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MLS Cup 2021: which team has reached the most finals?

NYCFC are preparing for their first MLS Cup final on Saturday, while opponents Portland Timbers have been there twice before. But who are the league's most frequent finalists?

Dec 4, 2021; Portland, Oregon, USA; Portland Timbers head coach Giovanni Savarese celebrates with forward Felipe Mora (9) after beating Real Salt Lake to win the Western Conference Finals of the 2021 MLS Playoffs at Providence Park. Mandatory Credit: Troy
Troy WayrynenUSA TODAY Sports

New York City FC will make their first ever appearance in the MLS Cup final when they take on Portland Timbers at Providence Park on Saturday.

NYCFC, who are in their sixth MLS season since their founding, reached the 2021 championship game by beating covid-hit Philadelphia Union 2-1 in Sunday’s Eastern Conference final, Maxi Moralez and Talles Magno scoring the goals for Ronny Deila’s men.

Meanwhile, Felipe Mora and Santiago Moreno netted for Portland as they won the Western Conference with a 2-0 win over Real Salt Lake last Saturday. Having finished with a better regular-season record than NYCFC, Timbers will host the MLS Cup final.

Timbers into third MLS title decider

In comparison to New York City, Portland are MLS Cup final veterans, having contested the fixture twice before: they beat Columbus Crew 2-1 in 2015 to clinch their only league title so far, before suffering a 2-0 defeat to Atlanta United in the 2018 final.

However, Timbers remain some distance shy of the record tally of final appearances boasted by LA Galaxy, who are MLS' most frequent finalists by far.

Maxi Moralez celebrates with the trophy after New York City FC beat Philadelphia Union to win the Eastern Conference final.
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Maxi Moralez celebrates with the trophy after New York City FC beat Philadelphia Union to win the Eastern Conference final.Kyle RossUSA TODAY Sports

LA Galaxy nine-time MLS Cup finalists

Galaxy, who in 2021 missed out on the playoffs for a second season in a row, have reached the MLS Cup final nine times, winning five of them (also a record).

After appearing in the very first MLS championship decider, losing to D.C. United in 1996, Galaxy were again beaten finalists in 1999 and 2001, before defeating New England Revolution in 2002 to win their maiden league title.

After another win over New England in 2005, Galaxy then began a run of four MLS Cup finals in six seasons in 2009, following up defeat to Real Salt Lake with victories over Houston Dynamo in 2011 and 2012, and Revolution in 2014.

Five finals each for New England Revolution, D.C. United

As well as losing three finals to Galaxy, New England have twice been beaten to the trophy by Houston Dynamo, their 2006 and 2007 defeats to the Orange Crush capping a sequence of three successive seasons in which they were league runners-up.

The team’s five MLS Cup final appearances is the joint-second-highest of all time, and no other side has amassed as many without winning a single title.

D.C. United have also been in five MLS Cup finals, but have a rather better success rate than New England. Indeed, they’ve won four out of five, albeit it’s now 17 years since they last qualified for the fixture.

The five most frequent MLS Cup finalists

TeamFinal appearancesFinal wins
LA Galaxy95
D.C. United54
New England Revolution50
Houston Dynamo42
Seattle Sounders42

Seattle regulars in MLS Cup final since 2016

While D.C. United have faded from view as playoffs contenders in recent years, the opposite is true of Seattle Sounders. Sounders have made all four of their MLS Cup final appearances in the last six seasons, beating Toronto FC in 2016 and 2019 to win their two championships to date.

2021 MLS Cup final: times and how to watch

The 2021 MLS Cup final between Portland Timbers and New York City FC will take place at Providence Park, Portland, on Saturday 11 December at 3pm ET/12 noon PT.

Viewers in the United States will be able to watch the game on TUDN USA, TUDN.com, the TUDN App, UniMás, Univision NOW, ABC and the ABC App.

You’ll also be able to follow live-text coverage of the action with AS USA.