The MLS field has been cut from 20 teams to 12. After 34 regular season matches, it is time for the playoffs, so let's take a look at how all the teams stack up. This isn't based on who looked best during the regular season. There are already tables to tell you that. This is based on who has the best chance to take home MLS Cup. So who is it?
The Union haven't won a match since August 27 and failed to score in their last two. C.J. Sapong is their best striker, but he hasn't scored since mid-August and Chris Pontius, who led the team in goals, has just two goals in that span. Basically, they've been really bad and they're on the road in the knockout round.
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Real Salt Lake
Another team that hasn't won a match since August and their top three goalscorers haven't found the back of the net since September 7. Also, like the Union, RSL are on the road in the knockout round.
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Sporting Kansas City
It's crazy that Sporting have fallen to a mid-tier MLS club over the last couple years. They were champions in 2013 and looked like they would be one of the best in the league for years to come, but Matt Besler and Graham Zusi, who the team was built around, have struggled. They've been on the road in the last two knockout rounds and have gone out both times. That looks likely to happen again this season, although Dom Dwyer could come to their rescue.
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The Impact have never won a match at RFK Stadium. Like ever. And that's where they're going for the knockout round, when they play D.C. United. That's the same D.C. United that went six unbeaten before throwing in the towel in the final match of the season.
LA have dealt with injuries to most of their top players, have a weak midfield, a shoddy backline and won just one of their last five matches. We really should be a lot more down on them than we are, but you can't rule out any Bruce Arena-coached team.
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How do you go from one of the worst teams in the league to home-field advantage in the knockout round? By being absolutely on fire over the last few months. The Sounders lost just two matches from July 31 on and now whoever comes up against them has to deal with slowing down Nicolas Lodeiro. Theoretically, they're a team with holes that should be exploited, but no one has been able to do it in months.
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New York City FC
NYCFC can win any game against any team. With David Villa leading the league's best attack, you don't want to bet against them in any game. But they also gave up more goals than any playoff team so they could easily lose any game too.
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Patrick Mullins joined D.C. United in July and scored in his first start with the club. It was a sign of things to come as Mullins has almost single-handedly turned D.C. into one of the league's hottest teams. He has six goals since August 27 and D.C. won four straight before falling in a lightly-contested season finale. If you're looking for any team to make an unexpected run to MLS Cup, look at D.C.
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Last season, Toronto FC made the playoffs for the first time ever. This season, they will host a playoff game for the first time ever. That will mean more than 30,000 fans in the newly renovated ground. Oh, and a healthy-looking Sebastian Giovinco too.The Atomic Ant can win any game by himself, but he's lucky he doesn't have to. Jozy Altidore and Michael Bradley have his back (plus the underrated Jonathan Osorio).
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The Rapids have serious problems when teams score early on them, as we saw in their draw to the Dynamo on the season's final day. They just don't have the potent attack to play from behind effectively. But getting ahead of them is a chore thanks to the league's best defense. They were the second-best team in MLS this season and have an altitude advantage at Dicks' Sporting Good Park, where they went undefeated.
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A full-strength FC Dallas would be the runaway favorites. After all, they took the U.S. Open Cup and then the Supporters' Shield, proving themselves to be the league's best team for months. But losing Fabian Castillo in the summer hurt and now Mauro Diaz is out with a torn Achilles. Those losses would be a killer to any other team in the league, but Oscar Pareja has such a good team that there's still reason to believe. Even being a contender at this point is amazing, but FC Dallas really are that amazing.
New York Red Bulls
The Red Bulls have two things going for them:
1. They're really good 2. They're in the East
Put Bradley Wright-Phillips and Sacha Kljestan in any team and they are contenders. Toss in Jesse March's debilitating press that smothers opposing teams and you have the league's top scorer, Wright-Phillips, top assist man, Kljestan, and a squad that has its eyes on the club's first ever MLS Cup. That they don't have to go through the gauntlet that the Western Conference's sides will is just a bonus.