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2021 MLS Cup Playoffs Predictions – Triumphs, Failures, and More

| November 11, 2021 8:21 am PDT

Nobody is ever quite sure exactly how the MLS Cup Playoffs will pan out. Year after year, the Major League Soccer postseason dishes up countless shocks and surprises.

Consequently, making predictions for the MLS Cup Playoffs is always a tricky task. Favorites often fall short of the mark, while underdogs frequently upset the odds.

Even so, the postseason wouldn’t be complete without making some bold MLS Cup predictions, right?

The Revs recently clinched their maiden Supporters’ Shield in style, but can they secure the double? Real Salt Lake snuck into the playoffs at the very last minute, but could they go all the way?

With the postseason set to kick off on Saturday, November 20, here are six bold predictions for the 2021 MLS Cup Playoffs.

New York City FC Fails to Reach the Conference Semifinals

It’s fair to say that New York City FC has endured an inconsistent year up to now.

The Bronx Blues made a flying start to the campaign before a run of just one win in ten games threatened to derail their postseason dreams.

However, they managed to turn things around. Ronny Deila’s men ended up winning three of their final four regular season matches to book their spot in the playoffs.

But how far can they go?

Season Conference Finish Playoff Elimination
2021 4th ?
2020 5th First Round
2019 1st Conference Semifinals
2018 3rd Conference Semifinals
2017 2nd Conference Semifinals
2016 2nd Conference Semifinals

As the table above details, NYCFC hasn’t finished outside the top five in the Eastern Conference for six seasons running. But the team has consistently choked in the playoffs over the years.

New York City finished fourth this season, just three points behind second-place Philadelphia and third-place Nashville. As a result, they are among the bookies’ favorites to lift the trophy.

2021 MLS Cup Winner Odds
  • New England Revolution (3.25)
  • Colorado Rapids (4.50)
  • Seattle Sounders (8.00)
  • New York City (10.00)
  • Sporting Kansas City (11.00)

Many of the top-rated Major League Soccer sportsbooks view NYCFC as a genuine contender for the Cup, but I’m not convinced.

Although Valentin Castellanos clinched the Golden Boot on Decision Day, too many of his teammates have failed to live up to expectations this year.

With in-form Atlanta United up next for New York City, I can see the perennial underachievers falling short once again this season.

Colorado Rapids Fall at the First Hurdle

The Rapids won their first and only MLS Cup back in 2010. Since then, they have failed to qualify for the playoffs on six occasions.

Regardless of their iffy recent history, Colorado will be expected to go deep into the postseason this year. After all, Robin Fraser’s side just secured the Western Conference title.

The Rapids won three of their last four games to finish one point ahead of Seattle in the West. They even managed to end the campaign with a 5-2 thrashing of LAFC.

Although the Rapids are enjoying a memorable year, I can’t help but feel that a lack of postseason know-how will hinder them when the playoffs get underway.

Yes, guys like Michael Barrios, Cole Bassett, and Kellyn Acosta have individual quality. But can they guide Colorado to glory? I’m not so sure.

It is also worth noting that Fraser’s men face a huge test in the conference semifinals, with the winner of Portland Timbers vs. Minnesota United visiting DSG Park later this month.

The Timbers have won ten of their last 14 games, making them one of the most in-form teams in the league. Meanwhile, the Loons have lost just one of their past six outings.

Don’t get me wrong, I have enjoyed watching the Rapids do their thing this year. But I wouldn’t be surprised if they fell at the first postseason hurdle.

Raul Ruidiaz Scores More Playoff Goals Than Anyone Else

Three things are certain in life: death, taxes, and Raul Ruidiaz tearing up the MLS Cup Playoffs.

The Peruvian striker invariably rises to the occasion of the postseason. He loves performing on the biggest stage of all – and I don’t see why this year should be any different.

As you can see, Ruidiaz has a phenomenal playoff record.

Season Games Goals Assists
2020 4 2 1
2019 4 4 3
2018 2 3
Total 10 9 4

The 31-year-old bagged three goals in two postseason appearances in his maiden MLS campaign. He then notched a mammoth four goals and three assists on his way to lifting the trophy with Seattle in 2019.

Last year, Ruidiaz registered two goals and an assist during the playoffs, although he was unable to fire his side to glory in the final.

2021 MLS Golden Boot Leaderboard
  • Valentin Castellanos (New York City FC) – 19
  • Ola Kamara (DC United) – 19
  • Chicharito (LA Galaxy) – 17
  • Raul Ruidiaz (Seattle Sounders) – 17
  • Adam Buksa (New England Revolution) – 16

The Seattle forward finished only two goals behind Castellanos in the 2021 Golden Boot charts. Given that he missed eight of the last 12 games through injury, that is a remarkable achievement.

I’m confident that Ruidiaz will pick up where he left off prior to his injury and add to his already impressive postseason tally.

Seattle Sounders Reach Another MLS Cup Final

The next of my bold predictions for the 2021 MLS Cup Playoffs concerns Ruidiaz’s team, Seattle.

Now, I know what you’re thinking: the Sounders have featured in four of the previous five MLS Cup Finals, so it wouldn’t exactly be a shock if they made it to the showpiece this year.

Well, I think it would be a massive achievement if Brian Schmetzer’s side reached the final again this season.

Seattle Sounders’ Recent MLS Cup Playoffs Campaigns
  • 2016: Champions
  • 2017: Runners-Up
  • 2018: Conference Semifinals
  • 2019: Champions
  • 2020: Runners-Up

The Sounders won the MLS Cup in 2016 before reaching the final the following year. After a conference semifinal exit in 2018, they triumphed again before clinching the runner-up spot last season.

You get the picture, right? Seattle knows what it takes to go the distance.

No team has conceded fewer goals than Schmetzer’s side in 2021. At the other end of the field, the Sounders have been hitting the back of the net for fun.

If the Sounders dispatch outsider Real Salt Lake in the first round, they will be just two wins away from reaching a fifth MLS Cup final in six years.

New England Revolution Wins the 2021 MLS Cup

No team has reached more MLS Cup Finals than New England without getting their hands on the trophy.

Believe it or not, the Revs have featured in five finals over the years, but they have never managed to get the better of the opponents in the most important game of all.

However, I expect the Revs to buck that trend and end their MLS Cup Final curse in 2021.

Bruce Arena’s men head into the playoffs on the back of an incredible campaign, having broken the regular-season points record. Consequently, they finished a colossal 19 points clear of Philly in the East.

Fresh from clinching their first-ever Supporters’ Shield, the Revs will be confident of doing the double next month.

New England has netted 65 goals in 34 games this year, averaging 1.9 goals per game. Adam Buksa and Gustavo Bou have led the way, while Carles Gil has provided the assists.

The Revs have a favorable route into the conference finals, too. They face the winner of New York City FC vs. Atlanta United in the semifinals, having been handed a first-round bye.

Considering New England won the Shield, you may think that my 2021 MLS Cup prediction is relatively tame. But very few teams win both the Shield and Cup in the same season.

Carles Gil Claims the 2021 Landon Donovan MLS MVP Award

When I put together my August power rankings for the MVP award, Carles Gil was right at the very top.

Just last month, I examined the odds for the 2021 MLS MVP award again. You probably won’t be surprised to learn that the bookies still favor the Spanish magician to clinch the top prize.

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Gil has been the driving force behind New England’s record-breaking campaign. Although Buksa and Bou have scored most the Revs’ goals, Gil’s creativity has been insane.

Since I’m backing New England to win the MLS Cup, it only makes sense that I back Gil to scoop the MVP award, right?

If you’re planning to bet on the MLS MVP award in 2021, I recommend placing your wagers sooner rather than later. If Gil hits the ground running in the playoffs, his price will only shorten.

Betting on the 2021 MLS Cup Playoffs

I hope you enjoyed making your way through my bold predictions for the 2021 MLS Cup Playoffs.

Of course, I don’t expect all my MLS predictions to come to fruition, as some of them are pretty brave! But it’s always fun to make some wacky predictions and see if they actually happen.

If you like the look of some of my ideas, or you want to make your own predictions for the MLS Cup, you may find my 2021 MLS Cup Playoffs preview useful.

I have already assessed the 2021 MLS Cup odds and taken an in-depth look at all the main contenders for the title, so make sure you check that out.

2021 MLS Cup Playoffs Betting Preview with Odds and Contender Analysis

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Ben Morris

Ben is a sportswriter and tipster who specializes in soccer. Currently based in the UK, he has traveled all around the world watching – and betting on – his beloved sport.

Alongside his regular soccer content, Ben publishes blogs and picks for cricket, Formula 1, Aussie rules, darts, and various other sports.

Ben is a diehard fan of Nottingham Forest and England, so he hasn’t had much to cheer about in recent years!

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