The Audi 2019 MLS Cup Playoffs certainly haven’t disappointed. Diehards and neutrals alike have been treated to a deluge of goals, game-winning performances and plenty of drama—and now that the dust has settled, only four clubs can still dream of hoisting the MLS Cup on Nov. 10.
For the first time in the league’s 24-year history, none of the four conference finalists are an MLS charter member from 1996. The Western Conference Final will see Supporters’ Shield juggernaut LAFC host a Seattle Sounders FC side that will unquestionably go down as one of the most successful teams this decade. The Eastern Conference will pit each of the last two MLS Cup champions, with reigning winners Atlanta United FC welcoming Toronto FC to Mercedes-Benz Stadium.
With that in mind, let’s jump straight into the matchups.
(1) LAFC vs. (2) Seattle Sounders FC | Tuesday, Oct. 29 | 9 p.m. CT | ESPN + ESPN Deportes
Many pundits—Sporting Kansas City midfielder Benny Feilhaber among them—believe LAFC got over the proverbial hump when they smashed five goals past archrival LA Galaxy in last Thursday’s conference semifinal. The 5-3 thriller somehow lived up to the hype that made it perhaps the most anticipated game in league history. Just as many experts—Feilhaber among them—expect LAFC to beat Seattle despite the fact that head coach Brian Schmetzer’s men boast as much postseason experience as any team still standing.
MLS Coach of the Year Bob Bradley has blended an exorbitantly talented collection of pieces into a record-breaking buzz saw. Carlos Vela, Diego Rossi, Adama Diomande, Eduard Atuesta and others will be expected to carry LAFC across the finish line, while the Sounders will look to put their own opportunistic attack to good use through the play of Nicolas Lodeiro, Jordan Morris and Raul Ruidiaz. This one should be an absolute blast.
(2) Atlanta United FC vs. (4) Toronto FC | Wednesday, Oct. 30 | 7 p.m. CT | FS1 + FOX Deportes
Alas, the two most powerful clubs in the Eastern Conference are set to square off for a spot in the MLS Cup. Yet just a few months ago, the direction both teams were heading seemed far from predictable. After playing opponents off the pitch in 2018, Atlanta were far less dominant this season under new head coach Frank de Boer. And yet, the Five Stripes have already bagged a U.S. Open Cup title, claimed the Campeones Cup and are two wins shy of achieving a treble. Josef Martinez, Julian Gressel and Pity Martinez are big-name talents, but it’s been a resolute back line—Miles Robinson, Franco Escobar, Leandro Gonzalez Pirez, et al.—that has vaulted Atlanta to where they are now.
On the opposite sideline, Toronto were on the wrong side of the playoff line heading into August—a position that felt all the more disappointing considering the quality of the squad. Lo and behold, the Reds have gone 6-0-6 since then, with a wide cast of characters supporting the influential play of Alejandro Pozuelo. Toronto have won both playoff games—home to D.C. and at New York City FC—without star forward Jozy Altidore and linchpin center back Omar Gonzalez.