Editorial (February 9, 2019) – The 2019 MLS season is upon us, and with that brings hope for each and every team in Major League Soccer. While each and every team starts the season with the same chance at winning the Cup, there are certain teams that stand out more than others.
The Top 5 Favorites Going Into the MLS 2019 Season
With MLS expanding to 24 teams this year, the playoffs have expanded to include 14 teams. This expanded playoff scenario will include a new schedule, and a wider range of opportunities for fringe teams to make a run at the Cup.
With the off-season over and training getting into full swing, let’s take a look at the 5 teams that have the highest chance of winning MLS Cup in 2019.
New York Red Bulls
The New York Red Bulls shined in 2018, taking the Supporter’s Shield for the most points throughout the season. They also went up against the eventual winners Atlanta United FC in the Eastern Conference Finals, losing 3-1 on aggregate.
Hopes are just as high in 2019, though, as New York fields virtually the same team, and backs it with a strong draft class from the off-season, aside from the departed Tyler Adams. Bradley Wright-Phillips, on 20 goals from last year, should be strong as ever as the Red Bulls look to avenge last year’s semi-final loss.
Atlanta United dominated throughout the 2018 season on their road to winning the Cup. They never looked likely to fall short, and they are strong favorites for the 2019 season.
However, Atlanta lost both their head coach Tata Martino and one of their star players Miguel Almiron. They still retain the league’s leading goal scorer in Josef Martinez, but they will feel the loss of their great coach and star player.
Los Angeles FC
Los Angeles FC is an interesting, and somewhat perplexing team. The team planned and prepared for their inaugural season really well, fielding a great team backed by a storied and accomplished manager. Finishing 3rd in the Western Conference, they fell in the playoffs to 6th seed Real Salt Lake.
Definitely still the better of the two teams in Los Angeles, LAFC will be a strong favorite to finish on top in the Western Conference and make a strong run to the Cup Final.
LA Galaxy had a very disappointing 2018 campaign, failing to make the playoffs on the final day of the season. However, hope springs eternal, and the Galaxy enter the season with a new head coach and new hopes of a cup run.
By far the biggest off-season move for the Galaxy was retaining Zlatan Ibrahimovic for another year. His 22 goals in his first season in MLS proved he still has a lot in the tank, and he alone could propel the Galaxy to their 6th MLS Cup victory.
Portland Timbers played the role of underdogs splendidly throughout the 2018 campaign, making it all the way to the MLS Cup Final before bowing out to Atlanta in the final. They’ll be underdogs again in 2019, currently sitting at middle of the pack with most odds makers.
However, Portland thrives in that role, and it would be hard to count them out this year again.
While these five teams might be the favorites, every single season in the MLS is full of surprises, and 2019 should be no different.
This article was written by Tim Frechette.