It’s September and we are now entering “crunch time” in MLS. The regular season is in its final weeks and soon enough, the MLS Cup Playoffs will begin. While it may seem easier to win a trophy in American soccer, it’s very tough to win multiple trophies in the same year.
In fact, in only eight of the past 20 seasons has an American MLS team won multiple trophies. And in 1997 (D.C. United), 2002 (LA Galaxy) and 2003 (Chicago Fire), those three were one win away from winning the American soccer treble (U.S. Open Cup*, Supporters Shield and MLS Cup). FC Dallas is the only team with a chance this season to become the first to win all three. Question is, can they do that?
It’s safe to say that FC Dallas is firing on all cylinders. Even after loaning Fabian Castillo to Trabzonspor with an option to buy him, FC Dallas has taken control of the competitive Western Conference, leading Real Salt Lake by eight points with just six matches left. Except for a 1-0 loss against RSL on August 20, FC Dallas hasn’t lost a match since mid-July. This past weekend, even after losing five starters due to the international break, FC Dallas dominated the Portland Timbers and won 3-1 so they are certainly in form.
FC Dallas’ first test at winning the treble will take place next Tuesday in the U.S. Open Cup Semifinal against the New England Revolution. FC Dallas had to come back from 1-0 down in extra time against LA to score in the 116th and 121st minute to win 2-1. While the Revs will prove to be a challenge, Dallas will be the favorite to win at home. Having said that, the fact that both teams must play on both Saturdays could be a hurdle and the team who handles that most effectively could get the win in a close contest.
If FC Dallas were to win the U.S. Open Cup, their next trophy would be the Supporters Shield. With just six matches left, Dallas has 51 points and is leading NYCFC by seven points with RSL, Colorado Rapids, LA, New York Red Bulls and Toronto FC all at 43 points with at most two matches in hand. With five of their final six matches against one of these six teams just behind them, someone could sneak up if Dallas stumbles at some point, but I would say that out of the three trophies, FC Dallas is most likely to win this.
If FC Dallas wins both trophies, the final trophy is the main one, the MLS Cup. The 2003 Chicago Fire is the only MLS team to have won the first two legs of the American soccer treble and be in the MLS Cup Final, losing 4-2 to the San Jose Earthquakes. Quite honestly, the MLS Cup playoffs will be a crapshoot and even if FC Dallas were to be the favorite, it’s far from guaranteed that they would win. History has shown that just about anything can happen and with 12 out of 20 MLS teams in the playoffs, it gives the best teams a bit less of an advantage because everyone literally has a chance to win.
Also, it’s not definitive that FC Dallas would be the favorites anyway. Look at a team like the Red Bulls who have gone unbeaten in 10 straight MLS matches and haven’t lost since July 3. Surely the Red Bulls deserve a shout to be favorites to win the MLS Cup and given that they are in the arguably easier Eastern Conference, their road should theoretically be easier than FC Dallas’ even though it’s entirely possible that neither team will be playing in December.
So can FC Dallas win the treble? I feel pretty good about Dallas winning two of three trophies but the MLS Cup is the final sticking point. If anyone can win the treble, FC Dallas would have the team to do it and given their reliance on young players, could be the start of a dynasty. Although, I said a couple weeks ago that the Seattle Sounders were favorites to win the MLS Cup and they recently started to struggle and have since cooled off on their great summer run so the MLS tide could shift away from FC Dallas and to someone else just like that. Even though the MLS regular season is getting ready to wrap up, this season is far from over.
*NOTE: Canada has their own version of the treble, substituting the U.S. Open Cup with the Canadian Championship. As of the 2016 season, no Canadian team has won the Supporters Shield or MLS Cup.