MLS Playoffs: Why the visitors will prevail

One of the goals of the MLS's switch to a single-elimination format in the conference semifinals and final was to reward the higher seed for its success in the regular season with the home-field advantage.

Home teams won five of six games in Round One. The proof in the pudding of MLS's new playoff format will be how exciting the next two rounds are -- and how the home teams do.

Regular-season form is on the side of the visitors, though. They won all four head-to-head series.

That's just one of the arguments in favor of the visitors in the conference semifinals.

NYCFC vs. Toronto FC (Wednesday, 7 p.m. ET, FS1/Fox Deportes)

2019 Meetings:
Toronto FC-NYCFC: 4-0
NYCFC-Toronto FC: 1-1

Why the visitors will win:
1. Toronto FC is on an 11-game unbeaten league run -- regular season and playoffs -- easily the longest of any team in the playoffs.
2.
The Reds cruised in the first meeting with the Pigeons in Toronto and were the better team in the rematch at Yankee Stadium.
3.
NYCFC won't be at home, where it lost just once in the regular season. The match had to been moved from The Bronx to Queens and Citi Field, home of the Mets, because of uncertainty about the Yankees' playoff status.

Seattle
vs. Real Salt Lake (Wednesday, 10 p.m. ET, FS1/Fox Deportes)

2019 Meetings:
Seattle-Real Salt Lake: 1-0
Real Salt Lake-Seattle: 3-0

Why the visitors will win:
1. Real Salt Lake has one of the deepest teams in the playoffs. The late double-substitution of Joao Plata and Sam Johnson for Damir Kreilach and Corey Baird changed the Round One match against Portland.
2. RSL dominated the Sounders when they met in August. Johnson, Rusnak and Baird all scored and Kreilach had two assists.
3. The Sounders were the luckiest of the Round One winners. They'd have lost to FC Dallas but for five big-time saves by Stefan Frei in overtime.



Atlanta United
vs. Philadelphia (Thursday, 8 p.m., ESPN2/ESPN Deportes)

2019 Meetings:
Atlanta United-Philadelphia: 1-1
Philadelphia-Atlanta United: 3-1

Why the visitors will win:
1. The Union is coming off a 4-3 win over the Red Bulls, rallying from 2-0 and 3-1 down, so its confidence is sky high.
2.
The second half the Union had on Sunday was like the second half it had in August when it came back from 1-0 down to beat Atlanta United, 3-1. It was the better team.
3. Atlanta United will be without central defenders Miles Robinson and Michael Parkhurst, both out with injuries.



LAFC
vs. LA Galaxy (Thursday, 10:30 p.m., ESPN/ESPN Deportes)

2019 Meetings:
LA Galaxy-LAFC: 3-2
LAFC-LA Galaxy: 3-3

Why the visitors will win:
1. If you haven't heard, the Galaxy has never lost to LAFC in El Trafico, five meetings over two seasons.
2.
Zlatan Ibrahimovic has been on fire, finishing the regular season with goals in his last five games and 14 goals over the last 10 games.
3.
LAFC's midfield workhorse, Mark-Anthony Kaye, pulled up with a hamstring injury early in Canada's 2-0 win over the USA and is listed as day-to-day.

Photos: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports, Seattle Sounders, LAFC, Atlanta United.

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