One-third of the MLS season is in the books and the contenders are starting to separate from the charlatans. Broadly, the Western Conference looks much stronger at this point with four of the top five favorites. But someone is going to come out of the East, and once you get to the finals, anything can happen.
Who’s going to mount a serious challenge come playoff time and who lacks the talent to make a real run? Let’s have a look after 18 fixtures.
Even if this is not the Galaxy’s best regular season performance, they’re in a playoff position and have the most talented roster. They’re also proving hard to beat with the second-fewest losses in the Western Conference (three). They have eight draws as well (the most in the West), but there are no draws come playoff time.
The Rapids have the fewest losses in the entire MLS (two) and are sitting on 33 points, one point back of conference-leading FC Dallas but with two games in hand. Colorado have gotten the job done with defense so far, surrendering a paltry 0.6 goals per game this season. I’ve heard a rumor that defense wins championships.
Dallas leads all teams in the Western Conference with 34 points. What Colorado does with defense Dallas does on the attack, averaging an MLS-best 1.5 goals per game. Two-thirds of those 30 goals were scored at home, so good luck beating this team in Dallas.
Just like the other three favorites, Sporting Kansas City comes from the Western Conference. The won the MLS Cup in 2013, beating the Real Salt Lake in the final. But if they’re going to top the Galaxy, Rapids, and FC Dallas and reach the pinnacle of the league, they’ll need to plug some defensive holes. They are one of just three teams in postseason spots with a negative goal differential right now.
You don’t sign David Villa, Andrea Pirlo, and Frank Lampard if you are not aiming for a championship. All three have a UEFA Champions League title on their resume; Villa and Pirlo are also World Cup champions. This team was built to win the MLS Cup and is great value at 10/1.
New York Red Bulls: 10/1
Real Salt Lake: 12/1
Montreal Impact: 16/1
Vancouver Impact: 16/1
Philadelphia Union: 20/1
Portland Timbers: 20/1
Toronto FC: 20/1
Columbus Crew: 25/1
DC United: 25/1
New England Revolution: 25/1
Orlando City: 33/1
Seattle Sounders: 33/1
San Jose Earthquakes: 50/1
Chicago Fire: 66/1
Houston Dynamo: 66/1
(Photo credit: Arturo Pardavila III [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons.)
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