Preview: MLS Conference Finals

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cup logoThe Major League Soccer playoffs — remember them? — are back after a long break with the first leg of the conference finals on Tuesday night. Last year’s finalists, Toronto and Seattle, are both still alive, and both will be traveling for the first leg.

Toronto FC at Columbus Crew (coverage begins at 8 p.m., ESPN)

The Eastern Conference finals is the stuff of sports movies: underdog Columbus, beleaguered by the owner’s threats of moving, will take on title favorites Toronto, which posted the best record in league history. The Crew will have a sellout crowd backing them for the first leg, in spite of the off-field turmoil. They will also benefit from because TFC is missing two stars: Sebastian Giovinco and Jozy Altidore are suspended.

Seattle at Houston (coverage begins at 10 p.m. , FS1)

Houston scored a lot of goals at home this season, but in the playoffs, the torn-up field at BBVA Compass Stadium has produced two choppy, ugly games, both of which were scoreless after 90 minutes. In addition, the Dynamo has not allowed a goal at home in more than 350 minutes. Two more football games were played on the grass surface over the break, which probably hasn’t improved matters. With the away goals rule in effect, it’s up for debate whether the field conditions will benefit the visiting Sounders.