Ryan Gauld, Vancouver Whitecaps, MLS season 2022

MLS season 2022: What might happen?

With the 27th season of Major League Soccer scheduled to begin in late February, we have taken a look at the data to understand what might happen in the MLS season 2022.

Which MLS teams have the toughest starts to the season?

We have used the bwin MLS play-off odds to assess the difficulty of each team’s opening fixture schedule; specifically their first 10 games.

In the Eastern Conference, the New England Revolution are one of the three shortest-priced teams this season and should get off to a good start.

Seven of their first 10 opponents seem unlikely to make the play-offs and therefore are unlikely to put up much of a fight against a team that won the 2021 Supporters’ Shield by a comfortable margin.

Further south, David Beckham’s Inter Miami franchise have a much tougher opening schedule. Four of their first nine games pit them against one of the favourites for this season’s MLS Cup, so head coach Phil Neville could find himself under pressure early on.

Turning our attention to the Western Conference, the Seattle Sounders are another team with seven easy-looking fixtures in their first 10. As one of the MLS’ better performers last year, this means that they could be among the early pacesetters this time around.

The Sounders’ northern neighbours may not fare quite so well to begin with. On the other side of the border, seven of the Vancouver Whitecaps’ opening 10 games are against teams expected to challenge for the play-offs.

Caps fans should therefore refrain from panicking if their team is propping up the Western Conference early on in the MLS season 2022, as easier fixtures will follow.

Which MLS fixtures have been the most one-sided?

One of the early inter-conference fixtures pits Sporting Kansas City against the Chicago Fire, which has proven to be one of the most one-sided combinations in recent years.

Over the last five seasons, five of the six meetings between these two teams have ended in victory for SKC, with the other ending in a tie.

Only three match-ups to have occurred at least five times in the last five years have seen one team dominate to a similar extent.

Los Angeles FC have the same level of dominance over Real Salt Lake, as have Philadelphia Union when playing FC Cincinnati.

All three of those combinations have seen an average of 2.67 points from every three claimed by one team, but there is also one franchise with a perfect record against a specific opponent.

New York City FC have won all six of their meetings with FC Cincinnati during the last five seasons, with a combined score of 22-5.

Which MLS games have seen the most goals scored?

Goals are rare in a sport like soccer, but fans have plenty to celebrate when the Los Angeles Galaxy are involved. Four of the 10 highest-scoring combinations over the last five seasons have involved Galaxy, but there are some match-ups that have been even more action-packed.

New England Revolution will play Orlando City twice during the regular MLS season 2022 and recent evidence suggests that these games will be laden with goals. Their six meetings during the last five seasons have produced a whopping 37 goals: over 4.6 per game, which is higher than any other regular combination.

Meanwhile three of the four lowest-scoring encounters over this period have involved the New York Red Bulls. These matches – against FC Cincinnati, Philadelphia Union and Atlanta United – have all seen fewer than two goals scored on average, so are likely to be tense affairs this time around.

The combination with the fewest goals of all has been Columbus Crew versus Philadelphia Union, which is the sixth fixture this season for both teams. Their previous 12 meetings over the last five seasons have yielded just 18 goals in total: an average of 1.5 per game.

Who will win the MLS Cup?

Topping the regular-season standings has not reliably translated into MLS Cup success in recent years, with only one of the last 10 Supporters’ Shield winners going on to claim the championship.

The team with the second-best league record has won the cup three times in the last decade, but so have those finishing seventh or eighth in the overall rankings.

New York City FC won their first championship last season despite finishing eighth in the regular-season standings, making 2021 the sixth successive final to feature at least one team ranked sixth or lower.

We should therefore not be surprised if another underdog goes all the way in the play-offs in 2022.

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