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Soapbox Roundtable - 2020 Predictions

Here’s our predictions for this season, what are yours?

First kick for MLS is rapidly approaching, with NWSL and USL to follow soon after; so it’s time once again to pull out the crystal balls, Tarot decks and Ouija boards to predict the 2020 season. Here are the picks for some of our RSL Soapbox staff.

Please comment with your picks below, and if you want to test your prediction skills in the Soapbox Oracle, your correct picks will earn bonus points at the end of the year - just fill out this form!

  • MLS Cup Winner: Los Angeles FC with 10 votes

Others receiving votes: LA Galaxy (2), Seattle Sounders (2), Real Salt Lake (2), New York City FC (1), Minnesota United (1), Toronto FC (1)

Will this finally be LAFC’s year? After 2019’s record-breaking season, they were the odd-on favorites to win it all, but once again their playoff run came to a crashing end. This year they’ll also have to contend with Champions League games, and if they make a long run that can take a huge toll on even the best teams. LAFC will still be the most likely based on last years performance, but we should have a better picture by July. (Kreg Asay)

  • Eastern Conf. Champion: Toronto FC and Atlanta United both tied with 6 votes each

Others receiving votes: New York City FC (5), DC United (1), Chicago Fire (1)

After numerous terrible seasons, TFC has become a real contender in the East, then there’s the new kids on the block Atlanta; they’ve made a huge splash in a short time, and are packed with talent. But there are questions for both teams; can Altidore and Bradley stay healthy enough to keep TFC in the running, and can Atlanta continue to battle on 3 fronts if they make deep runs in the USOC and Champions League? (Kreg Asay)

  • Western Conf. Champion: Los Angeles FC with 10 votes

Others receiving votes: Seattle Sounders (3), Real Salt Lake (3), Minnesota United (1), Sporting Kansas City (1), LA Galaxy (1)

While a number of very prominent players have been added to ranks of Western Conference teams they still need to prove themselves across the travel and fields of a very different league situation. It is extremely difficult for a single player, or even a couple, to carry a team straight to the top in their first season. Los Angeles FC remains a fairly well balanced and experienced team, but injury or unrest in the clubhouse can undo any team. Look for a team not on this list to finish within the top three and at least a couple of the teams on this list to miss the playoffs. (Dave Cheever)

  • Supporter’s Shield: Los Angeles FC with 10 votes

Others receiving votes: New York City FC (4), Seattle Sounders (2), LA Galaxy (2), Atlanta United (1)

LAFC are still largely the same team that made the record run last year, but this year the other MLS teams have extensive video on their tactics and will use them to exploit every weakness. If Bob Bradley comes up with a new playbook to confound the league, they’ll continue their run of form; however if their first Champions League game is an early indicator, LAFC may be in for a difficult 2020; I fully expect Bradley to change his tactics if they make an early exit. (Kreg Asay)

  • US Open Cup: Seattle Sounders with 4 votes

Others receiving votes: Portland Timbers (3), Real Salt Lake (3), Houston Dynamo (2), Philadelphia Union (1), Charleston Battery (1), LA Galaxy (1), NY Red Bulls (1), Columbus Crew (1), Nashville SC (1)

The MLS teams that frequent the later rounds of the US Open Cup fall into two categories. Those who fully believe that a late run would be good enough to get them into the MLS playoffs and those who early on know that the playoffs are an unlikely dream. Seattle and Portland both fall into the first camp. Nashville is a new comer like Inter Miami and both might be happy to see hardware in their first season. Real Salt Lake will likely continue to fight and scrap for the playoffs and see an early exit from the US Open Cup. (Dave Cheever)

  • NWSL Champion: Utah Royals FC with 9 votes

Others receiving votes: Chicago Red Stars (5), North Carolina Courage (3), Portland Thorns (2)

This may be wishful thinking after Utah didn’t even make playoffs last year, but it’s tough not to be wishful at this point in the season. Utah just hired a new head coach, Craig Harrington, and has added quite a few pieces still with plenty of time to add more. Utah lost a lot of players this offseason to retirement, but the core of the team is still in tact filled in by some players that bring a lot of depth. If Utah is able to figure out how to consistently score this season, no reason they couldn’t win the league. (Megan Webb)

  • NWSL Shield: Utah Royals FC with 7 votes

Others receiving votes: North Carolina Courage (6), Portland Thorns (1), Washington Spirit (1), Houston Dash (1), Orlando Pride (1)

By far the biggest home team blinder vote in the entire survey. Let’s have the Royals solidly make the playoffs and rise above the large pack of also competing teams before crowning them champions. Another big year for the USWNT at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics means that there is room for a dark horse to emerge but it would require more than a couple of Royals’ players to have career years. (Dave Cheever)

  • RSL MVP: Both Damir Kreilach and Albert Rusnak tied with 6 votes each

Others receiving votes: Everton Luiz (2), Nedum Onuoha (1), Pablo Ruiz (1), Sam Johnson (1), N/A (2)

It would be fair to acknowledge that the midfield has been a major area of weakness for Real Salt Lake over the past few years. The defense has be increasingly solid and while Real Salt Lake has forgotten what having a single 12+ goal scorer is like a number of players have combined to give them a positive goal differential and a possible place in the playoffs. For Real Salt Lake to move forward it is time to put together at true run at the Shield and that will require a elevation of play in the midfield. Do not be surprised if a dark horse midfielder emerges and becomes a front runner in this race. (Dave Cheever)

  • RSL Golden Boot: Albert Rusnak with 6 votes

Others receiving votes: Sam Johnson (4), Corey Baird (2), Justin Merim (2), Damir Kreilach (1), Giuseppi Rossi (1), Sebastian Soto (1), Douglas Martinez (1), N/A (1)

Albert Rusnak has won the Golden Boot for RSL twice (2017, 2019) and only lost out in 2018 by a narrow margin. Even with an abundance of strikers Rusnak has shown the ability to be in the right place at the right time, and chances are high that will continue in 2020. (Kreg Asay)

  • RSL Defender of the Year: Justen Glad with 11 votes

Others receiving votes: Aaron Herrera (5), Nedum Onuoha (1), Marcelo Silva (1), N/A (1)

Justen Glad has won Defender of the Year twice before (2016, 2017), and if he picks up his third win he will tie the venerated Nat Borchers for most wins. He is the staff and reader favorite to win it since it’s visibly obvious that when he’s on the field RSL does much better. However he will very likely have some stiff competition from Nedum Onuoha and last year’s winner Aaron Herrera. (Kreg Asay)

  • URFC MVP: Christen Press with 9 votes

Others receiving votes: Becky Sauerbrunn (2), Lo’eau Labonta (2), Vero Boquette (1), Kelly O’Hara (1), N/A (4)

It is interesting that a player who the voters already know will miss a portion of the season to play in the 2020 Tokyo Olympics easily took this vote and that second place was another player in the same situation. The old argument about being most vital to the team as opposed to the most gifted and skilled player scoring goals for the team (see Golden Boot below) raises its head once again. Should the media coverage stick to the highlight reel or look beyond to who lets the entire eleven function as a whole? (Dave Cheever)

  • URFC Golden Boot: Christen Press with 13 votes

Others receiving votes: Lo’eau LaBonta (1), Vero Boquette (1), N/A (4)

The overwhelming majority here says Christen Press. Not a surprising answer, in 2019 she had eight goals in 14 games just for her club country. Then after her showing with the USWNT to start this season early, if Press keeps that form, she may just lead the Royals again regardless of having to miss some of the summer for the 2020 Olympics. Christen Press had a great 2019, but looks so far like 2020 is going to be even better. There’s no reason to assume anyone but Press will score the most goals for Utah this season. (Megan Webb)

  • URFC Defender of the Year: Becky Sauerbrunn with 11 votes

Others receiving votes: Kelley O’Hara (2), Christen Press (1), N/A (5)

If Utah’s first two seasons are any sign, it’s tough to imagine anyone else getting this award. Sauerbrunn is one of the best defenders in the league, let alone Utah. She had remained consistently dominant for club and country for many years now, there is no reason to assume in 2020 that anything will change. There’s a reason she got 11 votes from us, she’s just that good. (Megan Webb)

  • What trophies will RSL win this year?: Rocky Mountain Cup with 8 votes

Others receiving votes: None (7), MLS Cup (2), Leagues Cup (1), USOC (1)

There are 5 possible trophies for RSL this year: MLS Cup, Supporter’s Shield, Leagues Cup, US Open Cup and lastly the Rocky Mountain Cup. Given the competition vs Mexican teams in the Leagues Cup and the timing of the games, that one will of course be a long-shot. It would seem likely that one of the big power teams in MLS will once again win the Shield, and while the MLS Cup is always possible if a playoff team gets hot at the right time, it would seem unlikely. Anyone who has watch RSL in recent memory know our history with the USOC. Lastly, when is the last time RSL actually LOST the RMC? It’s been on the West side of the Rockies since 2008, sure it’s possible that the Rapids may actually show up this year with their new coach, but it’s more likely that RSL will continue to rule the Mountain West. (Kreg Asay)

  • Will RSL make the playoffs?: 15 out of 19 say YES

Call me a homer (cause I am) but I want nothing more than to relive the glory days of 2009 so maybe my MLS Cup predictions are biased, sue me. I truly believe that this team that has been assembled (and is currently still being assembled) will come out swinging. I love the energy that we’re getting from our new Head Coach Freddy Juarez and I have loved seeing all the amazing signings during the silly season. We are a semi-new team and I think that if we establish the identity that all signs point to us establishing, We’re going to spin some heads. (Ryan Hamblin)

  • Will the Royals make the playoffs?: 14 out of 19 say YES

With the addition of a new coach and knowing you’ll have fewer international absences, Utah Royals FC should be able to sneak a playoff spot. The team came close in its first two seasons, in the third they not only should but need to get a playoff spot. Utah has added some depth to their roster and still has all the big names and keys to their success in 2019. (Megan Webb)

  • Will the Monarchs make the playoffs?: 19 out of 19 say YES

The Monarchs are in a position where they are forced to rebuild just about every season. For the past few seasons one or more of their key contributors have been rewarded with a move up to Real Salt Lake. Other key contributors moved on when it became clear they would not be moving up within the organization. The team exists to give both internal academy players and external players of interest a chance to prove themselves. It also gives lower end RSL players and higher end academy prospects a chance to compete at a relatively high level and show their worth as professionals. The fact that this synergy of many different types of players in a constantly changing environment are able to regularly make the playoffs says a lot about both the RSL organization and USL. (Dave Cheever)