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Knockout Round 101: What to watch for as the the Audi 2017 MLS Cup Playoffs kick off

The marathon is over, now get ready for the sprint.

With the regular season now in the rear-view, the Audi 2017 MLS Cup Playoffs are finally here as the race to the Cup begins in earnest. For the time being, Toronto FC remain in “wait-and-see” mode as the knockout round plays out.

By virtue of their Supporters’ Shield triumph, the Reds enter the playoffs as the top seed in the East (and all of MLS). That not only ensures home-field advantage throughout the playoffs (playing second legs at home, would host MLS Cup), but it also means that TFC will host the lowest remaining seed after the knockout round.

Here’s how things finished up in the Eastern Conference:

  1. Toronto FC
  2. New York City FC
  3. Chicago Fire
  4. Atlanta United FC
  5. Columbus Crew SC
  6. New York Red Bulls

The top two seeds (TFC and NYCFC) have avoided the stress of a knockout round fixture and will await the winners of Wednesday and Thursday night’s matches. And while their Eastern Conference Semifinal opponent remains uncertain, the Reds are guaranteed to play one of either #4 Atlanta United FC, #5 Columbus Crew SC, or #6 New York Red Bulls.

It all kicks off on Wednesday night as the New York Red Bulls travel to Bridgeview to take on the Chicago Fire. Should the Red Bulls come out on top, then their status as the lowest playoff seed would see them advance to take on Toronto FC, with the first leg taking place at Red Bull Arena.

But if Chicago takes care of business at home, then the Fire would be locked into a matchup with New York City FC, while the Reds would await the winner of Thursday night’s matchup at Mercedes-Benz Stadium between Atlanta and Columbus. Check out the MLS Playoff Bracket for the full picture.

Here’s how TFC fared against their possible Eastern Conference Semifinal opponents in the 2017 regular season:

Atlanta United FC

Record: 0-0-2

Results: 2-2 draw at BMO Field on April 8; 2-2 draw at Mercedes-Benz Stadium on October 22

Columbus Crew SC

Record: 2-1-0

Results: 2-1 loss at MAPFRE Stadium on April 15; 2-1 win at MAPFRE Stadium on May 10; 5-0 win at BMO Field on May 26

New York Red Bulls

Record: 1-0-1

Results: 1-1 draw at Red Bull Arena on May 19; 4-2 win at BMO Field on September 30