Real Salt Lake want to take advantage of their second chance when they visit Los Angeles FC in the Western Conference knockout round on Thursday at Banc of California Stadium.
RSL (14-13-7, 49 points) looked to be on the outside looking in at the sixth and final playoff spot after a 3-0 loss to the Portland Timbers on Oct. 21 to conclude their regular season.
The Royals had a wait a week to see how the Los Angeles Galaxy fared against the Houston Dynamo. The Galaxy led 2-0 in the second half and seemingly had the last spot secured before losing 3-2 to let Real Salt Lake slip into the playoffs.
"The first half you're thinking it's just not happening," RSL midfielder Kyle Beckerman said. "The second half everything changed. It felt like we got another opportunity. It felt like we're playing with house money."
LAFC (16-9-9, 57 points) had already clinched a spot going into the final day on Sunday but squandered a chance to finish atop the conference by losing to Sporting Kansas City. Instead, LAFC are the third seed.
Still, LAFC set a record for most points by an expansion team, and they look to join the 1998 Chicago Fire as the only first-year club to win the MLS Cup. Current LAFC coach Bob Bradley was the Fire coach back then.
Even though LAFC is new to MLS, they have veteran quality such as Mexican World Cup forward Carlos Vela.
"What's special about this team is we have a lot of guys with playoff experience or experience playing big matches," LAFC midfielder Lee Nguyen said. "Bob (Bradley) is experienced in this as well."
If LAFC win, they would host the second-seeded Seattle Sounders in a two-leg conference semifinal starting Sunday in Los Angeles. Should RSL win, top-seeded Sporting Kansas City would visit Sandy, Utah, on Sunday in the first of two games.