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The MLS Cup playoffs kick off Friday with two video games: Montreal Affect at New England Revolution (6:30 p.m. ET on FS1) and Inter Miami at Nashville SC (nine p.m. ET on ESPN2).

The 18-team playoffs will culminate with MLS Cup on Dec. 12 (on FOX), which is the most recent within the calendar 12 months that Primary League Football has performed its championship recreation. 

We surveyed USA TODAY Community’s group of football mavens for his or her predictions on which groups may achieve the MLS Cup ultimate, which groups are darkish horse contenders for the name recreation and the most important X-factors heading into the postseason.

How we see the MLS playoffs taking place:

Pat Brennan, The Cincinnati Enquirer

MLS Cup: Philadelphia Union over Portland Timbers – The Timbers confirmed on the MLS is Again Match that they may be able to live on knockout play with taste and ability. Even with out injured Sebastian Blanco and Jaroslaw Niezgoda, Portland will have to emerge from the top-heavy Western Convention. When the mud settled on Choice Day, Philadelphia Union received the Supporters’ Defend with room to spare. Entrance to again, the Union are an entire group. They’ve playoff revel in, didn’t drop a unmarried level at Subaru Park this season and proved on Choice Day they may be able to ship a trophy when the power is on. There’s such a lot to love about Philadelphia’s case for pulling off the home “double.”

Darkish horse candidate: Nashville SC – They aren’t within the peak part of the Japanese Convention bracket and determine to have an hard trail towards creating a dent within the playoffs, however I wouldn’t wish to come across Nashville SC this postseason. Nashville is a membership that has high quality, is aware of its strengths and weaknesses, and performs inside of itself. They aren’t flashy however they get effects, together with at the highway. This group is hard to wreck down (22 objectives allowed in 2020) and is completely in a position to taking a sledgehammer to the Japanese Convention facet of the playoff match.

Playoff X-factors: Diego Valeri and Diego Chara, Portland Timbers – I’m one for nostalgia, so I truly sought after to move with Chris Wondolowski, who’s getting into the postseason reasonably sizzling for San Jose. However the scenario in Portland is way more intriguing. My guess on Portland to advance to MLS Cup is largely a chance on Valeri’s and Chara’s mixed talent to influence the Timbers across the accidents to Blanco and Niezgoda. Valeri and Chara can lend a hand Portland triumph over the ones staff losses, but when they fall brief it’s imaginable the membership doesn’t stick round very lengthy this postseason.

Drake Hills, The Tennessean

MLS Cup: Philadelphia Union over Seattle Sounders – The Supporters’ Defend-winning Union has the juice and its Four-2 file towards playoff-bound fighters within the ultimate month of the steady season is favorable with home-field merit. Philadelphia will proceed its scoring shape towards Toronto FC within the Japanese Convention ultimate. Having completed the heavy lifting in Spherical 1 towards LAFC, the Seattle Sounders will rating a past due purpose to get previous Carrying Kansas Town within the Western ultimate for its 2nd immediately MLS Cup look.  

Darkish horse candidate: New York Town FC – NYCFC isn’t ok with the highlight on them. The No. 1 seed within the East remaining 12 months was once a jinx. In 2020 it’s tricky to look every other convention foe matching the type of Valentín Castellanos, Jesús Medina and Maxi Moralez. The important thing for NYCFC is when can the membership get Alexander Callens again after world responsibility with Peru?

Playoff X-factor: NYCFC’s again line – From Orlando Town’s Daryl Dike and Chris Mueller, to the Union’s Sergio Santos and Kacper Przybylko, to Toronto’s Alejandro Pozuelo and Ayo Akinola – there are attacking duos in New York Town’s playoff trail that require Callens, Maxime Chanot, Ronald Matarrita and Anton Tinnerholm to be on the peak in their recreation. Past due objectives conceded will result in an early go out.

MLS PLAYOFF STORY LINES: Philadelphia Union, Seattle Sounders amongst key groups

MLS PLAYOFFS: Entire time table and TV data

Jacob Myers, The Columbus Dispatch

MLS Cup: Seattle Sounders over Philadelphia Union – At complete energy, Seattle  has arguably the end attacking trio in MLS with Nico Lodeiro, Jordan Morris and Raul Ruidiaz and  has allowed the fewest objectives in an offense-heavy Western Convention. Philadelphia  has had a distinct season with one of the peak gamers in MLS at each and every place, however there is something about having been at this level that can  give Seattle its 2nd consecutive championship.

Darkish horse candidate: Los Angeles FC – Although I believe Seattle will win MLS Cup, it’s kind of unlucky they’ll play an LAFC facet this is at complete energy because the No. 7 seed. After lacking just about all the season, 2019 MVP Carlos Vela returned simply in time to steer his membership on a redemption excursion towards an MLS Cup that slipped via their grasps remaining season.

Playoff X-factors: Darlington Nagbe and Lucas Zelarayan – Both Nagbe or Zelarayan might be thought to be the X-factor for the Columbus Team within the playoffs, however their effectiveness in combination will resolve how a ways the Team advance. When the midfield duo  have began in combination, the Team are 6-1-2 with two wins towards Philadelphia.

Nate Scott, For the Win

MLS Cup: Carrying Kansas Town over Toronto FC – Peter Vermes rebuilt his Carrying KC facet this season by means of stiffening up the center of the park, and so they’re arguably the freshest group in MLS, finishing the season on a 6-1-1 run. Upload in purpose scoring from now-healthy Alan Pulido, and this group has what it wishes to look out the match. Within the East, I are expecting Philly’s dream season involves an finish because of a tougher-than-you-think Toronto FC facet. 

Darkish horse candidate: Los Angeles FC – A unusual, bumpy 12 months has LAFC getting into the match as a 7 seed, however with Carlos Vela getting again to complete well being after an MCL sprain, there’s sufficient ability right here to overcome anyone. I see them knocking off a just right Seattle facet and most likely creating a run all of the strategy to an MLS Cup ultimate. 

Playoff X-factor: Carlos Vela – If Vela is wholesome – in reality wholesome – the reigning MLS MVP utterly shakes up what you’d be expecting out of the Western Convention. LAFC is going from a captivating darkish horse candidate to out-and-out contender if his knee is correct and he’s fit are compatible. 

Jim Reineking, USA TODAY Sports activities

MLS Cup: Seattle Sounders over Philadelphia Union – Trainer Brian Schmetzer’s Sounders group is veteran-laden, playoff-tested and entirely in a position to achieving its fourth MLS Cup in 5 years. Similar to within the 2014 U.S. Open Cup ultimate, the Sounders will walk into Chester, Pennsylvania, and break all of the a laugh for the Union, who were taking part in their best season but.

Darkish horse candidate: Orlando Town – Trainer Oscar Pareja became this perpetual non-factor right into a contender in his first 12 months on the helm, together with his group having its coming-of-age second on the MLS is Again Match, the place it reached the general. That have will have to get advantages Orlando in its first-ever playoff look.

Playoff X-factor: Matt Freese – The Philadelphia Union’s Andre Blake, one of the most league’s peak goalkeepers, may pass over playoff video games after struggling a damaged hand in past due October. Input Freese, a homegrown participant who made his first and simplest get started of 2020 within the regular-season finale, by which he had a blank sheet because the Union secured their first-ever trophy. He will wish to mirror that efficiency if Blake misses video games.

Observe USA TODAY Sports activities on Twitter @usatodaysports.

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