Each of these teams claims a place in pushing MLS forward. Toronto came into the league in 2007 and quickly established a reputation for having some of the largest and liveliest crowds in the league.
Seattle joined MLS in 2009 and took things up a notch. Previous attempts to put MLS teams in NFL stadiums had looked dreary, with pockets of fans scattered throughout vast stands. Seattle was different. They sometimes cover part of the stadium and limit ticket sales to just under 40,000, but for some games, the whole stadium is available — and loud. Atlanta United has duplicated that success on the other side of the country.
Toronto starting lineup
The irony here is that this Canadian club features two of the most debated players in recent U.S. history, midfielder Michael Bradley and forward Jozy Altidore, the latter of whom is on the bench after a late race to get fit for this final. Defender Omar Gonzalez had the misfortune of being credited with an own goal in the USA’s loss to Trinidad and Tobago that kept them from World Cup 2018. At the time, he was playing in Mexico, but he joined Toronto this summer.
The leading scorer is Alejandro Pozeulo, from Spain via several seasons in Belgium.
Goalkeeper Quentin Westberg was long one of those players followed via long distance by U.S. soccer geeks. He has spent almost all of his life and professional career in France but represented the U.S. at youth lineup and moved to Toronto this season.
Jonathan Osorio and Marky Delgado have been lining up in the midfield with Bradley for a few years now.
Nicolas Benezet has only played eight games this season, starting five. Tsubasa Endoh also has played less than half of TFC’s games so far.
Justin Morrow played both of the last two MLS Cups vs. Seattle on the left side. He’s joined on defense by Gonzalez, young Brazilian Auro Jr. and French player Chris Mavinga.
Seattle starting lineup
The tip of the spear is a strong one. Forward Raul Ruidiaz, who has been nicknamed “The Flea” and “the Peruvian Messi,” has been a consistent scoring threat in his first full season with Seattle. He’s also connected to a country that has had a strong taste of success recently — Croatia, from which his mother’s family hails.
Uruguayan midfielder Nicolas Lodeiro is a staple in Seattle.
Two more midfielders, Jordan Morris and Cristian Roldan, are on the U.S. national team. These days, we’re not sure if that’s a compliment.
The rest of the midfield is from Trinidad and Tobago (Joevin Jones) and Sweden (Gustav Svensson).
Goalkeeper Stefan Frei, who used to play for Toronto, has been on this stage a couple of times now.
Korean defender Kim Kee-hee anchors the backline alongside Panamanian defender Roman Torres, who has been to a couple of MLS Cups along with Frei and converted the winning kick from the mark in the first Seattle-Toronto MLS Cup matchup in 2016.
Kelvin Leerdam, a Dutch player born in Suriname, provides some scoring punch from right back.
Australian Brad Smith, who played a few games for Liverpool in the mid-2010s, is on the left.
What time is kickoff?
Never a simple question when you’re talking about a U.S. soccer broadcast, which mimics other U.S. sports by having a pregame show for its pregame show.
The Philadelphia Inquirer’s Jonathan Tannenwald is plugged into the TV scene and says 3:08 p.m. Eastern time, which is surprisingly quick. But national anthems here tend to take 20 minutes, so you never know.
Good afternoon to the East Coast, good morning to the West Coast, good caffeinated overnight to Australia and much of Asia, and good evening to those in Europe who watched Liverpool beat Manchester City and are hoping for a closer game here.
Funny thing about that — MLS is a league of salary cap-enforced parity, and yet we have the same two teams in the final for the third year in the last four.
Should be a fun one in any case.