When it comes to giant-killing, the FA Cup isn’t exactly rife with recent tales of minnows swimming past the big fish.
Sunderland’s 1973 stunner over Leeds United is a fading, grainy memory. Wimbledon’s triumph over Liverpool occurred over 20 years ago. In recent years, Wigan’s 2013 win over Manchester City just days before the side was relegated from the Premier League is the only recent case of a giant killing taking place.
In fact, when it comes to the FA Cup, it’s the big clubs who are loading up their trophy cases. Of the last 32 titles, 28 were one by the powerhouse sides – Arsenal (eight), Chelsea (seven), Manchester United (seven), Liverpool (four) and Manchester City (two).
If you’re looking to bet the underdog, you’re looking at the wrong cup. And you’re also looking on the wrong side of the Atlantic Ocean. In America, the beautiful game is dominated by less fashionable clubs.
Since 2009, just two top-seeded sides have carried off the MLS Cup. Only Toronto FC (2017) and Devid Beckham’s Los Angeles Galaxy (2011) have proven capable of turning the league and Cup double in the MLS over the past 11 seasons.
During that 11-year timeframe, third-seeded clubs have won four MLS Cups. Three titles went to second-seeded sides, and two apiece to No 2 and No. 4 seeds.
When seeking a future book wager on the MLS Cup champion, this is an interesting trend to keep in mind. Looking past the fashionable sides in favor of an underdog isn’t just a potentially profitable move, it’s a choice that history shows to be the logical outcome.
Let’s look at the some of the contenders for the 2020 MLS Cup.
Los Angeles FC (4/1)
The favorites to win it all in 2019, LAFC stubbed their toe and fell 3-1 to the eventual champion Seattle Sounders in the Western Conference final. LAFC set an MLS record with 72 points, collecting 21 wins and nine draws in 34 games.
Carlos Vela also established a single-season MLS mark by netting 34 goals. But coach Bob Bradley has struggled to make adjustments in the one-and-done playoff format of the MLS Cup and that’s held the side back from greatness.
Atlanta United FC (7/1)
Atlanta won the MLS Cup in 2018 and fell to Toronto FC in the 2019 Eastern final. The squad faces some serious personnel deficiencies in 2020, though.
Former captain Michael Parkhurst retired at the end of last season. Tito Villalba (Libertad, Paraguay), Leandro Gonzalez-Pirez (Xolos, Mexico), Darlington Nagbe (Columbus Crew) and Julian Gressel (DC United) were other offseason departures.
Goal machine Josef Martinez remains in the fold. The Venezuelan international has hit the back of the net 77 times in 84 matches with Atlanta.
Toronto FC (7/1)
Last year’s losing MLS Cup finalist, Toronto is an experienced side that always provides a stable presence on the pitch.
Coach Greg Vanney gets the most out of his talent. Jozy Altidore is among the league’s most creative players. Alejandro Pozuelo scored 12 goals his first season with Toronto. But midfield dynamo Michael Bradley is coming back from ankle surgery.
Interestingly, Toronto won its only MLS Cup title in 2017, the year after losing to Seattle in the 2016 Cup final. Might history repeat itself?
New York City FC (8/1)
Yet another squad that always seems to be on the cusp of brilliance but keeps coming up short. NYCFC replaced Dome Torrent as coach with Ronny Deila after last season’s conference semi-final exit against Toronto FC following a first-place finish in the East during the regular season.
Maxi Moralez dished out a league-leading 20 assists. Brazilian Heber scored 15 goals in 22 matches during his first season with the club.
Seattle Sounders (11/1)
The defending champion Sounders are the soundest side in the MLS. They captured two MLS Cups, three U.S. Open Cups and one Supporters’ Shield as league regular-season champs during the 2010s.
Seattle won the title last season as the No. 3 seed in the West. The Sounders suit up the top goalkeeper in the league in Stefan Frei. But no side has repeated as champions since the Galaxy did so in 2011-12.
Philadelphia Union (15/1)
Philly posted its best season in franchise history in 2019, winning 16 matches and drawing seven to finish third overall in the East. The Union were an impressive 10-4-3 at home.
A key stat could be the health of Brazilian international midfielder Ilsinho. He missed 11 games last season through injury.
Philadelphia was a +23 in goal differential with Ilsinho on the pitch. The Union were -15 without him in the side.
Los Angeles Galaxy (18/1)
Is there life after Zlatan Ibrahimovic? The departure of the big Swedish striker to A.C. Milan after two years certainly left a personality void in the culture of the Galaxy but it might help them become more of a team.
The rest of coach Guillermo Barros Schelotto’s side seemed to automatically defer to Ibrahimovic in the hope that the former Manchester United star would conjure up some magic. Often that paid dividends but it wasn’t enough to get the Galaxy past crosstown rivals LAFC in the West semifinals.
The Galaxy aren’t exactly bereft of talent. Argentinian World Cup winger Cristian Pavon remains on loan to the team and Mexican international Jonathan dos Santos runs the show from midfield. Ex-West Ham striker Javier Hernandez, Mexico’s all-time scoring leader, will be counted on to replace Ibrahimovic’s goal-poaching abilities.
- Toronto FC (7/1)