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Breaking down the MLS Cup playoff race

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In 2017, Toronto FC accomplished something that was nearly unprecedented in Major League Soccer by going wire to wire as the favorites to hoist MLS Cup throughout the entire season.

[ MORE: Clint Dempsey retires after 15-year career ]

Fast forward to this year, and even though there’s a slight chance (roughly 23 percent according to FiveThirtyEight) of TFC making the postseason, we are likely to see a new MLS Cup champion in 2018.

With the Eastern Conference boasting three clear favorites to make a run at MLS Cup, Atlanta United, the New York Red Bulls and New York City FC, the title race is wide open.

Throw in two or three teams out West right now, and it makes for quite the intriguing conversation as the postseason looms.

Below, Pro Soccer Talk takes a look at the MLS Cup playoff race, and which clubs have a serious chance at taking home the silverware in 2018.

Before we can examine the MLS Cup contenders though, we have to determine which clubs will likely end up in the postseason.

Let’s start in the East.

This is how the current playoff table looks in the East.

Eastern Conference

1. Atlanta United
2. New York Red Bulls
3. New York City FC
4. Columbus Crew
5. Philadelphia Union
6. Montreal Impact

7. New England Revolution
8. D.C. United
9. Toronto FC

Teams 1 through 4 are essentially locked into the playoffs barring something utterly catastrophic, so that leaves spots 5 and 6 left open in the East.

The Chicago Fire and Orlando City SC are the only two clubs that look incapable of reaching the postseason, so that leaves nine teams in the running for six places.

The Philadelphia Union are looking to be more and more of a sure thing after a recent surge of form has seen the club win four of its last five MLS matches, including a win over NYCFC and two victories against the New England Revolution — who are firmly in the East playoff hunt.

Currently, FiveThirtyEight has the Union’s chance of making the postseason at 85 percent.

That leaves one spot left open.

The Impact are an anomaly in a sense because of the way that the team plays. In June, the Canadian side was one of the hottest clubs in MLS, but the Impact have since cooled off and been on the end of some unlucky results.

Over their last six matches, the Impact have just one win to show, allowing teams like the Revs, D.C. United and Toronto to stay in the playoff race.

The Revs haven’t won since June 30, making their path to the postseason difficult given their current form, and although D.C. has reason to be excited due to Wayne Rooney‘s arrival, Ben Olsen’s side has a congested fixture list and a poor road record (1-9-5).

While Toronto likely has the most difficult schedule of the bunch down the stretch, Greg Vanney’s side has the experience and talent necessary to overturn their current hole, which is why they are the most likely team to finish above the red line.

This is what the final East table will look like.

1. Atlanta United
2. New York Red Bulls
3. New York City FC
4. Philadelphia Union
5. Columbus Crew
6. Toronto FC

This is how the current playoff table looks in the West.

Western Conference

1. FC Dallas
2. Sporting KC
3. Los Angeles FC
4. Real Salt Lake
5. Seattle Sounders
6. LA Galaxy

7. Portland Timbers
8. Vancouver Whitecaps

Similarly to the East, teams 1 through 4 are absolute locks, and with the Sounders being the best team in MLS not named Atlanta over the last two months, they are a near lock as well.

Brian Schmetzer’s Sounders are unbeaten in their last 10, continuing a trend of brilliance during the second half of the season, which the club has exemplified over the last several seasons.

That makes for a three-team race in a battle for the final playoff spot in the Western Conference.

The LA Galaxy have as much attacking talent as anyone in MLS, and yet the club hasn’t won a match in August, making the path to the postseason challenging.

The Timbers have lost four straight, three of which came against West opponents.

Meanwhile, the Whitecaps are unbeaten in five, but have one of the flimsiest back lines in MLS.

Despite some of the issues with the Timbers at the moment, they are still loaded with talent and have three games in hand over the Galaxy, which makes me believe that they will nab the final playoff spot.

This is what the final West table will look like.

1. FC Dallas
2. Sporting KC
3. Seattle Sounders
4. Los Angeles FC
5. Portland Timbers
6. Real Salt Lake

Ighalo nears reported loan extension at Manchester United

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Odion Ighalo may get his wish to continue playing for his favorite club a bit longer.

Shanghai Shenhua is reportedly close to agreeing a loan extension for the Manchester United striker hours before the end of his initial loan to Old Trafford.

[ PREMIER LEAGUE: Remaining schedule | Reaction to return ]

Ighalo turns 31 on June 16 was linked with a Shanghai return earlier this week but has been keen on staying with United. The reported problem is that Shanghai wanted a permanent transfer.

United, understandably, didn’t need that from a striker of his age, especially with Anthony Martial, Marcus Rashford, and Mason Greenwood in the strike corps.

From The Manchester Evening News:

Sources close to the player have said negotiations are continuing between United and Shanghai Shenhua on Sunday but an extended loan deal until January 30 is now “looking most likely”.

That will allow Ighalo to complete the season with United and while the 2020/21 calendar remains up in the air, he will almost certainly spend the first few months of that campaign with the club as well.

Ighalo has fit the bill as a fill-in striker for the Red Devils, who had lost Rashford to injury. He has four goals in eight appearances for United after 46 goals in three seasons abroad.

Shanghai lost more than a bit of its power once United made it clear that it wouldn’t be held hostage over a veteran striker. United has at least one FA Cup match and three more Europa League legs to contend with on top of its PL slate, so any additional veteran savvy will be useful.

LIVE, Bundesliga: Gladbach, Dortmund face desperate Union, Paderborn

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Top four contenders Borussia Monchengladbach and Borussia Dortmund meet relegation-threatened Union Berlin and Paderborn, respectively, as Weeek 29 in the Bundesliga hits Sunday.

Dortmund needs a win to keep pace with presumed champions Bayern Munich, which has a 10-point lead entering Sunday, while Gladbach can climb into third with a win.

[ Bundesliga: Live scores | Saturday roundup | Bayern blowout  ] 

Union opens the day just four points clear of the drop zone, while bottom-dwelling Paderborn has been playing much better but remains nine points back of safety.

Matchweek 29 in the Bundesliga will again see games played in empty stadiums, which is the plan for the rest of the season and beyond. If you’re new to Germany’s top-flight, here’s a guide to help you pick a club to support.


  • Gladbach v. Union Berlin — 9:30 a.m. ET
  • Paderborn v. Borussia Dortmund — Noon ET

How to Watch the Bundesliga

  • When: Friday, May 29 from 9:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. ET
  • TV Channel: FS2
  • Stream LiveVia Fox Soccer
  • USMNT or eligible players in action: Giovanni Reyna (Dortmund), Julian Ryerson (Union)

You can check out the full schedulestandings and find out how to watch the action, while we will have you covered right here on ProSoccerTalk with analysis, reaction and more.

[ MORE: Takeaways from Week 28 of the Bundesliga ]

Transfer news: Werner to Chelsea; Sanchez to Inter

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In the latest transfer news Timo Werner is reportedly being chased by Chelsea, while Alexis Sanchez could be staying at Inter Milan instead of returning to Man United.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights ]

First up, a juicy report from Bild says that Chelsea defender Antonio Rudiger is trying to convince his Germany teammate and close friend Timo Werner to join hm at Stamford Bridge.

Werner, 24, has dazzled at RB Leipzig this season (31 goals in 40 games in all competitions) and is widely expected to leave with Liverpool, Man United and many others clubs across Europe chasing his signature. Per the report, Chelsea have Rudiger working hard to convince his friend and former Stuttgart teammate that west London is the place for him.

The release clause on Werner’s current contract is said to be $60 million and Chelsea are one of the few clubs who have a healthy transfer budget as they had a transfer ban for a whole year and Frank Lampard has just spent $44 million on one new signing so far, bringing in Hakim Ziyech who will not arrive until later this summer.

Werner is exactly what Chelsea need. They have created so many golden goalscoring opportunities and although Tammy Abraham was putting them away at the start of the season, his form and fitness was a concern in the last few months before the suspension.

Olivier Giroud is their only other forward option and Werner would be perfect to finish off the chances this attack-minded Chelsea team create. Even better for him, he would actually play at Chelsea which may not be the case at Liverpool and Man United given their stacked attacking lineups.

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Heading to Manchester, it appears Alexis Sanchez may not be going back to his parent club next season.

Sanchez, 31, is on loan at Inter Milan for the 2019-20 season and the Daily Express claim that he could stay at Inter rather than heading back to Old Trafford despite Ole Gunnar Solskjaer previously saying he was open to the idea. Per the report, Man United are keen to loan Sanchez out to Inter once again on a similar arrangement and the Serie A side are willing to see how Sanchez does when the season restarts in a few weeks. With Marcus Rashford, Bruno Fernandes, Anthony Martial, Mason Greenwood and others around at Man United, he may struggle for minutes at Man United.

Would another loan be a good move for Inter?

Romelu Lukaku and Lautaro Martinez have been their main strikers this season under Antonio Conte, with Sanchez out injured for large chunks of the campaign and then doing okay when he did play. However, with Martinez chased by Barcelona, if they do sell the Argentine forward for over $115 million, having Sanchez around on loan would soften the blow.

The main problem with Sanchez is that over the last three years he has picked up consistent injury problems. If he can shake those issues off, we all know he is capable of scoring goals and creating havoc. Given this recent track record though, that’s a big if, as he’s scored just one goal and added three assists in 15 outings for Inter this season.

Premier League confirm zero positive COVID-19 test results

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Following the latest batch of tests on players and club staff the Premier League have revealed that zero out of 1130 COVID-19 tests taken on Thursday and Friday have come back positive.


The fourth round of testing is the first time that no positive tests have come back, as a total of 3,882 COVID-19 tests have now been carried out with 12 positive results.

All players and staff at Premier League clubs will be tested twice a week during the strict return to training protocols put in place, as full contact training is now up and running and a restart date of June 17 has been set.

Here is the statement from the Premier League in full:

The Premier League can today confirm that on Thursday 28 May and Friday 29 May, 1130 players and club staff were tested for COVID-19. Of these, zero have tested positive.

The Premier League is providing this aggregated information for the purposes of competition integrity and transparency. No specific details as to clubs or individuals will be provided by the League and results will be made public after each round of testing.

Previous test results

Round 1: 17-18 May – 748 tested, with six testing positive from three clubs.
Round 2: 19-22 May – 996 tested, with two testing positive from two clubs.
Round 3: 25-26 May – 1,008 tested, with four testing positive from two clubs.

This is more good news for the Premier League as the UK government gave the green light for elite sport in the UK to return from June 1 in empty stadiums, as the top-flight of English soccer continues to clear each hurdle in its way to finishing the final 92 games of the 2019-20 season.

With just over two weeks to go until the action returns, Premier League clubs will have to keep these test results low for the restart to take place.