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Who is playing in the 2021 MLS Cup and how did they get there?

The Portland Timbers will host New York City FC in the 2021 MLS Cup Final. We take a look at how each team got there.

New York City FC v Philadelphia Union: 2021 MLS Playoffs - Eastern Conference Final Photo by Ira L. Black - Corbis/Getty Images

The 2021 MLS Cup takes place on Saturday, December 11 and we finally know which two teams will be facing off for the title. The Portland Timbers, who finished fourth in the Western Conference, will play host to the Eastern Conference’s number four seed New York City FC, who are making their first-ever MLS Cup Final appearance.

It took both teams three knockout games to get here, so let’s take a look at the path each team took to make it to the final. NYCFC is the regulation favorite at +160, Portland is +180, and a regulation draw is +230 at DraftKings Sportsbook.

Portland Timbers, 17-13-4

Who they beat in playoffs

First round: 3-1 win over #5 Minnesota United FC
Second round: 1-0 win over #1 Colorado Rapids
Semifinals: 2-0 win over #7 Real Salt Lake

How they got here

The Timbers had a rough start to the 2021 season, losing three of their first four and holding a record of 7-8-2 at the season’s halfway point. Falling as low as 11th place near the beginning of the season, they turned things around and ran with an eight-game unbeaten streak, winning seven during that stretch. They finished off the season winning 10 of their final 14 games, finishing fourth place in the Western Conference and earning home advantage in the first round of playoffs.

They took down the fifth seed Minnesota United in the first round at home with a comfortable 3-1 score. They followed that up with a 1-0 upset on the road over the top seeded Colorado Rapids thanks to a last-minute goal from Dario Zuparic. They then hosted Real Salt Lake in the Western Conference Finals, and thanks to goals from Felipe Mora and Santiago Moreno, advanced to their third MLS Cup Final appearance with a score of 2-0.

New York City FC, 14-11-9

Who they beat in playoffs

First round: 2-0 win over #5 Atlanta United FC
Second round: 5-3 penalty kicks win over #1 New England Revolution
Semifinals: 2-1 win over #2 Philadelphia Union

How they got here

New York City FC finished in fourth place in the Eastern Conference with 51 points, securing their seed on Decision Day with a 1-1 draw against the Philadelphia Union. They finished tied on points with both Atlanta United and Orlando City, but held the “wins” tiebreaker so they were able to secure a home game at Yankee Stadium in the first round. Despite being down a man for most of the game on Decision Day, striker Taty Castellanos found the equalizer in the 53rd minute. That brought his season scoring total to 19 goals and secured the 2021 Golden Boot trophy while putting his side in a good position for the playoffs.

After knocking off Atlanta united with a comfortable 2-0 win at home in the first round, NYCFC pulled off a huge upset as they took Bruce Arena’s top-seeded New England Revolution team to penalty kicks in the second round after finishing 2-2 through 90 minutes of regulation and 30 minutes of extra time. NYC finished off the Revs 5-3 in penalties to advance to the Eastern Conference Finals against the Philadelphia Union. They’d have to do it without Castellanos, who earned a red card in extra time against the Revs. It worked out in their favor though, as the Union were missing 11 players to COVID-19 protocol, and while they still stayed competitive through missing a huge chunk of their starting lineup, NYCFC ultimately got the 2-1 win thanks to an 88th-minute game winner from Talles Magno.

The MLS Cup Final is set to kick off at 3:00 p.m. ET on Saturday, December 11 at Providence Park in Portland. The match will air on ABC.