With only three games to go for the MLS season to end, we’re left with four teams. Los Angeles FC take on Austin FC in the western conference finals, whereas Philadelphia Union face New York City FC in the eastern conference finals.
For most of the season, these teams did look the most likely to win the MLS Cup, and they’ve proven in these playoffs why that was the case.
Odds taken from BetMGM
Los Angeles FC are the favorites to win the MLS Cup with odds of +100. They won the MLS Supporters’ Shield, which is why it’s no surprise that they’re leading this race as well.
Philadelphia Union, who led the eastern conference table this season, are up next on the table with odds of +225. These are excellent odds for the side that led in the goals for and against table this season in all of the MLS. They were unfortunate not to win the MLS Supporters’ Shield, managing the same number of points as LAFC.
Defending MLS Cup champions, New York City FC, have shown their pedigree once again in the playoffs, but are third on the table with odds of +450. They had a shaky end to the regular season, but are looking capable of beating any opposition once again.
Finally, there’s Austin FC, who have surprised everyone with their rise this season. They’ve got odds of +700, and are capable of putting any team to the sword. Most MLS enthusiasts will believe that the four strongest sides, over the course of the season, have made it to the conference finals.
LAFC have been the favorites to win the MLS Cup for most of the season, but they’re yet to win an MLS Cup. They’ll never have a better chance to win it. Carlos Vela and co have finally got a team that isn’t entirely reliant on him to do it all. They’ve added Gareth Bale and Giorgio Chiellini to their ranks since. Bale isn’t likely to play and Cheillini isn’t likely to start, but the fact that they might not need these legendary players goes to show just how dominant they’ve been all season.
They also face Austin FC in the western conference finals, who are arguably the weakest side of the last four teams in the competition. This will certainly play a part in them having the best odds, but make no mistake, they’re the side to beat.
If we’re looking at the most complete team this season, it’s got to be Philadelphia Union. They’re one of the best run clubs in the MLS, and have been building towards a season like this for a few years. Daniel Gazdag, Mikkel Uhre, Julian Carranza, and Kai Wagner have been terrorizing sides all season.
To stop all of them will take some doing. Even if a team manages to slow them down, they still have to score past Andre Blake’s net, who has been the MLS’ top goalkeeper this season. Los Angeles FC might be the team to beat, but no team has been harder to beat than Philadelphia Union this MLS season.
The defending champions started the season in fine form, and for a while, it looked like their best was better than what every other team had to offer, but the loss of Valentin Castellanos midway through the season was a bigger blow than most of us could’ve expected.
New York City FC went through a poor run of form, following his loan departure, before settling themselves down towards the end of the regular season. They didn’t look the same threat heading into the playoffs, but now find themselves with two games left to defend their crown. Don’t count them out.
Austin FC have been the surprise package this season. Sebastian Driussi has been largely responsible for their ascent. There was a period this season where no team looked more free-scoring than Austin FC, and they’ll be hoping to put forward that version of themselves in the next game. It’s hard to see them beat both LAFC and one of the eastern conference teams to win it all. They have the least to lose among all the teams in the last four, which should help with nerves.
This mostly looks like a three-way tie between LAFC, Philadelphia Union, and New York City FC. Austin FC look like they have just far too much to do.
LAFC have the star quality and depth to make a difference, but they’ve never won the MLS Cup before. They’re also favorites to win, and the pressure might just be too much for them to handle.
Philadelphia Union haven’t ever won the MLS Cup either. However, they’ve been the most solid side all season. The problem for them is that they’re facing a New York City FC side who know what it takes to go all the way. New York City FC showed their experience against a CF Montreal side in the last game, who took more shots and had more possession, but lost 3-1 in the end.
New York City FC are the defending champions but don’t seem to be under the sort of pressure from the outside that most champions have to go through, which seems to be working for them. LAFC and Philadelphia Union are under greater pressure because this feels like their best shot at winning this.
We still think one of LAFC and Philadelphia Union will end up winning the MLS Cup. Philadelphia Union have been close to perfect for most of this season and have the more valuable odds, which is why we think you should stick with them.
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Varun is a web journalist who has been writing on sports for 13 years. He took a shine for the MLS during the 2021 season and has been following it and writing about it since, alongside his work involving the English Premier League, La Liga, and the Serie A. He is deeply interested in soccer analytics and strategy and has aspirations to move into coaching at some point. Email: [email protected]More info on Varun Shetty
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