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MLS Championship Preview: Which Team Will Win The Cup For The 1st Time In Franchise History?

The 2022 Major League Soccer Championship (MLS) is this weekend. The game will feature the number one seed in the East, the Philadelphia Union, vs. the number one seed in the west, Los Angeles FC.

It would be the first MLS Cup Championship win for either team in the 28-team league. Both teams had a spectacular season and dominant playoff run. Which team will win the cup for the first time in franchise history?

Philadelphia Union

The Philadelphia Union joined the MLS in 2010 and have shown gradual improvement over the years. Philadelphia missed the playoffs six out of their first eight years before becoming one of the league’s best teams. In 2019, the Union recorded their first-ever playoff win against the New York Red Bulls.

The COVID-19 pandemic altered the 2020 season, but the Union saw plenty of success. Philadelphia won 14 games and recorded 47 points, earning the Supporters’ Shield. This trophy is awarded to the team with the best regular season record. Unfortunately, the Union could not build upon their success in the postseason and were eliminated in the first round.

2021 was another successful year for the Union. That year, Philadelphia won 14 games and recorded 54 points which was good for second overall in the Eastern Conference. The Union won their first two playoff games against the New York Red Bulls and Nashville SC before falling to the New York FC in the conference final.

Philadelphia nearly made the championship last year, but this is their best run yet. The Union won 19 games this year and recorded 67 points to finish first in the Eastern Conference. Philly’s 67 points were tied with LAFC for the league lead, but LA had two more wins. Philadelphia defeated Cincinnati and New York City FC in the playoffs to reach the MLS Cup.

The Union are led by the best goalie in the league, Andre Blake. Blake allowed just 26 goals in 34 starts during the 2022 season. His 79.4% save percentage also leads the league. Andre Blake has been with the Union since 2014, so he has plenty of big-game experience.

Philadelphia’s best scorer is midfielder Daniel Gazdag who had 22 goals in 2022, which was tied for the second most in the league. Defenseman Kai Wagner led the team in assists with 15.

The Philadelphia Union scored 72 goals in 2022 to lead the league. Their 26 goals against also led the entire MLS giving the Union an incredible goal differential of +46. This was 18 goals better than the next closest team, the LAFC. In addition, the Union’s five losses this season were the least in the league.

Los Angeles FC

LAFC is one of the newer MLS teams, which was founded in 2014 and started playing in 2018. The team got off to a fast start winning 16 games in 2018 and finishing third overall in the conference but lost in the first round to Real Salt Lake.

2019 was even better for LAFC as they led the entire league with 21 wins and 72 points, earning the Supporters’ Shield. However, the dominating season ended in the conference final with a 3-1 loss to the Seattle Sounders, the eventual MLS Cup Champion.

LAFC won nine out of 22 possible games in the shortened 2020 season to qualify for the last playoff spot before losing in the first round. Unfortunately, 2021 was a rough year for LAFC as the sport returned to its usual format. In 2021, Los Angeles finished with just 12 wins and 45 points, which did not qualify for the playoffs.

In 2022, Los Angeles FC came roaring back to life. The franchise won 21 games and recorded 67 points, earning them their second Supporters’ Shield in their five years of existence. Cristian Arango led the team with 16 goals and was closely followed by Carlos Vela with 12. Vela led LA with 11 assists.

LAFC has one of the league’s best midfielders in Mark Delgado. He had 1,734 accurate passes over the season, ranking the second most in the MLS. In addition, Maxime Crepeau did a great job protecting the net. He allowed just 36 goals in 33 starts which was third-best among full-time goalies.

Overall, LA finished the season with 66 goals which was second behind Philadelphia. LAFC’s 38 goals against them was the third-best in the league. Los Angeles’ dominant 3-0 win over Austin FC in the conference final puts them in a prime position to take home the cup. They will have home-field advantage as they had the best regular season record. LA’s talented roster and the raucous home crowd will be tough to overcome.

Predicting the MLS Champion

Union win 2-1

The two teams faced one another in May in a match that ended in a 2-2 draw. It is the first time in Major League Soccer history that the number one seeds from each conference will play one another for the cup. Both teams are strong and talented, but the Union have the advantage. Philadelphia has proven they are hard to score against and still lead the league in goals scored. This will enable the Union to overcome the raucous LA crowd.

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