MLS teams will begin their US Open Cup runs this week, with all 17 of the league’s US-based clubs kicking off their tournaments on Tuesday or Wednesday night.
The start of the country’s oldest tournament got us thinking: Which MLS teams have the best shot at becoming the first team in league history to win a domestic treble? Does anyone have a shot at taking home the all three of the Open Cup/Canadian Championship, Supporters’ Shield and MLS Cup in a signle season?
To the candidates…
Their presence at the top of the table might be shocking, but it mandates a spot on this list. The Rapids are averaging two points per game, have allowed a league-best 10 goals, are 6-0-1 at home and have Tim Howard on the way. As long as they stay above water while Jermaine Jones is with the USMNT and Shkelzen Gashi is with Albania, they should remain a contender for the Shield – and the playoff home-field advantage that comes with it – all year.
The Rapids will begin their Open Cup run on Tuesday, when they host USL club Colorado Springs Switchbacks – who they beat 4-1 in the fourth-round last year – at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park (9 pm ET).
Vancouver Whitecaps/Toronto FC
Neither club is in a great spot in the Shield race, but Vancouver and Toronto both make the list by virtue of their spots in the Amway Canadian Championship final. The two-legged series will kick off on June 21 at BMO Field, then move west to Vancouver for the second leg at BC Place on June 29.
The Voyageurs Cup winner will be the first MLS team to claim a trophy in 2016, and the title could give a boost to Vancouver or Toronto – both of whom are above the red line in their respective conferences – as they head into the latter stages of the MLS season.
Toronto have only 16 points, but they’re a particularly intriguing candidate. The Reds are super talented, and have only played four home games so far, tied for the fewest in the league. If they can get it together at BMO – where they’re 1-1-2 – they could make some noise.
Real Salt Lake
The other team that’s only played four home games this season? Real Salt Lake.
Despite flying a bit under the radar, RSL have gotten off to an excellent start. Their 1.77 points per game average is second in the league, and an upcoming glut of games at Rio Tinto Stadium – where they’re a perfect 4-0-0 – should only boost that number. RSL have some experience chasing the treble, too, coming close to all three trophies in 2013, when they lost in the US Open Cup and MLS Cup finals and lost out on the Shield by just three points.
Like Colorado, RSL will begin their Open Cup run on Tuesday night, when they’ll host the Wilmington Hammerheads at Rio Tinto Stadium. If they both advance, it’s likely the Rapids and RSL could meet later in the Open Cup, which pairs teams for the Round of 16 and quarterfinals based on geographic considerations.
FCD didn’t win the Shield last year, but they came awfully close. Oscar Pareja’s side actually finished tied on points with the New York Red Bulls for the regular-season title, but lost out on the goals-differential tiebreaker. They’re currently tied with Colorado for the MLS lead, and shouldn’t have much trouble staying in the running for trophies.
Dallas will begin their Open Cup run on Wednesday, when they host Oklahoma City Energy (8:30 pm ET).
I’m not sure the Union have the talent to make a real run at the Shield or MLS Cup, but they are in first in the East, and they devote serious resources to winning the Open Cup. Philadelphia have made two consecutive USOC finals, and though they lost both, the Union know what it takes to make another deep tourney run. That, coupled with their solid start, is worthy of a place on this list.
Philly’s first step in the Open Cup will come on Wednesday, when they host USL club Harrisburg City Islanders – who took the Union to extra time in the 2014 USOC – at Talen Energy Stadium (7 pm ET)..
It basically goes without saying that LA will almost certainly be in the running for the Shield and MLS Cup come the fall. They don’t have a great history in the Open Cup, but did make the quarterfinals last year, and certainly have more than enough talent to make another deep run in 2016.
The Galaxy will also begin their Open Cup run on Tuesday. They’ll host amateur club La Maquina FC at StubHub Center (10:30 pm ET).