Skip to content
GO TO bet365 Sports
  1. Soccer
  2. MLS

2023 MLS playoffs Wild Card recap: New York Red Bulls, Sporting Kansas City advance

With the regular season and Decision Day in the rear-view mirror, the MLS postseason began on Wednesday.

The knockout action began with two wildcard matches featuring the teams who finished eighth and ninth in the MLS Eastern and Western Conferences.

New York Red Bulls were up against Charlotte in the Eastern Conference, while Sporting Kansas City clashed with San Jose Earthquakes in the Western Conference, here is a look at how the matches unfolded.

Red Bulls find their wings

It is fair to say it has not been a season to remember for New York Red Bulls.

The club's eighth-place finish was far from ideal and they may not have even secured a spot in the wild card match had it not been for an end-of-season surge which saw them win four of their final five regular-season games.

But on Thursday the club from the Big Apple exploded into life with a 5-2 win over Charlotte to advance to a best-of-three series with Cincinnati in the first round of the MLS playoffs.

It was Elias Manoel who set the tone with the opening goal of the game after ten minutes and the 21-year-old Brazilian went on to bag a surprise hat-trick at the Red Bull Arena.

That treble levelled Manoel's entire regular-season tally in 2023 and was a prime example of a player saving their best for when it matters most.

John Tolkin also got on the scoresheet in the first half, while Tom Barlow bagged his side's fourth goal in the second period.

Pundits and fans alike may now not be as quick to dismiss the Red Bulls in the playoffs and it was an important attacking performance from a club who netted only 36 times in 34 regular-season assignments.

They did, however, concede twice after the break against Charlotte and the team's defensive lapses concerned head coach Troy Lesesne.

After the match, he said: "We need to manage the game really well and I don't think we did that in the second half.

"My focus now is on Cincinnati. If we play like we did in the second half, then we're going to have problems on Sunday."

At +280, the Red Bulls are outsiders to win their first playoff encounter with FC Cincinnati, who are -110 to prevail.

Sporting KC win on penalties

While the Eastern Conference's wild card clash was pretty one-sided, the Western Conference equivalent was a more evenly contested affair.

Sporting Kansas City and San Jose Earthquakes finished level on 44 points in the Western Conference regular season and the sides could not be separated after 90 minutes at Children's Mercy Park.

SKC were by far the stronger side, winning the shot count 18-5 and denying the Earthquakes a single shot on target.

But the visitors clung on to take the game to a penalty shootout, only for Cristian Espinoza and Jackson Yueill to fail with the Earthquakes' first two efforts from the spot.

SKC goalkeeper Tim Melia was the star of the show with a fine save from Espinoza's opening effort and the shot-stopper now boasts a 7-0 win-loss record in shootouts.

Melia's experience in playoffs will be key going forwards and thanks to the 4-2 shootout win, Sporting Kansas City can now look forward to a best-of-three series with St Louis City.

Conference champions await

New York Red Bulls and Sporting Kansas City have been rewarded for their Wild Card wins with playoff series against the champions of the Eastern and Western Conference, respectively.

After their win over Charlotte, the Red Bulls will now come up against Eastern Conference table-toppers Cincinnati in a best-of-three, while SKC face expansion outfit St Louis City in a series of their own.

Cincinnati were crowned Supporters' Shield winners this season, with 20 wins recorded from their 34 league fixtures, while St Louis City defied all expectations to top a competitive Western Conference in their maiden campaign, despite losing 12 matches.

The New York Red Bulls in particular will be up against it, with FC Cincinnati the +350 favourites to go on an win the MLS Cup this season.

Related Articles

bet365 uses cookies

We use cookies to deliver a better and more personalized service. For more information, see our Cookie Policy

New to bet365? Bet $1 & Get $365 in Bonus Bets Join Now

Deposit required. Bonus Bet winnings are added to Bonus Bets balance. Bonus Bet wager excluded from returns. T&Cs, time limits and exclusions apply.