We are heading towards the most exciting time of the year for those infatuated with Major League Soccer as the post-season is on the horizon.
The MLS Cup play-offs get underway on the 19th of October, and there has been changes made to how it will run compared to previous years. There is an increased number of teams that will take part with 14 franchises involved in 2019. Each round will also be single-elimination, getting rid of what used to be two-legged affairs.
The odds have already been priced, and it is Los Angeles FC who are the favourites to go the distance and lift MLS Cup in November. It hardly comes a surprise as LAFC were the strongest and most impressive outfit throughout the regular-season, finishing top of the Western Conference, 16 points clear of Seattle Sounders in second, and they were rewarded with the Supporters’ Shield for their efforts.
LAFC are the favourites, but I also believe there are a few other teams in contention. Here’s a few picks of who I think are in with a shout to win the big one in November, I will start with the favourites from the Banc of California Stadium.
Bob Bradley’s side are the market leaders and it is certainly justified. LAFC have been the best side in Major League Soccer this year by a country mile. They have only lost four matches through the regular-season, and they finished at least eight points clear of the other 23 teams in MLS. Carlos Vela has been their talisman in 2019, the Mexican has scored 34 goals this season, smashing the previous record of 31, scored by Atlanta United’s Josef Martinez last season. It isn’t just Vela who has been finding the net for LAFC, Uruguayan Diego Rossi scored on 16 occasions.
NYCFC finished the regular-season top of the Eastern Conference, and that is something that wasn’t predicted by many, and it didn’t look realistic in the early stages of the season either. Their luck began to change after they brought in forward Heber from Croatian side HNK Rijeka, the Brazilian went on to score an impressive 15 goals in 22 appearances. NYCFC will receive a first-round bye after topping their conference, therefore a 4/1 price for them looks like good value. They would also host any further rounds with them being the higher seeds, unless they were to face LAFC in the final.
Seeing Atlanta United priced at 10/1 looks very temping given the fact that they were so dominant last year as they went on to lift MLS Cup on home turf against the Portland Timbers. The price reflects their performances through 2019 which just haven’t been as strong and impressive as last year. The Five Stripes have lost 12 league games this season under Frank de Boer, five more than they lost last year. It looked like Josef Martinez could have been ruled out of the post-season after a recent injury scare, but the Venezuelan looks good to take part which is fantastic. With 27 goals to his name this season, can you rule Martinez out of firing Atlanta to MLS Cup glory in successive years?
LA Galaxy would be my outside punt and the “worth a few quid” bet with them being priced at 20/1. The Galaxy finished 5th in the Western Conference and they have the worst defensive record out of the 14 teams heading into the post-season as they conceded 59 goals. They do have Zlatan Ibrahimovic up top though, a player who has scored 30 league goals in 2019 and can turn a game on its head by himself. That alone is a reason to consider the Galaxy as a team of having an outside chance, however ultimately, their defensive issues will probably cost them.
Overall, I believe the Eastern Conference sides NYCFC and Atlanta United represent the best value, but I think it will be LAFC who receive all the glory in the end. They have just been extremely dominant, and they are so hard to beat. They have a ridiculous amount of goals in them having scored 85 goals in 2019 with more than half of those came from just two players – Vela and Rossi. LAFC are the team to beat, and I’m just not sure that it will happen.