The 2015 Audi MLS Cup is set. The Western Conference Champions Portland Timbers will face off against the Eastern Conference Champions, Columbus Crew SC. While both teams have made the playoffs, one looks win their first ever championship, while the other looks to win their second in franchise history. With that, this journalist will take you through the playoff runs the home team, Crew SC, has made since joining the league.
1996 - The Crew finished fourth in the Eastern Division that year, with a 15-17 record. They entered the MLS Playoffs straight into the Semifinals. They saw their run end with a 2-1 loss to the Tampa Bay Mutiny.
1997 - Columbus clinched a playoff spot again for the second straight year since becoming a founding team the prior year. They saw another 15-17 record, but ended in third place. The Crew saw a Deja Vu moment when they faced the Mutiny again in the Eastern Division Semifinals, but the tables flipped when the Cre came out on top with a 2-0 win over Tampa Bay. They then went on to lose to D.C. United in the Eastern Conference Finals, by a score of 2-0.
1998 - Improvements had been made in 98', when the cub finished in second place with yet, another 15-17 record in the East. After escaping past the New York Red Bulls in the East Semifinals with a 2-0 score line, the playoff run came to yet another end, when D.C. United defeated Crew SC 2-1 in the Eastern Division Finals.
1999 - A record improvement in the clubs 1999 season saw them end the regular season with 19 wins, 13 losses. That was good enough for another second place spot, and another MLS Cup playoff berth. Now it may sound like a broken record, but after defeating the Tampa Bay Mutiny in the Semifinals, the Crew lost to, whom else, D.C. United in the East Division Finals by a 2-1 score.
2000 - After making the MLS Cup Playoffs four straight years, the club suddenly declined by ending the season in fourth place, with a record of 11-16-5. A switch to the Central division saw more competition, and resulted in Columbus failing to qualify for the postseason.
2001 - After failing to qualify for the playoffs in the prior year since joining the Central division in MLS, the Crew made adjustments to the roster, and style of play, enabling them to rise to second, ending the regular season with a record of 13-7-6. Making the postseason ended real early when they were defeated by the San Jose Earthquakes in the quarter finals, 2-0.
2002 - After making a switch back to the East, and conferences being introduced, the Crew placed second, a 11-12-5 record which got them into the playoffs, yet again. After defeating the Earthquakes in the semifinals, they were extinguished by the New England Revolution in the conference finals by a score of 2-0.
2003 - The Crew failed to qualify for the postseason for the second time in history, when they finished 10-12-8 and saw themselves sitting in fifth place in the East.
2004 - A dramatic change lifted Columbus to the top of the table. Sitting in first place, the club finished 12-5-13 and won their first ever MLS Supporters' Shield. The recent success didn't last long, when they were defeated by the Revolution in the Conference Semifinals, losing 2-1.
2005 - 2007 Three years that made club history, when they failed to make any type of playoff implications. Finishing at a club worse fifth and sixth place, it was easy to tell they were in a drought of something; which needed to be taken care of fast.
2008 - A year that will go down to be the best year in the 12 years the club had existed, they were the team to beat. Finishing in first place in the Eastern Conference, a 17-7-6 record, clinching their second Supporters' Shield, and advancing to the playoffs, put the Crew on the map in this modern day in age. After defeating what was then the Kansas City Wizards in the conference semifinals, they later ousted their bitter rivals, Chicago Fire at home to advance to their first ever MLS Cup. There, they were champions of the league. Defeating the Res Bulls 3-1, the Crew won their first ever MLS Cup.
2009 - Another top class finish in first place by the Crew. Finishing first place to clinch their third Supporters' Shield, and ending the regular season with a 13-7-10 record, they made the postseason, which ended with a 3-2 loss to Real Salt Lake in the Conference Semifinals.
2010 - Columbus finished second in the East, with a 14-8-8 record. They then went on to lose to the Colorado Rapids by a score of 5-4.
2011 - After a 13-13-8 fourth place record, the club entered the playoffs as a wild card team against the Rapids yet again. A 1-0 loss saw their chance of another MLS Cup shatter.
2012 and 2013 - Columbus finished a club worse sixth and eighth place finish and failed to qualify for the playoffs in both seasons.
2014 - A new era had begun for the Crew with a new coach, new owner, and revamped lineup. It was a good year for the club. Finishing third in the East with new coach Gregg Berhalter, they were able to make the Conference semifinals. Under Berhalter, the club saw their playoff series go to waste, after losing to the Revolution by an aggregate score of 7-3; 4-1 in the first leg, 3-2 in the second leg.
2015 (Present) - One more game to glory. The Crew gave all their fans a show this season. The club finished in second place with a 15-11-8 record, enabling them to bypass the wild card round and secure a spot in the Conference Semifinals. They went on to play the most improved team in the league, Montreal Impact. The tables turned dramatically when they were able to defeat the Impact 5-3 on aggregate score. They advanced to play the 2015 Supporters' Shield winners, Red Bulls. After barely squeaking past the Red Bulls, whom they defeated in 2008 for the MLS Cup, they are now in the MLS Cup finals for the second time in franchise history. They are simply, the best team in the league.
You can catch the 2015 Audi MLS Cup Finals December 6th at 4pm EST. The game will be held on the home ground of Columbus, MAPFRE Stadium.