Sporting Kansas City, Real Salt Lake consistency rewarded
They aren't the most glamorous or most expensive teams in the U.S. top-flight division but its respective front offices and experienced managers have built deep, fluid and intelligent squads that have, for the most part, had stable campaigns for several years.
Real Salt Lake has developed a touch-pass possession style led by U.S. national-team Kyle Beckerman and Argentine Javier Morales, both of whom already boast an MLS Cup from 2009 when they topped the Los Angeles Galaxy in penalty kicks.
Sporting Kansas City, ever since being rebranded from the Wizards, have turned into a force with its physical play, especially at home, where Saturday's final will be held. Its netminder, Jimmy Nielsen, a Danish vet, and Frenchman Aurelien Collin have combined to help form a brutal backline that has prevented successful attacks in their box that's only surrendered 30 goals in 34 matches in the regular season.
You can't forget Costa Rican Alvaro Saborio for Salt Lake's attack or their goalie Nick Rimando, whose experience also has led him to serve as backup in the national team pool or Kansas City's Matt Besler and Graham Zusi, two more U.S. national team players.
But, more importantly, both sides have focused on young talent and have done well in the draft system to snap up some important signings. It's complemented their structure successfully. It also doesn't hurt that Kansas City and Salt Lake are managed by two league veterans in Peter Vermes and Jason Kreis.
Adding in the passionate atmosphere in the small, yet loud Sporting Park will only help matters as the on-the-pitch scenarios will surely not disappoint both the hardcore and curious casual fans of the league.