In a three-peat the Seattle Sounders and Toronto FC face each other in the 2019 MLS Cup Final after tangling in the 2016 and 2017 finals.
Three years ago, the Sounders beat TFC after a penalty kick decider at BMO Field in Toronto. A year later, Toronto won 2-0, again at BMO Field.
This is only the second time that the same two teams have played each other three times in the final. The LA Galaxy beat the New England Revolution in the 2002, 2005, and 2014.
Allen Chapman will be the official in charge.
When and where
The game will be played on Sunday, November 10 at CenturyLink Field in Seattle with a 3:00 PM (ET) kickoff. If the game is tied after regulation time of 90 minutes the two teams play two 15-minute periods of extra time. If still tied after 120 minutes the final will be decided by a penalty kick shootout of 5 kicks each. If still tied it goes to sudden death penalties.
It’s worth noting that this year’s final will be earliest since 2002. The last seven finals have all taken place in December.
Route to the Final
Toronto FC finished 4th in the Eastern Conference with 50 points after going unbeaten for 10 games - a run dating back to August 3.
A 5-1 win over DC United in the first round of the playoffs may look like it was achieved at a canter but it took 4 goals in a 12-minute spell in extra time by TFC to kill-off the visitors.
A last minute penalty was the difference away to New York City FC in a 2-1 win and the score line was identical in in the conference final against Atlanta United, again away from home.
The Seattle Sounders finished as runners-up in the Western Conference with 56 points.
Like TFC, the Sounders were taken to extra time in the first round of the playoffs before beating FC Dallas 4-3 in Seattle. Next was a 2-0 away win over Real Salt Lake and was followed by a 3-1 wain away to Supporters’ Shield winners, Los Angeles FC.
One other thing that is worthy of note. Toronto FC will not be in next season’s Concacaf Champions League no matter the outcome of Sunday’s match. Places are decided by each national association and as Canadian Champions the Montreal Impact have already secured Canada’s one allotted spot.
No such problem for the Seattle Sounders. The Sounders together with LAFC, New York City FC, and Atlanta United will represent the United States.
TFC and the Sounders only played once in the 2019 regular season with Sounders winning 3-2 win way back in April.
Raúl Ruidíaz and Jordan Morris, both of the Seattle Sounders, are the joint leading scorers in the playoffs with 3 goals each. Teammate Nicolás Lodeiro has scored in the last two games.
Toronto FC have three players, all with two goals each - Nick DeLeon, Jonathan Osorio, and Alejandro Pozuelo.
Goalkeepers are always in the spotlight and perhaps even more so when a game might be decided by a penalty kick shootout. The Sounders’ keeper, Stefan Frei, spent five years with TFC before moving west in 2014 and was named the 2016 MLS Cup MVP.
Frei was instrumental in Seattle’s win over FC Dallas even though he allowed 3 goals.
Quentin Westberg is looking to end his first MLS season with a championship. French-born but Westberg has represented the United States and the under-17, 20 and 23 levels. Westberg’s save from a Josef Martinez with Toronto FC already a goal down to Atlanta, was a pivotal moment in the Eastern Conference final.
TFC striker Jozy Altidore was the 2017 MLS Cup MVP but he has missed the 2019 playoffs with an injury and is in a race against time to be ready for Sunday.
Greg Vanney is the 9th coach in Toronto FC history and be far the longest serving. Vanney signed on in August 2014 and Sunday’s game will be his 225th in charge - the other 8 TFC coaches total 295 games and no other was in charge for more than 64.
A win in the MLS Cup Final would also be win #100 for TFC under Vanney.
Toronto’s formation has changed a number of times this season although we are most likely to see 4-3-3 on Sunday.
The Sounders’ first year in MLS was 2009 - two years after Toronto’s inaugural season - but Brian Schmetzer is only the second man to lead the Seattle Sounders in MLS.
The consummate understated leader, Schmetzer was appointed interim coach in July 2016 replacing Sigi Schmid who had established the Sounders as one of the premier teams in MLS. Seattle went on to win the MLS Cup and along the way Schmetzer was given the job on a permanent basis. Like Vanney, this will be Schmetzer’s third final in 4 years.
You can expect the Sounders to play 4-2-3-1 although Schmetzer has shown a willingness to shuffle the pack when needed.
At the start of the playoffs the Seattle Sounders were given a 11% chance of reaching the Final and a 4% chance of winning.
Toronto FC were a longer shot with just a 8% chance of reaching the final game and just a 2% chance of winning.
Seattle are the favorites going into Sunday’s game and are given a 65% chance of winning versus TFC’s 35%.
How to watch
If you want to be part of the 69,000 sell-out crowd at CenturyLink Field and you don’t have a ticket then you are looking at anywhere from $300 to $2,500 on the secondary market.
If that stretches your budget too far there is always the stand-by of television.
In the United States, the game is being broadcast of ABC, and Univision and TUDN. Canadian fans can catch the game on TSN or TVAS.
Although both conference finals were won by the away team it has still been a case of home-field advantage throughout the 2019 playoffs - 8 home wins and 4 away wins and the 2:1 advantage reflects the odds.
I’m sticking with the home team and am picking the Seattle Sounders to win 3-1.