With a win on Saturday, LAFC would clinch its spots in the MLS Cup playoffs in its inaugural season, joining a small club of expansion teams to achieve this level of success in their first year. Only four teams have made the playoffs in their first year of MLS play — Atlanta, Chicago, Miami and Seattle.
First, however, the team needs to clinch its place in the playoffs. Although a win is the most surefire way to ensure a playoff berth this weekend, two other scenarios could give LAFC a spot in the postseason. The team will also continue into the MLS Cup if either of these two situations occur:
Option 1: LAFC ties with Colorado, the Los Angeles Galaxy loses to Sporting KC and the Vancouver Whitecaps win or draw against Toronto FC.
Option 2: LAFC ties with Colorado, the Los Angeles Galaxy loses to Sporting KC and the Portland Timbers tie with Real Salt Lake.
Any of these options are fairly possible, especially in the final stretch of the season, when desperate teams make final pushes for the postseason. If LAFC can win or draw in Denver, the team will most likely come home as the newest expansion club to make the playoffs, following swiftly on the heels of Atlanta FC, which made the same breakthrough last summer.
Although there was an eight-year drought in expansion club postseason success before Atlanta made the playoffs last year, several expansion clubs have found success in the postseason in the past. These four teams have paved the way for teams such as LAFC, proving that expansion clubs don’t have to limit their expectations for success in their inaugural seasons.
Chicago Fire – 1998
The Fire reached the peak of MLS success in its very first season, defeating D.C. United in the MLS Cup finals to win a league championship in its inaugural season, an unprecedented level of success for an expansion team. The team’s success continued for several seasons after its championship win, as the team returned to the final match in 2000 and 2003.
Miami Fusion – 1998
Although the Fusion did not enjoy fiscal success, folding after its fourth season in the league, it saw high levels of success in its opening season of league play. The team made it to its conference semifinals in 1998 and 1999, then finished first in the Eastern Conference in its final season in 2001.
Seattle Sounders – 2009
The Sounders have seen consistent playoffs success for every season of their existence, beginning with making the conference semifinals in their inaugural season. Since then, Seattle has made the playoffs every season, playing in the conference finals in 2012 and 2014, winning the Cup in 2016 and returning to the finals match in 2017.
Atlanta United – 2017
The most recent team to make the playoffs in its inaugural season, Atlanta set an MLS attendance record with a rumbling crowd of 67,221 fans in the first round of the postseason last year, but lost in a penalty shoot out to Columbus.