Sporting Kansas City celebrate - October 24, 2020
Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

Bandwagon guide to the Audi 2020 MLS Cup Playoffs: Who to root for and why

Someone has to win MLS Cup. There is a very strong chance it will not be your team. If your team is eliminated or — yikes — maybe didn’t even make the playoffs, you’ll need someone to root for the rest of the way. We’re here to help. 

Eastern Conference

Philadelphia Union

For fans of: Good tweets, The Little Rascals successfully outsmarting adults, Saying things like “strength in numbers”, Captain America, Snake-men? 

You should hop on the wagon because: The Union are the Team of the People. They would be this simply by the virtue of having Ilsinho on the team, but they’ve proven themselves to be so much more than that this year. They’ve created one of the highest-flying attacks in the league with a mixture of homegrowns and relative unknowns that embody the Soccer Man ideal of the team being stronger than the individual. You aren’t going to go wrong with adopting this team as your own. You may even win the whole thing. But with a team as fun and likable as this one, there’s always a chance they become too popular and you seem kind of lame for picking them. It’s probably worth the risk though.

Toronto FC

For fans of: Spy vs. Spy, The Escher Staircase, Groundhog Day, Eating soup for five meals a day, Clemson-Alabama national championship games, Full House

You should hop on the wagon because: There are some of you who are looking for nothing more than a little comfort in 2020. It’s totally understandable. It’s nice to have constants. And a Toronto-Seattle MLS Cup will bring you back to the comforts of 2016 or 2017 or 2019. 

For those of you looking for something beyond that, the only answer is Ayo Akinola. He’s one of the league’s best stories. He also happens to be a combination of all your favorite strikers at once. As soon as he’s done bullying you, he can turn around and prove he’s smarter than you just for fun. He’s the high school quarterback with a 4.8 GPA. It’s terrifying to go up against, but a joy to watch from afar. If you want to root for Toronto to make MLS Cup (again) but Ayo scores all the goals, everyone would understand. 

Columbus Crew SC

For fans of: Getting an A on the first three tests so you can cruise with D-’s on the last three, The Darlington Nagbe heatmap, The Akron Zips, Taxis, Guy Fieri

You should hop on the wagon because: There’s something really commendable about starting off the year so well that you can take a few weeks off toward the end and still end up near the top of the conference. The Crew are here to appeal to those among us who have the ability to make something of themselves if they apply themselves, but aren’t really worried about applying themselves just yet. They’ll show up when it matters. And now it matters. Live vicariously through them unmotivated brilliant people. 

Orlando City SC

For fans of: Sports movie montages, Self-help books, Barbecue, Lightning McQueen, That scene in “A Christmas Story” where the kid snaps and beats up the bully 

You should hop on the wagon because: This wagon might be crowded but that’s ok. Everyone else is new here, too. Everything about Orlando’s turnaround is pretty well documented by this point, but that doesn’t mean this team isn’t absurdly fun. Chris Mueller’s whole “Money Badger” thing continues to be a blessing on all of us, Daryl Dike is The Truth, Mauricio Pereyra sees like five moves ahead of everyone else, Nani!, and Ruan is still very, very fast. If you like the part in Karate Kid where the Karate Kid kicks that other kid in the face and everyone cheers including the kid who got kicked in the face because the Karate Kid is so likable at that point, this team will work for you.

NYCFC

For fans of: Fullback appreciation, “Business Casual”, Futsal, The corner of the room at parties

You should hop on the wagon because: Uhhh ... you’re really into a fullback being the best player on the team? Anton Tinnerholm is fun! Otherwise, man, this team has been pretty quiet all season. They’ve been sneaky good though. They’re far closer to being in the top-four than I think anyone realizes. Maybe the hook is you’re someone who wants the unappreciated to be appreciated a little more. Or maybe it’s that you’ll have a wagon largely to yourself. Bring your Peloton. Do some yoga. Stretch yourself out. Enjoy the space. At least for now. 

New York Red Bulls

For fans of: Classic rock, Using the appropriate ratio of shampoo to conditioner, Committing to the bit, The “new manager bounce,” Looking incredible in convertibles  

You should hop on the wagon because: You love incredible hair. We could talk about this team rebounding from their coach being let go in September to become a legitimate playoff team with a chance to play a major spoiler role, but why would we when half the team has committed to not going anywhere near a barber for the last few months and They. Are. Owning it. 

Plus, ya know, Aaron Long’s “Billy from Stranger Things” mullet. 

Nashville SC

For fans of: Keeping your air hockey paddle up against the goal, Brutalist architecture, the 1985 Villanova Wildcats, Using your car to hit a puddle right as you pass a well-dressed businessman

You should hop on the wagon because: This team is going to ruin someone’s year. You can just feel it when you watch them. They’ve been hot throughout the back end of this season and it’s largely because they don’t really let anyone score on them. And when they do, they’ve been able to find their way back into games anyway. Don’t act like their 3-2 comeback over Orlando wasn’t a serious omen. This is coming. They’re going to run out of hot chicken and signed Jason Isbell live records soon, y’all better hop on this one while you can. 

New England Revolution

For fans of: Goalkeeping, Coming back from injury at the right time, uhhhh ... goalkeeping? 

You should hop on the wagon because: You love goalkeeping. And you’re heavily invested in the comeback story of Carles Gil. And ... you love goalkeeping? 

Look, Matt Turner could spoil a team’s entire playoff run and there’s nothing more frustrating than losing after your team puts up like 30 shots and doesn’t score because the keeper goes off. If you’re that kind of abrasive, this team is for you.

Montreal Impact

For fans of: Being handsome, Thierry Henry, Thierry Henry being handsome, Not really caring if you lose by five as long as you score five, Google translate, Carelessly handling nitroglycerin  

You should hop on the wagon because: This team just absolutely does not care about defense. And they’re still here. Why? Because they care a lot about scoring. They’re an incredible and underrated chaos team. They’re a combo of LAFC without the millionaire talent and San Jose without the man-marking. No one gave up more goals than them in the East. This wagon may crash at any time but it will probably explode when it does. Won’t that be cool? 

Inter Miami CF

For fans of: Juventus?, The Anarchist Cookbook

You should hop on the wagon because: I know everyone is staring at the Gonzalo Higuain and Blaise Matuidi floor models, but can I take you to the end of the lot and show you this shiny Lewis Morgan everyone seems to be ignoring? He has five goals and eight assists this season and has scored a few stunners along the way. This team has people who can play outside of the two huge names and that should really entice you to suppo — hahahaha no, no, I’m just kidding, this bandwagon is clearly about a “10th-seed’ winning MLS Cup because we’re all deeply broken and it would be hilarious. 

Western Conference

Sporting Kansas City

For fans of: Precise haircuts, Yelling at the referees on TV even though you know they can’t hear, Watching everyone in the Royal Rumble wear themselves out before jumping in, No one believing in us.

You should hop on the wagon because: Despite this team finishing first in the Western Conference, I have a pretty good idea of how many experts and analysts and the general population outside of Kansas City are going to pick SKC to make MLS Cup. It is a very small amount. If you’re tired of good work being underappreciated or you love a team with an “Everyone is still doubting us” chip on their shoulder, this is your team. Or maybe you just love a good military brush cut? 

Seattle Sounders

For fans of: Spy vs. Spy, The Escher Staircase, Groundhog Day, Eating soup for five meals a day, Clemson-Alabama national championship games, Full House

You should hop on the wagon because: There are some of you who are looking for nothing more than a little comfort in 2020. It’s totally understandable. It’s nice to have constants. And a Toronto-Seattle MLS Cup will bring you back to the comforts of 2016 or 2017 or 2019.

For those of you looking for something beyond that, Raul Ruidiaz is liable at any time to pull off the most incredible goal you’ve ever seen in your life, Jordan Morris is a dang fighter jet on the wing despite everyone being worried about his posture, Nico Lodeiro has yet to stop running, Stefan Frei seems chill and weird in a good way, Brian Schmetzer is everyone’s dad and ... I don’t know, maybe you’re really into fighting over whether certain teams are dynasties because you’re possibly anti-social? All of these are reasons this team could work for you. 

Portland Timbers

For fans of: The name Diego, Brothers, The Logging Industry, Overcoming injuries, A second Hype-Cart, Little brothers becoming taller brothers, Green

You should hop on the wagon because: If you had to take your pick of who might keep us from another Seattle-Toronto MLS Cup, it’s probably Portland. They’ve given Seattle issues for most of the season and they match up well against them. It also helps that they’ve already proven they’re an excellent tournament team this season. The MLS is Back Tournament champions are for anyone who believes in wanting the ball with the game on the line. 

Minnesota United

For fans of: Having a Google Doc listing those who have wronged you

You should hop on the wagon because: YOU ARE SICK. AND TIRED. OF EVERYONE TALKING ABOUT OTHER TEAMS AND YOU ARE SICK. AND TIRED. OF EVERYONE TALKING ABOUT YOUR TEAM'S “TACTICS” ALL THE TIME. AND YOU ARE SICK. AND TIRED. OF PEOPLE POINTING OUT HOW IF BOTH THINGS ARE HAPPENING AT ONCE IT MAKES THE FIRST STATEMENT A LITTLE CONTRADICTORY. 

Colorado Rapids

For fans of: Being technically correct

You should hop on the wagon because: You find it amazing that even if this team wins MLS Cup, they will have played less games than every single team in the Eastern Conference. Seriously, in 2020, that’s an incredible outcome. And for the more nihilistic of us, it would be funny. Other than that, I dunno, maybe you’re impressed by Cole Bassett in a big way? 

FC Dallas

For fans of: Luchi Gang, Big Bad Bryan, Cheez-Its, Wearing your shirt two-sizes too large, Clemson football, Tanner the Tank, Memes

You should hop on the wagon because: Dallas’ social presence alone almost makes this worth it, but throw in the fact you have likable and youthful personalities all over the field and this is a team where the wagon won’t be crowded, but everyone on it will be interesting and enjoyable. Like a cozy hipster coffeeshop before it gets too popular. This team is also talented enough to make a run if you’re into that kind of thing too. 

LAFC

For fans of: Four Loko, Chugging Four Loko, Not the new Four Loko, the old Four Loko when it was actually cool, Importing Buckfast Tonic Wine because you hear it’s like Four Loko, but maybe better, Attaching jumper cables to your ears and a live car battery while you drink Four Buckfast Tonic Wine Loko, a combination of both of your favorite drinks 

You should hop on the wagon because: The wagon is actually a tank and it’s not on the ground, it’s actually falling through the sky and the tank is on fire and this could either be the greatest night of your life or the worst. Would you like some Four Loko? 

San Jose Earthquakes

For fans of: The “Heart” character on Captain Planet, Jimmy Chitwood, The Fast and Furious franchise, Scoring with any part of your body, Opening Pandora’s Box because it’s a Saturday and you and your friends are bored, Heartfelt speeches

You should hop on the wagon because: You believe in love. You believe in the power of a team to become more than just a collection of players, but a family. An honest to God family. One that has each other’s back at every turn. You believe in one-on-one interactions, eye contact and a firm handshake. You believe in yourself. You believe in each other. You believe if hugs were currency, well then you’re the richest person alive. You believe the sun rises each day to give you one more chance to bring joy into the world.

You also believe it’s totally ok to give up two or six goals or so and look everyone’s just going to have to be OK with that, love can only get you so far.

Series: