Major League Soccer's 20th season concludes on Sunday with the MLS Cup at Mapfre Stadium in Columbus, Ohio.
The Columbus Crew, who entered the playoffs as the second seed in the Eastern Conference, will host the Portland Timbers, who advanced to the final as the third seed from the Western Conference.
Although it isn't the matchup many predicted for the championship match at the start of the year—or even at the beginning of the postseason—Sunday's showdown in Columbus should produce a thrilling 90 minutes or more of soccer.
Below is all the information you need to know heading into the 2015 MLS Cup Final.
Date: Sunday, December 6
Time: 4 p.m. ET
Live Stream: WatchESPN
Recent Form and MLS Cup History
Columbus enters the final contest of the MLS season off two hard-fought series victories over the Montreal Impact and New York Red Bulls.
The Crew downed the Didier Drogba-led Impact 4-3 on aggregate, and they defeated the Supporters' Shield winners 2-1 on aggregate in the Eastern Conference Final.
During the regular season, Columbus posted a 9-4-4 record at home.
Sunday marks the second time Columbus will appear in the MLS Cup. The Crew won the title in 2008 over the New York Red Bulls 3-1. Alejandro Moreno, Chad Marshall and Frankie Hejduk scored at the then-Home Depot Center in Carson, California.
Portland makes its first venture into the MLS Cup on Sunday after wins over Sporting Kansas City, Vancouver and FC Dallas in the postseason. The Timbers almost didn't make it out of the knockout round, but they ended up winning 7-6 on penalties over Sporting KC.
The Timbers used their stellar road form to get past Vancouver in the second leg of the Western Conference semifinal before they outlasted No. 1 seed FC Dallas 5-3 on aggregate in the final. Portland was one of the best road teams in the regular season with a 7-8-2 record on its travels.
The biggest bit of team news to come out of both camps this week is the health of Portland center back Liam Ridgewell.
The former Premier League defender missed out on the second leg of the Western Conference Final due to a right calf injury. However, the center back told reporters upon Portland's arrival in Ohio on Thursday that he should be good to go for Sunday.
Per Kyle McCarthy of Fox Sports, Ridgewell said:
I’m feeling very well. I’m fit, ready to be selected and ready to go, to be honest.
It’s been a bit of a rough 10 days missing out on the game last week. I’ve just been trying to concentrate on getting my calf right and trying to make sure I’m fit.
It’s been a bit of a struggle, but, hopefully, it’ll be there.
With Ridgewell fit, Portland should trot out a full-strength squad in Columbus on Sunday.
Adam Kwarasey will start in net with Nat Borchers, Jorge Villafana and Alvas Powell filling out the back four. Diego Chara, Diego Valeri and Darlington Nagbe will play in a three-man midfield with Rodney Wallace, Fanendo Adi and Dairon Asprilla up front in Caleb Porter's 4-3-3 formation.
Columbus should also bring its first-team starting 11 to the field on Sunday. Steve Clark will start in net with Harrison Afful, Michael Parkhurst, Gaston Sauro and Waylon Francis in front of him in defense. Wil Trapp and Tony Tchani will start in the defensive midfield roles of the 4-2-3-1 formation with Federico Higuain as the No. 10. Ethan Finlay and Justin Meram will look to provide forward Kei Kamara with service from their wing positions.
Key Battles To Watch
Darlington Nagbe vs. Wil Trapp and Tony Tchani
There is a strong chance Nagbe, Trapp and Tchani will be teammates on the United States men's national team in the future, but they will be foes fighting for one trophy on Sunday.
Nagbe has been a vital part of the Portland attack in the playoffs, but Trapp and Tchani will pose the biggest threat to his productivity this postseason.
In the two legs against the Red Bulls in the Eastern Conference Final, Columbus' pair of defensive midfielders were all over the pitch clogging passing lanes and making key tackles in front of the their own penalty area.
Diego Chara vs. Federico Higuain
Portland possesses a midfield destroyer of its own in Colombian Diego Chara, who has found an uptick in form since Porter shifted to a lone defensive midfielder late in the regular season.
Chara's main job is to disrupt the rhythm of the opponent's top playmaker in the middle of the pitch. The Portland man does this with his physical style of play. Do not be surprised if Chara makes his presence known with a strong tackle or two early in the match.
Higuain will have to break free from the grip of Chara in order to spread out the Columbus attack. If the Argentine can't get going in midfield, the Crew may end up relying too much on their wing players.
Nat Borchers vs. Kei Kamara
Both matchups between the forwards and center backs are intriguing, but the one that sticks out the most is the battle between Borchers and Kamara.
The acquisition of Borchers from Real Salt Lake in the offseason is turning out to be one of the top moves in the league over the last 12 months. The bearded center back is a menace in the air, but he will have his hands full with the Sierra Leone international.
Kamara is capable of striking in a instant with his incredible aerial ability. If he wins a few aerial battles early in the match, he will set the tone for how the Crew attack through the wings. However, if Borchers shuts down Kamara in the air, Columbus will be forced to play on the ground and in the middle of the field to open up space.
Columbus has home-field advantage, but that gets thrown out the window due to Portland's road form and its win over the Crew on September 26 at Mapfre Stadium.
The key to victory for the Crew will be the play of Kamara, while the actions of Nagbe and Valeri on the pitch will decide the final result for Portland.
Our prediction is a 2-1 win by Columbus with Kamara winning the MLS Cup Most Valuable Player with a late game-winner for the hosts.
Joe Tansey covers MLS for Bleacher Report. You can follow him on Twitter, @JTansey90.