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Road to the MLS Playoffs: The Final Four

by | Dec 3, 2021 | On The Pitch - Insight

Four teams to face off in this weekend’s conference final clash for a chance to go to the MLS Cup.

There are three games left of the MLS season!

It feels like yesterday that fans were welcoming Austin FC to the league and booking their airfare tickets for road matches.

In a season full of surprises, disappointments, and penalty shootouts – we are down to the final four: Portland Timbers, Real Salt Lake, Philadelphia Union, and New York City FC.

Western Conference:

Real Salt Lake has a long history of upsetting teams and has made two appearances in the MLS Cup, winning the prestigious trophy in 2009.

*image courtesy of Real Salt Lake

But the now-league owned team is the real Cinderella story of 2021. 

After downing Seattle Sounders in penalties, having recorded zero shots and one corner, they took that unused energy to deliver the late winner in stoppage time to defeat Sporting Kansas City (2-1) to send them to the final.

RSL is the team to watch after being involved in several controversial missed red card calls, the most notable being on Decision Day in Kansas City – which helped squeeze them into the playoffs.

The Timbers chopped down the top seed Colorado Rapids in the mountains with a late-game winner. And now will host Real Salt Lake in the Western Conference Final on Saturday, December 4 at 5:30p CT.

Eastern Conference:

The battle of the west kept fans on their seats all season. But the focus will turn to a penalty-heavy east for the conference final.

After the Columbus Crew, current reigning MLS Cup champion, got eliminated from playoff contention on Decision Day – eyes shifted to the two most unlikely eastern clubs that may have the opportunity to steal the title.

The Philadelphia Union led Nashville SC to penalties after Daniel Gazdag scored the equalizer during stoppage time in the first half. Goalkeeper Andre Blake stood his ground as he got into players’ minds to make three continuous saves to send the Union to the conference final.

New York City FC and the New England Revolution leveled the match twice, ultimately sending the game to penalties after Tajon Buchanan scored the equalizer in the 118th minute.

Again both sides would trade opportunities in the penalty shootout, but Sean Johnson’s early save helped stamp NYCFC’s ticket for the next round, winning 4-3.

The Philadelphia Union and New York City FC will face off in both clubs’ first-ever Eastern Conference Final. This historic match will be at Subaru Park on Sunday, December 5 at 2p CT.

Who do you think will go to the MLS Cup?