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TUKWILA, Wash. – For the Seattle Sounders, the Western Conference bracket for the 2017 Audi MLS Cup Playoffs is littered with familiar foes.

They’ll take on the first of those on Sunday, making the trip across the border for the first leg of their semifinal with the Vancouver Whitecaps (8:30 pm ET | ESPN, TSN 1/4, TVAS2). The match will actually be the clubs’ first in the postseason in the MLS era, but their 144th overall dating back to their days as members of the North American Soccer League.

It also pits the Sounders against a Whitecaps side they beat 3-0 at CenturyLink Field in their last meeting on Sept. 27, but one riding high after a 5-0 romp over the San Jose Earthquakes in their Knockout Round match on Wednesday.

“I wanted Vancouver, not because they’re a better matchup for us, but simply because it’s a shorter distance for us to travel,” Sounders goalkeeper Stefan Frei said this week. “We’re saving each other a bit there. But it’s going to be difficult. They’ve proven that they’re very lethal, very efficient up top. They’re a good counter team, they’re crafty. They’re a good side.

“We’re going to have to be ready. But we believe in our ability and we’re going to try and play our game and get something up there.”

The Whitecaps and the Sounders aren’t the only Cascadia representatives to feature in this year’s postseason. The Western Conference and Cascadia Cup champion Portland Timbers face a semifinal of their own against the Houston Dynamo on Monday and, if they manage to advance, it would guarantee an all-Cascadia Western Conference championship.

“I didn’t like Caleb [Porter] holding up the Cascadia Cup, that’s the only thing I didn’t like about it,” Sounders head coach Brian Schmetzer said. “I saw the photo on social media. That stung a little bit.

“But it is a testament to this part of the country, this part of the world. It’s a soccer hot-bed. It’s three ultra competitive teams in a close geographical area and it makes for super good rivalries.”

As for his team’s upcoming series with Vancouver, Frei expects an opponent looking to make a regional mark of its own. If the Whitecaps manage to make a run to MLS Cup this season, it will mark the third-straight year a Cascadia team has made it to the final following Seattle’s championship run last season and Portland’s in 2015.

“I wish we were the only ones [in the playoffs]. You want your rivals to not do well. You want to see them suffer,” Frei said. ”I’m sure they feel the exact same way, otherwise it wouldn’t be a true rivalry. But at the same time, it’s great. As a soccer fan in the region, it’s fantastic. It shows that all three teams are very well supported, take a lot of pride in the product on the field and they’re very ambitious.

“Obviously the Timbers have won an MLS Cup, we’ve won one now as well and I’m sure Vancouver wants to win one now as well.”

Seattle will likely have to brave the first leg at least somewhat shorthanded as forward Jordan Morris, and midfielders Victor Rodriguez and Gustav Svensson are all nursing injuries and were limited at training throughout the week. 

However, team captain Osvaldo Alonso could be poised to work his way back into Seattle’s starting XI after returning to full training following a quad injury that has sidelined him since that win over Vancouver on Sept. 27.



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