MLS Conference Finals Preview: Big crowds expected for first legs

Toronto FC

By Ryan Brister

After a lengthy wait, Major League Soccer’s conference finals kickoff Tuesday night. Stadium conflicts in the East and West have created a midweek doubleheader, but that hasn’t depressed attendance any. You can expect big crowds for a Canadian derby in Montreal and for the Western Conference Final in Seattle.

Montreal Impact vs. Toronto FC, Tuesday at 8 p.m. on ESPN

The 401 Derby between Montreal and Toronto will now be played out in the Eastern Conference Final. Nearly 60,000 fans have already bought tickets for this first leg, and after some early concerns about weather, the stage at Olympic Stadium is set for a huge game. The Impact upset the Red Bulls to get here, while TFC dominated NYCFC in their conference semifinal.

This year: Familiarity breeds contempt, and these teams have gotten very familiar with one another in 2016. They’ve played five times between the regular season and the Canadian Championship. Toronto won twice, including a 4-2 win in Montreal in the first leg of their Voyageurs’ Cup semifinal. The Impact have won just one of the five, a hard-fought 1-0 victory with 10 men. No home team has won yet this season.

History: Montreal beat TFC in the knockout round last year, but these teams have been playing big games in the Canadian Championship dating back to 2007. One of their most famous meetings came in 2009, when Toronto ran up a 6-1 scoreline in Montreal to win the trophy on goal difference over Vancouver.

Seattle Sounders vs. Colorado Rapids, Tuesday at 10 p.m.

The Western Conference Final features the rather improbable matchup of Seattle and Colorado. It won’t quite be a sellout, but more than 40,000 tickets have already been sold in Seattle. Sounders fans have had Western Conference Finals before, but they must have felt at times this season like it wouldn’t be happening in 2016. Pablo Mastroeni’s defensive-minded Rapids will have to do without Tim Howard as they try to win the West.

This year: These teams played twice early in the season, and both matches were won by Colorado. The Rapids won 3-1 at home in April, and 1-0 on the road in May. The Sounders’ early season form being what it was, you probably shouldn’t make too much of those results.

History: The only playoff meeting between Seattle and Colorado came in the 2013 knockout round, with the Sounders winning 2-0.

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