Columbus Crew and Seattle Sounders go head-to-head on Sunday (1:30am kick-off, UK time) in the MLS Cup Playoffs final.
Columbus Crew XI: Room; Afful, Mensah, Williams, Valenzuela; Morris, Artur; Diaz, Zelarayan, Ettiene Jr; Zardes.
Seattle Sounders XI: Frei; A. Roldan, Yeimar, O’Neill, Nouhou; C. Roldan, Joao Paulo; Jones, Lodeiro, Morris; Ruidiaz.
After a long regular season and an arduous Playoff campaign, the battle for North America’s biggest prize has been whittled down to just two teams. After finishing higher in the regular-season standings, Columbus will host the final, which will be the final Playoff game to be contested at MAPFRE Stadium, with the Crew moving to a new ground in 2021.
However, as reigning champions and playing in their fourth final in five years, Seattle are many people’s favourites to lift a third MLS Cup title.
Where to watch Columbus Crew vs Seattle Sounders on TV:
- UK: Sky Sports Main Event, Sky Sports Football & FreeSports
- US: Fox, UniMas & TUDN
Where to live stream Columbus Crew vs Seattle Sounders:
UK: Bet365* are streaming this match live for account holders. Those without a Bet365 account already who are interested in streaming Columbus Crew vs Seattle Sounders live can take advantage of this service by following the simple steps below.
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Scoreline prediction: Columbus Crew 1-3 Seattle Sounders
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Columbus Crew vs Seattle Sounders build-up, previous line-ups & injury news:
Having missed out on the Playoffs entirely in 2019, Columbus have enjoyed a wonderful turnaround in 2020, finishing third in the Eastern Conference and playing some of the most attractive football in MLS. Caleb Porter’s men have negotiated tricky ties against New York Red Bulls, Nashville SC and New England Revolution to reach this stage, scoring six goals and keeping clean sheets against the latter two. As such, the Crew will be looking to give MAPFRE Stadium — MLS’ first soccer-specific stadium — the Playoff send-off it deserves.
Standing in their way are reigning champions and Playoff experts, Seattle Sounders. Brian Schmetzer’s side finished second only to Sporting Kansas City in the Western Conference standings before beating LAFC 3-1, FC Dallas 1-0 and coming from 2-0 down to beat Minnesota United 3-2 to reach this stage. In doing so, the Sounders ensured they will contest a fourth MLS Cup final in five years, a rare achievement in Major League Soccer and one which surely affords them ‘dynasty’ status.
With two sides packed full of match-winners and playing some of the most exciting football MLS has to offer, this could go down as a Playoff final for the ages.
- Columbus Crew (vs New England Revolution): Tarbell; Afful, Mensah, Williams, Valenzuela; Nagbe*, Artur; Diaz, Zelarayan, Santos*; Zardes.
- Seattle Sounders (vs Minnesota United): Frei; A. Roldan, Gomez, O’Neill, Tolo; C. Roldan, Paulo; Jones, Lodeiro, Morris; Ruidiaz.
Darlington Nagbe and Pedro Santos have been placed on the ‘not medically cleared’ list, dealing a huge blow to Columbus’ chances against the Sounders. The Crew will also be without Vito Wormgoor, who is sidelined long-term.
Seattle look like having a full-strength squad to choose from, with Xavier Arreaga, Kelvin Leerdam and Gustav Svensson all returning to action against Minnesota — the latter scoring the winning goal.
Players to watch:
The absences of Nagbe and Santos are monumental blows to Columbus’ chances against the Sounders, robbing Porter’s side of their ability to dominate the ball, thus dictating the tempo of the match and nullifying Seattle in transition. However, they do still have one of MLS’ elite playmakers at their disposal in the form of Lucas Zelarayan, who managed six goals and two assists in just 1,129 minutes of regular-season action en-route to winning the MLS Newcomer of the Year award. Even without Nagbe and Santos creating space for him, Zelarayan has all the in-game intelligence required to find gaps between Seattle’s defence and midfield, where he can play piercing through-balls to find the runs of Gyasi Zardes or test Stefan Frei with powerful shots from distance. Given the circumstances, Porter will be leaning heavily on his Designated Player against the reigning champions.
From Nico Lodeiro to Jordan Morris, Seattle have more match-winners than any other side in MLS right now, but few are more reliable than Raul Ruidiaz. The Peruvian forward bagged four goals and three assists during the 2019 Playoffs and after a 2020 regular season which saw him add 12 goals and three assists, he’s already proven a deciding factor this time around. Ruidiaz already has two goals and one assist in three Playoff matches this season, scoring one and setting up another against LAFC before netting an 89th-minute equaliser in the Sounders’ 3-2 comeback win over Minnesota United. Whether it’s playing off the shoulder of the last defender, dropping between the lines to link play and draw out opposing centre-backs, or simply leading the press with his relentless work rate, Ruidiaz will offer a plethora of problems to Columbus’ defence this weekend — problems they simply must solve if they’re to lift MLS Cup.
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