No. 1 vs. No. 1. That’s what’s on tap Sunday in the MLS Cup. The top seed in the Eastern Conference (Philadelphia Union) will face the top seed in the Western Conference (LAFC) for the league championship. It’s the first time this has happened in MLS history, which goes back to 2003.
So is this Goliath vs. Goliath battle a good thing or a bad thing? A Cinderella story in a league’s playoffs is intriguing, but a collision between the league’s two best teams also has a compelling storyline.
There’s no doubt that Philly and LAFC are the best teams this season. That was proven during the regular season. For only the fourth time in its history (previously 1999, 2000 and 2003), the No. 1 and No. 2 teams in the league based on Supporters’ Shield (regular-season points) standings will collide in the MLS Cup. Let’s go back to 2018. Philly and LAFC have more points since then than any MLS team.
How important is home-field advantage?
Here are some things to keep in mind as you’re watching the MLS Cup: Philly has the league’s best goalie in Andre Blake. LAFC has a decent goalie in Maxime Crepeau; injuries might leave LAFC playing with a fourth-string center back in Sebastien Ibeagha; both teams are deadly on restarts, with LAFC scoring 17 times and Philly scoring 13 times in the regular season and playoffs; home field advantage is huge in the MLS Cup, with the visitors winning just three times since 2015 and only once (Portland in 2015) outside of a penalty kick shootout. Seattle in 2016 and NYCFC in 2021 won on PK’s.
Here’s a closer look at Philly’s and LAFC’s playoff road to the MLS Cup:
Philly fell behind New York City FC 1-0 in the Eastern Conference championship game Sunday, but roared back to post a 3-1 victory. Philly fought past FC Cincinnati 1-0 in the conference semifinals after a first-round bye.
After winning the Supporters’ Shield for the second time in four years, LAFC’s goal in the playoffs was to host the MLS Cup game. Mission accomplished. After a first-round bye, LAFC beat rival LA Galaxy 3-2 in the Western Conference semifinals and Austin FC 3-0 Sunday in the conference championship game. LAFC had lost to Austin FC twice during the regular season. If LAFC beats Philly in the MLS Cup, it will become the first MLS team to win the Shield and MLS Cup in the same season since Toronto FC in 2017.
Ready for the game?
Here are the details you need to know about the MLS Cup:
— Game time: 4 p.m. EST Saturday.
— Site: Banc of California Stadium in Los Angeles.
— TV: FOX and Univision.
— Previous meeting: 2-2 tie on May 7.
— Each team piled up 67 points during the regular season. LAFC earned the Supporters’ Shield because it had more victories than Philly (21-19).