With the end of the PDL season and before the recent RSL resurgence, it’s been hard to work up the interest in putting together a good post here. The last couple of weeks have helped build up a bit of momentum though, and here’s the result—my look at the future of RSL, the PDL in Utah, and MLS in general. I hope you like it.
Turning from the PDL and UTSA, it’s time to look at final third of the MLS season and what went before. MLS still plays a single season bracked by the Concacaf Champions cup at the beginning and the MLS Cup at the end, with a number of interesting activities in the middle. Since these form a convenient outline for the season, I’ll just follow along.
Concacaf Champions Cup
The 2020 Champions Cup saw MLS entrants DC United and the Seattle Sounders acquit themselves well, with both teams making it to the semis where the Sounders fell to Pachuca. DC United beat CD Guadalajara in the semis before falling to Pachuca in the finals.
We won’t know who’s going to the 2021 edition of the cup, since the season not over yet, but DC United has to be the favorite to make a return at try to add a second Concacaf trophy to their shelf (to match the one they earned in the 2015 cup). Seattle, RLS, San Jose, Montreal, Chivas USA, and the Boca Jrs USA all stand a good chance of qualifying for one of MLS’ two slots as well.
US Open Cup
Since the 2013 decision to invite the US Open Cup winner to the SuperLiga tournament, this competition has taken on new meaning for MLS teams. Last year, the USL1’s Tacoma United managed to squeak past the San Jose Quakes in a west coast final. This year may see another USL1 team make it through with FC Detroit playing the Chicago Fire in the finals.
The influx of media coverage and sponsorship money have also made the US Open Cup more attractive to all the teams involved. At this point, the purse is rich enough that every qualifying team gets a small purse, and the deeper a team goes the richer the payout.
This has turned into a great competition with four US (and Canadian) teams, four Mexican teams, and a team each from Brazil and Argentina. Each year the US Open Cup winner, the MLS Supporters Sheild winner, the MLS Cup Winner, and the MLS team with the next best record to the three above) get berths in this tournament.
Last year São Paulo beat Club America in the final, breaking a three year run of MLS victories. This year’s field was offered some great competition, and featured several former SuperLiga winners. Next week will see the semi-finals being played, with Chivas USA facing the Boca Jrs at Azteca on Tuesday and a rematch of the Concacaf semi-finals with CD Guadalajara facing DC United in Washington on Thursday—Goats fans everywhere are hoping for an all Chivas final.
Supporters SheildLast year, the Seattle Sounders had the best record in the league to take this award. This year, they’re in the thick of it again. Here’s the table as it stands now:
|Real Salt Lake||41||22||11-3-8|
|San Jose Earthquakes||39||21||11-4-6|
|Boca Jrs USA||36||23||10-7-6|
|New York Red Bull||32||24||8-8-8|
|New England Revolution||18||23||4-13-6|
|Los Angeles Galaxy||13||21||3-14-4|
Over the last four or five years, Seattle and DC have slugged it out near the top of the rankings every year. Real Salt Lake and San Jose are pretty recent members of the top tier after toiling away in the middle of the pack for many years. Chivas USA and Montreal have been hanging out on the cusp of the top tier of the league for a while too and may be coming on at the right time. Down at the other end of the scale, New England, Columbus, and Los Angeles have been stinking it up for a while and are near the top of most arguments for relegation. Philadelphia and the New York red Bull have also fallen off a bit lately, after spending much of 2013-2017 meeting each other deep in the MLS cup playoffs.
Last year, 2019 DC United took home the MLS cup in an 3-2 aggregate victory over the Seattle Sounders who had beaten them out for the Supporters Sheild. The teams with the top eight points totals will compete in a single elimination tournament, culminating in a home and away final. With nearly a third of the season left to go, it’s still too early to figure out who’ll be in the competition this year—there are a few teams who’re obviously out of the running though.