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Soccer on TV: The Portland Timbers and New York City FC play for Major League Soccer’s championship

Plus the championship game of Mexico's playoffs, and big games in Italy, England, Spain, and more.

Portland Timbers' fans "tifo" banner displays are among the best in MLS, and they should have another special one at Saturday's championship game.
Portland Timbers' fans "tifo" banner displays are among the best in MLS, and they should have another special one at Saturday's championship game.Read moreAmanda Loman / AP

Qatar vs. United Arab Emirates

Friday, 2 p.m. (FS1)

Regular readers of this column have learned over time about how the rivalry between these nations has been expressed through soccer, especially Qatar’s funding of Paris Saint-Germain and the UAE’s funding of Manchester City. Now the national men’s soccer teams meet on the field for the first time in two years, in the quarterfinals of FIFA’s Arab Cup that Qatar is hosting.

» READ MORE: More games to watch in the Arab Cup

Chelsea vs. Leeds United

Saturday, 10 a.m. (Peacock)

This isn’t the most prominent Premier League game of the weekend, but if you’re a fan of soccer history, it’s the one to watch. Chelsea and Leeds have been rivals for decades, even through the long stretch when Leeds had fallen out of the Premier League. This game has plenty of stakes too, especially since Chelsea’s last two games have been a 3-2 loss at West Ham in the Premier League and a 3-3 tie at Zenit St. Petersburg in the Champions League.

» READ MORE: The rest of this weekend's Premier League schedule

Venezia vs. Juventus

Saturday, noon (Paramount+)

We could see three Americans on the field in this game: Venezia’s Gianluca Busio and Tanner Tessmann and Juventus’ Weston McKennie.

» READ MORE: The rest of this weekend's Serie A schedule

Portland Timbers vs. New York City FC

Saturday, 3 p.m. (6abc, UniMás, TUDN; kickoff time is 3:23 p.m.)

Though the Eagles are on a bye week, you might still see some green jerseys sported at local sports bars this weekend, especially those that feature soccer. Timbers fans in Philadelphia will be joined by Union fans rooting for New York to lose after ending the Union’s season one game short of the MLS Cup final.

The game will be full of attacking stars: New York’s Valentín Castellanos, Jesús Medina and Santiago Rodríguez against Portland’s Sebastián Blanco, Santiago Moreno, and Dairon Asprilla. The midfield duel between New York’s Maxi Moralez and Portland’s Diego Chará should be spectacular. And the bench options are loaded with storylines. Will New York’s $8 million man Talles Magno score another big goal? Will Portland’s Diego Valeri write another chapter in his Timbers legend?

This much is certain: the atmosphere at Providence Park will be off the charts. The 1,010th official game for the Timbers organization in its 46-year history, going back to the original NASL, will be its first championship game played on home turf in the Rose City.

A soccer hotbed with few equals will finally add a MLS Cup final to a big-game legacy that dates back to Pelé’s last official game, the 1977 NASL Soccer Bowl. Portland has also hosted one of the all-time U.S. men’s World Cup qualifiers in 1997; a women’s World Cup semifinal in 2003; the MLS All-Star Game in 2014; NWSL championship games in 2015 and 2018; and this year’s Women’s International Champions Cup.

With all due respect to the other great soccer stadiums and cultures across the U.S., Providence Park is America’s best place to watch a soccer game — and one of the few venues where the atmosphere really comes through on television. If you’ve never seen a game played in Portland, make this one your first.

» READ MORE: The most famous fan in Portland Timbers history has family roots in Bucks County

Gent vs. Genk

Sunday, 12:30 p.m. (ESPN+)

Mark McKenzie and Genk return to domestic affairs in Belgium after a 1-0 home loss to Rapid Wien in the Europa League that ended this season’s European campaign.

Real Madrid vs. Atlético Madrid

Sunday, 3 p.m. (ESPN+)

The Madrid derby is always a big game, and it should be again here as Karim Benzema leads Real against Rodrigo de Paul and Atlético.

» READ MORE: The rest of this weekend's La Liga schedule

Paris Saint-Germain vs. Monaco

Sunday, 3 p.m. (beIN Sports, beIN Sports Español)

If your team had an 11-point lead in first place atop the league, you’d probably be thrilled. But because we’re talking about PSG, the fact that Lionel Messi and company played ties in their last two domestic games — scoreless vs. Nice at home on Dec. 1 and 1-1 at Lens last Saturday — has raised eyebrows.

» READ MORE: The rest of this weekend's Ligue 1 schedule

Atlas vs León

Sunday, 9:15 p.m. (Univision 65, TUDN)

Liga MX crowns its champion at Guadalajara’s historic Estadio Jalisco as Atlas tries to bring the home fans the club’s first title since 1951. The first game of the series was spectacular, a 3-2 León home win with many spectacular goals. Víctor Dávila’s acrobatic volley from the top of the 18-yard box in the 37th minute for León’s opener was one you have to see.