• Tue. Nov 28th, 2023

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Your Tuesday kick: Imagine the wildest MLS Cup Finals

It’s Playoff Eve. To celebrate, we’re going to do something silly. We are going to make our finalists public. I know, I know, I’m just providing ammo for social media managers across the department. But that is the risk you take when you choose to blog. The Circle of Content has never been about kindness. Besides, I’m hot. Some kind (?) soul calculated how many total slots each MLSsoccer.com preseason forecaster missed with their projections. I missed a little…….[checking]…..105 spots. Hang the banner.

To be fair to me, it ended up being the fourth best total in the league. I earned a place in the playoffs at home. I feel bold. And you can be bold too by joining The Daily Kickoff’s Audi 2023 MLS Cup Playoffs Bracket Challenge group. Just click the link here and compete against me and other readers for prizes to be mentioned later if I remember!


The beautiful thing here is that there is no real pressure. Seasoned Kickoff readers know the one thing we know in MLS is that we know nothing. In accordance with the fact that we know nothing, it’s time to lean on the bit…


That is correct. You have to choose backwards. How confident are you that a dark horse won’t run? Do you really think there is no chance of a Round One upset happening? If you’ve ever watched any MLS game, the response should be “Oh my god, oh no, wait, I’m having a panic attack right now.

Good luck to everyone involved. Or…uh…bad luck? Anyway, here are my reverse picks.

(1) St. Louis vs. (8/9) Wild Card Winner
Reverse pick: (8/9) Joker Card Winner

We still don’t know who St. Louis will play. And maybe it would be a good idea to wait until we have a better idea of ​​their opponent. But we’re not going to overthink this. St. Louis should take care of business in theory. Although I’ve written numerous times over the past few days about Sporting KC, I really want to tone down the hype here… ok, yeah, I’m already pretty nervous about this, isn’t it fun?!

(4) Houston Dynamo FC vs. (5) Real Salt Lake
Reverse pick: (5) Houston Dynamo FC

No confirmation on Chicho Arango’s status or how much he will be able to play if he is available yet. RSL can do without him. But I’m not overthinking this (any more than I already am).

(3) LAFC vs. (6) Vancouver Whitecaps FC
Reverse pick: (3) LAFC

Stay with me here. Yes, I know this is probably the dumbest possible choice. There’s a good case to be made that LAFC is the most likely team to win the MLS Cup out of the West. But what you don’t know is that I originally picked all the chalk in the first round and it stressed me out so I had to go back and find an upset. Somehow this is the one I settled on.

It’s not about LAFC, it’s about Vancouver having enough pieces to get hot on offense and make this series absolutely miserable for LAFC. If Brian White and Ryan Gauld are hot and Dénis Bouanga goes cold, the ‘Caps’ could have the upper hand. Is that likely? No. Is it possible? Yes. And I have to somehow get the upper hand in this group.

(2) Seattle Sounders vs. (7) FC Dallas
Reverse pick: (7) FC Dallas

I have to admit something. In my usual bracket, I have Seattle in the MLS Cup. I might even let them win it. There are Last Dance trends happening here. At least in my head. And in my world where the Sounders play an absolutely miserable Dallas team and face Vancouver, it’s very easy to imagine Seattle in the final. At that point I guess muscle memory kicks in.

(1) FC Cincinnati vs. (8/9) Wild Card Winner
Reverse pick: (8/9) Joker Card Winner

It is a clear favorite in the East. That didn’t stop me from having real concerns about the Red Bulls being good enough defensively and chaotic enough in general to pull off a wild upset here.

(4) Philadelphia Union vs. (5) New England Revolution
Reverse Choice: (5) New England Revolution

I have next to no confidence in the Revs right now. Which means they will almost certainly be hot and Carles Gil and Tomás Chancalay will be insane for a month making me look like an idiot for thinking they don’t have the juice to get past the first round.

(3) Columbus Crew vs. (6) Atlanta United
Reverse pick: (6) Atlanta United

These could be the two best offensive teams in the league. There’s a lot of firepower here. And honestly, Atlanta probably has the edge there. What they don’t have is a consistent defense. I mean, neither does Columbus, but Atlanta has been even worse. I just don’t think the Five Stripes can avoid mistakes like championship teams tend to do in this competition. Still, this offense makes picking against the run in Atlanta a daunting prospect.

(2) Orlando City vs. (7) Nashville SC
Reverse pick: (7) Nashville SC

Speaking of scary…

Nashville is so good on defense that taking them on for a playoff run is a dangerous idea. They made it to the League Cup final this year for a reason. But since then they have been one of the worst attacking teams in the league. Like, really bad and not in a normal Nashville way. Hany Mukhtar went cold and Sam Surridge has yet to make the impact they had hoped for. Until they prove otherwise, it’s hard to pick them to get it together offensively.

(5) Real Salt Lake vs. (8/9) Wild Card Winner
Reverse pick: (8/9) Joker Card Winner

Even if Sporting KC pulls off an upset against St. Louis, I’d guess their run ends here against a Houston or RSL team with a mostly healthy Chicho Arango. Then again, they would have tons of momentum after the first round. Maybe I should think about this more…

(3) LAFC vs. (7) FC Dallas
Reverse pick: (7) FC Dallas

My LAFC skepticism can only go so far. My FC Dallas skepticism can go much further. They’re a super likable bunch, but I’m just not convinced they’ve got the juice this year. Sorry, everyone.

(5) New England Revolution vs. (8/9) Wild Card Winner
Reverse Choice: (5) New England Revolution

I’m telling you, I’m actually scared of the Red Bulls if they advance. They were among the best teams in the league all year when it comes to underlying numbers, mostly due to their excellent defense. That may be all it takes to advance to the knockout stage. And even if they don’t, I expect Cincy to take care of business against New England, either way.

(6) Atlanta United vs. (7) Nashville SC
Reverse pick: (6) Atlanta United

This is by far the hardest part of the bracket to work through. But picking against Nashville in the playoffs for too long seems like a bad practice to me. Of course, so does picking against an Atlanta team with ridiculous amounts of firepower. I hate it all. But I’m leaning towards the high altitude teams instead of the high ceiling team. Knockouts aren’t about who’s better, they’re about who can limit mistakes.

Reverse pick: (7) FC Dallas

If SKC makes it this far, I refuse to count them out. If FC Dallas makes it this far, I’m going to assume there will be some shootouts won. It’s all believable. But I know which way the currents blow.

(5) New England Revolution vs. (6) Atlanta United
Reverse Choice: (5) New England Revolution

Same here. If Atlanta makes it this far, I expect them to be so incredibly burned on offense that they will be impossible to stop. I just can’t see the way with this version of New England. Even if I’m terrified, Carles Gil is hanging this up in his closet right now, preparing to put on the greatest postseason of all time just to piss off the haters.