And then there were four.
The 2017 postseason has been a wild ride so far. We’ve experienced the full spectrum of what Major League Soccer has to offer: from breathtaking displays to beer-league performances, from spectacular upsets to childish tantrums. As we head to the conference finals, only four teams remain. Cup favorites Toronto FC take on fan favorites Columbus Crew in the East, and reigning champs Seattle Sounders face the giant-slaying Houston Dynamo in the West. A week of international fixtures will allow the remaining teams to recalibrate before the conference finals (Nov. 21-30).
Odds to Win the 2017 MLS Cup
Toronto FC: 5/4
Unsurprisingly, Toronto FC remain the favorite to claim the 2017 MLS Cup. They accrued a record-breaking 69 points over the regular season and boast the deepest squad in MLS history. As far as the regular season went, they were untouchable.
However, they just scraped past the ailing New York Red Bulls (2-1, 0-1) in the Eastern Conference semifinal, relying on away goals to see them through to the finals. The Red Bulls only managed to win two of their final ten regular-season matches, so advancing past the sixth-place finishers shouldn’t have been such a difficult task.
To further complicate matters, star strikers Jozy Altidore and Sebastian Giovinco both saw red during their loss to the Red Bulls and will miss the first leg against Columbus. Victor Vasquez and Tosaint Ricketts will pick up the slack, but Toronto are a severely diminished side without their two top goalscorers.
Seattle Sounders: 11/4
A Clint Dempsey-less Sounders traveled to Vancouver for the first leg of their Western Conference semifinal and played the Whitecaps to a lackluster 0-0 draw. Dempsey returned for the second leg and once again saved the day, scoring two goals to put Seattle through.
That’s been the story of Seattle this season — great with Dempsey, lost without. It may seem risky to pin so much on a single player, but it worked out for them last season. As long as the wily 34-year-old continues to deliver, they’re in great standing to win back-to-back cups.
The Sounders are nursing quite a few injuries at the moment. Ozzie Alonso, Jordan Morris, Victor Rodriguez, and Gustav Svensson all need a bit of time to recover, but should be fit after international week.
Columbus Crew: 10/3
With owner Anthony Precourt threatening to move the Crew to Austin, Texas, the postseason has an added significance for Columbus. They slayed NYC FC 4-1 in the first leg of their semifinal and held on just enough during the second, losing 2-0.
It wasn’t a confident display by the Crew and they were lucky to escape with just a 2-0 loss. Their defense needs a bit of a tune up and they’re not the prettiest team to watch, but for the most part they’ve been pretty effective this season. On paper, they don’t quite stack up to the Sounders or Toronto FC. Then again, they fielded an inferior squad against NYC FC and managed to get the job done.
Houston Dynamo: 5/1
The Houston Dynamo are through to the Western Conference final due to a mix of grit and luck. They edged past Sporting Kansas City to advance to the conference semifinal where they upset west-coast favorites Portland in their own backyard.
The Dynamo are an interesting case. On the road, they’re one of the worst teams in the league (1-7-9 in the regular season). However, when playing at home, they’re the best in the West (12-4-1). Against Seattle, who have been consistent both at home and on the road, they’ll have a tough time winning over two legs.
Pick: Columbus Crew (10/3)
The path has been paved for the Crew to stage a brilliant upset. They don’t stand much of a chance against a full-strength Toronto, but that’s not what they’ll be up against. They host TFC for the first leg of the conference final, where they will face Toronto sans Altidore and Giovinco. If they can snatch a home win over Toronto and guard the lead when they hit the road, they’ll have a ticket to the finals.
If they reach the MLS Cup finals, then Columbus will have the honor of hosting the event. That would put them in an enviable position against either Seattle or Houston. At 10/3 odds, there’s a lot of value here. #SaveTheCrew!