MLS Playoffs 2020: Conference Final Odds and Predictions
The conference finals of the 2020 MLS Cup playoffs feature three teams familiar with this stage of the postseason.
The Seattle Sounders, Columbus Crew and New England Revolution have 11 MLS Cup appearances between them, and each of their managers has ended the season with a trophy.
Minnesota United is the new team to this stage. The Loons will make their first Western Conference Final appearance against Seattle on Monday after they defeated top seed Sporting Kansas City 3-0 on Thursday.
Columbus and New England will square off in the Eastern Conference Final on Sunday in what will be one of the final matches at Mapfre Stadium. Columbus is scheduled to move to a new home in 2021.
The Crew and Revolution have been fixtures in the East Final throughout MLS' 25-year history, but this marks just the second time they have faced off at the conference final stage.
No. 3 Columbus Crew vs. No. 8 New England Revolution
Date and Time: Sunday, December 6, 3 p.m. ET, ABC
Odds: Columbus +128 (bet $100 to win $128), New England +205, tie +240
New England is one step away from returning to the MLS Cup final for the first time since 2014, when its current manager, Bruce Arena, was the architect of L.A. Galaxy's win.
The Revolution are the Buffalo Bills of MLS. They have five Eastern Conference postseason titles, but they have yet to hoist the trophy.
This may be their best chance yet to win the title, with Carles Gil dominating opposing defenses. The Spaniard has been the Most Valuable Player of the East playoffs, and an argument can be made that he deserves the title for the entire league as well.
The midfielder returned to the starting lineup on November 1 and has two goals and three assists in New England's three postseason contests.
Darlington Nagbe will be tasked with keeping Gil under wraps on Sunday afternoon. Nagbe is one of the few players capable of shutting down Gil for an entire match.
If the Crew keep Gil quiet, they can pick apart New England's defense through their attacking trio of Lucas Zelarayan, Gyasi Zardes and Pedro Santos.
Zelarayan, the 2020 MLS Newcomer of the Year, has three postseason assists and is key in unlocking the back four of the Revs. Zardes, who is playing against his former L.A. Galaxy manager, has multiple goals in a single postseason for the first time in his career.
However, he faces a sturdy New England defense that has conceded twice in its three postseason games. Keep an eye on Tajon Buchanan in the back four.
Buchanan had a massive impact going forward against Philadelphia and Orlando City, and he could help break down the Crew if Gil is smothered by Nagbe.
New England should show no fear on the road, and unless Gil is stopped for the whole game, the Revs could plow into the MLS Cup final after earning the No. 8 seed in the East.
Prediction: New England 2, Columbus 1.
No. 2 Seattle Sounders vs. No. 4 Minnesota United
Date and Time: Monday, December 7, 9:30 p.m. ET, FS1
Odds: Seattle -134 (bet $134 to win $100), Minnesota +350, tie +270
Seattle is the king of the Western Conference.
The Sounders have advanced to the MLS Cup final in three of the last four years. If they do so again in 2020, they will finally face a new opponent with Toronto FC eliminated.
Seattle scored a single goal over FC Dallas on Tuesday, but that showed it is capable of winning games in multiple ways after opening its postseason slate with a 3-1 victory over Los Angeles FC.
Brian Schmetzer's side has the more dynamic attack with Raul Ruidiaz, Jordan Morris and Nicolas Lodeiro in the final third, but they could face a challenge from a familiar foe.
Osvaldo Alonso won four U.S. Open Cups and the 2016 MLS Cup with Seattle, and he has been a stabilizing force in defensive midfield throughout Minnesota's playoff run.
With Alonso breaking up plays in front of the back four, the Loons earned consecutive 3-0 victories over the Colorado Rapids and Sporting KC.
In front of Alonso, Emanuel Reynoso has turned in some impressive performances in the No. 10 role. The 25-year-old midfielder bucked the trend of midseason signings struggling to assimilate to MLS by producing a goal and seven assists in 13 regular-season games, and he has six postseason assists.
Seattle's defense is no stranger to putting the clamps on opposing playmakers in the postseason, and that could be the key to clinching another MLS Cup berth.
Shane O'Neill, who scored the game-winning goal against FC Dallas, has been a pleasant surprise at center back after he spent the last two years as a fringe player for Orlando City.
Seattle also holds the edge in net with Stefan Frei, who has conceded just 23 goals in 25 career playoff starts.
Prediction: Seattle 3, Minnesota 1.
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