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Goal-Scoring Record Finale Adds Hype to Start of Audi 2017 MLS Cup Playoffs

October 23, 2017 - Major League Soccer (MLS) News Release

Goal-scoring record finale adds hype to start of Audi 2017 MLS Cup Playoffs McCarty faces familiar Red Bulls, Atlanta tests home-field advantage in Eastern Conference Knockout Round Quakes' last-gasp berth, Dynamo's heightened attack add to lure of West's Knockout Round Postseason-bound Atlanta raises attendance bar during first MLS campaign Led by MLS Homegrowns, U.S. one of two countries to see U-17 and U-20 teams reach World Cup quarterfinals Audi 2017 MLS Cup Playoffs - Knockout Round Game Previews

Goal-scoring record finale adds hype to start of Audi 2017 MLS Cup Playoffs

Following the league goal-scoring record fireworks on MLS Decision Day 2017 presented by AT&T - 46 goals in 11 simultaneous matches - the stage is set for the Audi 2017 MLS Cup Playoffs, which kick off Wednesday and Thursday.

Knockout Round games begin Wednesday night with Eastern Conference No. 3 seed Chicago Fire hosting the No. 6 New York Red Bulls, followed by the Western Conference's No. 3 Vancouver Whitecaps FC hosting the No. 6 San Jose Earthquakes. The postseason action continues Thursday with No. 4 Atlanta United against No. 5 Columbus Crew SC in the East, before a similar No. 4 versus No. 5 pairing of the Houston Dynamo against Sporting Kansas City in the West.

A fourth substitute will be available to teams in postseason matches that extend into overtime.

Complete Audi 2017 MLS Cup Playoffs details can be found HERE.

Wednesday, Oct. 25 No. 3 Chicago Fire vs. No. 6 New York Red Bulls (UniMás, FS1, TSN3/5, TVA Sports, 8:30 p.m. ET) No. 3 Vancouver Whitecaps FC vs. No. 6 San Jose Earthquakes (UniMás, TSN Network, TVA Sports 2, 10:30 p.m. ET)

Thursday, Oct. 26 No. 4 Atlanta United vs. No. 5 Columbus Crew SC (UniMás, ESPN2, TSN4, TVA Sports, 7 p.m. ET) No. 4 Houston Dynamo vs. No. 5 Sporting Kansas City (UniMás, TSN4, TVA Sports, 9:30 p.m. ET)

Complete format and rules for the Audi 2017 MLS Cup Playoffs can be found HERE.

McCarty faces familiar Red Bulls, Atlanta tests home-field advantage in Eastern Conference Knockout Round

The Audi 2017 MLS Cup Playoffs kickoff on Wednesday when the No. 3 seed Chicago Fire host the No. 6 seed New York Red Bulls at Toyota Park (8:30 p.m. ET, FS1/UniMas/TSN3/4/5/TVAS) for Chicago's first postseason game since 2012. The Red Bulls got the best of Chicago in the regular season as New York defeated the Fire 2-1 at Red Bull Arena on April 29 followed by a 1-1 draw at Toyota Park on September 9. The postseason matchup pits the two most recent MLS Golden Boot winners against each other as freshly-crowned 2017 winner Nemanja Nikolić squares off against 2016 winner Bradley Wright-Phillips, with both players scoring 24 goals in their winning Golden Boot campaigns. Nikolić helped the Fire to an incredible regular season turnaround, improving from the worst point total in MLS during 2016 to the third best total in 2017.

Also helping the Fire rebuild was midfielder Dax McCarty, who will face off against his old Red Bulls teammates in what promises to be an emotional rematch. The former captain was traded to Chicago in the offseason, helping the Red Bulls to the top spot in the Eastern Conference three times in four years and a postseason appearance in each of his six seasons with New York. Opposing McCarty will be Wright-Phillips and Sacha Kljestan, who became the first player in MLS history to lead the league in assists for consecutive seasons while also compiling the second-most assists in league history (37) over a two-year span.

In the other Eastern Conference Knockout Round match, No. 4 seed Atlanta United hosts Columbus Crew SC at Mercedes-Benz Stadium on Thursday (7 p.m. ET, ESPN2/UniMas/TSN4/TVAS). Atlanta became just the third active MLS expansion team to make the postseason in its inaugural season, helped immensely by a 5-1-1 record at its new $1.6 billion home. Columbus will need to flip a regular season script that saw Crew SC fall 3-1 at Atlanta on June 17 followed by a 2-0 defeat at home on July 1.

Atlanta will receive a boost with the return of Miguel Almirón from injury. After missing the previous four matches, the Paraguay National Team star recorded an assist in Sunday's match, subbing in during the 61st minute. Almirón teamed with Josef Martínez to form the second-highest scoring offensive attack in the league (70 goals), with Martínez finishing fourth in MLS with 19 goals scored.

Finishing just behind Martínez for fifth place was Crew SC forward Ola Kamara with 18 goals. This marks the second consecutive season Kamara ranks in the top five in goals scored after finishing with 16 goals in his first season with Columbus last year. Crew SC could spoil Atlanta's first-ever playoff match after displaying a strong recent run of form, finishing the regular season with a 10-game unbeaten streak.

Quakes' last-gasp berth, Dynamo's heightened attack add to lure of West's Knockout Round

The Western Conference had a flair for the dramatic on MLS Decision Day 2017 presented by AT&T, creating some added lure heading into the Knockout Round stage of the postseason. The sixth-seeded San Jose Earthquakes look to sustain the spark that helped the club clinch its first postseason berth since 2012.

Thanks to Marco Ureña's stoppage-time winner for a 3-2 victory against Minnesota United, the Quakes mustered just enough to stay ahead of a resurgent FC Dallas side that had positioned itself for a berth until San Jose gained the lead. Now the two-time MLS Cup champions (2001, 2003) prepare to visit the third-seeded Vancouver Whitecaps FC on Wednesday. Quakes forward Chris Wondolowski put together one of his finest regular seasons with a career-high eight assists - setting up Ureña's winner - to go along with 13 goals.

Vancouver has qualified for the MLS Cup Playoffs for a fourth time, and the Canadian side is eager to change its fortunes in the MLS Cup Playoffs. Whitecaps FC have yet to earn a win in the postseason (0-3-1), most recently falling to the Portland Timbers 2-0 in aggregate during the Western Conference Semifinals in 2015. The club is leaning on Colombian forward Fredy Montero to provide the offensive spark. The three-time Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup winner with Seattle Sounders FC completed his fifth double-digit scoring regular season, tying a career high with 13 goals. Defender Kendall Waston is also enjoying a stellar 2017. In addition to his personal-best four league goals, the Costa Rica national teamer clinched a berth to the 2018 FIFA World Cup with his stoppage-time equalizer against Honduras on Oct. 7.

In the other West Knockout Round match, the No. 4 Houston Dynamo will put their attack on display when they host No. 5 Sporting Kansas City on Thursday. Houston is an impressive 12-1-4 at BBVA Compass Stadium during the regular season, and the club ranked second in the West with 57 goals. For the first time in Dynamo history, the club produced three double-digit goal scorers in Erick Torres (14 goals), Alberth Elis (10) and Mauro Manotas (10), the latter scoring in the second half of Sunday's 3-0 win against the Chicago Fire.

Sporting prepare for their seventh consecutive postseason and have their sights on adding another piece of hardware following their 2017 Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup crown. This will be the fifth year in which Houston and Sporting will square off in the MLS Cup Playoffs. The last time was in 2013, when SKC defeated the Dynamo 2-1 on aggregate in the conference semifinals, en route to eventually winning MLS Cup over Real Salt Lake.

Postseason-bound Atlanta raises attendance bar during first MLS campaign

Atlanta United will continue to reap the benefits of playing at home at Mercedes-Benz Stadium as they get set for the Audi 2017 MLS Cup Playoffs. Atlanta broke its own MLS record with 71,824 for Sunday's 2-2 draw against Toronto FC. That raised the club's season average to 48,200 per game, topping Seattle Sounders FC's 2015 mark of 44,247. It also broke the North American soccer record that was held by the New York Cosmos, who averaged nearly 48,000 fans during their NASL Soccer Bowl season in 1978.

Led by Atlanta's fan base, the MLS average attendance figure also is the highest in league history, with 22,106 fans coming in through the turnstiles on average. MLS eclipsed 8 million total fans for the first time, and 36 games included 40,000-plus fans - up from 11 occasions in 2016. Seattle averaged 43,666 and Toronto FC ranked third at 27,644 per game.

Led by MLS Homegrowns, U.S. one of two countries to see U-17 and U-20 teams reach World Cup quarterfinals

Led by MLS Homegrown and academy talent, the United States was one of two countries to see its Under-17 and Under-20 National Teams advance to the quarterfinals of the FIFA U-17 and U-20 World Cups, a feat accomplished only nine times in history before 2017 and matched only by England this year. The U-20 team saw 11 of its 21 players hail from MLS, while 12 of the U-17's 21 were MLS Homegrown or academy players.

Five players with MLS affiliations combined to score seven of the 12 goals for the United States at the U-20 World Cup. Portland Timbers rookie forward Jeremy Ebobisse and Real Salt Lake Homegrown Brooks Lennon each scored two goals for the United States in the tournament. Philadelphia Homegrown Auston Trusty, RSL Homegrown Justen Glad and Atlanta United academy player Lagos Kunga each chipped in with one goal in the tournament.

The U-17 squad saw MLS Homegrown and academy players play a hand in eight of the 11 USMNT goals in the U-17 World Cup. MLS affiliated players scored four goals total and assisted on another five scores, with Atlanta United Homegrown Andrew Carleton pacing the way with two goals and three assists. Fellow Atlanta United Homegrown Chris Goslin, D.C. United Homegrown Chris Durkin and Toronto FC academy player Ayo Akinola each scored or recorded an assist in the tournament.

Audi 2017 MLS Cup Playoffs - Knockout Round Game Previews

Wednesday, Oct. 25

No. 3 Chicago Fire vs. No. 6 New York Red Bulls (UniMás, TSN, TVA Sports, 8:30 p.m. ET) The teams met twice during the regular season. New York's Bradley Wright-Phillips and Chicago's Nemanja Nikolic traded goals in either half, leaving the teams in a 1-1 draw Sept. 9 at Toyota Park. April 29 at Red Bull Arena, Kemar Lawrence scored the game-winner in the 71st minute, after goals from Wright-Phillips and Nikolic put the game in a 1-1 deadlock, giving the Red Bulls the 2-1 win. The teams have met once in the MLS Cup Playoffs - all the way back in 2000, with the Fire advancing 2 games to 1 in the Eastern Conference Semifinals. In league play, the Red Bulls have a six-game undefeated streak alive in the series, winning five of those. The Red Bulls have come away with points on their past three trips to Bridgeview, with a win and two draws. When the Red Bulls won Oct. 25, 2015 at Toyota Park, it was their first win ever in Bridgeview; the Red Bulls' last away win against Chicago was on May 14, 2005, a 3-0 victory at Soldier Field. The Fire come into the playoffs after a three-game unbeaten run came to an end on MLS Decision Day 2017 presented by AT&T in a 3-0 loss to the Houston Dynamo at BBVA Compass Stadium. The shutout put an end to a three-game goal-scoring streak for Nemanja Nikolic, winner of the MLS Golden Boot with 24 goals for the season. The Red Bulls ended the regular season with a three-game undefeated run, with a 2-1 victory at D.C. United in the final MLS game at RFK Stadium on Decision Day.

No. 3 Vancouver Whitecaps FC vs. No. 6 San Jose Earthquakes (UniMás, TSN, TVA Sports, 10:30 p.m. ET) The teams met twice during the regular season. On Oct. 15 at BC Place, Yordy Reyna gave the Quakes the first-half lead, but Vako Qazaishvili netted the equalizer 13 minutes from the end to leave the teams in a 1-1 draw. On March 11 at Avaya Stadium, Whitecaps FC had a two-goal lead after 17 minutes, but Chris Wondolowski scored one goal and set up another, leading the Quakes to a 3-2 come-from-behind victory. The Quakes won on Aug. 12, 2016 at BC Place - the first ever for the away team in the all-time series. The Quakes had lost on each of their six previous visits to Vancouver. San Jose has never lost to Whitecaps FC at home, with three wins in nine meetings there all-time. This will be the first meeting of the teams in the MLS Cup Playoffs. They have reached the postseason in the same year just once - in 2012. Whitecaps FC enter the postseason winless in their past three games, with a second loss in that time, following a 2-1 loss at the Portland Timbers on Decision Day. Whitecaps FC are riding a seven-game undefeated streak at BC Place, their last home loss coming July 23. The Quakes dramatically claimed the sixth seed in the West and the final playoff place with a 3-2 win against Minnesota United FC, Marco Ureña netting the game-winner deep in stoppage time. Chris Wondolowski also scored, the 134th league goal of his MLS career, tied for second-most all-time in league history.

Thursday, Oct. 26

No. 4 Atlanta United vs. No. 5 Columbus Crew SC (UniMás, ESPN2, TSN, TVA Sports, 7 p.m. ET) The teams met twice during the regular season, and Atlanta United won both. Hector Villalba, Miguel Almíron and Josef Martínez all found the back of the net as Atlanta United claimed a 3-1 victory on June 17 at Bobby Dodd Stadium, the first meeting ever between the clubs; then on July 1 at Mapfre Stadium, Villalba scored both goals in Atlanta's 2-0 victory. Atlanta United comes into the postseason on a four-game winless streak, with a pair of draws in that time, ending the regular season with a 2-2 draw with Toronto FC at Mercedes-Benz Stadium on Decision Day. Josef Martínez scored the second Atlanta goal, his 19th of the season, fourth-most in MLS this season. Brad Guzan conceded a goal for the first time in MLS play since Sept. 16 in the TFC match, his personal shutout streak coming to an end after 542 minutes, the sixth-longest streak in MLS history. Crew SC saw their three-game winning streak come to an end but still head into the playoffs riding a 10-game undefeated streak, following their 2-2 draw with New York City FC at Citi Field on Decision Day. The 10-game undefeated run is the second-longest in club history, after a 19-game stretch over the end of 2004 and start of 2005. Ola Kamara netted a goal for a second consecutive game in the season finale, his 18th goal of the season, good for fifth place in the MLS Golden Boot standings.

No. 4 Houston Dynamo vs. No. 5 Sporting Kansas City (UniMás, FS1, TSN, TVA Sports, 9:30 p.m. ET) The teams met twice during the regular season, four days apart in the season's final weeks. Jimmy Medranda gave Sporting a first-half lead, but a Tomás Martínez goal and an own goal 14 minutes apart left the Dynamo with a 2-1 win at BBVA Compass Stadium on Oct. 11; then on Oct. 15 at Children's Mercy Park, the teams reached a goalless draw. Sporting's last win at home in the series came in 2011, winless in their past seven meetings at Children's Mercy Park (0-1-6). The Dynamo have won the past three meetings in Houston, the only victories for the home team in the series in the past 12 matches. The teams also met in the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup this year, with Ike Opara and Gerso Fernandes each scoring as Sporting took a 2-0 win in a fifth-round match on June 28 at BBVA Compass Stadium. The teams have met four times in the MLS Cup Playoffs, twice in the conference final. The Dynamo won in both 2007 (at home) and 2011 (in KC) in the Western Conference Championship, booking their ticket to MLS Cup. The teams also met in the conference semifinals in back-to-back years, each advancing on one occasion (Houston in 2012; Sporting KC in 2013). The Dynamo come into the postseason riding a six-game undefeated streak, with three wins in that time, following a 3-0 victory against the Chicago Fire at BBVA Compass Stadium on Decision Day. It was a third consecutive home win for the Dynamo, who finished the regular season with the second-best home record in the league (12-1-4). Sporting completed the regular season with a five-game winless run, dropping a third decision in that time in a 2-1 loss to Real Salt Lake at Rio Tinto Stadium on Decision Day.


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