For Seattle along with also also Toronto, a Big Stage to Settle a Score

SEATTLE — Major League Soccer can be closing out its 24th season This particular weekend which has a rubber match: For the third time in four years, the Seattle Sounders along with also also Toronto F.C. will play for the league championship in M.L.S. Cup.

While the matchup, as well as the stage, can be familiar for both the teams along with also also the league, This particular did catch a few people by surprise. As recently as two weeks ago, neither Seattle, which beat Toronto within the 2016 final, nor Toronto, which flipped the result a year later, was required to be here.

Neither finalist was particularly dominant during the regular season: Toronto lost nearly as many games as This particular won, along with also also Seattle was a distant second to Los Angeles F.C. within the Western Conference race. In fact, until the conference finals last week, 2019 was the year of LA.F.C.: The second-year club set a league record for points (72) along with also also tied the 21-year-old mark for goals.

M.L.S.’s completely new playoff system, which replaced two-game series with single-game matchups within the first two rounds, was bound to raise the chance of upsets. Still, when Toronto knocked off the East’s top seed, completely new York City F.C., along with also also faced a trip to play the defending champion, Atlanta United, many saw an L.A.F.C.-Atlanta final as inevitable. along with also also then Seattle along with also also Toronto went on the road along with also also flipped the script.

“Certainly they were the favorites,” Seattle Coach Brian Schmetzer said after beating Los Angeles. “along with also also they were deservedly the favorites, because in This particular completely new playoff system, they earned the right to play these home games. along with also also winning away through home can be a challenge, which can be credit again to my team.

So what should you expect in Sunday’s final? Here’s a look.

Yes. Seattle beat Toronto in a penalty-kick shootout to win the 2016 title, only to return to Toronto’s BMO Field a year later along with also also lose the title game, 2-0. Sunday’s winner will not only have bragging rights within the recent series, however will also become the sixth M.L.S. team to win multiple titles.

For the players, though, the past can be the past.

“I don’t feel like there’s a true rivalry here,” Seattle midfielder Cristian Roldan said. “I think there’s two teams in which mutually respect each additional along with also also develop the same attitude along with also also intensity along with also also mentality to win trophies, so This particular’s definitely cool to see Toronto here again.”

Toronto’s captain, Michael Bradley, played against Roldan within the teams’ previous matchups within the final. He also played down any talk of a rivalry.

“I don’t think anyone’s going to spend too much time thinking about what’s gone on within the past,” Bradley said.

Bradley may have more on the line Sunday than anyone else. If Toronto wins, in which would likely automatically trigger a club option in Bradley’s contract for 2020 worth $6.5 million, according to a report through The Athletic. While Bradley, 32, already has had a lucrative career, with stops in Germany, Italy along with also also England, along with also also remains a fixture on the United States national team, in which’s no smaller amount riding on the result of one match.

Bradley’s tenure with the team has coincided with its rise through the basement of M.L.S. to the league’s elite. After joining M.L.S. in 2007, Toronto failed to make the playoffs in its first eight seasons. Bradley signed on in 2014, part of a wave of investment in which included the signing of forward Jozy Altidore, another American international, along with also also Sebastian Giovinco, the since-departed Italian striker.

Along with defender Justin Morrow along with also also midfielder Jonathan Osorio, Bradley along with also also Altidore are the key holdovers through the 2016 along with also also 2017 Toronto teams in which reached the final. Altidore may miss This particular one, though; he has yet to play within the postseason because of a quadriceps injury, along with also also his status for the final was labeled, perhaps optimistically, “questionable” by his team.

The Sounders have long prided themselves in having one of the most robust fan bases in M.L.S., ranking either first or second in average attendance (behind only Atlanta the last three seasons) since joining the league in 2009. however This particular can be the first year the Sounders will be the home team in M.L.S. Cup. (The 2009 final was held in Seattle — three years before the league switched to playing the final at the home of the higher seed — however in which year’s finalists were Real Salt Lake along with also also the Galaxy).

A capacity crowd of more than 69,000 people can be expected at CenturyLink Field on Sunday, an attendance in which would likely rank second for an M.L.S. Cup behind only last year’s final in Atlanta. however in a stadium where the crowd’s roar has been known to set off earthquake monitors, in which home-field advantage could be critical.

Toronto Coach Greg Vanney tried to play down the CenturyLink edge This particular week.

“through our perspective, the fans can’t win games,” he told reporters before the team traveled to Seattle. “What they can do can be give support to their team along with also also all in which kind of stuff, however I have never seen a fan score a goal or make a tackle.”

For Sounders forward Jordan Morris, who grew up in Seattle, the opportunity can be too Great to miss.

“I think for me, personally This particular would likely be a dream come true to win an M.L.S. Cup in my hometown,” he said. “Obviously we got one before, along with also also in which was super special. however to win one here in front of our fans? They deserve This particular along with also also the city deserves This particular.”

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