Welcome to Playoff Season, where nothing is certain and your regular season alliances don’t matter. If you care enough about the game to read this, chances are you are weighing your options and trying to decide who to support now that the Loons are officially done.
There’s plenty of soccer left in 2017, so put off that postseason depression for just a little longer. Here are some reasons to cheer for each of the twelve MLS Cup contenders – and some reasons not to.
Pros: There’s no better time to join their side than when the Fire face the New York Red Bulls, the Cosmos of the MLS, in the first round. Besides, wouldn’t you feel like a fool if Chicago Fire went to the World Cup without you?
Cons: Basti’s a heart-breaker. This squad floats along on hype. Can you handle another letdown? Can you afford to get caught up in a team that’s been all show?
New York Red Bulls
Pros: Do you like cheering for goals? Bradley Wright-Phillips has you covered there. Plus, the famed side is an underdog heading into this tournament, sixth place out of the six Eastern clubs, which adds to the intrigue.
Cons: No, cheering for the Red Bulls will not give you wings. And, need I remind you that they are the Cosmos of this league? If that’s not enough, they are lying to you. They’re from New Jersey.
Pros: The success of any expansion side is good for the American game so, if you can’t cheer for your own club, why not cheer for its expansion classmate? This club has all the advantages Minnesota United didn’t so it is a logical bandwagon to hop onto. And Atlanta does, in fact, score goals on teams not named United… Maybe that Snowpener wasn’t as personal as it felt at the time.
Cons: Atlanta United is the team Minnesota fans hate to love and love to hate. To cheer for them would feel like a betrayal. Plus, you would have to answer this dreaded question throughout the club’s tournament run: “Da fuck is a ‘united’?” You don’t really want to deal with that.
Pros: Support the club; support the fans. If you love club soccer, backing the Crew is a no-brainer. Minnesota United fans can relate to the passion and heartbreak displayed by both Crew supporters and players through this ownership dispute. This squad worked hard to get into an underdog position for these playoffs and face Atlanta United in the first round. Remind you of anyone?
Cons: Cheering for he Crew could be construed as support for Anthony Precourt. Be careful not to back the business model and keep your focus on the players and supporters.
Pros: The Caps rank at the bottom of the Cascadia trio, but have real potential with players David Ousted and Alphonso Davies. And their supporters sing John Denver songs. What’s not to like?
Cons: The Caps began a downward slide toward the end of the regular season and don’t have the same playoff poise as either of their Pacific Northwest neighbors so the club enters choppy waters tonight.
San Jose Earthquakes
Pros: Wondo! They may be a wildcard, but this could be the year Chris Wondolowski finally lifts the Cup for the Quakes, who haven’t touched it since 2003. This squad is fun to watch (when your favorite club isn’t losing to them) and have potential despite narrow qualification.
Cons: They’re the Quakes. We all would have preferred to see Real Salt Lake in this position. You’re welcome, Quakes. Good luck in all your future endeavors, which will hopefully be less pitiful than a -21 goal differential in the regular season.
Pros: Dynamo have come a long way since installing Wade Barrett as head coach this past fall and finally have a chance to repeat their successful performances as newcomers in 2006 and 2007. It isn’t a club full of flashy DPs and household names (shut up, guy saying “Cubo” Torres, the dude isn’t even starting anymore), but the club has shown heart this season, both while battling their way to the playoffs and while supporting the community in hurricane recovery.
Cons: It won’t be glamorous. A straight counterattacking team never is.
Sporting Kansas City
Pros: While not incredibly talented on the ball, Sporting plays scrappy which is fun to watch and easy to yell about anytime it isn’t being used against your favorite club. Bonus: Tim finally waved to us. This is your chance to wave back and show your appreciation.
Cons: We have too much history that is still too fresh. Even their own diehards, the Blue Cauldron, can only be heard when their squad scores so why should you bring the noise? Let ’em flop and dive in silence.
Pros: Much like MNUFC, the Reds had a humble beginning in the MLS. Twelve years later, they are at the top of the league with a record breaking season. Giovinco, Bradley and Altidore make this squad exciting to watch (goals, Goals, GOALS!), but there are plenty of other contributors to their success, including a fan base that is loud and proud. If you join side with their SGs now, you’ll be a step ahead of the rest when it’s time to permanently move to Canada.
Cons: With the USMNT strongly represented on their roster, any Toronto losses could feel like a repeat of Trinidad and Tobago. Do we cheer for them or request that they be loaned indefinitely to Canada?
New York City FC
Pros: NYC has a potential two-time MVP in David Villa and the whole squad plays some flashy, effective soccer. With the Red Bulls itching for a rematch with NYCFC, we could see a rivalry semifinal. Which New York squad would you prefer to come out on top, NYC or New Jersey?
Cons: You’re basically cheering for the Yankees and Manchester City all at once, which is like clapping for a briefcase full of cash.
Pros: Portland is the ultimate soccer fandom and the future of the American game leans on this kind of enthusiasm. The club’s sister squad, Thorns, took the NWSL Cup. Could the MLS Cup secure a dynasty? While other clubs stand on their offense, a horrid Portland defense (not by Minnesota standards, but, you know…) has given way to solid play in the latter half of the season. How could you not cheer for the Timbers under these circumstances?
Cons: They just won in 2015. Spread some love to the underdogs. American soccer depends on them, too.
Pros: The man, the myth, the legend: Clint Dempsey. The old man has made a fantastic comeback and is supported by a fantastic squad in a soccer haven that rivals Portland’s passion. The Sounders narrowly missed out on the Cascadia Cup this season so they are hungry for hardware; the MLS Cup would be especially sweet for all involved.
Cons: Part of Dempsey’s comeback was notched that dreadful August night versus Minnesota United. Yes, the Sounders have earned a chance to defend their 2016 title, but supporting them means forgiving that night.
Do you have a new favorite club now? Whoever you cheer for this postseason, be loud, be proud. The future of American soccer is heavily dependent on you. So Scarves Up! – For the Cup.