Charlotte’s attendance, Seattle’s title, USMNT players at Leeds, and LAFC’s Cup highlight 2022

Charlotte’s attendance, Seattle’s title, USMNT players at Leeds, and LAFC’s Cup highlight 2022


from Jason Davis – WASHINGTON, DC (December 28, 2022) US Soccer Players – If 2022 was anything to go by for soccer, it was eventful. With the World Cup on the schedule, that was a guarantee. However, the World Cup was not the only thing in the world of football that left its mark in 2022. This was especially true in American football. The USMNT reaching and then playing in the World Cup were the big stories, but a select group of achievements and player moves deserved their headlines.

In February, MLS welcomed a new team to its ranks when Charlotte FC began play as the league’s 28th franchise. Adding teams is not new to MLS. The league has expanded every year since 2017. However, not every club has the kind of impact that Charlotte FC did. Charlotte ultimately missed the playoffs in its first season, but it was the sheer size of its support that made it a notable addition to the league.

Charlotte FC set a new MLS attendance record on March 5 when it reported a crowd of 74,479 for its inaugural home game against the LA Galaxy, breaking the mark set by Atlanta United for the 2018 MLS Cup Final.

This achievement served multiple purposes for the brand new outfit. It sent a message across the region and the country that there were football fans ready to support the game in the area, beyond the normal capacity of a football-specific stadium. Charlotte averaged over 35,000 fans a game in 2022, second only to Atlanta.

A few weeks after Charlotte’s home opener, the Seattle Sounders delivered a long overdue result for Major League Soccer. The Sounders wrapped up a two-legged sweep against Mexico’s UNAM Pumas 5-2 on aggregate and secured the first Concacaf Champions League title for an MLS team. The 2022 version of the most successful MLS team of the last decade was built precisely for the challenge it reached, capping off an era that saw the Sounders win two MLS Cups and reach two more finals.

Key to the Sounders’ triumph was successful recruiting and efficient spending. Their team possessed foreign tricksters in the likes of Raul Ruidiaz, Nico Lodeiro and Joao Paulo, while also using top American talents like Jordan Morris and Cristian Roldan. On the way to the trophy, Seattle beat two Liga MX teams and the defending MLS Cup champions. Although the Sounders ultimately missed the MLS playoffs for the first time after a series of injuries during the regular season, 2022 can only be called a success.

The success of Americans outside the United States came in several forms. First, it wasn’t to win a championship, but to avoid relegation to a division called the Championship.

Jesse Marsch’s arrival at Leeds at the end of February put an American manager in the Premier League for just the third time in history and brought Marsch back into the fold following his departure from RB Leipzig in December 2021.

It also brought incredible pressure. Leeds hired Marsch to coach the final four months of the season after sacking Marcelo Bielsa, a beloved figure who had returned Leeds to English football’s top flight for the first time since 2004. Whatever Marsch does, he will to be judged by anti-sympathetic supporters. Bielsa’s professorial bearing.

The American manager’s volatile style and penchant for speaking his mind won him little love in Yorkshire. There were also some willing to revel in his failure. Marsch did not fail. In the last Premier League match, Marsch’s Leeds beat Brentford on the road to secure survival for 2022-23. The win also ensured that Marsch would have the opportunity to reshape the team to his liking for next season.

Part of that process involved bringing back two Americans to bolster the squad. Leeds handed Marsch the funds needed to secure the signatures of former Philadelphia Union striker Brenden Aaronson and former New York Red Bulls midfielder Tyler Adams. Leeds spent $24 million on Adams and $30 million on Aaronson. The transfers represented a triumph for both the players and the MLS clubs that made them happen. There was no doubt the pair could hack it at Premier League level, but both Adams and Aaronson flourished at Leeds before joining the USMNT for the World Cup.

In the league where Leeds’ pair of Americans began their careers, an epic battle for the championship was unfolding. Aaronson’s old team, the Philadelphia Union, was setting new benchmarks for defensive dominance and scoring explosions. On the other side of the country, high-profile LAFC were making a historic effort under USMNT great Steve Cherundolo.

During a summer when it looked like LAFC was marching toward a new season points record, the Union hit opponents with big scores. When LAFC faltered, it looked like Philadelphia might catch them for the points title. When the season ended, only the tiebreaker for most wins separated them.

LAFC won the Supporters Shield, but winning an MLS Cup would be a different challenge. Cherundolo’s side played a classic against the Galaxy, got past Austin FC and earned the right to host the final. Eastern Union handled FC Cincinnati and avenged their 2021 conference finals loss to NYCFC to secure their place in the finals.

The finale was everything anyone could have wanted. For a league that so rarely gets top-seeded regular-season games, the game in Los Angeles felt historic. He played giant momentum moves that led to overtime that yielded goals at 120+4′ (Union) and 120+8′ (LAFC).

Gareth Bale’s second goal sent the game to penalties, where LAFC prevailed largely thanks to the heroics of back-up goalkeeper John McCarthy, a former Union player. Everything felt incredible.

Cherundolo joined a select group of coaches to win an MLS Cup in their first season. LAFC is now part of a group of eight teams to achieve a Shield/MLS Cup double.

Jason Davis is the founder of and host of USA Soccer on SiriusXM. Contact him: [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter.

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