The 2018 MLS Cup matchup is set after Atlanta United beat the New York Red Bulls in the East final, and the Portland Timbers defeated Sporting Kansas City in the West final.
Here are 12 interesting story lines and statistical tidbits to keep in mind when Atlanta hosts Portland at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in the 23rd edition of the MLS Cup (Saturday, Dec. 8, 8 p.m. ET on FOX and UniMas).
If Portland wins MLS Cup ... it will be the second time in four years.
If Atlanta wins MLS Cup ... it will be the 13th different team to win the league championship.
Quite a start: Atlanta United is going for its first league championship in just its second season of play. This would be an impressive feat. The 1998 Chicago Fire are the only expansion team in major U.S. pro sports history to win its league title. That, of course, was a very different MLS. In 1998, there were just 12 teams, and the most established teams were only three years old. There are 23 teams now in MLS and the competition decidedly more challenging. Since 1998, only three other MLS expansion teams have even made the playoffs (2009 Seattle Sounders, 2017 Atlanta United and 2018 Los Angeles FC).
Tata's Atlanta swan song: Atlanta United has reached its MLS Cup moment thanks in large part to its coach, Gerardo "Tata" Martino, who came to Atlanta with an impressive coaching résumé, having coached FC Barcelona and the Argentina national team, among others. After shepherding the expansion juggernaut through its first two seasons, the MLS Cup will be Martino's final game as coach of Atlanta United, as he is reportedly in line to take over as Mexico's national team coach. If he does go on to coach Mexico, Martino won't be the first MLS coach to do so. Juan Carlos Osorio, who coached Mexico in this year's World Cup, led the New York Red Bulls to an appearance in the 2008 MLS Cup.
Savarese's run of success: Giovanni Savarese led Portland to an MLS Cup in his first season as the team's coach. Previously, he enjoyed a successful run as coach of the New York Cosmos of the NASL (a league currently on a hiatus). He took the Cosmos to the NASL final four times, winning three titles. This year's MLS Cup will mark the fifth time in six years that a Savarese-coached team reached the championship game.
#Goals: If you're into goals (and, really, who isn't?), then Atlanta United is the team for you. Atlanta led MLS with 70 goals this season; it scored 70 as an expansion team in 2017. That's more than two goals a game on average over two seasons.
34 and counting: Atlanta United forward Josef Martinez set an MLS single-season scoring record with 31 goals in 2018. With three goals in the playoffs, Martinez set another record for most combined regular-season and postseason goals, topping Roy Lassiter's 33 for the 1996 Tampa Bay Mutiny.
Diego is dynamite: Atlanta might want to keep its eyes on Portland's Diego Valeri. In 2015 , Valeri scored the fastest goal in MLS Cup history, scoring 27 seconds into Portland's 2-1 win.
70K-plus: This year's MLS Cup should shatter the previous attendance record for the league's championship game. In 2002, 61,316 fans watched the Los Angeles Galaxy defeat the New England Revolution at Gillette Stadium in Foxborough, Mass. For the second consecutive season, Atlanta United set MLS attendance records. It averaged a record 53,002 fans a game this season, surpassing the mark for its inaugural season, when United averaged 48,200 per game (Atlanta officials said this season's average attendance was the 17th highest in the world). The 70,526 spectators for Leg 2 of its Eastern Conference semifinal against New York City FC also is an all-time MLS record for a playoff game (70,016 fans showed up to watch Atlanta beat the New York Red Bulls, 3-0, in Leg 1 of the Eastern Conference final).
Hosting MLS Cup and Super Bowl: On Feb. 3, Mercedes-Benz Stadium will join the Rose Bowl as the only stadiums to host both an MLS Cup and the Super Bowl. Atlanta is the host for Super Bowl LIII. The Rose Bowl hosted the 1998 MLS Cup and five Super Bowls (XI, XIV, XVII, XXI and XXVII).
Postponed high school football championships: The Georgia state high school football championships were scheduled to be held at Mercedes-Benz Stadium on Dec. 7-8. MLS Cup is on Dec. 8. Good thing there was a contingency plan in place. Those state football finals now will take place Dec. 11-12.
Celeb sightings: You'd have to imagine FOX's TV cameras will find the plethora of Atlanta's famous hip hop artists who support Atlanta United and likely will be on hand for next week's MLS Cup at Mercedes-Benz Stadium.