It seems fitting that typically wild and unpredictable Major League Soccer would feature a tournament finale that nobody could have anticipated.
Inside the bubble at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex, local club Orlando City SC has experienced its greatest success since joining Major League Soccer in 2015.
Orlando City has never qualified for the MLS playoffs. It finished 22nd out of 24 teams in the Supporters' Shield race last season. First-year coach Oscar Pareja has remade this perpetual loser into one of the most exciting teams in the league in a very short period of time.
Orlando's opponent in Tuesday's MLS is Back Tournament championship game (8:30 p.m. ET on ESPN/ESPN Deportes) will be the Portland Timbers, a team accustomed to success with two MLS Cup appearances and one league championship.
However, Portland‘s road to the title game wasn’t easy. It was drawn into the tournament's "Group of Death." This was mostly due to the presence of Los Angeles FC. The reigning Supporters' Shield winners are a team so deep with young promising talent that even with record-setting goal-scorer Carlos Vela sitting out the tournament, many still predicted LAFC to emerge victorious.
But it was Portland, under the guidance of its colorful coach, Giovanni Savarese, that won the group. And it was Orlando that ousted LAFC in the quarterfinals.
Also at stake on Tuesday night, a spot in the 2021 Concacaf Champions League competition and a big chunk of the $1.1 million in prize money.
Key player for each team
Portland Timbers -- Sebastian Blanco: A player with a penchant for ripping absolute golazos, Blanco has been an offensive force for the Timbers, scoring the winning goal in the team's semifinal win over the Philadelphia Union. With three goals and a tournament-leading five assists, Blanco is a strong contender for tournament MVP alongside Orlando's frontman.
Orlando City -- Nani: The former Manchester United star and Euro 2016 winner with Portugal has turned the clock back to the form of his European brilliance. In arguably the biggest game in Orlando City's brief MLS history to this point, Nani was dominant, scoring two goals in a 3-1 win over Minnesota United in Thursday's semifinal.
U.S. national team hopefuls to watch
Portland Timbers -- Jeremy Ebobisse: A key voice in the league's new Black Players Coalition, Ebobisse has been a powerful force both on and off the field. The 23-year-old Ebobisse is the Timbers' leading goal-scorer during this tournament. Another U.S. national team prospect, Eryk Williamson (23), has been a vital cog in Portland's midfield.
Orlando City -- Chris Mueller: The 23-year-old University of Wisconsin product might have played his way into the USMNT picture with an impressive showing (3 goals) at the MLS is Back Tournament.
Who has the edge?
Surprisingly, despite Orlando's struggles since entering the league in 2015, it holds an all-time series edge against Portland, going 3-1-1.
That being said, Portland has been the most impressive team in this tournament. Historically, the Timbers are notoriously an unrelenting chip-on-their-shoulder troublemaker against any opponent and are no strangers to big games. That intangible makes Portland the pick to win what should be an entertaining finale.
Possible starting lineups
Portland Timbers -- Goalkeeper: Steve Clark. Defenders: Chris Duvall, Larrys Mabiala, Dario Zuparic, Jorge Villafana. Midfielders: Diego Chara, Eryk Williamson, Marvin Loría, Diego Valeri, Sebastian Blanco. Forward: Jeremy Ebobisse.
Orlando City -- Goalkeeper: Pedro Gallese. Defenders: Ruan, Antonio Carlos, Robin Jansson, Joao Moutinho. Midfielders: Jhegson Mendez, Oriol Rosell, Chris Mueller, Mauricio Pereyra, Nani. Forward: Tesho Akindele.
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: MLS is Back Tournament final: Portland Timbers vs. Orlando City SC