The MLS Cup Playoffs begin today, but not for the Philadelphia Union. Philly is one of two teams who have a first-round bye, having secured the number one seed in the eastern conference. As a top seed in the conference, you’d assume Philly would be a favorite to win MLS Cup. They have second-best odds to lift MLS Cup on November 5th. While this is important, seeing Philly’s path through the playoffs makes them a true favorite to win MLS Cup!
Philadelphia Union’s path to MLS Cup
Philly’s second-best odds in MLS are fitting of their standing. They were tied on points with LAFC to end the season but missed out on being the “best team in the league” because of having fewer wins than the team from Los Angeles. The stellar regular season, see’s Philadelphia have a big advantage.
Their side of the bracket in the east has them playing either four-seed New York Red Bulls or five-seed FC Cincinnati. Should they win that match, they then would host the conference final yet again; this time against one of the four teams that they beaten in 2022. Making MLS Cup would be huge, and it could be at home should it not be against the top seed in the west!
This path for Philly is one that presents the opportunity for the club to reach its goal of hoisting MLS Cup. The goal is not farfetched, but it will take some major concentration in win-or-go-home matches.
Cincinnati or Red Bulls in conference semis
Philly’s first opponent in the 2022 Audi MLS Cup playoffs will be determined today when FC Cincinnati takes on New York Red Bulls in Harrison New Jersey today. Of the two teams, Philly fans will be rooting for an unexpected side.
If you were to say back in 2021, who would you rather play: Cincinnati or Red Bulls, 10 out of 10 people would say Cincinnati. They were the worst team in MLS for three years in a row, and Red Bulls are a perennial playoff team in the east. In 2022, Cincinnati has an attack that can score three in the blink of an eye and make things very tough on their opposition; Red Bulls are still a playoff side, but they don’t look like a side that can win a game in a pinch.
Union fans will likely be pulling for Red Bulls to find a way to squeak out a win against Cincinnati in this one. Philly took four of six points off of New York this year and has their number in the playoffs. On the flip side, Cincinnati took four of six points against Philly. Their contingent of former Union executives, coaches, and players could make for a trap game. Let’s hope we see Union-Red Bulls next Thursday.
Orlando, Miami, NYCFC, or Montreal in the conference final
The other side of the east bracket holds scrappy teams from Florida, the reigning MLS Cup champion, and a sneakily strong 2-seed Montreal. These teams will all duke it out this weekend to see who can make it to round two, and will likely take all the fight out of each other by the time they reach the conference finals.
Orlando made it into the tournament on decision day and now has to travel to Montreal. While they’ll give a bit of fight and try to muck up the game, Montreal should win at home. Miami will come to NYC and use their chaotic energy and anger over a change of venue from a soccer field to a baseball stadium to push them to take it to the reigning champions. I have a feeling the winner of this match will give Montreal some serious problems in the conference final.
When it comes to this side of the bracket, the teams are strong and can get a win on any given day, but can they do it in front of a packed Subaru Park? That’s the scenario, as Philly will play at home in the conference final should they get there. Now if they want to realize their goal, and play for a trophy, then they’ll need to win that match. If they do there’s a good chance they could play for MLS Cup at home!
West teams 2-7 would come to Chester for MLS Cup
Philly will host MLS Cup Final should they get there and LAFC does not. That’s huge for this Union team that is undefeated at home in 2022! They have turned Subaru Park into a fortress that very few road teams have had success in. Now should they get to play this match at home, they’d have to be the overwhelming favorite!
There are some very strong teams in the west that could go on a Cup run, but if they have to travel to what could be a cold and wet Philadelphia on November 5th, then they may have a difficult time getting a result. Whether they play Austin, Dallas, LA Galaxy, Nashville, Minnesota, or Real Salt Lake, Philly should be the ones to lift the Cup if the game is in Subaru Park.
The goal all season has been to get to MLS Cup. Sporting Director Ernst Tanner and Head Coach Jim Curtin set that president not too long after Philly fell in the eastern conference final last year. Now they could be on the verge of actualizing this goal. They are a true favorite to win MLS Cup in 2022, get on the bandwagon now if you aren’t already!
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Mandatory Credit: Philadelphia Union, Andrew Zwarych