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Concacaf Nations League rematch between USMNT and Mexico awaits

The stage is set for the second-ever Concacaf Nations League semifinals, and an earlier-than-expected rivalry meeting awaits between the USMNT and El Tri. After League A’s group stage concluded Tuesday night, the region’s four representatives for matchups at Allegiant Stadium in Las Vegas in mid-June were determined. The USMNT will face Mexico on June 15.

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Who looks good enough to win a trophy (through five matchdays)?

We know so incredibly little right now. I know I keep saying that, but it’s important to remember somewhere from like 60-99.9% of analysis right now is vibes-based and influenced by extreme variance. It’s impossible to write about anything with confidence, and it should be noted that, in turn, very little should be read with confidence.

Anyway, time to pick the team that’s going to win the league.

Or maybe just pick a few teams that seem like they have a plausible shot at it through five matchdays. Now, now, I know what you’re thinking: “This is the kind of well-thought-out, meticulously planned content that makes The Daily Kickoff a must-read each morning, and the writer seems tall, like, probably 6-foot-3."

Well, look, it’s a Wednesday with no news and limited data. We’re not even at the 8-to-10-game threshold where we can look at xG and claim the takeaways we get from it are real.

So, yeah, it’s “who looks good enough to win a trophy” time.

Western Conference

Please note, a trophy can be a Western Conference title. We aren’t just worrying about the Supporters' Shield and MLS Cup here. Even when we broaden our criteria, though, there aren’t many teams in the West that meet the standard. Right now, there are the obvious three, and that’s kind of it.

LAFC are clearly good enough. Seattle are clearly good enough. And St. Louis CITY SC probably need to go through the batting order a second time before I’m fully convinced, but, still, as of now, they seem good enough to finish first in something in their inaugural season. As for the rest of the group…

It feels kind of telling that Minnesota United, a team missing their best and most critical player, are in fourth place in the West despite playing one fewer game than almost everyone else. Recent-ish trophy-winning teams like Sporting KC, Portland and LA have face-planted out of the gate and are averaging less than a point a game. The Texas teams all (yes, including Houston) seem to be good, but not good enough to truly challenge. San Jose feel the same way. And that’s that.

It’s almost like the entire conference separated itself into a hierarchy immediately. There aren’t even really teams that, as of now, could be thrown into the “high-upside mystery box” tier in a Matt Doyle column. There have certainly been surprises in the West to start the season. But how many surprises are actually left?

Well, a lot. It’s MLS. But still, give me St. Louis, Seattle and LAFC versus the field, and I’m taking the trio at the top without a second thought.

Eastern Conference

Ok, this is more like it. I say this with all the love in the world: What a mess.

Through five games, New England are the surprise team at the top of the conference. Are they good enough to win a trophy? Probably? Maybe? It appears they’ve solved some problems in midfield even if they haven’t necessarily solved how to fit all their attacking pieces together. That, plus Djordje Petrovic in goal, can carry you a long way. After already picking up three one-goal wins, you kind of have to laugh at how similar this group feels to the 2021 team. Even if they aren’t quite at that level.

Then there’s Cincy, who are definitely good enough to win a trophy, but haven’t quite played that way in attack so far. They’ll get there though… unless Brandon Vazquez and Brenner both head out to Europe this summer, which, well… there have been some rumors popping up about Vazquez and Borussia Mönchengladbach the past couple of days.

Atlanta are in a similar boat where they’ve clearly looked good enough to win a trophy with Thiago Almada and very much not that way without him. If he leaves in the summer, they become a drastically different team.

I’m not sold on Orlando yet, but you can see a world where the pieces come together. Nashville are going to earn a ton of points no matter what and may be able to get Ake Loba off the books this summer and bring in a DP attacker. NYCFC are going to have the roster to do it; they just need to find the cohesion. Philadelphia have struggled, but they’re undoubtedly going to come good. Columbus have Wilfried Nancy, and that’s probably enough, even if they don’t have the roster. And I’m not willing to count out the Red Bulls, even if history tells us that no trophies will likely come in the postseason.

So, who’s good in the East? Maybe nearly everyone. Who’s bad? Also maybe nearly everyone.

Through five games, it seems like one conference has told us what we need to know about a three-horse race, and the other is just starting to gear up for a nine-sided street fight Toronto could theoretically come flying into at any moment. All of that could be completely off base five more matchdays from now, but the beginning of the year has set up to see something pretty special in both conferences, each in their own unique way.

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Good luck out there. Become a world champion.