The final fragments of a muddled Major League Soccer season will come together for the 2020 playoffs, with four teams in contention for the two remaining spots in the conference first round.
Seeds have been set for the 2020 campaign’s closing stages, beginning Friday with the play-in round. The New England Revolution kick off the post-season draw at home to Thierry Henry’s Montreal Impact before Nashville SC host Inter Miami, with the victors advancing to the Eastern Conference quarter-finals:
There, they’ll face either the Philadelphia Union or Toronto FC, the Eastern’s top two finishers during the regular season. Those fixtures won’t get underway until Wednesday (November 24) when the defending champions Seattle Sounders will also face Los Angeles FC.
MLS Play-In Round (All Times ET)
Friday, November 20
New England Revolution vs. Montreal Impact, 6:30 p.m. - FOX Sports 1
Nashville SC vs. Inter Miami CF, 9 p.m. - ESPN2
The form books (as well as seeding) hint the hosts have the upper hand in their respective play-in fixtures. Bruce Arena’s Revolution have won their past three meetings with Montreal, who stormed back late to beat D.C. United 3-2 and book a ninth-place finish in their last outing:
Henry’s side hope to make the playoffs for the fourth time since ascending to North America’s highest tier, while five-time final runners-up New England are out to finally break their MLS Cup curse.
At least one of the league’s latest expansion teams will be a playoff participant as Nashville look to protect their pristine record against Inter Miami at Nissan Stadium in Tennessee. Gary Smith’s side—who finished seventh in the Eastern Conference and missed an automatic playoff place by a single win—beat (1-0) and drew against Inter (0-0) during the regular season without conceding.
It remains unclear as to whether the Herons will have talisman Rodolfo Pizarro back in time for the play-in round after he rejoined Mexico’s squad for recent friendly fixtures. Inter initially suggested their Designated Player would be unavailable due to quarantine protocols for internationals, though ESPN’s Jeff Carlisle has since reported MLS could avoid the need for isolation by using chartered flights:
MLS Playoffs (Last 16)
Saturday, November 21
Orlando City SC vs. New York City FC, 12 p.m. - TUDN
Columbus Crew vs. New York Red Bulls, 3 p.m. - TUDN
Sunday, November 22
Sporting Kansas City vs. San Jose Earthquakes, 4 p.m. - FOX Sports 1
Minnesota United FC vs. Colorado Rapids, 7:30 p.m. - ESPN
Portland Timbers vs. FC Dallas, 10 p.m. - ESPN
MLS Cup Playoffs Tune-In Information
TV: TUDN, FS1, ESPN, ESPN2
Live Stream: fuboTV (watch for free)
A total of five conference quarter-finals will take place this weekend, beginning with two Eastern duels involving both of the Big Apple’s major powers. New York City FC travel to Orlando City in the opening playoff game before Gerhard Struber’s Red Bulls visit Columbus Crew in Ohio.
New York City are bidding to reach their first final after bowing out in the quarters four years running, while it’s been 12 years since the Red Bulls made their only trip to the MLS Cup.
Struber’s men boast the most prolific playoff appearance record of any MLS team, but their last win at Mapfre Stadium came way back in March 2015, failing in seven attempts since then (four defeats, three draws):
Attention shifts to the Western Conference come Sunday when a meeting between Minnesota United and the Colorado Rapids will draw attention as one of the toughest-to-call clashes.
Minnesota came fourth and are unbeaten in their last eight games, making it back to the playoffs following their debut appearance in 2019. Robin Fraser’s Rapids finished fifth in the standings despite earning fewer points than the three teams immediately below them, capitalizing on the points-per-game format after playing at least three games fewer than any of their peers.
The San Jose Earthquakes must beat Sporting Kansas City away for the first time in five years if they’re to reach the conference semifinals. Matias Almeyda’s men finished eighth in the Western and take on top-seeded Kansas City, who still went by their Wizards moniker when they lost in this fixture just prior to the 2003 MLS Cup:
San Jose aren’t the only ones hoping history will repeat as the Portland Timbers seek their second piece of silverware this season, having triumphed in the ‘MLS Is Back’ tournament back in August. They hope to extend a run of three matches unbeaten when hosting the Toros (two wins, one draw) whose last win at Providence Park fell in April 2016.