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MLS Cup predictions: Champs make strong start but look out for LAFC
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Ian Wilkerson
Ronny Deila celebrated MLS Cup glory with New York City FC last season
Ronny Deila celebrated MLS Cup glory with New York City FC last season

It is a tight affair in both the Eastern Conference and Western Conference as the Major League Soccer season heads towards the halfway stage.

And the playoff system should ensure that virtually every team has something to play for.

With the World Cup in Qatar looming large this winter, those games have been brought forward to October to ensure the MLS Cup final can be played on November 5.

We take a look at how things could pan out as New York City FC and Los Angeles FC lead the way in their respective divisions. 

Coming from behind

Rather than just having the winners of both divisions square off for MLS glory, the top seven from each of the 14-team leagues go through to the playoffs. 

The winners receive a bye to the Conference semi-finals — but that cannot be seen as a guarantee of success. 

New England Revolution finished 19 points ahead in the Eastern Conference last year but were beaten on penalties by New York City, who had finished fourth and went on to lift the trophy. 

They beat Portland Timbers, who had occupied a similar berth in the other conference, so no one should give up hope this season. 

Watch out for Seattle and Philadelphia

New York City have picked up from where they left off under former Celtic boss Ronny Deila, conceding just once in their last eight games in the MLS and US Open Cup.  

The holders know what it takes to come out on top but some of their rivals will hope they have reached their peak already and are ready to pounce. 

Philadelphia Union are just a point behind in second, having lost just one game so far this season. 

They have become the Eastern Conference's draw specialists as six of their last seven league games have finished level — but expect them to push on in the second half of the campaign. 

There is also a good chance the Seattle Sounders could make some strong progress. 

Brian Schmetzer's Seattle Sounders have been to four of the last six MLS Cup finals
Brian Schmetzer's Seattle Sounders have been to four of the last six MLS Cup finals

Brian Schmetzer’s team won the CONCACAF Champions League 5-2 on aggregate in May thanks to a 3-0 second-leg win over Mexico's Pumas UNAM — and it is safe to say that competition has been their focus. 

Now back in domestic action with work to do to make the playoffs, the Sounders should be equipped to get into the mix and are an interesting proposition. 

They are 11th in the Western Conference but have games in hand and there is still plenty of time. 

Los Angeles outshining their city rivals

No team boast more MLS Cups than LA Galaxy, who have won it on five occasions, but it is LAFC who are making a good early impression.

They have already shown their fighting qualities by bouncing back from defeats to Austin and Colorado to beat San Jose and Columbus Crew.

And confidence should be high in their camp after establishing a four-point lead in the Western Conference. 

One defeat in their eight home matches so far bodes well for a first success in the competition and they look to be worthy favourites.


Major League SoccerNew England RevolutionNew York City FCPortland TimbersPhiladelphia UnionSeattle Sounders FCLos Angeles FCLA Galaxy
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