The MLS Cup Playoffs are nearly upon us which means it time for the writers of Stumptown Footy to fill out brackets that are sure to be broken. Sam, Alex and Grant have compiled their brackets below with explanations behind each of their picks. Let us know your picks and which of the writers’ brackets you are placing your bets on in the comments below.
Sam Svilar’s Bracket
Welcome to the dumbest but most fun MLS Cup. Things run fairly chalk in the East. NYCFC pulls the ol’ “we’ve got first-round momentum” and knocks off the Revs and Union to host MLS Cup.
In the West, however... chaos reigns. The Timbers get past Minnesota and Vancouver pulls the “it’s an upset but not really” over SKC. RSL does the dang thing and gets revenge over Freddy Juarez, shocking the Sounders at home.
Vancouver hosts RSL in the conference semifinals and rides the “team of destiny” narrative to the conference finals. Who joins them? Unfortunately for Timbers fans, it’s the Rapids, as Portland runs out of steam at altitude. But it’s the Whitecaps who come out of the West on top, as they rope-a-dope Colorado for a berth in the cup final.
And where is that cup final being played? In a gosh dang baseball stadium, baby. NYCFC hosts and the game goes the distance in a 2-2 battle. Vancouver gets a last gasp equalizer in extra time and then cannot be denied in the shootout.
The Vancouver Whitecaps win their first MLS Cup, head coach Vanni Sartini chugs an entire bottle of champagne at the postgame press conference, and the entire BC province throws a week-long party. All hail the new kings of Cascadia.
Alex Barnes’ Bracket
Compared to Sam’s bracket, mine seems pretty boring. For the most part, I’ve picked the higher-seeded team to advance, with a couple of exceptions.
In the East, I have New England, Atlanta, Nashville and Philadelphia advancing to the conference semifinals. That means New England would play Atlanta and Nashville would play Philadelphia. Nashville have had an incredible second season in MLS, finishing 3rd in the East thanks in large part to an MVP-caliber season from Hany Mukhtar (16 goals, 12 assists). Having said that, I think that Philadelphia’s experience will see them through against Nashville. Out of all of the teams in the East, I think that Atlanta is the biggest wild card. They were MLS Cup winners in 2018 (we don’t need to talk any more about it) and have Josef Martinez back healthy and Ezequiel Barco playing his best soccer. However, I just think that New England under Bruce Arena is on an MLS Cup charge and it’s hard to see anyone knocking them out in the East.
As for the West, I think there will be a couple more surprises. I think that the Timbers will get past Minnesota in the opening round, The Sounders will, despite stoppage-time Decision Day heroics, get past Real Salt Lake and the Vancouver Whitecaps will knock out Sporting KC, who have lost their last three games, in the first round. That would put the Timbers against the Rapids and the Whitecaps against the Sounders in the Conference Semifinals. Unfortunately for the Timbers, I think that’s where the road ends. Given Colorado’s record this season, and the history of poor results against the Rapids this season and in seasons past, I think they will prove to be too much for the Timbers in a playoff match. But my most surprising prediction of the playoffs is that I think the Whitecaps will knock out the Sounders if they meet. The Whitecaps went on a pretty impressive run that saw them lose just two of their final 14 games to obtain a playoff spot, while the Sounders finished the season winless in their final six games. ACES.
That means that I have both of the No. 1 seeds, Colorado and New England, reaching the MLS Cup Final, and the Revolution winning it to give Bruce Arena a sixth MLS Cup.
Grant Little’s Bracket
I threw seeding out the window because the MLS Cup Playoffs are pure chaos. My bracket could go up in flames immediately but it could be just crazy enough to predict some really big upsets and some fun Cinderella runs.
In the East, I have the unpredictable Atlanta United beating New York City FC, even on the baseball field, purely because Josef Martinez is that guy and can provide the difference out of nothing. Nashville will squeak by Orlando courtesy of defensive solidity and Hany Mukhtar. Here’s where I think the chaos starts. I have the Philadelphia Union losing in the first round of the playoffs for the second consecutive season. This win will spark the New York Red Bulls' run to the MLS Cup Final.
The Red Bulls have been tough to beat. They have only lost one match in their last 12 going back to September 17. I could see their conference semifinal with Nashville going into extra time because Nashville specializes in draws, but as we all know, you can’t draw in the playoffs. The Red Bulls will pull it out in extra time just like the Columbus Crew did in 2020.
New England will make it to the conference finals again and they will lose again. The curse of the Supporters’ Shield reigns supreme and the Red Bulls advance to the final.
Call me a homer but I think the Timbers can do damage in the playoffs. The vibes are good and that loss to FC Dallas in the first round last season is the fuel that will drive them to the MLS Cup Final. I think the Timbers can get by Minnesota at Providence Park and can pull a Thanksgiving Day surprise over on Colorado to get to the conference finals.
Real Salt Lake’s Decision Day magic will fizzle out against the struggling Seattle Sounders, who typically turn it on in the playoffs. But Vancouver is feeling good and playing well. The Whitecaps will defeat Sporting Kansas City and send their Cascadia rivals packing.
This sets up another Cascadia clash in the Western Conference Finals and the Timbers will be sawing slabs in Providence Park. This time they won’t capitulate in the second half.
Portland Timbers vs. New York Red Bulls in the MLS Cup Final in Providence Park. The Year of Dairon Asprilla continues and he scores the winner as Providence Park goes ballistic.