Your Friday Kick Off

RBNY, ATL in Shield showdown, Week 31 Preview …
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Kick Off: Shield showdown on tap for RBNY, ATL | Key contests dot map Here is everything you need to know about MLS and North American soccer this morning:

Red Bulls host Supporters’ Shield bout vs. ATLUTD

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The biggest match of the round, if not the entire season, will go down on Sunday when Supporters’ Shield leaders Atlanta United invade Red Bull Arena (1 pm ET | ESPN – Full TV & streaming info). Bobby Warshaw runs down the tale of the tape for this main event. READ MORE | PREVIEW

High-stakes Western Conference clashes at Portland, SKC

Fourth-place Portland will try to knock visiting FC Dallas off the West perch in Saturday’s nightcap (10:30 pm ET | TV & streaming info). In our newest MLS Flight Path feature, Phil West examines the roads Timbers star Diego Valeri has traveled to reach the Rose City. READ MORE | PREVIEW

The weekend will close with a meaningful showdown between rivals Sporting KC and Real Salt Lake at Children’s Mercy Park on Sunday night an important Saturday match (5 pm ET | FS1 – Full TV & streaming info). While Kansas City has often been unkind to the Claret and Cobalt, they have managed a 2-1-2 run from their last five league trips over. PREVIEW

East playoff positioning in the offing at D.C., Columbus

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D.C. United will host one of their least favorite opponents, the Montreal Impact, in a crucial contest in their race for the East’s sixth seed (7 pm ET | TVAS – Full TV & streaming info). Though they haven’t topped their Saturday guests in the last seven meetings, Black-and-Red head coach Ben Olsen is confident for this key match, noting how his team has often won when their backs were against the wall this year. READ MORE | PREVIEW

After finishing as U.S. Open Cup bridesmaids for the third time, Philadelphia will hope to shake off the disappointment in time to battle Saturday hosts Columbus for fourth place in the East (7:30 pm ET | TV & streaming info). The home side have notoriously struggled for production from the wing this season, making a recent form jump from young Niko Hansen most welcome indeed. READ MORE | PREVIEW

TFC, Galaxy host crucial contests for fading hopes

Defending champs Toronto FC will put their razor-thin playoff hopes on the line in Saturday’s home duel with similarly desperate New England (7:30 pm ET | TSN – Full TV & streaming info). While the Revs have dropped the last two BMO clashes between the two by a combined 6-1 count, they’ve actually caused loads of trouble there in the past. PREVIEW

Meanwhile, the LA Galaxy and guests Vancouver will each be trying to close on the playoff line in Saturday’s important meeting (10 pm ET | TSN – Full TV & streaming info). Though the Whitecaps have traditionally had the toughest time at StubHub, they’ve actually gone 2-1-1 with three clean sheets on their last four visits. PREVIEW

LAFC, NYCFC hit the road

Expansion darlings LAFC have the chance to at least temporarily grab the top spot in the West with a win in Saturday’s contest at Chicago (3:30 pm ET | Univision – Full TV & streaming info). Bob Bradley’s boys, who are making their first visit to his old stoming ground, have gone six games without a loss. PREVIEW

Having snapped their win drought midweek and clinched their postseason appearance in the process, New York City FC will renew their chase for a Knockout Round bye when they visit Minnesota United on Saturday (8 pm ET | TV & streaming info). It looks as though the Cityzens may need to go without both star man David Villa and defender Maxime Chanot. READ MORE | PREVIEW

Seattle welcome Rapids, Houston host San Jose

On Saturday, two-time defending West champs Seattle will try to enhance their playoff return credentials against a visiting Colorado side with but one goal from their last five games (4 pm ET | TV & streaming info). The Sounders have been bitten by the injury bug again, with both Harry Shipp and Brad Smith set to miss a few weeks with hamstring troubles. READ MORE | PREVIEW

Houston will try to avoid a U.S. Open Cup hangover when they host San Jose for a Saturday tilt (8:30 pm ET | TV & streaming info). This fixture has been kind to the Dynamo, who’ve taken seven of 10 previous meetings in Texas. PREVIEW

Gold Cup ’19 final coming to Chi-Town

On Thursday, Concacaf announced that Chicago’s Soldier Field has been selected as the site of next summer’s Gold Cup final. The venue has hosted tournament games during five previous editions, including the 2011 and 2013 championship matches. READ MORE

Report: USMNT has gauged Tata interest

According to David Medrano of Mexican outlet Record, US Soccer has reached out [in Spanish—ed.] to Atlanta United boss Tata Martino to see if he has any interest in taking the US national team reins. READ MORE

22 Under 22 unveil begins Wednesday

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Yes, you’ve read that right. Our annual rankings of the top young players in MLS has been revamped into the 22 Under 22 list, which we’ll start rolling out on next week. While you wait, feel free to go cast your own ballot in our inaugural fan vote. VOTE NOW | MORE INFO

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