The All-Time 5 Best MLS Cup Finals
Major League Soccer has a unique playoff format. It tests the coaches, player fatigue and squad depth. The winner of the MLS Cup is usually one of the most disciplined, intelligent and deepest teams.
With the 2014 MLS Cup being contested on December 7, Bleacher Report looks at the five best finals in the league's history. They'll be judged mainly on entertainment value, drama and the impact on the league now.
Here are the five best MLS Cup finals in history.
2006: Houston Dynamo vs. New England Revolution
The Dynamo needed penalties to defeat the Revolution for their first MLS Cup win in franchise history. Brian Ching scored just seconds after Taylor Twellman gave the Revs the lead in extra time.
The match went to penalties, a first in an MLS Cup final. It was an exciting match after the full-time whistle, but the first 90 minutes weren't as entertaining, which is why it misses out on the top five.
If you'd like to watch the full game, it can be found here.
2000: Kansas City Wizards vs. Chicago Fire
Fans who like attacking soccer probably wouldn't have liked this game. However, if it wasn't for Wizards goalkeeper Tony Meola, who was named MVP, the match wouldn't have finished 1-0.
Meola made 10 saves to preserve a clean sheet against the Fire as Miklos Molnar scored the only goal of the game. It will go down as one of the best goalkeeping performances in MLS history.
The full game can be seen here.
2001: San Jose Earthquakes vs. Los Angeles Galaxy
The era of the golden goal presented fans with several dramatic matches. The 2001 MLS Cup between the San Jose Earthquakes and the L.A. Galaxy was another intense game won in sudden-death overtime.
The final was entertaining, intense and featured some future stars of MLS in ex-Earthquakes players Landon Donovan and Dwayne De Rosario, who were both excellent in this match.
It was also considered the beginning of Donovan's surge within the American soccer landscape after he returned from Europe.
2004: D.C. United vs. Kansas City Wizards
D.C. United were a powerhouse during the first decade of Major League Soccer's existence.
They had already won three MLS Cups before the 2004 final and had one of the best American talents at the time in Freddy Adu.
This was also a high-scoring game, which made it exciting for neutrals. As for D.C. fans, they got to witness their fourth MLS Cup win, which was their last triumph. That essentially signalled the end of their dominance and the beginning of Houston and LA's success, which was a turning point in league history, hence why this final is on the list.
2003: San Jose Earthquakes vs. Chicago Fire
D.C. United may have won four MLS Cups by 2004, but the San Jose Earthquakes and Chicago Fire were also two consistent teams that were contenders for the title every year.
The two sides met in the 2003 final. The Earthquakes’ Landon Donovan was instrumental yet again, just like in 2001 when San Jose also won MLS Cup with some help from the American. Like D.C.'s 2004 win, this was the last time the Californians won the title and the end of the Donovan era in the Bay Area.
This entertaining affair can be seen in full here.
1998: Chicago Fire vs. D.C. United
The 1998 MLS Cup final featured some of the league's best players, and a couple of them represented the U.S. men's national team.
Eddie Pope, Marco Etcheverry and Roy Lassiter were just a few members of a talented D.C. United side, which has been regarded as one of the best teams in league history. Zach Thornton, Chris Armas and Ante Razov were some of the standouts for the Chicago Fire.
This final deserves to be on the list because of the aforementioned star power involved in the final. Many MLS fans should treat themselves by watching the top-tier players in the league at that time.
If you'd like to see some of these ex-U.S. internationals and MLS greats in action, it can be found here.
1996: D.C. United vs. LA Galaxy
The inaugural MLS Cup in 1996 was a great spectacle. The match was high in quality and was a great advertisement for the league.
D.C. United and the L.A. Galaxy, both of whom are the most successful teams in MLS Cup history, faced one another in front of more than 34,000 fans at Foxboro Stadium.
Plenty of goals were scored, talented players were on display, and the match was won thanks to some late-game heroics by D.C. For sentimental purposes, this tops the list of the best finals of all time.
Every MLS fan should watch this final.
Do you think another match deserves to be on this list? Let us know in the comments.