joined them in the next round after defeating Real Salt Lake on Sunday afternoon. The two teams will face off at Providence Park on November 25 before traveling to Children's Mercy Park on November 29 for the second leg. In the East, the New York Red Bulls and Atlanta United will play for a spot in MLS Cup.
Western Conference Championship: Sporting KC-Portland
This will be the second time these two teams face off in the MLS Cup Playoffs with the first time coming back in 2015, when the Timbers beat SKC at home in the Knockout Round. Of course that was the famous "Double Post" match. The two teams played to a 2-2 draw after extra time and SKC had a chance to advance when Saad Abdul-Salaam somehow hit both posts on his attempt in the shootout. The Timbers advanced after goalkeeper Adam Kwarasey finished his opportunity and saved Jon Kempin's, who had subbed in goal after Tim Melia went down with an injury.
On June 9, they played to a scoreless draw at Providence Park in a match that saw the Timbers play without Diego Chara and with Fanendo Adi up top, who is now plying his trade with FC Cincinnati. Peter Vermes' team started young Homegrowns Wan Kuzain and Jaylin Lindsey, both of whom are unlikely to even be in the matchday squad in two weeks.
Two months later, Sporting KC trounced the Timbers 3-0 at home in what was Portland's third straight loss after their 15 match unbeaten run. Giovanni Savarese trotted out a 3-5-2 and had Chara on the bench again with his team on short rest. It was the last time this season that the Timbers coach played without a four-man backline. Diego Rubio scored a brace in the match, but will be unavailable in Leg 1 due to yellow card accumulation.
Portland are making their third appearance in the Western Conference Championship (2013, 2015) and will be looking to MLS Cup for the second time. SKC have now made this round of the playoffs for the eighth time and aiming to qualify for their fourth MLS Cup.
FiveThirtyEight.com projection: Sporting KC have 65 percent chance of reaching MLS Cup.
Eastern Conference Championship: NY Red Bulls-Atlanta United
Whoo, boy. The top two teams in MLS this season will meet after battling it out for much of the season for the Supporters' Shield. The Red Bulls won that duel — first dispatching the Five Stripes 2-0 on September 30 — which put the pressure on Tata Martino's team down the stretch. They eventually succumbed to that pressure on MLS Decision Day presented by AT&T, losing 4-1 to Toronto FC while the Red Bulls beat Orlando City SC by a 1-0 margin.
Chris Armas' team played without both Bradley Wright-Phillips and Tyler Adams in that September 30 match, but it didn't matter as they were able to dominate the Shield frontrunners. The match ended quite contentiously, when Tata Martino refused to shake Armas' hand.
The other match between the two teams this season ended 3-1 in RBNY's favor, thanks to a brace from Wright-Phillips. Going back to last season, the Red Bulls have won three of their four matches against Atlanta, with the fourth ending in a draw.
This is ATLUTD's first appearance in the Conference Championship, as they have reached this point in their second season. The Red Bulls will be making their fifth appearance in this round of the playoffs, with the most recent two coming in 2014 and 2015 when they lost to the New England Revolution and Columbus Crew SC in back-to-back years. The club has advanced to MLS Cup once; they lost to Columbus in 2008.
FiveThirtyEight.com projection: Each team has a 50 percent chance of reaching MLS Cup.