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M.L.S. Playoff Preview: An L.A. Derby and More Questions Answered


Major League Soccer is in a rush to crown its champion this season, with its final set for Nov. 5 — just over two weeks before the World Cup opens in Qatar. The ultimate sprint, which begins with 4 quarterfinals this week, includes some marquee matches that may offer some players a final opportunity (or two or three) to impress national team coaches before the ultimate rosters for the World Cup are due in mid-November.

This yr’s playoffs feature two previous M.L.S. Cup champions (the Los Angeles Galaxy and Latest York City F.C.) and two teams (Austin F.C. and F.C. Cincinnati) which might be making their first appearance within the postseason. However the postseason also has tracked closely with regular-season results: The highest 4 teams within the Western Conference are still alive, as are 4 of the highest five from the East.

Philadelphia and Los Angeles F.C., which earned first-round byes by ending first of their conferences, will enter the postseason ultimately on Thursday: Philadelphia faces F.C. Cincinnati, and L.A.F.C. hosts its crosstown rival, the Los Angeles Galaxy.

On Sunday, Latest York City F.C., the league’s defending champion, will play C.F. Montreal, and F.C. Dallas will meet Austin F.C. in an all-Texas affair.

The conference semifinals, that are single-game elimination matches, start on Thursday and can wrap up on Sunday. The conference finals are scheduled for Oct. 30, and the M.L.S. Cup final is about for Nov. 5 — the earliest date for the sport in league history. The ultimate can be played at the house of the finalist with the most effective regular season record.

Here’s a fast catch-up of where things stand.

L.A.F.C., which won the Supporter’s Shield for posting the league’s best regular-season, will begin what it hopes is a home-field run to M.L.S. Cup on Thursday night, when its hosts the crosstown Los Angeles Galaxy at Banc of California Stadium. The venue has been a formidable challenge for visitors this season: L.A.F.C. went 13-2-2 there this season.

L.A.F.C.’s first playoff test, though, like all games within the teams’ nascent rivalry, brings the potential for fireworks. The last time the 2 Los Angeles teams played against one another in a playoff game was in 2019, when L.A.F.C. won, 5-3, in one in all the highest-scoring playoff games in M.L.S. history.

Latest York City F.C. is attempting to turn out to be the primary team to win consecutive M.L.S. Cups for the reason that Galaxy did it in 2011 and 2012. But unlike L.A.F.C., its path to the ultimate — for now — looks to be a road trip.

So long as the Yankees remain alive in Major League Baseball’s playoffs, N.Y.C.F.C. can be unable to play on its regular home field at Yankee Stadium. That proved to be little trouble in the primary round, when the team beat Inter Miami, 3-0, at Citi Field in Queens. On Sunday, Latest York City F.C. will head to Montreal for a conference semifinal.

In the search for an additional title, N.Y.C.F.C. will count on their pair of Brazilians, Gabriel Pereira and Héber, who each scored eight goals within the regular season, and the potential of a return from injury of Talles Magno. Those three, and midfielder Santiago Rodríguez, have helped fill the offensive hole left by the midseason departure of last season’s leading scorer, the Argentine striker Valentín Castellanos, who joined the Spanish side Girona F.C. on a loan in July.

N.Y.C.F.C. has been led since June by an interim coach, Nick Cushing, who took over after Ronny Deila left to affix Standard Liège in Belgium. The team wobbled badly after the change, losing seven of nine games in August and September, however it closed the season with three straight wins.

Montreal, meanwhile, could be the most well liked team within the league: It has lost just once since July.

For some players, the playoffs offer greater than only a shot on the M.L.S. Cup title. Numerous players are also playing knowing that national team coaches can be watching.

One player trying to lock down his spot — and a few playing time — ahead of the World Cup is the 21-year-old forward Jesus Ferreira of F.C. Dallas. Ferreira, who was just named this season’s M.L.S. young player of the yr, led Dallas with 18 goals in 33 games. He’s in contention for a striker role for the US, but a poor showing in a friendly against Japan in September didn’t help his case. A very good run of playoff form, nevertheless, might help restore his confidence, and his place in U.S. Coach Gregg Berhalter’s plans.

One other American hopeful is N.Y.C.F.C.’s goalkeeper Sean Johnson, who posted 14 shutouts through the regular season and began every game for Latest York. Johnson has an outdoor shot at making the roster and going to Qatar, even when he is just not more likely to be starter.

Ismaël Koné, a 20-year-old midfielder for Montreal, is trying to earn a spot on Canada’s national team, which can be returning to the World Cup for the primary time since 1986. Koné scored two goals and had five assists for Montreal through the regular season, and he scored a key goal in Montreal’s 2-0 victory over Orlando City in the primary round of the playoffs.

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