LAFC stands as the clear favorite to win the 2020 MLS Cup, but the unforgiving Major League Soccer playoff format means that many teams could be considered legitimate contenders to win the title.
LAFC had a monster regular season in 2019, breaking the MLS record by compiling 72 points after losing just four matches, and tying the all-time goals scored record with 85.
LAFC Hunting Trophies in Third Season
It was a remarkable season for a team in its second season of existence. But that only earned them a first-round bye in the MLS Cup Playoffs. After dispatching their crosstown rivals, the LA Galaxy 5-3 in the Western Conference semifinals, LAFC lost to the Seattle Sounders 3-1 in the conference championship game, ending their season prematurely.
The MLS playoffs single-elimination format poses problems for even the most dominant team, and LAFC general manager John Thorrington believes his team needs to win championships to solidify its legacy.
“The bitter taste at the end of last season says everything about what we still want to achieve,” Thorrington told the Los Angeles Times. “Everybody can be justifiably proud on the field, off the field for the success that we have had to date. But there are still trophies out there that we’re hungry to get.”
Bookmakers have pegged LAFC as the team to beat in 2020, though unlike in European leagues where the top teams can be massive favorites thanks to a lack of end-of-season playoffs, it’s far from a sure thing that the favorite will win a championship. FanDuel Sportsbook lists LAFC at +340 to win the MLS Cup, which puts them far ahead of their rivals, but certainly not in shoe-in territory.
2020 MLS Cup Odds
- LAFC: +340
- Atlanta United: +750
- Toronto FC: +750
- NYCFC: +850
- Seattle Sounders: +1100
- Philadelphia Union: +1500
- LA Galaxy: +1800
Odds via FanDuel Sportsbook
Thorrington revamped the LAFC roster this offseason, bringing in a number of young players while letting veteran defenders Walker Zimmerman and Steven Beitashour go. That means the youngest team in MLS will only get younger in 2020.
“It fits our financial model that we want to invest in players who are on the upswing of the bell curve of their career,” Thorrington told the Times. “We’re certainly not in the market to go spend $20 million on 28-year-olds like some of the European clubs.”
Sounders Seek Concacaf Glory Along with MLS Crown
LAFC if far from the only contender for the MLS Cup this year. It would be wrong to dismiss the Seattle Sounders (+1100), who come into the season as the defending champions. Early in the season, however, Seattle – like LAFC and other top MLS clubs – is more focused on competing in the Concacaf Champions League against teams from Mexico and elsewhere in the region.
“To win this would be absolutely massive,” former Sounders player and current team brand ambassador Brad Evans told SoundersFC.com. “Arguably, it would be the biggest trophy the club has ever won. We talk about our trophy case and what it’s done for the club to push it to the next level. To add that would take this club to a different stratosphere.”
The top teams in the Eastern Conference will also have something to say about the MLS Cup, with three main contenders rating above Seattle at the moment. Atlanta United (+750), Toronto FC (+750), and New York City FC (+850) are all considered top-tier contenders for a championship this year.
The MLS season begins on Saturday with a slate of eight Opening Day matches. The MLS Cup final will take place on Nov. 7.