MLS Preview and Prediction: Philadelphia Union vs Columbus Crew

Major League Soccer: Philadelphia Union vs Columbus Crew

Talen Enegry Stadium – Wednesday, July 26 – 19:30 ET (00:30 BST)

Match Odds: Philadelphia 7/5 – Draw 12/5 – Columbus 17/10

Philadelphia Union vs Columbus Crew: Preview

Wednesday evening sees Philadelphia Union take on Columbus Crew for the second time in four days. The two are separated by eight points ahead of the game, with Columbus three places higher in the Eastern Conference.

Philadelphia lost 1-0 away at Columbus last Saturday. Their fans will be hoping they can overturn that result this week, however they face a tough task to do so.

The Union have been inconsistent this season and are 9th in the East as a result. They have lost two in a row, but have only lost one of their last seven home games, winning five.

Columbus Crew are 6th in the Eastern Conference coming into Week 21. They will want to make it back-to-back wins against Philadelphia on Wednesday evening. However, after their 1-0 win on Saturday evening, they know this is not going to be a walk in the park.

Gregg Berhalter will have his side well prepared for this game. Another three points here would put them up to 4th in the table, increasing their playoff hopes at a vital stage of the campaign.

Worryingly for Columbus they have only won one of their last five away games, losing the other four. But that win did come in their latest road trip, so they do have something to build on.

Philadelphia Union vs Columbus Crew

Columbus Crew dressing room vs Philadelphia Union via: Crew SC on Twitter

Philadelphia Union vs Columbus Crew: Team News

The Union could be without six players through injury as Maurice Edu, Fabian Herbers and Derrick Jones are out. Raymon Gaddis, Fafa Picault and CJ Sapong are all doubts. Andre Blake and Chris Pontius are away on international duty and will face each other in the 2017 CONCACAF Gold Cup Final on Wednesday night.

Columbus Crew could also be without six. Gaston Sauro and Ben Swanson remain out for the rest of the season. Niko Hansen, Mohammed Abu and Nicolai Naess are all doubts. Federico Higuain will be the biggest miss for Columbus.

Philadelphia Union vs Columbus Crew: Key Points

Philadelphia Union’s last five: W/W/D/L/L

Columbus Crew’s last five: L/W/L/W/W

Key Stat: Nines – The Columbus Crew trio of Higuain, Kamara and Meram have netted 27 goals between them this season, all with nine goals each. That’s one more than the entire Philadelphia Union side has managed in 2017.

Key Player: Justin Meram – Columbus Crew’s No. 9 has contributed to 14 of his sides’ 31 goals in the 2017 regular season. If he’s on song here, the Union will struggle to contain him.

Philadelphia Union vs Columbus Crew: Prediction

Philadelphia Union 1-2 Columbus Crew –Philadelphia to fall short against Columbus again. Recent form and stats give Columbus Crew the edge, but they are going to have to improve on their away performances if they are to take all three points in what should be an intriguing matchup between the pair again.


MLS Preview and Prediction: Atlanta United vs Columbus Crew

Competition: Major League Soccer – Atlanta United vs. Columbus Crew SC
Venue: Bobby Dodd Stadium – Saturday, June 17 – 19:00 ET (00:00 BST)
Match Odds: Atlanta 19/20 – Draw 13/5 – Columbus 5/2

Match Preview

Atlanta United welcome Columbus Crew to Bobby Dodd Stadium on Saturday evening for their first ever MLS clash, with the return of Josef Martinez offering a major boost to the home side.

Atlanta have picked up their form a little in recent weeks, winning a third consecutive home game with Wednesday’s 3-2 US Open Cup success of Charleston Battery. Their away form remains a major concern at this stage, but the fact that Saturday’s game is in front of their own fans will fill them with confidence.

Tata Martino’s side are still adapting to life in MLS as well as learning his tactical style of play but the signs are encouraging and the expansion side know a win on Saturday would move them back into the playoff spots in the East – for a few hours at least.

Columbus enter the weekend just four points in front of Atlanta and have lost four of their last five, including the shock 1-0 Open Cup loss at FC Cincinnati on Wednesday evening.

Embed from Getty Images

Gregg Berhalter’s side are expected to seal a top six finish this season but complacency looks to be setting in at a pivotal stage of the campaign.

Crew SC have only picked up six points from a possible 24 on the road this season, so improving their away record has to be a priority for the remainder of the season.

Team News

Jacob Peterson remains out for Atlanta United although Josef Martinez is back and set for his first MLS start since the 4-0 win over Chicago in Week 3.

Columbus will be without Nico Naess, Ben Swanson and Gaston Sauro for Saturday’s trip to Georgia. Kekuta Manneh is listed as ‘questionable’ and is unlikely to feature.

Key Points

Atlanta’s form: D/W/W/L/L

Columbus’s form: W/L/L/W/L

Key Stat: Columbus Crew have lost four straight matches in MLS and the US Open Cup, being outscored 10-2 in that time.

Key Player: Josef Martinez – The Atlanta forward marked his long-awaited return from injury with a goal on his first start since March in Wednesday’s Open Cup win over Charleston. Including preseason, he now has ten goals in eight appearances for Atlanta and will look to take down Columbus here.

Score Prediction

Atlanta United 3-1 Columbus Crew – The return of Martinez makes Atlanta much more of a threat and his return should see Atlanta pick up a third-straight MLS win at Bobby Dodd Stadium. Columbus have struggled away from home but will fancy their chances of finding the net against a leaky Atlanta defence that hasn’t kept a clean sheet since April.

MLS Preview and Prediction: New England Revolution vs Columbus Crew

Competition: Major League Soccer – New England Revolution vs. Columbus Crew
Venue: Gillette Stadium – Sunday, May 21 – 14:30 ET (19:30 BST) 
Match Odds: New England 4/5 – Draw 13/5 – Columbus 3/1

Match Preview

New England Revolution welcome Eastern Conference rivals Columbus Crew to Gillette Stadium on Sunday in what has the makings of a cracker.

The home side are sitting eighth in the East ahead of this tie, already 12 points off the pace at the top and three points outside the top six. There is no questioning just how competitive the East is in 2017.

Jay Heaps is reliant on his side picking up points at home. They are yet to win away so are going to need to make the most of home form in games against the sides at the top.

Embed from Getty Images

Columbus Crew will be feeling confident of picking up a positive result this weekend in their second away game on the bounce. Their resilience to win in Montreal was impressive as they had seemingly thrown three points away before snatching it at the death.

Crew are sitting third ahead of their trip to New England but are six points adrift of top spot. If they can make it three wins in four they will give themselves a good chance of continuing to close the gap.

Columbus have won all three of the last meetings between these sides by a 2-0 scoreline but they have won just one of their last six visits to New England.

Team News

Juan Agudelo is New England’s only injury concern this weekend. The Revs will certainly miss their top scorer if he fails to make the squad this weekend.

Columbus Crew could be without four for the trip to New England as Gaston Sauro and Ben Swanson are set to remain out, while Brad Stuver and Ethan Finlay are both questionable.

Key Points

New England Revolution’s form: D/D/D/L/W

Columbus Crew’s form: L/L/W/L/W

Key Stat: New England have not lost in their last nine home games, winning seven and drawing two.

Key Player: Justin Meram – Crew’s top scorer this season will be looking to continue his deadly finishing and put and end to New England’s unbeaten home run.

Score Prediction

New England Revolution 1-2 Columbus Crew – New England Revolution to lose their first home game since August last year. Columbus have been a difficult side to beat and will have too much offensively this time around.

MLS Preview and Prediction: Columbus Crew vs Toronto FC

Competition: Major League Soccer – Columbus Crew vs. Toronto FC
Venue: MAPFRE Stadium – Saturday, April 15 – 20:00 ET (01:00 BST) 
Match Odds: Columbus 6/5 – Draw 23/10 – Toronto 2/1

Match Preview

Columbus Crew welcome Toronto FC to MAPFRE Stadium on Saturday night in the latest clash between the Trillium Cup rivals, with both looking for three vital points as they look to prove their credentials in the East.

Columbus started the season poorly before winning three-straight games and climbing to the top of the conference But they fell short last weekend as they lost 1-0 in Chicago and they need to work on finding some consistency if they are to stay at the top of the East.

Embed from Getty Images

They have one of the league’s most potent attacking units, with the addition of Kekuta Manneh making them even more of a threat, so it’s now about building a winning mentality as they look to get back to the MLS Cup Final this season.

Toronto FC have yet to lose a game this season but they’ve only recorded one victory in five outings so far and are capable of much better. Sebastian Giovinco got off the mark for the season in last weekend’s 2-2 draw with Atlanta United but his struggle for form has meant the Reds have been finding it tough to put the ball in the net.

Embed from Getty Images

They will remain tough to beat this season – something Greg Vanney will be delighted with – but they need to find their attacking rhythm if they are to get back to an MLS Cup Final this year.

Three of the last five meetings between these sides have ended all square. Toronto won last year’s Trillium Cup series 4-1 on aggregate but only won one of the three games and haven’t won away at the Crew for two seasons.

Team News

Columbus Crew will be without Gaston Sauro for the season, while there are doubts hanging over Dilly Duka, Jonathan Mensah, Harrison Afful and Brad Stuver.

Toronto have two players ruled out as goalkeeper Clint Irwin will miss out along with Ashtone Morgan.

Key Points

Columbus Crew’s form: L/W/W/W/L

Toronto FC’s form: D/D/W/D/D

Key Stat: Toronto haven’t lost away to an Eastern Conference opponent in regular season play since June 2016 (3-2 defeat at Orlando).

Key Player: Justin Meram – The Crew attacker has been in great form so far this season, scoring three goals in Crew SC’s last two home games. If he is on song, Columbus will be in a great position to go on and win Saturday’s game.

Embed from Getty Images

Score Prediction

Columbus Crew 1-1 Toronto FC – Despite being seven places behind Columbus coming into Week 7, Toronto are only three points off the Crew and will fancy their chances of getting a first win in Ohio since 2014 here. However, these sides have drawn two of their last three and another close battle is expected here.

MLS Preview and Prediction: Chicago Fire vs Columbus Crew

Competition: Major League Soccer – Chicago Fire vs. Columbus Crew
Venue: Toyota Park – Saturday April 8 – 14:00 ET (19:00 BST)
Match Odds: Chicago Fire 11/10 – Draw 12/5 – Columbus Crew 9/4

Match Preview

Chicago Fire host Columbus Crew SC on Saturday night as the two Eastern Conference rivals meet for the second time already this year following the clash at MAPFRE Stadium on opening weekend, which finished 1-1.

Chicago have yet to pick up the sort of form which some expected of them after they strengthened in the offseason. The additions of Dax McCarty and Juninho in midfield have been followed by the star signing of Bastian Schweinsteiger, all of whom should strengthen a Fire side that have been fragile too often over the past few seasons.

Having conceded seven goals so far in their four games, Chicago still have work to do defensively. However, much of this may come down to ill-discipline as the Fire have had a sending off in their last two matches. Sorting that out will instantly help their cause.

On the other hand, Columbus have won their last three on the bounce and have been impressive in doing so as they’ve scored seven times in those matches and have moved to the top of the East.

There upturn in form is particularly impressive given the fact they started the season with a disappointing home draw to Chicago before losing at Houston in Week 2.

Embed from Getty Images

Justin Meram has been the Crew’s shining light in recent weeks, scoring three times in the past two games. The addition of Kekuta Manneh might have put his position in doubt, but he’s responded by turning up his form and Columbus need more of the same from him if they are to remain at the top of the conference.

Both sides look strong for different reasons and it should make for a good encounter. Chicago possess a great recent record at home, having only lost once in their last 15 at Toyota Park. Whereas, Columbus have won their last three, leaving us with what should be an open fixture.

Team News

Chicago Fire are without three midfielders for the visit of the Crew as Matt Polster (right knee strain), John Goossens (right ankle) and Drew Conner all miss out through injury. Juninho is suspended after picking up a red card in last week’s draw with Montreal.

Columbus Crew will definitely be without Gaston Sauro, as he is out for the season with a knee injury. Dilly Duka and Jonathan Mensah are both listed as questionable.

Key Points

Chicago Fire’s form: D/W/L/D

Columbus Crew’s form: D/L/W/W/W

Key Stat: Chicago have only lost once in their last fifteen home matches in MLS.

Key Player: David Accam – Ghanaian international, Accam can cause any MLS team problems with his pace. He already has a goal and an assist to his name this season and we expect those numbers to rise on Saturday night, particularly with Schweinsteiger’s vision now an extra weapon from midfield.

Embed from Getty Images

Score Prediction

Chicago Fire 2-2 Columbus Crew – With Columbus on a three-game winning streak and Chicago boasting solid home form, we expect the two to cancel each other out in a score draw, although goals are to be expected as both sides will look to attack.

MLS Preview and Prediction: Columbus Crew vs Portland Timbers

Competition: Major League Soccer – Columbus Crew vs. Portland Timbers
Venue: MAPFRE Stadium – Saturday, March 25 – 19:30 ET (23:30 GMT) 
Match Odds: Columbus 21/20 – Draw 5/2 – Portland 23/10

Match Preview

Columbus Crew welcome Portland Timbers to MAPFRE Stadium on Saturday night for the first time since the 2015 MLS Cup Final in which the visitors left Ohio with the title.

The Crew will be out for revenge this time around as they look to make it back-to-back wins after getting off the mark for the season in last weekend’s 2-0 victory over DC United.

Gregg Berhalter used three at the back in that win and he is likely to stick with the system in the hope the wing-backs can keep Portland pinned back in their own half.

Embed from Getty Images

On paper, this is set to be a really tough game for the Crew but the Timbers have a number of key absentees, giving the hosts a great chance of picking up three important points in front of their own fans.

Portland have looked unstoppable going forward through the first three weeks of the season, winning all three games to start the season and scoring 10 goals in the process.

They have bounced back well after a disappointing campaign last year and Caleb Porter will be aiming at winning another MLS Cup title come December. There’s a long way to go but the Timbers have everything in place to go and challenge across the board this season.

They will have to try and get the job done this weekend without Darlington Nagbe and David Guzman, who are both away on international duty, while center-back Liam Ridgewell is still out due to injury.

That leaves the away side significantly weaker but they still have the firepower of Fanendo Adi, Diego Valeri and Sebastian Blanco and that trio will look to hurt Columbus, especially if they opt to go with a three-man defence again.

These sides met once last season at Providence Park back on the opening day of the campaign with Portland winning 2-1. The Timbers have now won three-straight games against the Crew, including that MLS Cup final victory.

Embed from Getty Images

Team News

Columbus remain without Gaston Sauro, who is ruled out for the season, as well as Dilly Duka who is struggling with a calf contusion. Waylon Francis is a doubt once again and Jukka Raitala is away on international duty with Finland.

Portland will travel to Columbus without Darlington Nagbe and David Guzman, who are both away on international duty, while Liam Ridgewell is still out and Gbenga Arokoyo is sidelined for the season. Vytas is a doubt but could start at left-back if passed fit in time.

Key Points

Columbus Crew’s form: D/L/W

Portland Timbers’ form: W/W/W

Key Stat: The Timbers have won three-straight games against the Crew and have not lost to their opponents since July 2013.

Key Player: Diego Valeri – Despite the absences of some key men, Portland still have their star man available and in red hot form. Valeri has started the season with four goals and two assists and is looking dangerous everytime he gets on the ball. If Columbus fail to contain him, they could be in for a long evening.

Score Prediction

Columbus Crew 2-2 Portland Timbers – Goals are expected here between two sides that will believe they can get all three points on Saturday night. Columbus are the home side and looking to make it back-to-back wins. They should take advantage of some key absences for Portland but will likely struggle to contain the likes of Valeri and Adi in what should be an open and exciting game. Score draw.


MLS Preview and Prediction: New York Red Bulls vs Columbus Crew

Competition: Major League Soccer – New York Red Bulls vs. Columbus Crew

Venue: Red Bull Arena –Sunday, October 16 – 15:00 ET (20:00 BST)

Match Odds: NY Red Bulls 4/9 – Draw 16/5 – Columbus 11/2

Match Preview

New York Red Bulls play host to Columbus Crew on Sunday afternoon in the penultimate round of MLS regular season fixtures.

The Red Bulls are in contention to win the Eastern Conference, but are level on points with rivals NYCFC, so their remaining two games are huge.

New York come into this tie having overcome Philadelphia in an exhilarating 3-2 home win. Their form at Red Bull Arena has been nothing short of incredible, 11 wins from 13 games.

This is a game Jesse Marsch will be expecting his side to win, but he will have his players warned that any previous result means nothing once the game gets underway.

Embed from Getty Images

Columbus Crew are in 8th place, six points behind the top six and this looks like a season of disappointment for their fans.

Crew have won just twice and only picked up ten points on the road this season. That has all-but ultimately cost them throughout the regular season and they will need to rebuild and go again in the 2017 campaign.

This season has been a far cry from Crew’s 2015 campaign but they still have a huge part to play in the final standings of the 2016 season and they will have the backing of plenty of RBNY’s rivals.

Photo: @ColumbusCrewSC

Photo: @ColumbusCrewSC

Team News

New York Red Bulls still have an extensive injury list as Gideon Baah, Connor Lade, Ronald Zubar, Justin Bilyeu and Daniel Royer are all expected to miss out, while Omer Damari could feature.

Columbus Crew haven’t had much luck with injuries either, as Matt Pacifici, Ben Swanson, Cedrick Mabwati, Tyson Wahl, Waylon Francis are all out, while Federico Higuain and Conor Casey are both doubts

Key Points

NY Red Bulls’ last five: W/D/D/W/W

Columbus Crew’s last five: W/W/L/W/D

Key Stat: New York Red Bulls are on an unbeaten run of 14 regular season games.

Key Player: Bradley Wright-Phillips – The RBNY striker has netted 21 goals this season, the same number as Villa from rivals NYCFC. He will be pushing to top the chart come the end of the campaign.

MLS: New York Red Bulls vs. New York City FC - Bradley Wright-Phillips Celebrates

Score Prediction

New York Red Bulls 2-1 Columbus Crew – Red Bulls to continue their impressive home form and pick up another three points. Marsch knows all his side can do is win their remaining two games and they can finish the regular season top of the Eastern Conference.

MLS Preview and Prediction: Chicago Fire vs Columbus Crew

Competition: Major League Soccer – Chicago Fire vs. Columbus Crew

Venue: Toyota Park – Thursday, October 13 – 20:30 ET (01:30 BST) 

Match Odds: Chicago 17/10 – Draw 23/10 – Columbus 29/20

Match Preview

Chicago Fire welcome Columbus Crew to Toyota Park on Thursday evening in the first of three remaining fixtures for these two Eastern Conference sides in the regular season.

The Fire are still bottom of the East on 27 points, with nine points left to play for the highest place they could finish if all results go their way is 8th.

This has been another difficult season for Chicago fans who are likely to see their side finish bottom of the overall standings by the end of gameweek 34.

Chicago come into this tie without a win in five, picking up one point from a possible 15. This is the second meeting in a row between these two sides, Chicago lost 3-0 to Columbus less than two weeks ago.

Embed from Getty Images

Columbus Crew have a very slim, outside chance of still making the playoffs, they are reliant on winning all three of their remaining games and other results going their way.

Though finishing in the top six seems extremely unlikely, Crew have to do everything possible in their remaining three.

Columbus have picked up nine points in their last five games and if they had shown form like that throughout the season they could well have been in the mix for a playoff spot.

Their 3-0 win over Chicago last time out will give them great confidence of making it two on the bounce in this fixture.

Embed from Getty Images

Team News

Chicago Fire have just two injury concerns ahead of this tie as Matt Lampson is out while Nick LaBrocca is a doubt.

Columbus Crew could be without as many as seven players as Matt Pacifici, Ben Swanson, Cedrick Mabwati, Tyson Wahl and Waylon Francis are all expected to be out, while Federico Higuain and Conor Casey are both doubts.

Key Points

Chicago Fire’s last five: L/D/L/L/L

Columbus Crew’s last five: L/W/W/L/W

Key Stat: Chicago Fire are unbeaten in 14 of their last 15 home games against Columbus in all competitions.

Key Player: Ola Kamara – The Crew forward has netted 15 goals in 24 regular season appearances. Ola Kamara Columbus Crew

Score Prediction

Chicago Fire 1-2 Columbus Crew – Columbus to pick up their second win in as many games against Chicago. Although Fire can take some confidence into the game with their home form against Crew, avoiding defeat in this one looks a step too far.

MLS Preview and Prediction: LA Galaxy vs Columbus Crew

Competition: Major League Soccer – LA Galaxy vs. Columbus Crew

Venue: StubHub Center – Saturday, September 3 – 22:30 ET (03:30 BST) 

Match Odds: LA Galaxy 3/4 – Draw 13/5 – Columbus Crew 100/30

Match Preview

LA Galaxy host Columbus Crew on Saturday night in a battle between two sides that need to get a result without a number of first-team regulars.

The Galaxy are in a poor run of form, going winless through their last six games. They’ve drawn five of those, playing out a 0-0 draw with Vancouver last Saturday.

Bruce Arena has lost Gyasi Zardes for the season and won’t be able to call upon the services of Robbie Keane or Steven Gerrard this weekend, so squad depth is really being tested.

Embed from Getty Images

LA are eight points behind FC Dallas at the top of the West but do have a game in hand, so a win this weekend would give them a real boost.

Columbus have had a terrible season to this point. It’s incredible to think that virtually the same group of players reached the MLS Cup final last term.

The Crew do come into this one on a high after ended their seven-game home winless streak with a 2-0 win over San Jose last weekend. Justin Meram scored one and assisted the other in that victory but he is away on international duty this week.

Photo: @ColumbusCrewSC

Photo: @ColumbusCrewSC

Columbus are six points off the playoff places in the East and need to rally if they are to make the postseason. But they have the second-worst away form in MLS this term, so taking anything away from StubHub on Saturday would have to be seen as a great result.

Last season’s only meeting ended in a 1-1 draw in Columbus. LA Galaxy have won five of the last eight meetings between the teams, with two draws. The only win for the Black and Yellow in that time came two years ago.

Team News

LA Galaxy will be without defender Jelle Van Damme as he is sidelined with a knee sprain, while Gyasi Zardes is out for the season with a broken metatarsal. Steven Gerrard is also sidelined as he is struggling with a hamstring problem. Robbie Keane played his final Republic of Ireland friendly on Wednesday and is unlikely to be back in time to play on Saturday night.

Columbus Crew have a long injury list to worry about with Matt Pacifici and Ben Swanson both ruled out, while Gaston Sauro, Waylon Francis, Wil Trapp and Conor Casey are all doubts. On top of that, Tony Tchani, Harrison Afful, Justin Meram and Rodrigo Saravia are all away on international duty.

Key Points

LA Galaxy’s last five: D/D/L/D/D

Columbus Crew’s last five: L/D/W/L/W

Key Stat: LA Galaxy is unbeaten in five-straight home games against Columbus. The Crew have not won away at Saturday’s opponents since June 2007.

Key Player: Giovani Dos Santos – LA have a number of key men out so the pressure will be on Giovani Dos Santos to deliver for the home side here. He only has two goals in his last ten MLS games so he needs to start producing more regularly if LA are to make a surge for the Western Conference title over the final few weeks.

Giovani dos Santos, MLS: NYCFC vs. LA Galaxy

Score Prediction

LA Galaxy 1-1 Columbus Crew – Both sides are very far from being full strength as a result of injuries and international call-ups so this is a tough one to call. LA Galaxy are strong at home and still haven’t lost at home all season. That’s unlikely to change against a Crew side that has only won one of their 11 away games this term. Score draw.

Getting Stuck In: Parity never felt so good

A rain delay. No umbrella. A soggy bottom. All saturated highlights of my latest waterlogged visit to Mapfre Stadium, where leaky defending has become the norm for Crew SC.

As I sat watching NYCFC stars Villa, Lampard and Pirlo play against Crew SC, I thought to myself: “How the hell did the Crew go from MLS Cup runner-ups, to second from bottom in the East with basically the same team?” Then I followed it up with: “How did NYCFC go from missing the playoffs by 12 points and being tied for the most goals allowed in the league, to top of the East this year with basically the same team?”

On the surface you could say the Crew losing Kei Kamara in May was a huge blow, but they stunk before he left so that can’t be an excuse for the fact they have only won two league game since May. And what about Portland? They win the Cup last year and with the same team are barely holding onto their playoff hopes in the West.

Embed from Getty Images

I posed the why-do-the-Crew-stink question to my 12-old son Ezra as we sat on the cold, wet benches of Mapfre during the NYCFC match. He looked up from his iPhone after finding a Pokestop and said: “Maybe it’s our new uniforms… last year’s were better.” Not very scientific, but he was onto something. One little change can make all the difference in MLS.

There is a randomness to Major League Soccer: One year a team is good and the next they suck unless you are the LA Galaxy. In 2008, the Red Bulls lost MLS Cup to the Crew (who missed the playoffs the previous season) and the following season plummeted to last place, registering a franchise-worst five wins. It would be like Chelsea getting into the top four one year and then getting relegated the next. It’s never going to happen. And how do you explain the 1998 season? Yes, MLS was in its infancy and still had whacky rules like getting a point for a shootout loss, but a first year expansion team winning MLS Cup (Chicago Fire)? Crazy town!

MLS is a unique league and willing to experiment – thank God they got rid of the shootout. But what makes it a soccer league with no rival is team parity. This means pretty much every team in the league can go from bottom dwellers to penthouse champagne sippers in one season.

In other countries it’s a foregone conclusion who wins the league. Supporters of small market teams like Real Salt Lake, Columbus Crew SC and Sporting Kansas City – all MLS Cup winners – feel like they have a chance to win the Cup every year. In MLS’ first 20 seasons, ten different teams have won MLS Cup.

Embed from Getty Images

That’s variety and a huge percentage when compared to the Premier League over the same period: Five different winners with Manchester United’s 10 titles leading the way. In La Liga, only four teams have won the title with Barcelona snatching 10 over the last 20 years. Forget about the Bundesliga – Bayern Munich has won 13 titles in the last 20 season, which is pretty boring for the other sides.

The NFL, one of the most popular leagues in the world thrives on parity. Over the past 20 season, ten different teams have won the Super Bowl. Like MLS, the NFL is hugely successful because every market has a chance. Last year the Jacksonville Jaguars won five of their 16 games and are now tipped to make the playoffs this year.

It will take a long time for MLS to reach the heights of the NFL. Single entity, salary cap, the college draft, Designated Players and rapid expansion have all contributed to competitive balance in MLS. Detractors say rapid expansion is diluting the talent pool – the level of defenders is shockingly poor in some teams – and it’s starting to feel like the rich are getting richer (see NYCFC and LA Galaxy). But when a second-to-last place team like Seattle can sign a player like Nicolas Lodeiro midseason, win three and draw two with him in the lineup to catapult themselves into playoff contention, MLS is doing something right. No other league in the world can make a change midseason that changes the fortunes of a team that quickly.

Seattle Sounders vs Real Salt Lake - Nicolas Lodeiro Celebrates

Fragile? Yes, maybe the rosters are thin and maybe it’s a little embarrassing that one major move can impact a team, but who cares. I bet the caffeinated crazies up in Seattle are happy that MLS is so topsy-turvy.

So as the Crew-NYCFC game winds down, with Columbus down 3-2 in the 95th minute, I nudge my son and point to the 2008 MLS Cup banner and say, “Do you think we’ll ever win another one?” As my son opens his mouth to bestow some wisdom, Ethan Finlay slams home the equalizer at the end of stoppage time to send our soggy bottoms bolting from our seats. I hug my son like a squishy sponge and yell, “we’re back!”

Suddenly a team with only three wins all season has life and the playoff hopes are still alive. It’s so MLS.