MLS Western Conference Championship 2019 Preview: Predictions and Odds

2019 MLS Western Conference Overview

As it stands heading into the August 17th weekend, the Western Conference is being ruled by LAFC.

The west coast club has a 14-point lead on the second place squad, Minnesota and with just 11 matches left for LAFC, it looks like they’ll hold on to the number-one seed in the conference.

But the remainder of the Western Conference is a bit murkier. Minnesota has 41 points for the 2nd spot but only five points divide the runner-up and the 8th place club, FC Dallas.

What helps the logjam in the West is that the MLS expanded the playoff bracket for the 2019 season. Now seven teams from each conference will make the MLS playoffs, one more than the previous six per conference.

LAFC is headed for the top seed and a first round bye which is huge because the other six teams square off in a one match knockout round with the winner moving on and the loser packing their bags.

So finishing in the 2nd through 4th place spots in the conference are huge advantages because that means home-pitch advantage for the knockout round.

In MLS history, teams with the higher seed playing in a one-game playoff have a .673 winning percentage compared to a .551 percentage in 78 two-legged series.

So even though LAFC appears to be a huge favorite to make the MLS Cup out of the Western Conference, what does history say about their chance?

Who are the Favorites to Win the Western Conference in 2019?

LAFC

First, let’s get all of the eye-popping stats out of the way for LAFC.

The club leads the MLS in wins (17), points (55) and goal differential (+40). They are the only team with allowed goals that remain in the 20s with 25 and are the only team in the MLS to score 50 or more, with 65.

It is a no-doubter that LAFC is running away with the MLS Supporters Shield for best regular season record.

But does winning the Supporters Shield mean success in the playoffs?

Looking at the recent history of the MLS, the answer is no.

Since the inception of the league in 1996, Supporters Shield winners have gone on to win the MLS title only seven times.

In the last ten seasons it has only happened twice, once in 2017 for Toronto FC and in 2011 when the LA Galaxy won the double.

But that is for the MLS title, what about Supporters Shield winners that go on to make the final of the MLS Cup by winning their conference?

Well, that doesn’t happen often either as the only two teams in the last decade to pull off a Supporters Shield and a conference championship are the previously mentioned 2011 LA Galaxy and 2017 Toronto FC club.

Looking at LAFC’s three losses in 2019, does give a path for teams looking to upset MLS’ best club.

All three losses for LAFC this season came on the road against Western Conference opponents but surprisingly only one team, the LA Galaxy is in line to make the playoffs.

Losses to Vancouver and Colorado on the road were each 1-0, but neither team will make the postseason.

Team888Sport NJ
Los Angeles FC-1000

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LA Galaxy

Even though they are tied for third place in the Western Conference and have an unsightly minus-3 goal differential, the LA Galaxy have the second best odds to take the West.

The negative goal-differential is primarily due to the club’s strange record of 13 wins, 11 losses and one draw. Simply put, it has been either a feast or famine outcome for the Galaxy this season.

To their credit, they do have one of the three wins against LAFC this season but if they reach the finals with their crosstown rivals, they’ll have to finish the two-leg final on the road.

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LA Galaxy+1100

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Portland Timbers

Portland made the 2018 Western Conference finals last season before losing to Sporting KC. In 2019, the Timbers are hanging onto the final spot in the conference playoff picture, with FC Dallas just one point behind them in the standings.

Unless they surge, Portland will start the knockout stage on the road where they are currently 6-8-2 (W-L-D) on the year.

Here’s what’s in Portland’s favor. Of their final ten matches, nine of them are at home. This season, the Timbers are 5-2-1 on their home pitch.

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Portland Timbers+2000

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Minnesota United

Minnesota is clinging to the second spot in the Western Conference but that is primarily to their record at home which is 8-1-4. In comparison, they are an unexceptional 4-7-1 on the road.

The rest of the way they play five each at home and on the road, but they face Atlanta, LAFC (twice), Portland, Real Salt Lake and wrap up with Seattle. It is a brutal schedule, that could cause them to tumble down the standings.

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Minnesota United+900

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Seattle Sounders

Another team that shines at home and struggles on the road is the Seattle Sounders.

With 27 points at home and just 12 on the road, the Sounders are another team that desperately needs to climb in that top-4 to be viable.

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Seattle Sounders+900

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San Jose Earthquakes (+1400), FC Dallas (+2200), Real Salt Lake (+2200)

Rounding out the Western Conference playoff picture is three long shots. Starting with San Jose, finished July winning four straight including a road win against the LA Galaxy, but August hasn’t been nearly as kind with a loss to Colorado and tie to Columbus.

FC Dallas has been terrible on the road despite a few solid wins against the best in the MLS this season. For the Texas club to compete they are going to have to find a way to get inside the top-4 and take home field for the knockout.

Despite their top-4 spot in the Western Conference standings, Real Salt Lake hasn’t been given much in the way of confidence from bookmakers. Salt Lake has several tough games down the stretch, including matches with both Los Angeles clubs.

Who Will Win the Western Conference in the MLS?

Although LAFC has dropped a road match to LA Galaxy earlier in the season, there’s not much to dislike with the top seeded team.

What LAFC does well, and by that I mean scoring and preventing opposing teams from scoring, is something the MLS has rarely, if ever, seen.

Barring a slipup at home in the first stage of a two-legger, I fully expect LAFC to take advantage of a weak Western Conference and make the MLS Cup as the prohibitive favorite.

2019 MLS Western Conference Winner Odds

If you are in New Jersey you can bet on MLS events on 888Sport, FoxBet NJ, playMGM, and DraftKings. The odds below are provided by 888Sport.

Odds for Finishing Position – Including Playoffs

Team888Sport NJ
SJ Earthquakes+1100
FC Dallas+1800
POR Timbers+2000
Real Salt Lake+3000
Sporting KC+12500
HOU Dynamo+20000
COL Rapids+40000
VAN Whitecaps FC+50000

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