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Conference semifinal pairings set for MLS Playoffs, who’s your favorite now?

Nov 1, 2013, 11:22 AM EDT

Eddie Johnson, Jack Jewsbury AP

Following Houston’s 3-0 shellacking of Montreal in the Eastern conference play-in game on Thursday night, the field for the the 2013 MLS Cup Conference semifinals is complete.

These four series are going to be spectacular.

With postseason specialists Houston making it in and the indomitable force of Seattle dispatching Colorado, the heavyweights of MLS will now slug it out as the elite eight must be whittled down to four.

(WATCH: Seattle Sounders vs. Portland Timbers & Houston Dynamo vs. New York Red Bulls on NBC Sports Live Extra)

Let’s see who’s left, and who they’re up against, as the conference semifinal action begins this Saturday with the first legs, and the second legs take place a week later.

EASTERN CONFERENCE

New York Red Bulls vs. Houston Dynamo

Mike Petke has worked wonders with the Red Bulls in his first season in charge. RBNY have leaned on star duo Theirry Henry and Tim Cahill, who wouldn’t. But they also looked great at the back and can score goals from all over the pitch. They faced Houston three times this season and won all three, with 2-0, 4-1 and 3-0 victories. But after being runners up for the last two years, you just can’t rule out the Dynamo in the postseason, can you?

Sporting Kansas City vs. New England Revolution

On paper SKC wins the series hands down, but Jay Heaps’ plucky Revs side have other ideas. It’s about time Sporting made it to MLS Cup after flattering to deceive in the past few seasons after losing to arch nemesis Houston, Peter Vermes will be revealed his side are not facing the Dynamo. New England could cause a shock here, but I highly doubt it.

WESTERN CONFERENCE

Portland Timbers vs. Seattle Sounders

So, this is happening. The Timbers and Sounders have never meet in the MLS playoffs, but they’ve met plenty of times in the NASL, A-league and USL versions. And the Sounders have won three out of the five games, and two of the three series’ they’ve battled out. Ominous? Seattle looked unconvincing down the stretch and for times against Colorado, but will a Cascadia clash against fierce rials and much favored Portland catapult them into action…

Real Salt Lake vs. LA Galaxy

When RSL won the cup in 2009, they beat LA on penalties. Ever since a burgeoning rivalry between the two franchises has seen spats between Jason Kreis and David Beckham and plenty of other unpleasantness between the two sides. Expect things to boil over, as RSL’s youngsters come up against LA’s old heads and two great coaches in Kreis and Bruce Arena clash out West.

  1. hildezero - Nov 1, 2013 at 1:05 PM

    “The Timbers and Sounders have never meet in the MLS playoffs, but they’ve meet plenty of times in the NASL,”

    Don’t you mean, “met”, not “meet?

  2. rphillish - Nov 1, 2013 at 1:35 PM

    I have a hard time going against the Dynamo, but I really think the Red Bulls are going to be too much for even their playoff form. I think that leg comes down to NY chocking, or Houston showing up for the playoffs.
    The Rev-SKC match is probably the one I’m looking forward to most. They’ll give KC a hard time, but I don’t think the Revolution can break down that back line.
    Portland V. Seattle is wide open. I don’t even know who I want to win. If I had to pick, I’d pick Seattle.
    As for the last game, Galaxy three-peat, ‘nough said.

  3. mlsconvert88888 - Nov 1, 2013 at 1:46 PM

    I’m mostly sticking with the top seeds in this round;
    NYRB, SKC, POR, with LAG being my only “upset” pick.

  4. danielofthedale - Nov 1, 2013 at 2:36 PM

    I am going to take the Playoff experienced mangers. Three of the four matches up experience vs first time playoff mangers in Portland vs Seatle, New York vs Houston, and SKC vs New England series. So Seattle, Houston, and SKC move on but the Red Bulls playoff experience as a team could lead them past Houston but history says its never a bad bet to go against NYRB in the post season.

    The LA-RSL tie is a real toss up. I am going to give LA a slight advantage but if Landon rolls his ankle and is much less than 100% RSL should move on.

  5. hildezero - Nov 1, 2013 at 2:36 PM

    I agree with you, but instead of Portland, I think Seattle will eliminate Portland.

  6. takethelongview - Nov 1, 2013 at 3:00 PM

    In a supposedly parity-filled league, it’s interesting to observe that 75% of the semi-final field (6/8 teams) are now making a third consecutive appearance in this stage of the tournament: LA, RSL, SKC, NYRB, Houston, and Seattle.

    But parity must work, right? Because the other six slots have featured six different teams: in 2011, Philadelphia and Colorado; in 2012, DC and San Jose; in 2013, Portland and New England.

    • talgrath - Nov 1, 2013 at 3:31 PM

      There’s usually not a lot of changes between seasons as far as who gets in, but as far as who wins it all, there’s usually quite a bit. There have been 3 teams to win two MLS cups in a row, LA, DC and Houston, but other than that, every year has been a different team.

    • rphillish - Nov 1, 2013 at 3:54 PM

      To be fair, who got into the playoffs doesn’t quite tell the whole story on parity. We came into the last 2-3 weeks with about a third of the league in the supporter shield race. Some of the teams that didn’t make the playoffs where out simply on goal differential or only 3 points. The league does have a top tier of teams; teams that consistently do well, but the parity in MLS is more about the fact that almost any team can beat a team higher in the standings and it not be considered an upset.
      Then there’s the fact of how easy it is to change your fortunes from one season to the next, or even over just a few months. Portland was awful last year, but now they’re top of the west, and it didn’t even require spending outrageous amounts of money. Then look at Chicago, where basically adding one guy took them from competing with Torronto for second worst in the East to playoff contenders.

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