Soccer Has Grown in the USA … and the Excitement Builds for this Historic Match #MLSCup
2021 MLS Cup is the culmination of the 26th edition of the MLS Cup Playoffs, the post-season championship of Major League Soccer (MLS) ... the top professional soccer league in the USA.
MLS Cup Finalists, The Portland Timbers head coach Giovanni Savarese looks forward to taking on The New York City Football Club and having his team meet the squad from NYCFC’s head coach Ronny Deila on the pitch at Providence Park this coming Saturday, December 11th (3 pm ET | ABC, UniMás, TUDN).
“We have a very good team to play against and we are very excited to be here.”Portland Timbers head coach Giovanni Savarese
The Timbers finally get to play an MLS Cup at home and the 2021 Western Conference Champions may be the favorite of several soccer experts but the world’s most beautiful game is always decided on the pitch and soccer fans from all over the world will be watching to see who is triumphant as the league’s champion … and NYCFC is also prepared to do what it takes to win.
“The MLS Cup means everything. This team considers itself a family. Everyone is playing for similar objectives.”NYCFC captain Sean Johnson
Who will cement their place in soccer history in this winner-take-all format?
Both the Timbers and NYCFC scored 56 goals in the 34 games during the regular season, an average of 1.65 goals per game, tied for the third-best attacking average in MLS.
- NYCFC conceded 36 goals in the regular season, an average of 1.06 goals per game, sixth-best defensive mark in the league.
- The Timbers allowed 52 goals in league play, an average of 1.53 per game, ranked 16th in MLS in 2021.
The Timbers used 14 different starters on their road to MLS Cup, with eight players starting all three games leading to the final, including the entire back four and goalkeeper Steve Clark. The Timbers made three changes for the Western Conference Final, including Sebastián Blanco and Dairon Asprilla (suspended).
Sebastián Blanco netted two goals in the MLS Cup Playoffs, both in the Round One win vs. Minnesota United FC, equaling the club single-game record achieved twice by Diego Valeri in the run to MLS Cup 2018. Larrys Mabiala also scored two goals, one in each of the first two games, the first Timbers defender to score twice in a single postseason. Felipe Mora and Santiago Moreno also scored a goal, each coming in the Western Conference Final vs. Real Salt Lake.
NYCFC did not have a spectaular season and rose from 4th in the conference, finding their stride at the right time according to MLS, “marching through the East bracket in a run that peaked with a massive road upset over the favored Supporters’ Shield-winning New England Revolution in the Eastern Conference Semifinals. Either side of that, NYCFC brushed past Atlanta United in Round One before a dramatic win over a depleted Philadelphia Union in the Conference Final.”
Note: If the match finishes in a draw, two 15-minute extra-time periods will be played to decide a winner. If no one finishes on top after extra time, the champion will be decided by a penalty-kick shootout.
As the host team for 2021 MLS Cup, the Portland Timbers are collaborating with MLS WORKS, the League’s social responsibility platform, to give back to Portland with a community service project centered on literacy.
MLS Commissioner Don Garber and Portland Timbers owner Merritt Paulson will participate in the event, which will begin at 2:30 p.m. PT on Friday.
Volunteers from the Timbers and MLS will pack gift bags filled with books and perform virtual readings. Timber Joey, the popular mascot of Portland’s MLS club, will personally build 10 Little Libraries that will be painted by club staff before being strategically placed in high poverty areas of Portland so children have access to books in their own neighborhood. The Timbers have committed to restocking the Little Libraries annually. Among the other participants on Friday will be MLS Greats and former Timbers Liam Ridgewell and Vytas Andriuškevičius. MLS Greats Network is the official alumni group of MLS.
Fun Facts on the 2021 MLS CUP Contenders: Timbers and NYCFC
The Timbers have reached MLS Cup for the third time in the last seven seasons, playing host in Portland for the first time. The Timbers were winners in 2015 in a 2-1 win against the Columbus Crew in Ohio, then fell 2-0 in 2018 to Atlanta United at Mercedes-Benz Stadium.
New York City FC have reached the MLS title game for the first time in the club’s seven-year history. Their Eastern Conference Final victory against the Philadelphia Union represented the first honor ever won by the club, in their farthest ever advance in the MLS Cup Playoffs to that point.
The Timbers are aiming to become the eighth team in MLS history to win multiple MLS Cups. LA Galaxy (5) and D.C. United (4) are tied for the most league championships in MLS history, while last year, the Columbus Crew won their second title, joining Houston Dynamo, Sporting Kansas City, San Jose Earthquakes and Seattle Sounders FC (all 2 each).
Of the 17 teams to play in MLS Cup, nine have won the title in their first appearance, including three of the last four (Atlanta United, 2018; Seattle Sounders FC, 2016 (defeated Toronto FC, also first appearance); Portland Timbers, 2015).
New York City FC are the 17th club to have reached MLS Cup in the league’s 26 seasons, the first newcomer since Atlanta United won their first title in 2018. Philadelphia Union (2010), Vancouver Whitecaps FC (2011), CF Montréal (2012), Orlando City SC (2015), Minnesota United FC (2017), Los Angeles Football Club (2018), FC Cincinnati (2019), Nashville SC and Inter Miami CF (both 2020) and Austin FC (2021) all have yet to play in the MLS championship game. MLS Original club Tampa Bay Mutiny did not reach the final in their six seasons of existence, while Miami Fusion FC, formed in 1998, did not reach the MLS Cup Final in their four-year existence, nor did Chivas USA in their 10 seasons (formed in 2005).