Major League Soccer

Need to Know: Audi 2023 MLS Cup Playoffs Conference Finals

November 29, 2023 - Major League Soccer (MLS) News Release

A spot in MLS Cup presented by Audi all comes down to this weekend's Conference Finals on Saturday, Dec. 2.

As the Hell is Real rivalry match between No. 1 FC Cincinnati and No. 3 Columbus Crew makes its MLS postseason debut, No. 4 Houston Dynamo FC will look to do a feat not often accomplished in MLS by beating No. 3 LAFC for a second time between regular season and postseason action.

Media can attend the clubs' media availabilities throughout the week via Zoom information here, with the first starting at 12:30 p.m. ET today with Houston Dynamo FC head coach Ben Olsen.

Eastern Conference Final

No. 1 FC Cincinnati vs. No. 3 Columbus Crew

TQL Stadium - Saturday, Dec. 2 (6 p.m. ET, MLS Season Pass)Western Conference Final

No. 3 LAFC vs. No. 4 Houston Dynamo FC

BMO Stadium - Saturday, Dec. 2 (9:30 p.m. ET, MLS Season Pass)

Game-Changing Goalkeepers in the Audi 2023 MLS Cup Playoffs

Four teams remain in the hunt for MLS Cup presented by Audi heading into the Conference Finals, and the goalkeeping exploits from each side have played a major role in their success to get to this point of the postseason.

Roman Celentano and Patrick Schulte are glimpses into the future of goalkeeping in MLS and potentially the U.S. Men's National Team, Maxime Crépeau's outstanding performance against Seattle Sounders FC is another feat since returning from a long-term injury, and the grizzled Steve Clark will hope the third time's the charm to win MLS Cup.

Roman Celentano - FC Cincinnati

Building on an impressive rookie season in 2022, Celentano's 12 clean sheets during the 2023 regular season were tied for second-most and seven more than last year. The 23-year-old has also kept two clean sheets in three postseason games so far and having earned a call-up to the U.S. Men's National Team in January, Celentano knows a strong run to MLS Cup could improve his odds of potentially making the nation's 2024 Copa América roster.

Patrick Schulte - Columbus Crew

Schulte has been a hero in Columbus over the last two years, earning a starting role with the first team in 2023 after leading Columbus Crew 2 to the inaugural MLS NEXT Pro Cup title in 2022. The 22-year-old earned MLS NEXT Pro Goalkeeper of the Year honors last season and is making his name in MLS as well as on the international stage with the United States U-23 side as they prepare for the 2024 Summer Olympics in Paris.

Maxime Crépeau - LAFC

It was an emotional scene when Crépeau left 2022 MLS Cup with an injury as he was unable to lift the trophy with his teammates. What followed was a ninth-month rehabilitation process that did not see the Canadian international return to action until July, but his Western Conference Semifinal performance against Seattle showed no signs of rust. If there was any indication needed of his desire to physically lift MLS Cup this time, look no further than that heroic seven-save game.

Steve Clark - Houston Dynamo FC

Despite Clark's career-high 12 shutouts going under the radar during the regular season, Clark is a goalkeeper accustomed to reaching MLS Cup. The MLS veteran has done so three times, starting twice for the Columbus Crew (2015) and Portland Timbers (2021), but is yet to win the trophy during his 10-year MLS career. With a start for Houston should they make MLS Cup, Clark would become the fourth player in league history to start three MLS Cup matches with three different clubs and, potentially, become a first-time winner in doing so.

History on the Horizon

Below is a selection of milestones and statistics the remaining four teams competing in the Audi 2023 MLS Cup Playoffs are striving to achieve during the postseason:

2: After winning MLS Cup in 2022, LAFC head coach Steve Cherundolo could become just the second head coach to win consecutive MLS Cup trophies in their first two seasons as an MLS head coach, joining Bruce Arena (1996 and 1997).

3: Houston Dynamo FC head coach Ben Olsen and FC Cincinnati head coach Pat Noonan have lifted MLS Cup as players, but they are now two wins away from joining Piotr Nowak and Peter Vermes as the only individuals to win it as both player and coach.

4: After being crowned the 2023 Landon Donovan MLS MVP, Luciano 'Lucho' Acosta is on course to become just the fourth MVP in MLS history and first since Guillermo Barros Schelotto (2008) to win the Supporters' Shield and MLS Cup in the same season.

5: The Columbus Crew's Cucho Hernández has been FC Cincinnati's Colombian Kryptonite, scoring or assisting in each of his first four games against their bitter rivals and will look to extend his streak to five games in the Eastern Conference Final.

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