The fun starts in Chicago, where the Fire are favourites to overcome a lacklustre New York Red Bulls. The awkward thing about tipping anything in this game is the fitness or otherwise of Bastian Schweinsteiger. He makes a marked difference for the Fire, and he hasn't started since September 2nd. Rumours are that he'll be fit to play, and so I'll continue on that basis.
The two sides played twice in the regular season, with the Red Bulls winning at home and the game here finishing 1-1. Chicago struggle against sides that play with high energy (as Houston did last season), and the Red Bulls certainly don't possess that kind of game.
They've looked sluggish in this last part of the season, strange for a team that normally finishes so strongly, and while there's a theory that they've been waiting for the play offs, I don't buy that, and think that Chicago are backable at2.20 to come away with the win in 90 minutes.
Recommended Bet Back Chicago Fire to beat New York Red Bulls @2.20
Vancouver Whitecaps v San Jose Earthquakes Thursday, 03:30
San Jose were unbelievably lucky to get this far after that late, late winner against Minnesota at the weekend. It was a result that cost this column and also FC Dallas. I can't see how they can recover from that euphoria, make a long trip to Vancouver, and be ready to do anything against the Whitecaps.
Carl Robinson's team was a little unfortunate not to get a bye for this round, losing 2-1 in Portland, and they always look a motivated and well coached bunch, good enough to be the dark horse of this post-season.
I'm amazed that we can back Vancouver at1.92 to win the game: I know that San Jose are in the better form and that the two drew 1-1 at BC Place a couple of weeks ago, but the Caps have won 6 of their last 9 at home against the Quakes, who have lost eight of their last 10 away from home, conceding at least three goals in each of those defeats.
I'm not bothered about the big mo at BC Place, and it's Vancouver all the way for me.
Recommended Bet Back Vancouver Whitecaps to beat San Jose Earthquakes @1.92
Atlanta United v Columbus Crew Friday, 00:00
Now that Miguel Almiron is back, we'll see the real Atlanta United. That's been hard to find in his absence, but the man who should finish second in the race to be MLS MVP (Diego Valeri has to win it) will galvanise the MLS newbies in perfect time for the Play-Offs.
I think that Atlanta should have enough to see off the Columbus Crew, but they're short enough (shorter, unbelievably, than Vancouver) and so I'd prepare to bet on my conviction that there'll be goals at Mercedes Benz Stadium. There were four at the weekend, and it should have been more, and the likely absence of Atlanta's best defender, Michael Parkhurst, could open them up even more.
It was 3-1 when the two sides met in Atlanta in the regular season, and with both teams in such good form over the last 10 games of the regular season, it's a shame that one of them will have to say goodbye so early in this process. This will be comfortably the best knockout round game to watch, and I'm siding with Over 3.5 Goals at2.62.
Recommended Bet Back Over 3.5 Goals in Atlanta United v Columbus Crew @2.60
Houston Dynamo v Sporting KC Friday, 02:30
And finally to Houston. This is the hardest to call of the four knockout round games, as free scoring Houston face the wall of the best defence in the League.
The problem with SKC though is that they have been in dire form, especially away from home, and Tim Melia, who is just about the best goalkeeper in MLS this season, is likely to be missing as Andrew Dykstra continues his understudy duties.
That weakens the visitors significantly, but they're not without hope as they have an outstanding coach in Peter Vermes, and Houston look a little lightweight to me, for all their excellence at home. I just wonder whether the Dynamo have the deep down heart to drag themselves through in a clutch game.
The two know each other well: there've been bruising play off battles in the recent past, and they've met twice in the last three weeks. It was 2-1 here to Houston, and 0-0 at SKC. The latter score is the likelier here, and I'm interested that we can back Under 2.5 Goals at around1.90. That's a price with which we can work, and that's the bet.
Recommended Bet Back Under 2.5 Goals in Houston Dynamo v Sporting KC @1.90