There are still six weeks left in the MLS regular season, but Philadelphia Union clinched their spot in the 2023 MLS Cup Playoffs! After falling just short of winning the Cup last season, Philly now knows that they will be in the playoffs yet again. Will they be able to run it back and play for the Cup in the changed playoff format?
PLAYOFFS?! The Union isn’t satisfied yet.
It feels like just yesterday that the Union was a perennial mid-level team in MLS’s eastern conference. For so many years they were on the outside looking in. There was no direction from the club, no sporting director to create a philosophy and a cheap owner who wouldn’t pay for a superstar (this one is still true). Now, the Union is the exact opposite of that. They have made the playoffs for six straight seasons, each year getting better and better.
Philly may have clinched a playoff spot for the 2023 MLS Cup Playoffs, but they are not satisfied with that. As Jim Curtin said after a 2-2 comeback draw against Charlotte, the team isn’t popping champaign. There are still games to be played that can solidify the Union as a high seed. After that, the goal is to get back to the MLS Cup and win it this time!
Six straight years of playoff soccer!
While the team isn’t having any champagne showers, the achievement of six straight years of playoffs should still be celebrated by fans, especially when you look at this team’s trajectory since 2018! Over the last six years, Philadelphia has improved on an upward trajectory and hasn’t dropped in terms of success. Here’s a look at the last six years:
- 2018 – Made playoffs; lost first round at NYCFC.
- 2019 – Hosted first playoff match since 2011; won first playoff match vs. New York Red Bulls; fell in the second round at Atlanta.
- 2020 – Won Supporters’ Shield; made playoffs; lost first round vs. New England.
- 2021 – Hosted three playoff matches; beat New York Red Bulls and Nashville SC; lost to NYCFC in eastern conference final.
- 2022 – Hosted two playoff matches; beat Cincinnati and NYCFC; made MLS and lost on PKs to LAFC.
The 2023 season was all about going far in all competitions (MLS, CCL, Leagues Cup, and Open Cup). They did this in CCL making the semifinals, and Leagues Cup taking third place (securing Champions Cup soccer next season). Philly did crash out in the Open Cup, but now they will be in the MLS Playoffs.
All of this is going toward the goal of playing 50+ games and winning a trophy. They fell short in CCL and Leagues Cup in the semifinal rounds, can the MLS Cup Playoffs be different; can Philly win the whole F’in thing?
Can the Union win the whole F’in thing this time around?
This season has been up and down for Philly by the new standards the team and the fans have for this team. The goal was to compete in multiple competitions and win a trophy. We can check off half of that goal, they have been competitive; however, Philly has let chances at playing for trophies slip away this year.
In the Champions League Semifinal Philadlephia had a late one-goal in leg one against LAFC. It looked like the job of getting revenge and the upperhand was completed. That is until a 90+1 minute slip up leading to an equalizer. Coming into Leg-two tied meant Philly would need a big win at LAFC; they lost 3-0. In the Semifinals of Leagues Cup they took on new-look Inter Miami with Messi. The Union was dominating the tournament and showed a gritty mentality. However, in the semifinal they changed their formation and personnel in the line up and got played off the field by world class players 4-1.
Couple these bad results in semifinals with a first round exit in the US Open Cup at Minnesota, and dropping crucial points in league games that were winnible and would have put them in the race for the Supporters’ Shield, makes MLS Cup the only shot at a trophy this year. So can they go after it and win it?
Jim Curtin spoke about his team after their most recent draw at Charlotte. He said that his team was good enough to beat anyone in this league, but if they are not mentally sharp on the day, anyone can beat them. While this is a bit of a cliche, he literally described any game of soccer being played, this is something that will determine what version of the Union we will see in the Playoffs. If the team plays to their potential, they can win the whole F’n thing. If they come out flat, they will crash out of the newly formated best-of-three first round of the playoffs.
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Mandatory Credit: Philadelphia Union