MLS nears Leagues Cup break: which teams are in contention for the Supporters’ Shield?
There’s just one week to go until the domestic action is put on hold for the inaugural edition of the Leagues Cup.
After last weekend’s fixtures every team in MLS has now played at least 20 games and both Conferences are starting to take shape.
We’re just past the halfway point in the regular season but the league fixtures will come to a halt after next weekend to make time in the calendar for a new competition.
There are two more MLS Matchdays this week and then the domestic action will be put on pause for a month as teams begin the inaugural Leagues Cup.
The experimental tournament will be held between teams from MLS and Liga MX and will take the form of a group stage followed by knock-out rounds, much like the European Champions League. The tournament begins on 21 July and regular league fixtures will not resume until 19 August.
Cincinnati take control in the Eastern Conference
Table-topping FC Cincinnati are guaranteed to go into the Leagues Cup break as the top side in MLS after picking up a point against Charlotte on Saturday. That draw ensured a seven-point lead on Nashville with only two fixtures remaining before the break.
Cincinnati will travel to NY Red Bulls and then host second-place Nashville in their next two games, giving them the opportunity to extend their lead at the top even further.
NY Red Bulls are one of five teams level on points in 9th, the final playoff spot. Montreal are currently in possession of the final qualification place, but Chicago, Charlotte and New York City are level with 26 points.
Surprise package St. Louis top the Western Conference
Whatever the pre-season hopes of St. Louis City SC fans, very few could have dreamt their maiden campaign in MLS would have started so well. After 21 games they sit top of the Western Conference, with three points and a game in hand on closest challengers Seattle Sounders.
If they can pick up at least one win in their two pre-Leagues Cup fixtures they will go into the break as the Western Conference leader. However they have a tough fixture next up, a trip to reigning MLS Cup holder LAFC on Wednesday night.
Third-placed LAFC could overtake St. Louis if they win both matches, as could Real Salt Lake. Pablo Mastroeni’s side secured an impressive 4-0 win over Orlando City on Saturday, which included a debut goal for new signing Christian ‘Chicho’ Arango.
Mukhtar leads the scoring charts for Nashville
Nashville are going to miss out on top spot in the Eastern Conference ahead of the Leagues Cup break, but star striker Hany Mukhtar is leading the scoring charts in MLS.
The 28-year-old attacking midfielder has scored 13 goals in 22 games, contributing another 7 assists. He is one of the favourites to be crowned MVP, an award he also picked up in 2022.
Close behind Mukhtar, both in terms of goals and in the running for the MVP, is LAFC forward Denis Bouanga. He has scored 12 goals in 19 appearances so far this season. LAFC will hope that Bouanga can once again prove to be a clutch player for the team; he scored crucial playoff goals on the way to the teams first MLS Cup victory last year.