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MLS Cup 2022 Preview: A Cup Final in their Home Stadium

For the fourth time in MLS history, the top two ranked teams in the Supporters Shield race will meet in the MLS Cup. It’s the first time since 2003 that this has happened.

LAFC and the Philadelphia Union will square off this Saturday at Banc of California Stadium. Very similar to the Los Angeles Rams in the 2021 Super Bowl, the Black and Gold are hosting the championship game in their home stadium.

Coming into the game, LAFC is the clear favorite, a -125 favorite, with the game set for an over of 2.5. In short, this is the Black and Gold’s to lose. Let’s see how the teams got there, and if there’s any hope for an upset on Saturday.

How LAFC Got Here

LAFC has rocketed to the top of consciousness in MLS since they joined the league in 2018. They had one of the most successful expansion seasons in MLS history, netting 57 points in their first season in the league.

Their first playoff appearance came in 2018, where they were knocked out in the first round. In COVID twisted 2020, the Black and Gold advanced to the final of the CONCACAF Champions League before losing to Tigres UANL 2-1.

The 2022 MLS season was LAFC’s from end to end. They led all season in the Supporters Shield race, defeated their neighborhood rival LAFC in the Western Conference semi-finals, and dispatched regular season pest Austin FC in the Western Conference final 3-0.

As the season went on, LAFC reinforced their roster over the summer transfer window with internationally known names like Gareth Bale and Giorgio Chellini. It’s been a storybook season so far – now all they have to do is take it home.

How the Philadelphia Union Got Here

Standing in the way of LAFC’s presumed destiny is the Philadelphia Union. Like LAFC, they’ve been at the top of the Supporters Shield race, and the Eastern Conference, all season. In contrast to their Western Conference opponent, this group is about the collective team, not about the stars.

That team philosophy comes from their head coach, Jim Curtin, and shows throughout their performances.

Philadelphia defeated Cincinnati FC 1-0 in their first playoff game in the semifinals before facing off against NYCFC, a team that has haunted them since their last Conference Final in 2020. That year, because of COVID, 11 members of the Union’s roster were sidelined with COVID-related illnesses. The Union lost in heartbreaking fashion.

This year, they responded to the adversity of going down in the 57th minute to NYCFC by rallying to score three goals by three different players. Jim Curtin’s men overcame their biggest adversity as a team, just as they were built to do.

We should have an exciting final on Sunday. While I see LAFC taking the trophy at the end of the day, the team-based approach of the Philadelphia Union may hold strong and overtake the mighty Black and Gold. Turn in on Saturday at 4 PM to find out!

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