With the 2018 MLS season kicking into high gear about a month before its nine-day World Cup hiatus, now is an ideal time to reflect on what we’ve seen thus far. Here’s a round-up of the 2081 MLS season up to this point.
A Rivalry Is Born
It didn’t take long for a rivalry to be born between the L.A. Galaxy, winner of five MLS Cups, and their new neighbors, Los Angeles FC. The first meeting between the two teams, dubbed El Tráfico, at the end of March was an instant classic. LAFC held what they thought was a comfortable 3-0 lead after 60 minutes, only to give up four goals in the final half-hour of the game and lose to the Galaxy 4-3. LAFC will host the second meeting between the clubs in July, and the atmosphere should be incredible.
The Swedish Superstar
The biggest difference maker in the Los Angeles Derby was Swedish superstar Zlatan Ibrahimovic, who made his MLS debut in El Tráfico, scoring twice to lead the Galaxy to victory. Ibrahimovic is one of the biggest European stars to play in MLS and to say that it’s a big deal that he’s playing in Los Angeles would be an understatement. He has quickly made the Galaxy a must-watch team.
Champions League Runner-Up
Only two MLS teams have ever won the CONCACAF Champions League title, and earlier this year, Toronto FC came painfully close to making it three. The reigning MLS champs lost their home leg against Guadalajara, only to fight back in the away fixture and force a penalty kick shootout. Alas, the Reds lost the shootout in heartbreaking fashion.
South is King
There have always been doubts about whether soccer could succeed in the south, but Atlanta United FC is answering all of those questions. The team draws massive crowds to Mercedes-Benz Stadium, and the fanbase has quickly become one of the most raucous in MLS. More importantly, the Five Stripes are currently the best team in the league. Atlanta is at the top of the Eastern Conference standings and averaging an astounding 2.27 points per game, winning eight of their 11 matches. At this point, Atlanta United FC has to be considered the team to beat in MLS.