Previewing the MLS Cup Playoffs outside of Orlando City

Oct 9, 2022; Los Angeles, California, USA; Los Angeles FC forward Kwadwo Opoku (22) dribble the ball
Oct 9, 2022; Los Angeles, California, USA; Los Angeles FC forward Kwadwo Opoku (22) dribble the ball / Kiyoshi Mio-USA TODAY Sports
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The rest of this week, words will be published on this website about Orlando City and the impending matchup with CF Montreal on Sunday. But for today, I want to branch outside of this little bubble and take a peak at the overall MLS Cup playoff picture.

To keep it close to home, let's start in the Eastern conference.

The Philadelphia Union held off Montreal late in the season to clinch home field advantage and the top seed in the conference and won't have a game in this weekend's preliminary round. The Union have been fantastic on both sides of the ball and are heavy favorites not only to win the East, but MLS Cup.

The Union will face the winner of FC Cincinnati and the NY Red Bulls. Because Cincy's been good all year, it's easy to forget the magnitude of change that GM Chris Albright and head coach Pat Noonan have brought to Cincinnati.

FC Cincinnati was one of the absolute worst franchises on the planet. Three seasons, three full-time head coaches and three Wooden Spoons for finishing dead last in MLS. To go from that level of unfathomable incompetence to a playoff team -- and a good one at that -- is mind boggling for one season.

Cincinnati is lead by a dynamic front three of Brandon Vazquez, Brenner and Luciano Acosta. Vazquez and Brenner are the first teammates to each score 18+ goals in a single MLS season while Acosta finished the year with a league-high 19 assists.

Cincinnati travels to Harrison, New Jersey, to face a decent if unspectacular New York Red Bulls team. While Cincinnati is a team reborn, the Red Bulls are the Red Bulls. This is fundamentally the same team it's been for the last four years.

There are no big stars, but a bunch of good and tough players who will make the game difficult for Cincinnati.

On the other side of the bracket, Orlando travels to Montreal in a game we will talk about later, while the other Floridian club Inter Miami will travel to Citi Field to face the reigning MLS Cup champions New York City FC.

This game was originally going to be played at Red Bull Arena, but a spectacular failure by the New York Mets in their playoff run opened up the secondary venue for New York City FC. Inter Miami got boat raced by Montreal on decision day, but clinched a playoff spot by equally embarrassing Orlando City and will look to send off Gonzalo Higuain on a high note.

As for New York, this is a team that fell off a cliff after losing its best player and manager midseason, but the Pigeons have rounded into form to close out the year and still boast plenty of talent and depth. They're still a favorite to come out of the east.