After close to eight and a half months of action, the 2022 MLS season comes down to one game. On Saturday afternoon, Banc of California Stadium plays host to the last match of this season, the MLS Cup Final. For the 10th straight year, a new champion will be crowned, but this year’s edition of the final will have a different ring to it.
Top Seeds Collide in MLS Cup Final on Saturday
It hasn"t happened in MLS Cup since 2003, but Saturday, the top seeds in each conference"s bracket will play for the Phillip F. Anschutz Trophy, given to the winner of the championship game. Western Conference champion LAFC, which shut out Austin FC last Sunday afternoon 3-0, will do battle with the Eastern Conference champion, the Philadelphia Union, who overcame a 1-0 deficit Sunday night against a shorthanded NYCFC to advance 3-1.
Live coverage of the MLS Cup Final on Saturday afternoon begins at roughly 3:30 pm ET/ 12:30 pm PT on FOX Sports inside the United States in English, with kickoff time of the match slated for 4:05 pm ET/ 1:05 pm PT. As has been the case annually, TUDN will handle Spanish-language coverage of the game, with pregame coverage also beginning at 3:30 pm ET/ 12:30 pm PT.
TUDN will also carry a one-hour edit of the MLS Cup Final, MLS Cup en 60, late night Saturday at 11 pm ET/ 8 pm PT.
Traffic Note For Fans Attending MLS Cup Final
If you are attending Saturday afternoon"s match as a spectator in Los Angeles, please be advised that there will not be any reserved parking spots accessible in the vicinity of Banc of California Stadium for the game. The Los Angeles Times reported Tuesday that this is due to The University of Southern California"s homecoming game in college football later on in the evening.
Shuttles will be accessible from Dodger Stadium to Exposition Park beginning at 9 am local time Saturday morning and will be free to spectators. Uber and Lyft also serve an option for fans going to MLS Cup this weekend and fans will be dropped off at the ballpark to take the shuttle and get to the match.
Home-Field Advantage Came Down to the First Weekend in October
This year"s staging of the MLS Cup Final marks the 11th consecutive year that home-field advantage for the game has been awarded to the conference champion with the higher point total in regular season play. Coming into matches scheduled for the weekend of Oct. 1 and 2, the Philadelphia Union had to win its match against Charlotte FC on the road to assure themselves of a Supporters" Shield and subsequent home-field advantage for MLS Cup.
Charlotte ended the Union"s hopes for the Supporters" Shield, thanks to Dani Rios scoring all four of the teams goals in a 4-0 shutout victory to keep the expansion side"s playoff chances alive heading into the completion of a suspended match versus the Columbus Crew the following Wednesday.
Tiebreaker Gave LAFC The Edge in Supporters" Shield Race
Philadelphia"s defeat to Charlotte opened the door for LAFC to clinch the Supporters" Shield with a victory the next afternoon versus the Portland Timbers on the road. Los Angeles bested the Timbers, 2-1 to claim the Shield for the second time in the franchise"s young history.
Although LAFC and the Union were level on points at the end of the year with 67 apiece, the former clinched the Supporters" Shield after having the advantage in the first tiebreaker, regular season record. LAFC ended the regular season with a 21-9-4 record, with Philadelphia closing the year at 19-5-10.
Both Teams Coming Into MLS Cup Final on Great Form
With Saturday"s match being a championship contest, expect both LAFC and Philadelphia to bring their respective A-games to the pitch at Banc of California Stadium for the MLS Cup Final. They"ve been in incredible form throughout the entirety of these playoffs, so fans should anticipate nothing less than a fantastic game on Saturday.
At the same time, however, the fact that MLS Cup is an away game for the Philadelphia Union has to be something of a concern. Simply put, the team hasn"t done well away from Subaru Park during the 2022 MLS season.
Philadelphia Union in Trouble?
While Philadelphia has been nearly untouchable wearing the home kit in MLS this season, it"s a slightly different tale when the team"s been on the road of late. During Philadelphia"s last five road matches, the Union have gone 2-2-1, with the most recent such match being on Oct. 1 at Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte.
If the Philadelphia Union who suits up on Saturday afternoon in Southern California is the same Philadelphia Union that suited up in North Carolina on the first Saturday in October, the Union will be in trouble. If the Union play the same way that they"ve done at home, they"ll be in good shape.
LAFC Making Banc of California Stadium Their Own Playground
For the homestanding LAFC, the fact that they"re hosting the MLS Cup Final at Banc of California Stadium has to be a major boon. They"ve been next to untouchable at home in recent times, going 4-1 during the last five games as hosts, with the lone blemish happening on Decision Day, a 1-0 loss to Nashville SC.
LAFC"s key in MLS Cup is a simple one: Hold serve at home. Holding serve at home is what brought them to this point. Holding serve at home is what won them the Supporters" Shield last month.
If LAFC play the same way they"ve been playing at home throughout the season, they"ll bring the Anschutz Trophy back to Southern California for the first time since 2012.
Saturday is shaping up to be quite a great day for sports fans across America. You"ll have college football all day and all night, and right after the MLS Cup Final ends, Game 6 of the World Series will start in Houston, which could be a potential clinching scenario for either the Houston Astros or the Philadelphia Phillies, depending upon the result of Thursday"s Game 5 in Philadelphia.
MLS had to be cheering internally when the matchup for the MLS Cup Final was set on Oct. 30. This is the kind of championship game every sports organization wants to have happen, but it"s not one that every league always gets. It"s a match that was 20 years in the making.
The two best teams in the playoff bracket are about to compete, but who do you think comes away as the winner? Let us know in the comments below.
Main image credit Embed from Getty Images