JOE's handy guide to the MLS playoffs 6 years ago

JOE's handy guide to the MLS playoffs

We feel for you, JOE readers, we really do.

You'd just started enjoying Didier Drogba's Canadien renaissance and accepted that the league's called MLS and not 'The MLS', only to discover that the regular season ends in October.

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Fear not, fairweather fans. there's some red-hot playoff action on the way and we've got the lowdown.

The regular season has whittled the 20 MLS teams down to 12, six from the Eastern Conference and another half-dozen from the West.

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Four teams have already booked their place in the Conference Semifinals based on their league position, with a further eight involved in one-legged play-in games.

That means the likes of Bradley Wright-Phillips (New York Red Bulls), Rob Earnshaw (Vancouver Whitecaps), Kei Kamara (Columbus Crew) and corner-kick maestro Michel (FC Dallas) get a few days off.

After each conference plays down to a winner, the best teams from opposing sides of the country will meet in MLS Cup 2015. Stop us if we're going too fast.

Last year, an extra-time goal from Robbie Keane helped LA Galaxy beat New England Revolution by two goals to one, but Bruce Arena's side face a play-in game after losing their last two regular season matches. Here's how it all looks.

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So, without further ado, here's what you can expect from the first round of matches.

Bone up now and you can impress people down the pub, or at least you could if the games didn't kick off after the pubs have shut.

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Seattle Sounders v LA Galaxy

Two of the best-funded and best-supported teams will meet at CenturyLink Field, which means only one can progress to the final four in the west.

Seattle will be out for revenge after LA knocked them out of the playoffs in 2014. And 2012. And 2010. But they've scored some crackers against the Californians in the past.

If Steven Gerrard's Galaxy can keep Clint Dempsey and Obafemi Martins quiet then they have the tools to win, as Sigi Schmid's side went on a long winless run with the pair missing over the summer.

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Then again, there's also the small matter of the 60,000+ crowd in the Pacific Northwest to deal with.

League head-to-head: Galaxy 1-0 Sounders; Galaxy 3-1 Sounders; Sounders 1-1 Galaxy

Portland Timbers v Sporting Kansas City

Portland are one of the newer MLS franchises. Only three teams have joined the league since the Timbers arrived in 2011, and Montreal are the only one of the three involved in the 2015 postseason.

They will take on the 2013 champs Sporting KC in a match that brings together two of the more high-profile Englishmen in MLS: former Premier League defender Liam Ridgewell for Portland and selfie-loving striker Dom Dwyer for Kansas City.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XuI7i6bSrRU

The key man could be another former Premier League player. Benny Feilhaber has recovered well from being part of the Derby team that went down with a record low points tally in 2008 - this year he has 10 goals and 15 assists from midfield.

But based on the two sides' regular season meetings, we probably shouldn't expect goals.

League head-to-head: SKC 0-0 Timbers; Timbers 0-0 SKC; Timbers 0-1 SKC

Montreal Impact v Toronto FC

In a strange quirk, Montreal's win over Toronto on the final day of the regular season, combined with results elsewhere, meant the two Canadian franchises will meet again at Stade Saputo.

The game will bring together two of the league's most in-form frontmen: Didier Drogba has scored nine times in his last five home games, while Sebastian Giovinco was the top scorer in MLS with 22 goals.

It's a shame that we're going to lose one of the pair at such an early stage, but Montreal ought to benefit from home-field advantage.

Mauro Biello's team picked up 35 points from 17 home games in the regular season, while Toronto amassed just 15 on the road. Still, Jozy Altidore's back among the goals so who knows.

League head-to-head: TFC 3-1 Impact; TFC 2-1 Impact; Impact 2-1 TFC

DC United v New England Revolution

We imagine it isn't easy to get pumped up for a crucial knockout game off the back of a 5-0 humbling, but that's what DC will need to do after their end-of-season reverse in Columbus.

Ben Olsen's side could have earned themself a bye with a win against Gregg Berhalter's Crew SC, but instead they need to make do with a home outing against last season's MLS Cup finalists.

Just one point separated the teams over the regular season, with the Revs needing a final-day win at out-of-contention New York City FC to guarantee their place.

Two US internationals could have a big part to play in this one - DC goalkeeper Bill Hamid and New England midfielder Jermaine Jones.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4mMFJRAvsog

League head-to-head: Revs 1-1 DC; DC 2-1 Revs

The MLS Playoffs begin on October 28 with DC United taking on New England Revolution. The 2015 MLS Cup champion will be crowned on December 6