The stage is set for a historic MLS Cup featuring the top seeds from each conference going head-to-head, as LAFC (West No. 1) host the Philadelphia Union (East No. 1) Saturday afternoon at Banc of California Stadium.
How to watch & stream
- In USA: FOX, Univision, TUDN
- In Canada: TSN, TVA Sports
- Saturday, Nov. 5 (4 pm ET/1 pm PT)
- Banc of California Stadium | Los Angeles, Calif.
Both clubs advanced through their respective sides of the bracket with Round One byes, tight Conference Semifinal victories and emphatic wins in the Conference Finals. Their playoff dominance mirrored the 34-game regular season, which saw each team finish with 67 points – and LAFC only capture the Supporters' Shield on the most-wins tiebreaker (21 vs. 19).
Now, for just the fourth time in MLS history and the first time since 2003, the top-two ranked teams in the league will meet with the Philip F. Anschutz Trophy on the line. LAFC and Philadelphia played to a 2-2 draw back on May 7 at the Banc.
How did they get here (and what to know)?
LAFC live up to their city’s star-powered reputation with a roster of high-profile players, which includes both famous names from abroad – Carlos Vela, Gareth Bale and Giorgio Chiellini – and key domestic players like US men's national team regular Kellyn Acosta and Canada goalkeeper Maxime Crepeau.
The high-flying formula has mostly worked well for first-year head coach Steve Cherundolo, whose side took home this year’s Supporters’ Shield (silverware awarded to the club with the highest regular-season point total). But LAFC weathered a brief dip in form when a large haul of midseason signings, which included Bale, Chiellini and Designated Player Dénis Bouanga, forced lineup shuffling and tested chemistry.
The Black & Gold quickly righted the ship, finding a balance between already-proven starters and incoming talent. Bouanga has become a regular in the XI on the wing and center back Chiellini has proved vital both coming off the bench late to seal victories and sliding into a starting role in the case of injury.
Bale, ahead of leading Wales into the 2022 World Cup, has encountered a harder time finding his spot in LAFC's deep winger pool and has yet to appear in the Audi 2022 MLS Cup Playoffs, though he did make the bench for the Conference Final.
Anchoring the team through it all has been a core of no-nonsense winners. Players like Ryan Hollingshead, Cristian “Chicho” Arango, Ilie Sánchez, José Cifuentes and Diego Palacios have each taken their turn at star moments while providing consistently high-level play.
LAFC, in just their fifth year, will look to raise their first-ever MLS Cup – with GM John Thorrington doubling down on league-proven talent this past winter and then stars in the summer. No club has completed the Cup-Shield double since 2017 Toronto FC.
- Eastern Conference Round One: Bye
- Eastern Conference Semifinals: 1-0 win over FC Cincinnati
- Eastern Conference Final: 3-1 win over New York City FC
If LAFC represent the glamor of Hollywood, then the Philadelphia Union will gladly claim the scrappy toughness of the City of Brotherly Love. A long-term project defined in many ways by dogged, year-over-year improvement, the Union have put in the work to get to the top.
Head coach Jim Curtin, captain Alejandro Bedoya and 2022 Allstate MLS Goalkeeper of the Year Andre Blake (first-time three-time winner) represent the core of the group – joining in the middle of the last decade. Philadelphia have continually bettered their points-per-game mark, won the Supporters' Shield in 2020 and made their first Eastern Conference Final in 2021.
They lost the ECF 2-1 a year ago, though exorcised those demons when trouncing NYCFC last week at Subaru Park (the Union were missing 11 players to health and safety protocols in 2021).
Philly's fearsome front three – led by strikers Julián Carranza and Mikael Uhre, as well as attacking midfielder Dániel Gazdag – have each notched at least 19 combined goals + assists in 2022. Gazdag, in particular, has enjoyed a breakout year (22g, 10a) while also maintaining a key role on Hungary's national team.
Aside from Blake, the backline is anchored by 2022 MLS Defender of the Year Jakob Glesnes and Jack Elliott, his center-back partner. Left back Kai Wagner is a subject of Premier League transfer interest, Venezuelan international d-mid José Martínez is arguably the league's best at his position and Cameroon international right back Olivier Mbaizo is likely bound for the World Cup later this month.
The Union also have a vaunted academy, though sporting director Ernst Tanner has worked wonders on the transfer market too. Now, bolstered by their collective strength, the Union have elevated themselves from underdog to a powerhouse on the verge of their first-ever MLS Cup win.
What is MLS Cup?
MLS teams compete for multiple trophies throughout the year, but MLS Cup is the one that determines the league's champion after representatives from both the Eastern and Western Conferences face off in one final deciding match.
The format has changed throughout the years, but one thing has remained constant: Only one team will be left standing once the dust settles, and will cement their place in history, while everyone else will have to start over next year.
What is the format?
MLS Cup is a single-elimination, winner-take-all format, the same as the rest of the playoffs.
If the match finishes in a draw, two 15-minute extra-time periods will be played to decide a winner. If no one finishes on top after extra time, the champion will be decided by a penalty-kick shootout.