By Scott Adamson
The 2017 MLS Cup will be another one just like the other one.
With Toronto FC’s 1-0 victory over Columbus on Wednesday and Seattle’s 3-0 shellacking of Houston last night, the Major League Soccer championship will be a rematch of the 2016 finals.
In 2016 Seattle had to go to a shootout to top Toronto at BMO Field and claim its first MLS title, and the teams and the setting is the same for next Saturday’s 4 p.m. showdown in Canada.
Toronto, the league’s only 20-game winner in the regular season, secured its spot in the Cup when Jozy Altidore scored in the 60th minute to top the Crew.
The squads played to a scoreless draw in the first leg of the Eastern Conference finals and it took Altidore’s tally in the second leg to book passage to the final match of the campaign.
Things were much less dramatic for the Sounders, who held a 2-0 lead against Houston after the first leg and just needed to play keep away in the second Western Conference final showdown.
Instead Seattle poured it on, with Victor Rodriguez, Clint Dempsey and Will Bruin all scoring to give Seattle a 5-0 aggregate and a chance to defend its crown.
While the Sounders displayed plenty of offensive firepower in winning the West, keeper Tyler Miller logged another clean sheet. Incredibly, the Sounders have not conceded a postseason goal since the first leg of the 2016 conference finals.
The scoreless streaks for Seattle’s opposition in playoff competition stands at 647 minutes, while in 2017 it hasn’t allowed a goal in 542 minutes.
Brian Schmetzer’s footballers blanked their last two regular season foes and every opponent so far in the 2017 postseason.
EXPANSION CANDIDATES ANNOUNCED
MLS plans to expand to 28 franchises in the coming years, and Los Angeles FC will become the 23rd club to play in the league when it starts up in 2018. A Miami entry will possibly join the league in the near future.
The next wave of expansion, however, will bring MLS up to 26 teams – and the finalists for those two positions were announced on Wednesday.
Cincinnati, Detroit, Nashville and Sacramento are the four cities which were culled from 12 groups that submitted formal bids back in January.
The remaining candidates will make their presentations Dec. 6 and eight days later the MLS Board of Governors will meet with current league members to discuss expansion.
“The leaders of the Cincinnati, Detroit, Nashville and Sacramento MLS expansion ownership groups have bold visions and innovative plans for their clubs, stadiums and their involvement in their respective communities,” MLS commissioner Don Garber said in a statement. “We are pleased these highly-respected business and sports leaders have been so determined to bring Major League Soccer to their cities. We have been greatly encouraged by the progress that all four of these groups have made and we are looking forward to their presentations.”
The other 12 markets that applied were Charlotte, Indianapolis, Phoenix, Raleigh/Durham, St. Louis, San Antonio, San Diego and Tampa/St. Petersburg.
In addition, an ownership group led by David Beckham, which is trying to put a franchise back in Miami, is still considered likely to be added as the 24th franchise.
Beckham’s involvement has been ongoing for several years and was not part of the expansion process.
WORLD CUP DRAW HELD
Much of the soccer-loving world watched the draw for the 2018 World Cup this morning, but ratings in the United States were likely down.
The U.S., of course, failed to qualify, but 31 other countries did and they, along with host Russia, were placed in eight groups of four during Friday’s ceremony in Moscow.
Russia will open the World Cup when it plays Saudi Arabia on June 14 in a match featuring the two lowest-ranked teams in the field.
Some intriguing first round matchups include defending World Cup champion Germany against Mexico and Spain vs. Portugal.
Below is the complete list of groups for next summer’s event.