When the 2019 MLS Cup gets underway on Sunday (3 pm ET on ABC, Univision, TUDN in US; TSN, TVAS in Canada), nearly 70,000 fans are expected to be in attendance to see who lifts the Philip F. Anschutz Trophy at CenturyLink Field. It’s safe to assume that most will be supporting the hometown Seattle Sounders, though the Toronto FC faithful are bound to turn out, too.
But how much of an impact will that home-field advantage have when the game gets underway? Does it really provide the boost that one might think it does?
To answer those questions and more, let’s take a look at how friendly confines have treated Seattle over the years, plus how hosting MLS Cup typically ends for the home side.
Sounders record at home in 2019 vs. rest of league
Measured out on points at home, the Sounders ended the 2019 regular season in a three-way tie for the fifth-best record. Seattle, FC Dallas and Minnesota United FC – all Audi 2019 MLS Cup Playoff sides from the Western Conference – took different routes to 36 points, but the end result was the same.
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Given that the Sounders have reached their third MLS Cup in four years, it should come as no surprise to see them near the top. Successful teams in MLS tend to win the majority of their home matches, then get a result on the road more often than not.
Here’s how at how the top tier shook out, with Supporters’ Shield winners LAFC at the top:
|New York City FC||11-1-5||38|
|Real Salt Lake||12-4-1||37|
|Minnesota United FC||10-1-6||36|
Seattle through the years
CenturyLink Field is routinely near the top of MLS attendance charts, which can often result in the Sounders getting a boost from the crowd. Across their 11 regular seasons, the club owns a 110-37-36 record at home, meaning they've earned a win or draw nearly 80 percent of the time they've played in the Emerald City.
That especially manifests late in games, such as the 4-3 victory over FC Dallas in Round One of the playoffs. Whether it's noise or just overall intensity – two intangibles beyond talent on the field – the fans certainly drive the players forward.
Seattle record at home for playoff games
The home-field boost carries into the postseason, where the Sounders own a 14-2-3 all-time record. They haven't lost a home playoff game in regulation time since 2013, when they fell to the Portland Timbers in the Western Conference Semifinals. Their current 11 game win streak is the second longest in MLS history.
Now, you might be asking about the second leg of the 2018 Western Conference Semifinals, when Cascadia rivals Portland advanced to the next round. That came about after Seattle won 3-2 in extra time, leveling the aggregate at 4-4. Into penalty kicks they went, and the Timbers won 4-2 at that stage.
MLS Cup home-field advantage?
Since 2012, the host of MLS Cup has been the finalist with the highest regular-season point total. Under those rules, the tiebreaker procedures for postseason qualification is used if clubs have the same amount of points.
Those hosting rights don't always translate to wins, though, as home sides in MLS Cups since 2012 have a 6-2 record. One area of correlation is double-digit home wins in the regular season, as the two losers – Columbus in 2015 and Toronto in 2016 – both failed to reach that mark.
Seattle reached 11 wins at CenturyLink Field in the regular season, so perhaps that'll be a positive omen come Sunday.
|Season||Home team||Home record||MLS Cup result|
|2013||Sporting Kansas City||9-5-3||Win|
|2015||Columbus Crew SC||9-4-4||Loss|