As every well-rounded sports fan knows, the NCAA basketball tournament is (don’t @ me) the best time of year. That competition is capped off by the Final Four, which features (you guessed it!) the final four teams in the tournament. Believe it or not, Major League Soccer has a final four of its own, a round better known as the Conference Finals. This stretch of matches is now upon us, and with Minnesota United left out of the entire playoffs, Loons fans must decide which team will earn their casual support.
That’s where I come in. The mere fact that I write about MLS means I have an immaculate knowledge of every team (hate to burst your bubble, but I don’t) and can safely guide you through the dangerous process of picking a team to support (more bubble bursting: but we’ll see how that turns out). I’m confident we can find a match for you in one of the four options, so let’s hop on in.
If you like to drink beer during soccer games, you should support:
There are a lot of things that draw fans to the Reds, like ridiculous free kick goals, players sipping from beers thrown at them, really good short guys, and yellow cards for dissent. Perhaps it’s a coincidence that all of those involve Sebastian Giovinco in some capacity, but it really isn’t.
Toronto’s three Designated Players, Giovinco and United States stars Michael Bradley and Jozy Altidore make up the best combination in the league, but it won’t be that way for the Conference Finals. For at least the first leg, both Giovinco and Altidore will be out due to suspensions from the violence in their last game against the New York Red Bulls.
That doesn’t mean that the Reds are a lost cause, or won’t be fun to watch. Toronto made it all the way to the final last season, and won this season’s Supporters Shield for a reason. This may be one of the best sides ever assembled in MLS, so go ahead and get behind Toronto for the playoffs. Winning is fun.
If you like using hashtags that show how supportive and worldly you are, you should support:
Columbus Crew SC
Oh, Columbus. The Crew made it to the MLS Cup final two years ago, but are now made up of a green-eyed owner, an inspired team, and an impassioned fanbase that would like to keep their team in Ohio. The #SaveTheCrew social media movement has gained massive support (that’s a bad pun there, sorry) across the country, but there is still a playoff run in progress.
Lots (like, lots) of people are behind Columbus, and they are very much the feel-good story of the Conference Finals. The team itself isn’t all bad either. The players are playing inspired, above their normal level, and the Crew have already made their way past Atlanta United and New York City FC, two tough foes in the Eastern Conference. This team may not exist in the same form in a couple of years, so go ahead and cheer for a team from Columbus while you still can.
If you’re looking for a rebound, you should support:
The Sounders won the cup last year in a penalty shootout against Toronto, and have come back to defend their crown. Seattle struggled at times during the regular season and are far from invincible, but they have the strong support of the Emerald City behind them.
USMNT (former and future?) stars Clint Dempsey and Jordan Morris lead the attack for Seattle, who advanced past fellow-Cascadians the Vancouver Whitecaps last round. The Sounders have been here before and know what to do, so hop on and see if they can recreate the magic.
If you think that one championship will never be enough, you should support:
Houston sports teams sure know how to help their city bounce back. Just a few months after Hurricane Harvey ravaged eastern Texas, the Houston Astros won the World Series, and now the Houston Dynamo are looking to pick up a shiny trophy of their own.
The Dynamo will face a harsh environment when they travel north and west to face Seattle on the road, but after beating the Portland Timbers in Providence Park, Houston has every right to be confident. The Dynamo don’t have the stars of Toronto, the feel-good storyline of Columbus (though there certainly is one, call it a case of recency bias), or the huge fanbase of Seattle, but they have worked hard to earn their place in the Conference Finals. Get behind this team as they hope to shock American soccer and win the MLS Cup.
And there you have it. If you cannot bear to pull for a team that doesn’t start with Mi- and end with -nnesota United, well, I apologize for wasting your time. Any way you go in picking one of the teams above, you’ll enjoy some good games—or at least some good stories. Maybe next year we’ll be able to run this piece, with only the Loons as an option.
Which team did you decide to go with? Let us know in the comments below!