IVES GALARCEP: Chicago Fire 1-2 New York Red Bulls. The Fire began the season with a dominant 10-0-1 home record, but closed out the season on a 2-2-2 stretch at Toyota Park. The Red Bulls earned a draw there late in the season, and will go in confident. Bastian Schweinsteiger could turn this one — the Fire should roll if he plays, but without him the Red Bulls will have the edge.
JON ARNOLD: Chicago Fire 2-0 New York Red Bulls. These teams are relatively even, but with the Fire playing well in Bridgeview this year and having Golden Boot winner Nemanja Nikolic as the X-factor, look for the home side to advance.
THOMAS FLOYD: Chicago Fire 1-2 New York Red Bulls. Chicago is a sure-fire MLS Cup contender at full strength, but this team is a bit banged up and the Red Bulls — with Daniel Royer back in the fold — are better than their six seed would imply.
ALLEN RAMSEY: Chicago Fire 2-0 New York Red Bulls. The Fire have lost just twice at home this season and that, coupled with the Red Bulls having the second most road losses among playoff teams, makes this seem like a safe pick.
BEN VALENTINE: Chicago Fire 1-3 New York Red Bulls. The Red Bulls have played the Fire well this year, winning at home and drawing on the road. Jesse Marsch's decision to rest his big names should also help on a short week.
SETH VERTELNEY: Chicago 1-2 New York. The Fire were very good at home this season, but the Red Bulls have the playoff experience advantage and Bastian Schweinsteiger's uncertain injury status means Sacha Kljestan and Co. will be able to control the midfield.
IVES GALARCEP: Vancouver Whitecaps 1-0 San Jose Earthquakes. Anyone expecting a Whitecaps romp didn't watch the Earthquakes in the final weeks of the season. Chris Leitch has San Jose playing well, but a second trip to BC Place in three weeks is a lot to deal with, and the Whitecaps defense will stifle the Earthquakes attack in a close win.
JON ARNOLD: Vancouver Whitecaps 3-0 San Jose Earthquakes. The Quakes did go into BC Place and come out with a point just 10 days ago, but can they do it again? Expect the Whitecaps to find a way to score and control the game against a San Jose team fortunate to be in the postseason.
THOMAS FLOYD: Vancouver Whitecaps 2-1 San Jose Earthquakes. Don't count out San Jose, which has found the right attacking lineup after months of mixing personnel and formations, but the Whitecaps have plenty of talent and the home-field edge.
ALLEN RAMSEY: Vancouver Whitecaps 3-0 San Jose Earthquakes. It took a bit of magic on the final day to get the Earthquakes in the playoffs, but the club has just three wins on the road all season and Vancouver is simply the better team.
BEN VALENTINE: Vancouver Whitecaps 4-1 San Jose Earthquakes. The Earthquakes have lost eight of their past 10 road games. Every one of those losses was by multiple goals and six of them were by at least three goals. Even though they managed a draw in Vancouver a few weeks ago, it's hard to expect a repeat performance.
SETH VERTELNEY: Vancouver Whitecaps 3-1 San Jose Earthquakes. The Earthquakes barely edged into the postseason, but their minus-21 goal difference is the worst of any playoff team in league history, and is solid evidence they won't be around long. The Whitecaps didn't set the world on fire this season, but they're a steady group who should have enough to see off the Quakes.
IVES GALARCEP: Atlanta United 2-1 Columbus Crew. Atlanta rolled over opponents at home late in the year, but not necessarily top teams. The Crew are the hottest team in the league, unbeaten in 10, and they have the skill and possession game to match up well against the high-flying Atlanta attack. A Crew win is certainly possible, but the crowd at Mercedes-Benz Stadium will propel the expansion team to its first playoff victory.
JON ARNOLD: Atlanta United 3-1 Columbus Crew. Some people are picking Atlanta to make a postseason collapse, and failing to win the last four matches is a concern. Still, between the home-field advantage and the attacking talent, look for Tata Martino's side to snap Columbus' long undefeated run.
THOMAS FLOYD: Atlanta United 3-2 Columbus Crew. Expect this one to be a thriller, with two teams that like to play attractive soccer in front what surely will be a raucous crowd. The timely return of Miguel Almiron should prove decisive for Atlanta.
ALLEN RAMSEY: Atlanta United 2-1 Columbus Crew. Mercedes-Benz Stadium will be rocking and the crowd should be enough to spark the home side in a game between two fairly evenly matched teams.
BEN VALENTINE: Atlanta United 4-2 Columbus Crew. It will be interesting to see how Atlanta fares, given United has beaten up on non-playoff teams over the past two months. But we'll give the benefit of the doubt to the Five Stripes to pull out the win at home in what should be an exciting affair.
SETH VERTELNEY: Atlanta United 3-1 Columbus Crew. The Crew are suddenly the neutral's choice to make a playoff run, but Atlanta has Miguel Almiron back and a home-field advantage few can match.
IVES GALARCEP: Houston Dynamo 2-0 Sporting Kansas City. As tough a blow as A.J. DeLaGarza's torn ACL is for Houston, Sporting KC sorely misses goalkeeper Tim Melia, and will find it tough going into BBVA Compass Stadium and earning a win. The Honduran speedsters Alberth Elis and Romell Quioto should work the Sporting KC fullbacks on the way to a win.
JON ARNOLD: Houston Dynamo 2-1 Sporting Kansas City. SKC looked like a contender until this month. Now they're a team going in the wrong direction while Houston has won three of its last four and is undefeated in six. Add in the fact that Wilmer Cabrera's side has lost just once at BBVA Compass Stadium this season and the signs point to a Dynamo triumph.
THOMAS FLOYD: Houston Dynamo 1-1 Sporting Kansas City (KC wins on PKs). The absence of Tim Melia looms large, but Peter Vermes is pragmatic enough to take his side on the road, lean on that stellar back line and end his club's run of knockout round exits.
ALLEN RAMSEY: Houston Dynamo 1-2 Sporting Kansas City. SKC has come up short in this situation three years in a row but has the experience to sneak past this Houston side this time around.
BEN VALENTINE: Houston Dynamo 2-1 Sporting Kansas City. In a battle of two sides with sparkling home form but very questionable away records, we'll give it to the team at home, especially with Tim Melia out for Sporting KC.
SETH VERTELNEY: Houston Dynamo 2-0 Sporting Kansas City. Sporting KC's defense is the reason they're here, but Houston's counterattacking Honduran duo of Alberth Elis and Romell Quioto can be devastating when in form. The Dynamo took four points from two October matches against SKC, so Wilmber Cabrera's men know how to be successful against this opponent.