After a gruelling regular season and thoroughly entertaining playoffs, the MLS Cup will be contested between Seattle Sounders and Toronto FC for the third time in four years.
The Sounders pulled off one of the greatest shocks in recent playoff memory in the Western Conference final, beating heavily fancied LAFC 3-1 at Banc of California Stadium after the Black and Gold had sealed Supporters’ Shield with a league-record 72 points.
If Seattle’s win over LAFC was the biggest shock of this year’s playoffs, Toronto’s 2-1 win away to defending champions Atlanta United was a close second, with the Reds coming from behind against the Five Stripes at a packed out Mercedes-Benz Stadium.
Read on for our MLS Cup preview, predictions, team news and TV coverage information.
When is Seattle Sounders v Toronto FC and what TV channel is it on?
Competition: MLS Cup
Venue: CenturyLink Field
Date: Sunday, 10 November 2019
Kick-off: 8:00 PM (UK time)
TV coverage (UK): Sky Sports Football & FreeSports
Last five meetings: Seattle Sounders v Toronto FC
13 April 2019: Seattle Sounders 3-2 Toronto FC (MLS)
9 May 2018: Toronto FC 1-2 Seattle Sounders (MLS)
9 Dec 2017: Toronto FC 2-0 Seattle Sounders (MLS Cup)
6 May 2017: Seattle Sounders 0-1 Toronto FC (MLS)
11 Dec 2016: Toronto FC 0-0 Seattle Sounders (4-5 pens) (MLS Cup)
Aggregate Score: Seattle Sounders (WWLLD) 5-6 Toronto FC (LLWWD)
Comeback kings shock MLS to set up a familiar showdown
Seattle Sounders finished second in the Western Conference but were still far from convincing during the regular season, often falling foul of dropping points in frustrating fashion and suffering shock defeats.
However, after beating FC Dallas 4-3 in one of the most entertaining games in MLS history in the first round of the playoffs, and grinding down a resolute Real Salt Lake side 2-0 in the next, it was them doing the shocking in the Western Conference final.
LAFC have been a juggernaut in 2019, running up a league-record 72 points in the regular season, among a whole host of other distinctions. However, after an exhausting first-ever El Trafico win (5-3) over LA Galaxy in the previous round, the Black and Gold seemed to run out of steam against Seattle, with Brian Schmetzter’s side soaking up a ton of pressure, then absolutely punishing LAFC on the break through the likes of Raul Ruidiaz and Nico Lodeiro to notch a 3-1 comeback win.
Toronto were even more inconsistent during the regular season, losing 10 of their 34 games and, for a short while at least, looking like they might even struggle to reach the playoffs.
But a 10-game unbeaten run to end the regular season made sure they finished fourth in the Eastern Conference, making a swift return to the playoffs having missed out in 2018.
Their fine form hasn’t let up in the postseason either, with the Canadian side pummelling DC United 5-1 in extra-time to end Wayne Rooney’s MLS career in the first round of the playoffs, before pulling off a remarkable 2-1 win away at Eastern Conference leaders NYCFC.
Seattle’s win over LAFC had everybody talking about how Atlanta United were on the verge of becoming the first team to retain MLS Cup since 2012 but, apparently, Toronto hadn’t read the script. Despite going 1-0 down inside four minutes against the Five Stripes, Greg Vanney’s men rallied to equalise in the 14th minute, before a Nick DeLeon screamer sealed the deal and defied the odds as the game moved into the final quarter.
This is the third time in four years that Seattle and Toronto have contested MLS Cup but, strangely, it feels like anything but groundhog day.
Ones to watch
Seattle Sounders: Raul Ruidiaz
Raul Ruidiaz might not quite be thought of as the most high-profile Designated Player in MLS thanks to some injury problems early on in his Seattle career but he’s well and truly turned it on during the 2019 playoffs.
The Peru international has been directly involved in at least one goal in each of the Sounders’ three playoff games so far and put in an inspirational performance against LAFC in the Western Conference final, linking play, scoring goals and working incessantly hard without possession.
“Which part? The defending or the attacking?” Schmetzer responded when asked about the exploits of his striker. “He was very, very good. Worth every cent we paid for him.”
Key stat: Ruidiaz has three goals and two assists in three playoff matches so far this season.
Toronto FC: Alejandro Pozuelo
In short, Alejandro Pozuelo’s debut season in MLS has been an unrelenting success.
The Spaniard has 14 goals and nine assists so far for Toronto and has brought real style and swagger to the Canadian side’s starting XI.
Pozuelo has been directly involved in four goals during the postseason and his Panenka penalty to seal the win against NYCFC in the dying minutes in the Eastern Conference semi-final was a perfect representation of just how much class he’s shown in MLS so far.
Key stat: Pozuelo has created 15 big chances so far this season, at least eight more than any other Toronto player.
Centre-back Roman Torres has been struggling with a hamstring injury, but has been declared fit to play and makes the starting XI. He will partner Kim Kee-hee in defence against Toronto.
THIS. IS. IT.
Kickoff is at 12:08 p.m. PT on ABC and Univision.
— Seattle Sounders FC (@SoundersFC) November 10, 2019
Apart from Torres returning to the side, it is an unchanged starting XI for Schmetzer from the victory over LAFC, with Ruidiaz leading the line and looking to add to his already impressive MLS cup tally. He will be joined in attack by Jordan Morris, captain Nicolas Lodeiro and Joevin Jones.
Starting XI: Frei; Leerdam, Kim, Torres, Smith; Svensson, Roldan; Jones, Lodeiro, Morris; Ruidiaz.
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Vanney would have been sweating on the fitness of starting centre-back Omar Gonzalez and star striker Jozy Altidore, who have sat out the whole of the postseason so far with leg injuries. However, the former has been given the nod while Altidore has had to settle for a place on the bench.
— Toronto FC (@TorontoFC) November 10, 2019
Like Schmetzer, Vanney has made just the one change from their previous encounter, bringing Gonzalez back into the equation, while Alejandro Pozuelo, Nicolas Benezet and Tsubasa Endoh make up a threatening attacking trident in a similar 4-3-3 formation.
Predicted XI: Westberg; Auro, Gonzalez, Mavinga, Morrow; Bradley, Delgado, Osorio; Endoh, Benezet, Pozuelo.
MLS is unpredictable at the best of times but this one feels almost impossible to choose a winner from.
Seattle have been ruthless on the counter-attack and in Ruidiaz, Lodeiro and Jordan Morris, they have enough quality to win any one-off match. Toronto, meanwhile, have been organised and solid during the playoffs but have come up with huge moments of magic just when they needed them most.
The Sounders have home advantage and that might just be the defining factor here. Still, expect goals and a ton of drama.
Scoreline prediction: Seattle Sounders 3-2 Toronto FC