Plenty of teams are chasing the 2022 Supporters’ Shield

Through Jason Davis – WASHINGTON, DC (July 6, 2022) US Soccer Players – In the middle of the 2022 Major League Soccer season, the Supporters Shield race is taking shape. There is one favorite, but there is also a wide field of contenders ready to make a move and turn the singles table on its head.

LAFC holds that top spot with 36 points from 18 games, making it the only team in the league with an average of two points per game. In his first season in charge, Steve Cherundolo masterfully steered the move to the sidelines in Los Angeles. Offseason acquisitions, perhaps none more important than goaltender Maxime Crepeau, bolstered a team that missed the playoffs in 2021. LAFC should only get stronger from here. Giorgio Chiellini and Gareth Bale are set to make their debuts this month and are waiting in the wings to provide second-half care for their new club.

It’s important to consider the schedule when discussing LAFC’s chances of claiming the club’s second Supporters’ Shield. Half of the remaining sixteen games will be at home, including a three-game streak at Banc of California Stadium in August. Some tough games remain, including home games against Seattle, Dallas and RSL, and away games against Austin and Nashville. However, the schedule doesn’t read too difficult for a squad with as much quality as LAFC’s.

Notably, LAFC has just two games left against Eastern Conference opponents, meaning 14 of their last 16 games will be played against teams that track them in the Western Conference rankings. So there should be several proverbial six-pointers throughout the campaign.

LAFC’s lead is just two points going into this weekend’s games. There are three teams within six points of the top spot and three more within seven. It’s a list that starts with Austin and then shifts to four Eastern Conference teams.

Austin have only lost once at home, but it’s their six away wins that are helping them chase LAFC at the top of the Western Conference. In the last four games there have been three away wins in Montreal, Charlotte and most recently in Colorado. Austin was two goals down in this instance and maintained the lead while playing a man down for the final 15 minutes.

Away wins are also history at the top of the Eastern Conference. At the moment it’s the Red Bulls who have a narrow lead over first place in the East. New York’s 32 points put them third in the Supporters Shield standings, two points behind Austin. Like Austin, the Red Bulls have a better record on the road. In 19 games played, the Red Bulls have picked up 21 of their 32 points away, making Austin’s six wins, three losses and one draw away.

In a league known for significant home field advantage, Austin on the West and New York on the East are turning that perception on its head.

New York has no signings in the second half to give the team an extra boost in the Shield chase. While signings are still possible while the window is open, it seems likely the Red Bulls will bet on the group they have. They’re a pressing club that takes that high-intensity philosophy to the heat of summer. New York has eight home games and seven away.

Across the river, the Red Bulls’ rivals NYCFC collected two points from a theoretical 12, well behind the pace. NYCFC still have two things in their favor, the best points-per-game average in the East thanks to a games played difference and the second-highest goal difference in the league at +14. While potential outbound transfers could complicate NYCFC’s quest for the Supporters’ Shield, there’s no question the club has the talent to put together a run.

There are a few other clubs with legitimate claims for a Shield challenge including Real Salt Lake and Montreal. The table is so tight and time dependent that it’s hard to see a clear advantage. It might be Philadelphia from this collection that looks the most capable.

A thumping May and June saw other clubs in the east overtake Union for first place. Philadelphia is always solid defensively, but when Union didn’t concede games, they’ve been able to improve on draws in that span. Four wins at home, no losses and five draws is another variation of home advantage, with Union winning three away, losing two and drawing four. Still, they are second in the East and fourth in the individual table, two points behind the Red Bulls with the same goal difference of +9.

That’s the problem with finding a favorite for the backer’s shield. While Eastern Conference contenders taking points from one another could open the door for top teams in the West, it’s hard to believe that this season will all turn out to be so easy.


Jason Davis is the founder of MatchFitUSA.com and host of The United States of Soccer on SiriusXM. Contact him: matchfitusa@gmail.com. consequences him on Twitter.

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Photo by Nashville SC

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