MLS Cup Playoffs

Postseason Rivalry: Sounders face LAFC once again in MLS Cup Playoffs

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Rivalries in soccer are born out of individual moments – specific games and specific goals that, over time, fuel the enmity between two clubs.

Some take decades to develop, with history or geographical proximity slowly building into an adversarial relationship. Others, however, need only a couple of high-stakes inflection points to spark an intense rivalry.

While the Seattle Sounders and LAFC have only been competing against each other for five years, it has quickly become one of the biggest matchups in Major League Soccer. On Sunday, that young rivalry will take center stage as the two clubs meet in the Western Conference Semifinals at Lumen Field (6:30 p.m. PT; Watch on MLS Season Pass on Apple TV, 950 KJR AM, El Rey 1360AM, Sirius XM FC 157 | TICKETS).

“They’re the reigning MLS Cup\] champs and they have quality up front,” said defender [Alex Roldan. “We know what they bring. [They have] a lot of world-class players. It’s going to be a tough battle.”

There have been some memorable games between the Sounders and LAFC in the regular season. But the Sounders and LAFC have been two of the most successful clubs in MLS over the last half decade, so this rivalry has largely been defined by performances in the Audi MLS Cup Playoffs. 

“I think we have their number in the playoffs, and they have our number in the regular season,” added Alex Roldan. “At this point in the season, when it’s do-or-die, I think both teams are going to show up and come out with intensity to make sure this isn’t their last game of the season. The stakes are really high.”

The two sides first met in the playoffs back in 2019 in the Western Conference Final. Fresh off of winning the Supporters’ Shield with a record-setting 72 points, LAFC were the heavy favorites to win the championship. Many pundits believed them to be the best team in league history. 

It was a David vs. Goliath matchup as the Sounders visited the Black & Gold with a spot in MLS Cup on the line. After falling behind 1-0 early, the Sounders stormed back and won 3-1 on the road and went on to beat Toronto FC in the final to secure their second title in club history. 

One year later, the Sounders hosted LAFC in Round One of the postseason. The visitors were eager for revenge, but Seattle largely controlled the match and once again secured a 3-1 victory en route to another MLS Cup Final appearance. 

“It feels like a rivalry in the sense that it’s two of the biggest clubs in the league,” said Head Coach Brian Schmetzer. “We have high ambitions and high goals. So do they.”

Last season, LAFC won the Supporters’ Shield and MLS Cup double before reaching the 2023 Concacaf Champions League Final. The Sounders, meanwhile, won the 2022 CCL and have played this season with a point to prove after missing out on last year’s playoffs. Everything is shaping up for another thrilling, defining moment in this budding rivalry between the Sounders and LAFC.

Western Conference Semifinals: Tickets On Sale Now

Western Conference Semifinals: Tickets On Sale Now

Sounders FC is hosting LAFC in the Western Conference Semifinals at Lumen Field! Tickets are available now. Want to be notified when playoff tickets go on sale for future rounds should we advance? Sign up for ticket on-sale alerts below.

Asked whether LAFC’s pedigree and recent run of form makes Seattle the underdogs, attacking midfielder Albert Rusnák was quick to point out that it’s actually a high-profile matchup between two equally ambitious clubs.

“We’re at home,” he said. “There ain’t no way that we’re underdogs. Yes, they are reigning champs and they’re a very good team. They have been ever since they came into the league.

“It is a matchup that will be tough and we’re aware of their players and the things that they do well. But we have quality, and we have things that we’ve been working on, and that have been working in our games as well. I don’t feel like there is an underdog in this one.”

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