What you need to know

Merry Cupmas

We made it. MLS Cup begins today at 4 pm ET. You can watch for free on Apple TV or head to FOX and FOX Deportes (US), or even TSN and RDS (Canada).

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Someone is going to have everything go their way

It’s been a long season. We started this thing back in February. And every single little moment over that stretch has brought us to Columbus versus LAFC in MLS Cup 2023 presented by Audi.

Too many to count. Moments where Columbus and LAFC had results go their way, moments where they didn’t and moments where outcomes entirely outside of their control set up their eventual place in the Audi MLS Cup Playoffs and the runs they’d eventually make. Somehow we’ve ended up on the timeline where both of these teams need just one or two more moments to go their way to win a title.

It’s worth repeating that so many things in soccer happen by accident. You have 11 tired people moving at full speed attempting to manipulate a ball with their feet against the wishes of 11 other tired people moving at full speed. The whole idea isn’t a very good one if you think about it. Someone a long, long time ago rejected evolution and rejected thumbs, both of which seem to be big deals in the course of human history, in favor of kicking a ball and hoping it ends up in the right place. Even the best collections of players in the world have their outcomes heavily influenced by lucky bounces.

That’s not to suggest we rethink the entire sport. It’s just to remind you that thousands of those lucky bounces have trended toward the Crew and LAFC this year. They’ve set up a matchup where what can actually be controlled is fascinating. Columbus will have the ball at their feet for the majority of the game. They’ll get numbers forward. And LAFC will wait patiently for a chance to exploit that. One of the two will execute those strategies at a higher level. One of those two will get luckier. It’s not entirely clear yet which of those two things will be more important.

Either way, whoever ends up on top should count their blessings. In a sport defined by randomness in a league where teams are separated by the smallest margins in the world, everything broke their way this year.

Other things

Inter Miami to visit Hong Kong for 2024 preseason friendly: As part of their 2024 preseason, the Herons announced Thursday they’ll face the Hong Kong Team – a collection of the Hong Kong First Division League's best players – on Feb. 4 at the 40,000-capacity Hong Kong Stadium. This match follows Inter Miami beginning their 2024 preseason against the El Salvador national team in San Salvador on Jan. 19. Additional preseason matches and destinations will be announced in the coming weeks.

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Good luck out there. Take your friends with you.