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  • November 02, 2016 3 min read

    It has taken 34 regular season games, but Major League Soccer has whittled itself from 20 teams down to 12. Soon it will be down to only one as a new MLS Cup champion will be crowned.

    This year's MLS Playoffs will not see last year's champions Portland Timbers. Nor will the postseason see last season's runners-up the Columbus Crew.

    It will, however, see a rejuvenated Seattle Sounders. It will also see an FC Dallas team at the top of its game and a New York Red Bulls squad that hopes to finally win a major domestic trophy.

    Yet, the biggest question is, who will win the 2016 MLS Cup?

    The Favorites

    It is hard to look past the domestic double-winning Dallas for MLS Cup champions. The Hoops won the US Open Cup in September and took home the Supporters' Shield on the final day of the regular season. Now the team has its eye on the MLS Cup and, if Dallas win, will become the first ever MLS team to win a domestic treble.

    New York Red Bulls topped the eastern conference after securing 57 points, third best overall behind Dallas and Colorado. New York started the season extremely poorly and lost six of its first seven matches before getting the ship corrected.

    Since then, the Red Bulls lost a mere three times. In fact, Jesse Marsch's men haven't lost since early July.

    New York has the MLS Golden Boot winner Bradley Wright-Phillips (24) and the league's top assist man Sacha Kljestan (19). Either could be Most Valuable Player this term.

    Unfortunately for the Red Bulls, history isn't on the team's side. Perhaps this season the squad can overcome its MLS Cup drought.

    Colorado Rapids missed out on the Supporters' Shield by two points this season, but posted the best defensive record in MLS. The team's stingy defense, anchored by Axel Sjoberg in the center of the backline, gave up a league low 32 goals.

    The Rapids defense kept 13 clean sheets in 2016, but the team's attack doesn't score many goals. Colorado's 39 was second fewest in MLS. Therefore, the team will hope to lift its second MLS Cup on the back of its strong defense.

    Who's hot right now?

    The Seattle Sounders maybe MLS's hottest team outside of FC Dallas and New York Red Bulls. The midseason sacking of Sigi Schmid was difficult, but the right thing to do. Arguably, it was overdue.

    Since July 31, Seattle has lost just twice and go into the MLS Playoffs after beating rivals Real Salt Lake 2-1.

    Rookie Jordan Morris has improved throughout the season and his 12 goal return shows signs of an excellent American forward in the making. Clint Dempsey has chipped in with eight and has looked more worthy of his large designated player salary.

    Until Sebastian Giovinco went down injured at the end of August, Toronto FC looked like it could finally make a deep run in the MLS Playoffs. With only two wins from its last seven, Toronto go into the playoffs with little momentum.

    Giovinco is back, but Toronto will play Philadelphia Union in the team's first match of the playoffs. The Union could be tricky. If the Reds get past Philadelphia, that extra game could either propel them on or zap them after a grueling season.

    The pretenders

    DC United, Philadelphia Union, Real Salt Lake, Montreal Impact and Sporting KC all go into the playoffs making up the numbers. Of those five teams, only Sporting KC won on the final day of the season.

    Momentum is not in any of the teams' favor. However, that doesn't mean one of them won't lift the MLS Cup. The league's playoff structure rarely benefits the regular season's best team. Only six teams have won the Supporters' Shield and MLS Cup, with the last being LA Galaxy in 2011.

    The MLS Cup Final is just over a month away on December 10, yet there is still so much to play for as the MLS Playoffs kick-off.

    Follow Drew Farmer on Twitter @DrewMFarmer and contact him directly at

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