MLS: Top 5 contenders to win MLS Cup

MLS, Seattle Sounders (Photo by Andy Mead/ISI Photos/Getty Images)
MLS, Seattle Sounders (Photo by Andy Mead/ISI Photos/Getty Images) /
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MLS, Carlos Vela, LAFC
LOS ANGELES, CA – OCTOBER 6: Carlos Vela #10 of Los Angeles FC celebrates his 3rd goal during Los Angeles FC’s MLS match against Sporting Kansas City at the Banc of California Stadium on October 6, 2019 in Los Angeles, California. Los Angeles FC won the match 3-1 (Photo by Shaun Clark/Getty Images) /

1. LAFC

Los Angeles FC, the 2019 Supporters’ Shield winners, are the obvious favorites to win MLS Cup this season. They were eight points better than anyone else in the league last year and a massive 16 points better than their next closest challengers in the West and eventual MLS Cup champions, Seattle.

Bob Bradley’s second-year side knocked down record after record on their way to an all-time best 72 points and +48 goal-differential. They tied the 1998 LA Galaxy for most goals with 85, helped largely by team captain Carlos Vela’s 34, which set a new single-season goals record. Vela took home both the Golden Boot and MVP honors.

For all those accolades they came up short of the grand prize by losing 3-1 to Seattle in the conference semi-finals. MLS Cup, then, is clearly the goal for 2020, though LAFC will compete in any and all competitions they’re a part of. They got their competitive season off to an early start down in Mexico, losing 2-0 to Leon in CONCACAF Champions League play last week.

With the return leg coming this week, they’ll know their fate in that competition prior to MLS kicking off on Saturday, but there’s little reason not to expect another strong year from the team. Even with some regression after 2019’s record-breaking year, they should easily claim home-field advantage in the playoffs.

Questions surrounding the team include how they’ll replace center-back Walker Zimmerman who was dealt for a record-fee to Nashville earlier this month. The team was also dealt a blow with forward Adama Diomande breaking his foot in preseason. He will be sidelined to start the year. There’s also the ever-pressing question of whether Diego Rossi will be sold with the summer window for European clubs the most likely time a deal would be complete.

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But those questions are minimal and this team is stacked from top to bottom. Ex-Red Bull Bradley Wright-Phillips may be on the downswing of his career but has scored over 100 MLS goals and has been added upfront. Dutch national team keeper Kenneth Vermeer has been added in net and big things are expected from midfielders Jose Cifuentes and Francisco Ginella, both signed on TAM deals this offseason. Count on another run at MLS Cup for LAFC this year.