The Major League Soccer playoffs are just getting started, and the upcoming action is certain to excite with some of the most memorable games of the entire season.
While the New York Red Bulls stroll into the postseason sporting the most points from the regular season, there are plenty of other contenders threatening to become champions and take home the MLS Cup.
Let's take a look at the schedule and predictions for the MLS Cup Playoffs.
|Real Salt Lake vs. L.A. Galaxy||Thurs., Nov. 7 at 9 p.m.|
|Portland vs. Seattle||Thurs., Nov. 7 at 11 p.m.|
|New York vs. Houston||Wed., Nov. 6 at 8 p.m.|
|Spoting KC vs. New England||Wed., Nov. 6 at 9 p.m.|
|First Leg||Sat., Nov. 9 at 2:30 p.m.|
|Second Leg||Nov. 23 or 24 (TBA)|
|First Leg||Sun., Nov. 10 at 9 p.m.|
|Second Leg||Nov. 23 or 24 (TBA)|
|West champion vs. East champion||Sat., Dec. 7 at 4 p.m.||ESPN|
Up-to-date TV schedule here courtesy of MLS Soccer
Eastern Conference Finals: New York Red Bulls vs. New England Revolution
Neither the Red Bulls nor the Revolution have secured their spot in the finals, but I expect both to do so on Wednesday night and eventually compete for the right to go to the MLS Cup.
It's no secret how the Red Bulls have emerged as the league's top club throughout the season, as they boast two players in Thierry Henry and Tim Cahill who have excelled at the Premier League level. They combined for 22 goals during the season.
The Revolution have enjoyed their own offensive success under Diego Fagundez, who put up 13 goals during the regular season, and midfielder Kelyn Rowe. But they won't be any match for the most dominant team in the MLS right now.
Expect the experience of New York and the allure of winning their first championship to outweigh New England's promising campaign.
Prediction: Red Bulls advance
Western Conference Finals: LA Galaxy vs. Portland Timbers
As of Wednesday, both of these clubs were entering the second leg of the conference semifinals up one goal, and they should both advance and take care of business in those second legs.
It's usually the case that the Galaxy come into any matchup as the favorite—or at least the most talked about team—but that may not be the case this time around. Portland finished atop the West with 57 points to L.A.'s 53.
Despite the Timbers' lead in the standings, the Galaxy are able to boast arguably the MVP of the league this season in Robbie Keane alongside the face of the league in Landon Donovan. When those two get going, it's typically game over.
Keane has been able to keep his Premier League form and prove why he's captain of the Ireland national team this season with 16 goals, and I expect him to strike at least once against Portland in a would-be Western Conference Final showdown.
Prediction: Galaxy advance
Who will win the title?
It's no secret which two clubs in the MLS boast the most internationally relevant talent, and it's not a coincidence that they would face off in the MLS Cup.
How tough is it to split hairs between this matchup?
New York has been the best team this season, but there's no doubting that the Galaxy are the best MLS team in the last decade.
It could go either way, but I think the leadership of Thierry Henry and Tim Cahill motivating the Red Bulls to take advantage of their first Cup appearance since 2008 will bring them through. Playing for the Cup is nothing new to the Galaxy, but for New York, it'll only add more of a spark.
Prediction: Red Bulls win the title