Even though Portland and Orlando City will play for a trophy that did not exist when Major League Soccer began the season back in March, all eyes are on that hardware now.
The MLS is Back Tournament concludes Tuesday at the ESPN Wide World of Sports complex near Orlando when the two teams meet for a spot in the 2021 CONCACAF Champions League.
The tournament was created in response to the season put on hold in mid-March because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Upon its return to action, the league invited all 26 teams to Florida in hopes of providing a safe training and playing environment.
After a rough start to the proceedings, when FC Dallas and Nashville SC were removed from competition after positive COVID-19 tests among their players and staff, the tournament has been competitive and has been able to showcase the league.
Portland is a perennial playoff contender, won MLS Cup in 2015 and has experience on its side.
"It's a great feeling," Portland forward Jeremy Ebobisse said. "We came here with one goal and that's to lift the trophy at the end of the tournament, and now we're one game away.
"All the work that we've put in, and all the sacrifice that we've put in is all starting to pay off, and we've got 90 more minutes, and we've got a full team ready to step in."
Orlando has been the underdog story under first-year coach Oscar Pareja. The Lions have not qualified for the postseason or won a championship in any competition since joining MLS in 2015.
"It's huge, for the club, for the city, for all of us on the team," Orlando defender Robin Jansson said. "We are not there yet, but we have one game left, and we need to put everything out there and we're gonna chase a good result."
Portland's attack is engineered by Ebobisse and Sebastian Blanco. Ebobisse has four goals in the tournament, while Blanco has three goals and three assists on the Timbers' 12 goals scored in the event.
Of Orlando's 11 goals, Nani has contributed to six (three goals, three assists).
--Field Level Media