Entering the 2020 MLS Cup Playoffs, the lowest seeds to ever reach a Conference Final were a handful of five-seeds.
Heck, there wasn't even an eighth seed in the MLS postseason until this year, when 18 teams qualified, including 10 from the Eastern Conference. But despite entering the playoffs as one of the lowest seeds -- and needing to survive a Play-In Round -- the New England Revolution are still alive as the No. 8 seed as they prepare to battle the Columbus Crew for a spot in MLS Cup 2020.
So how have the Revs managed to reel off their longest winning streak of the season -- three games -- after finishing the regular season with a middling 8-7-8 record?
"I think in a single-elimination, it favors the team that’s the underdog because it’s a one-and-done," said Revolution Sporting Director and Head Coach Bruce Arena during his media availability on Tuesday afternoon. "If it’s over a series of games, whether it’s two games that the league has had in the past or even three games when I first started in the league where it would be best out of three, I think a one-off can favor the underdog.
"We’re in a low-scoring sport, it’s not like some other sports where you can make up a deficit in a game a lot easier. Obviously we have to get past Columbus before you can even think about winning a championship, but I think our team can do that.”
After opening the postseason with a thrilling 2-1 win over the Montreal Impact thanks to a Gustavo Bou goal in the fifth minute of stoppage time, New England has knocked off Supporters' Shield winner Philadelphia and Orlando City to reach the Eastern Conference Final against the third-seeded Columbus Crew.
The challenges on Sunday afternoon will be steep for the Revs, who haven't won in Columbus since the 2014 MLS Cup Playoffs and are just 1-6-1 in their last matchup against the Crew. It will be the first meeting between the sides since April 2019 -- before Arena was hired -- but he still knows what his squad will be up against.
"I think Orlando was a difficult team to prepare for. I think Columbus is slightly easier for me because I know some of the players that have played for me there," Arena said. "I didn’t see any great advantage in having played Philadelphia five previous times (this season) because they knew us inside out. I think when we step on the field on Sunday to play Columbus, neither team is going to be that certain of each other so it’ll make it interesting and I kind of enjoy that."
What Arena and the Revs would enjoy even more? Picking up another victory, giving New England a shot at its first title in six trips to MLS Cup and Arena a chance to win the sixth championship of his MLS career.