After two years of looking like the class of the Eastern Conference only to be upended by the Dynamo in the playoffs, Kansas City might avoid Houston this year and get their chance to play for MLS Cup. They still have some work to do before that, but without Dominic Kinnear standing in Peter Vermes' way, Sporting have to feel better than they ever have in the postseason.
On the flip side is the New England Revolution, who are back in the playoffs for the first time since 2009. With Jose Goncalves anchoring the defense and Juan Agudelo, Diego Fagundez and Lee Nguyen leading the attack, this team have reignited a once-proud club that had become the butt of jokes around MLS.
Now the Revolution hope their regular season success carries over to the postseason and that they can be this year's Dynamo, Sporting's playoff undoing.
1. Is the Sporting defense beatable? No defense in MLS is nearly as good as Kansas City's, which allowed just 30 goals this season. The next closest team in the East - coincidentally New England -- allowed 38 and they did it despite Matt Besler missing 11 matches. Now Besler and Aurelien Collin are back in the center of defense and it's tough to imagine a way through them
2. Will the New England defense hold up? Early in the season, Jose Goncalves held together what appeared to be one of MLS's best defenses, but they faltered midseason. Goncalves was still good, but not as dominant as he was early on, A.J. Soares struggled and Andrew Farrell's rookie mistakes proved more costly. While they did right the ship late in the season, they still weren't great and they will need to be great to hold off Sporting.
3. Is Jay Heaps ready for this? Jay Heaps has plenty of playoff experience, but it was all as a player. This will be his first playoff match as a coach and after Oscar Pareja doomed the Rapids in his first postseason contest on Wednesday, there has to be concern about Heaps. Will he overthink things? Will he be naïve? Maybe he can handle the playoff pressure, but we don't know it yet.
4. Where are Sporting's goals going to come from? Kansas City's leading goalscorer, Claudio Bieler, has just 10 goals this season and he's coming off of injury. Their second leading goalscorer, Kei Kamara, now plays for Middlesbrough. Sporting have leaned on Soony Saad, Dominic Dwyer and C.J. Sapong up front of late, a trio that has combined for just 10 goals this season so while the defense may look great, KC is a mystery going forward.
5. How much does home-field matter? The Revolution play on one of the league's worst turf surfaces, which isn't great for attractive soccer, but gives them a major advantage. Their normally poor attendance also ticked up as the season went along, finishing with more than 26,000 on hand for their regular season finale. New England may be able to ride their turf and crowd in the first leg.
Match date/time: Saturday, 8 p.m. ET
Venue: Gillette Stadium, Foxboro, MA
TV: NBC Sports Network
Streaming: MLS Live